Gerry Dulac: OK, it's time to begin our weekly chat. Give me those questions...
Mike from PA: Hey Gerry, if the Steelers let Emmanuel Sanders walk in free agency, do you see Pittsburgh trying to sign a free agent (Jeremy Maclin, Sidney Rice, etc.) in the offseason or stick with the five they have (AB, Cotchery, Wheaton, Moye, and Justin Brown)?
Gerry Dulac: I think they will stick with what they have, plus draft a tall receiver in the first or second round. I think they will let Sanders leave in free agency for a number of reasons and are perfectly comfortable thinking Markus Wheaton will not only replace him, but also be a much better receiver. Their intent is to take a tall receiver early -- they have already indicated that to Ben Roethlisberger -- another indication that Sanders will be gone.
Mark in NWPA: Do you agree with Bill Belichek that the reason there are so many season-ending injuries is the change in the number of OTAs and other team sessions prohibited under the NFLPA agreement?
Gerry Dulac: I don't disagree. I think it's also the reason that poor fundamentals, specifically a lack of tackling, have crept into the game as well. Because training camp is not as rigorous as it used to be, players go from a placid preseason to going 110 percent in the regular season. Their bodies and joints are not accustomed to the rapid change.
Bill L: Gerry, I remember you used to be the Steeler correspondent for the terrific team by team news that the print edition of the Sporting News used to do. Are there any print sources that do really good NFL off season news that you can recommend these days?
Gerry Dulac: That is correct. I was the Steelers correspondent for years for the Sporting News, both for their magazine and on-line edition. This is the first year TSN has not had the team reports. Alas, I cannot recommend another site because I'm not one who visits those sites.
Phil: Hi Gerry. I got kind of frustrated with Jerome's non-election to Canton that I didn't bother to look at next year's first year elibiles. I know one is Edgerrin James who was nowhere near the player the Bus was, but I'm sure the narrative will be that he somehow had better numbers. Do you recall the others?
Gerry Dulac: I am with you -- I was disappointed Jerome didn't get in. But I still believe he will, and should. He will go down as the best and most productive big back (250+ pounds) in NFL history. But, no, I haven't looked at upcoming classes and who might be his competition.
Guest: After following up on their head coaching search by canning Lombardi and Bannner, have the Jimmy Haslem Browns stepped up from just being the most dysfunctional organization in the NFL to being in the conversation with such train wrecks as the Matt Millen Lions and the last years of the Al Davis Raiders as among the most screwed up NFL organizations in recent NFL history
Gerry Dulac: No question about it. I was glad to see Jimmy Haslem take the stance he did by firing Joe Banner, who was costing the Browns a number of good head-coaching candidates, including Ken Whisenhunt, Nobody wanted to go work for him after what happened with Rob Chudzinski. Look, Chudzinski shouldn't have been hired in the first place. But, to blame him for another losing season when the Browns had lost at least 11 games every year since 2008 is ludicrous. Plus it wasn't his fault that his quarterbacks got injured or that Trent Richardson was traded. That Haslem, an astute guy, was letting him make those football decisions was beyond me. Glad to see him put a stop to it.
Dr. Seuss: What are your thoughts on how the M Sam situation plays out? I know of his SEC award but can he make it meaningfully at next level in NFL? I suspect that he will be "Sam I Am" and many NFL teams will respond "I do not like green eggs and ham", unless the man can actually play, then eventually, perhaps reluctantly, one NFL team might like him.
Gerry Dulac: I don't think there's much question Sam can play, but how effective he will or could be in the NFL remains to be seen. But, in this instance, I don't think that is going to matter. Despite what most coaches, owners and GMs will say publicly, I still believe there will be a reluctance among NFL teams to bring in a player who could potentially be an uncomfortable distraction in the locker room, especially on a winning team. Conversely, I also believe there could be some owner who wants to make a public stand on the issue and drafts Sam to show his support for equal rights. In any event, I do believe the whole issue will cause Sam to drop in the draft, and perhaps even out of the draft. That is not what I hope, merely what I think. Jack Splat: Any hints the Steelers may try for a FA at CB, Safety, or NT? A starting FA would give some flexibility for draft.
Gerry Dulac: Absolutely. The Steelers not only need some new young players, they will also need a player with experience. I think the Steelers will pursue some type of starter in free agency, unlike past years, and it will most likely be on defense.
Jerry in KC: It sounds like Sanders is all but gone, but I hear Santonio Holmes will also be let go in NY, what are the odds he makes a comeback in the burgh ala, Plaxico?
Gerry Dulac: Very slim.
Shiner or Nix: Hi Gerry, I think next year's run game can really rock if key players stay healthy. What are your thoughts?
Gerry Dulac: The Steelers would agree. They think with Le'Veon Bell, and hiring Mike Munchak as their offensive line coach, they can be a top-5 rushing team in 2014.
Jack Splat: Over/under for Joey Porter getting ejected from a game before kick-off? I hope it happens the edge Porter will bring is needed by this D.
Gerry Dulac: Don't get carried away. They didn't bring Joey Porter in merely to fire up the troops or incite them on the sidelines. But they are hoping he can help teach their young players how to play with passion and a chip on their shoulder.
RD: Gerry, do you think that the Steelers will make drafting a NT a priority at least in the middle rounds. A new NT would allow McLendon to move to DE and help with the possible depth issues there. Do you agree?
Gerry Dulac: I won't rule out that possibility because the Steelers know they have to do something about that position, whether it's with personnel or how the position is supposed to be played. I'm not ready to say Steve McLendon isn't the answer or might be better suited as a DE. But I know they think their problems with their run defense had a lot to do with the nose-tackle spot after letting Casey Hampton go.
Paul: Carnell, Munchak, Joey Porter...is Jerry O still working with the Steelers? I'm liking the staff more than ever.
Gerry Dulac: Yes he is. And I concur.
Dave: Why exactly was the draft moved back? I'm guessing television. But maybe the union? Sorry. Not to excited about Sochi and pitchers and catcers on February 12.
Gerry Dulac: They moved it back because they are moving everything back -- the combine, the owners meetings and the draft. The combine was too soon after the Super Bowl and didn't give those competing teams enough time to get ready. By moving the combine to March, the meetings to April and the draft to May, the league now has events spread over three months that will help them keep their product in the news fore most of the year.
Guest: Do you think Moye has the potential to be our big/tall WR? enough that we wont have to spend an early pick?
Gerry Dulac: No. It won't have any impact at all.
Jim: What will the steelers do with Worilds and woodley because i have a bad feeling Worilds will ask for a contract like paul kruger got last year. Are the Steelers willing to pay worilds 8 million a year knowing that pouncey heyward and cortez allen will have to be paid as soon as next year
Gerry Dulac: The Steelers intend to re-sign Jason Worilds, which means they will likely let LaMarr Woodley go. Woodley is the second-hoghest paid player on the team and he has been unreliable and unproductive the past 2 1/2 years. It might cost the Steelers a little more than they would like to sign Worilds and keep him from free agency. But , understand this, outside linebacker is the most important position in the Steelers' 3-4 defense and that player will be paid as such. When Ike Taylor is released or asked to take a huge pay cut, that money will be used to pay Allen . Brett Keisel's money, and in another year or so, Troy Polamalu's money will be used to pay Cam Heyward. Stop fretting.
JamesinNYC: If Sam falls I want the Steelers to take him, not because he is gay I could care less but if he is good value than draft him. Do you think the Steelers specifically are a good fit? That was the comment made by Mr Pollien(sp) on NFL radio that he needed to go where he fit the system.
Gerry Dulac: Agreed.
JustTellUsItsWealUnkaWoger: Lake & Porter why not Woodson?
Gerry Dulac: Just hold on.....
CoachFi: What's your take on what really may happen with Ike?
Gerry Dulac: Huge pay cut or released. One of the two. Count on it.
Renegade: Munchak should improve the OL but he can't make chicken salad out of chicken...well you know.., specifically the thin talent at OT. I'm not impressed with Gilbert as many times he is too passive and perhaps Adams is a better RT than Gilbert. Beachum..OK but not for long term starter. How/where to get cap adequate but good OT talent that can start or at least get current OTs to step up?
Gerry Dulac: I disagree with you. I think the talent on the offensive is more than adequate -- good, if not even very good. You have the best center in the league in Maurkice Pouncey and a budding Pro Bowler at right guard in David DeCastro. Marcus Gilbert is dependable, if not solid, at right tackle and it's too early to give up on Mike Adams at left tackle. Plus, I think Kelvin Beachum has shown he can be more than solid, too. I'm assuming you would like to have 5 All-Pros on the offensive line, but so would everyone else. I think you need to be more realistic.
Gerry Dulac: That's all the time we have today kids. Thanx for the questions.