Ray Fittipaldo's Steelers chat transcript: 2.17.14

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Poll Question: How many offensive players should the Steelers choose in the 2014 NFL draft? Answer #1: 1 (10%) Answer #2: 2 (61%) Answer #3: 3 (26%) Answer #4: 4 or more (3%) Answer #5: Zero. Use all on defense (0%)

Alan: When do you think we'll start to see some action regarding Worilds, Woodley, Taylor, etc?

Ray Fittipaldo: Some teams are starting to make some moves. Terrell Suggs of the Ravens redid his deal today. I would expect things to pick up this week and next week for clubs trying to re-sign their own free agents and to redo deals. Free agency begins March 11.

Guest: I keep seeing Draftnicks saying that we should get Nix. While I do think he's a good player that would fit us well, we only used DT in limited situations. Do you think we did that because of the talent we have at DT now or how our scheme will be moving forward?

Ray Fittipaldo: When you say DT (defensive tackle) I assume you mean nose guard because defensive ends are used much more than nose guards. You are correct about that. I went back and looked up how much Casey Hampton played over the final five years of his career with the Steelers. It ended up averaging out to be less than most other defensive starters. So on average a guy like Troy Polamalu, when healthy played upwards of 1,100 snaps per season. Hampton played about half that much, or about 500-600 snaps a season. I do think Nix would fit the scheme well but the Steelers would have to make that pick knowing he'd play more than Hampton in nickel and dime packages. I don't see them investing a No. 15 overall pick in a nose tackle unless he plays more than half the snaps. I might try to write more extensively about that later this week at the combine in Indianapolis.

Jud: Have you cultivated relationships that allow you inside knowledge into our draft strategy? Do you think that can be used against you in the "mis-information" time period leading up to the draft? Has that happened before?

Ray Fittipaldo: As a journalist, you are always trying to cultivate relationships that help you do your job, but when you cover an event like the draft you go in knowing full well that the people you are covering do not want to let you in on their complete thoughts because it does not serve them well from a competitive standpoint. So you have to know the team's history in the draft, where they've drafted players at certain positions before, etc. It also helps to study draft-eligible players to know whether they'd fit in the scheme the Steelers are using. You use all of this information and try to come to some logical conclusions.

Tom: Should the Steelers transition tag Worilds? Seems to me it would be better to maybe overpay him for a year to see if he is really worth a bigtime contract and avoid the Woodley mistake. I would gamble he isn't going to be all-pro next year and be worth a massive contract that he is demanding now.

Ray Fittipaldo: Kevin Colbert said last week it was unlikely they would use the franchise tag on any of their players. I think their goal is to sign Worilds to a fair contract based on his performance. It won't be a Woodley type of contract, but it will be a nice raise from his rookie contract. Or maybe he'll test free agency to see if there are any owners that want to overpay for him.

Chuck: Hi Ray, I think that the Steelers will choose CJ Mosley (ILB) or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first of the NFL draft. Do you think that both will be available at 15??

Ray Fittipaldo: I've seen more mock drafts where Dix is available at No. 15 than Mosley for whatever that is worth. And let's face it. We're still three months away from the draft. Teams have an idea of where players are on their boards now, but they'll know much more after the combine this week and then again after they watch these guys again at their pro days. We're still relatively early in the process.

Andrew: Does cutting Woodley this year even make sense financially? He will cost 14.7 mil against the cap if you cut him and 13.8 mil if you keep him and couldn't they make that number less by reworking his deal? Not to mention they had the least amount of sacks in franchise history in the last 34 yrs in 2013 and would be fools to think that worilds jones and carter would be uprgrading their pass rush and theres a lack of depth at OLB by releasing wood

Ray Fittipaldo: Read this story from Ed Bouchette. It was in Sunday's paper. He breaks it down: http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/steelers/2014/02/16/On-the-Steelers-Analysis-Economics-key-to-Woodley-s-fate/stories/201402160057

Guest: People are talking about how we should get a tall receiver like Evans. What about a tight end like Ebron? He would compliment Heath miller being his long term replacement and be a

Ray Fittipaldo: Ebron has a ton of potential, but right now he is more of a pass-catching tight end than an in-line blocking tight end. But your scenario is not illogical. The Steelers do need to think about the future at the position because Miller is a free agent after the upcoming season.

Steve: Hi ray, I keep hearing Mike Evans name pop up for us. Is WR. Really as big of an issue as other areas?

Ray Fittipaldo: People keep mentioning a tall receiver for the Steelers because they have not had one for years and I think everyone realizes the Steelers are close to being a really potent offense and what's missing most is a receiver that give Ben a big target over the middle and on deep balls. Ben was not very good throwing the ball down the field this season because his receivers had skill sets more useful for the short passing game, so that's what the Steelers did -- throw shorter passes. If this offense wants to take the next step it needs more play action passing and more deep throws that have the possibility of being completed. Antonio Brown had a great year, but he's not a guy who is going to go up and get a lot of 50-50 balls. The same was true for free agent Emmanuel Sanders, who is basically the same size as Brown. So yes, there are plenty of other needs, but this offense has a need for a taller receiver, and I think that will be addressed in this draft. The question is whether they'll use the No. 15 on a guy like Evans or Kelvin Benjamin of FSU. Those guys are not likely to be around in the second round.

Guest: Is it a foregone conclusion Ike is gone and we draft Denard in the 1st round?

Ray Fittipaldo: I think it's a foregone conclusion Ike will not be back for his current price tag of $7 million in salary, but I'm not closing the door completely on him not being on the team. He could come back if he takes a big pay cut. Dennard could be there at No. 15, but those of you who read my story in Sunday's paper know the Steelers haven't taken a cornerback with their No. 1 pick since 1997. They have gotten by with guys drafted in the second, third, fourth and fifth rounds. This draft is deep at corner and they could go that route again. Of course, they could also feel like they need to take a corner in the first round because of how poorly that position performed last year, too. We shall see.

Dirt Winston: Any idea what pick Goodell may take away due to Tomlin being on the Field?

Ray Fittipaldo: That has not been determined yet but I would imagine it would be a late-round pick if it happens. The Steelers have informed Goodell that they will strongly oppose being docked a pick.

James: Do you think we could see a corner in the first round?

Ray Fittipaldo: See above answer. It might be time for that, but it hasn't been their way of doing things for the past 15 years or so.

Tom: I said this immediately after the draft last year...Jones was a mistake. Not because he may not turn into an all pro, but rather that in some form a previous #2 was going to be cut or on the bench. If you are a team who builds through the draft, can you continue to repeat positions in your picks and also let free agents leave? Basically shouldn't safety, OLB, OT, G and DE be absolutely out of the question for picks this year?

Ray Fittipaldo: I agree with your basic premise except for the fact that this team has to have a left tackle they believe in. Kelvin Beachum won over Todd Haley, but we don't know what Mike Munchak thinks of him. He is 6 feet 3 and 300 pounds, which is small for a left tackle. And Munchak has been successful finding some diamonds in the rough after round 1. He found longtime Tennessee starter Michael Roos in the second round. He played at a Division I-AA school. So while I don't think the Steelers will take a tackle in the first round I can see them taking one later in the draft.

Jake Beard: Where do you honestly see the Steelers going in the first round? I have seen many mocks saying Nix, Gilbert, Clinton-Dix, Evans, Benjamin and what not. I just really don't see the point in drafting the two tall players because you already have 6'7 Derek Moye who is was quicker than both players. And nix is very inconsistent, and with Dick's complicated D , Clinton-Dix will only see time it Troy hurts himself again.

Ray Fittipaldo: First of all, Moye is not 6-7. He's listed at 6-5. And do you really think he is better than Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin. If he was he would have played a lot more than he did for the Steelers last season. I think he only dressed for a handful of games and had just one touchdown. I like Moye and it was a nice story that he made the team last season, but if he was the answer he would have done it last season. Nix is coming off a knee injury. The combine is big for him this week because every NFL team doctor will look at his knee. Once and for all, nose tackle is about the only position where a rookie can come in and play in this defense. It's too complicated to expect rookies at other positions to be full-time starters in their first year. So whether you're talking about a linebacker, safety or corner there is going to be a learning curve no matter what.

Guest: With the size and success of the Seahawks Defensive Backfield any chance Jarvis Jones is switched to strong safety since he is an undersized LB at best?

Ray Fittipaldo: I think the answer for Jarvis is to get in the weight room not to switch positions.

Kevoc: Is joey porter going to be wearing a headset during games or will he just be another body on the sideline

Ray Fittipaldo: He's a defensive assistant. Jerry Olsavsky has the same job title and works with the inside backers. He coaches from the press box. I am not sure where Porter will be on game days.

kamil: I think the offense will be fine with another oline pick later in the draft, and maybe wr, but do you think our first two pick should be cb/s or s/cb best player availabl?

Ray Fittipaldo: As I said earlier the depth for corners in this draft is good so you can get a good one after the first round. But I would expect them to get one in the first couple of rounds. I would expect them to take a safety, too, unless they can land one in free agency.

steelers in AZ: I believe the Steelers will let Worilds test the market, as he has been oft injured just like Woodley. Woodley is a beast when not injured. But are you not trading one oft injured player for another?

Ray Fittipaldo: Woodley has been injured much more the past three seasons and it has been with chronic problems with the same muscle -- his hamstrings. Worilds had that wrist injury early in his career but he was healthy all last season and has not had any chronic injuries.

Tom: People seem to be assuming we are going to sign Worilds so we can cut Woodley. Worilds is going to demand a bigtime contract on the open market. Do you really think the Steelers are going to overpay for a guy who came into camp (with a starting job on the line) fairly out of shape and got beat out by a rookie?

Ray Fittipaldo: Unless there is a GM out there who wants to pay big money to an outside linebacker who produced big numbers for half a season then I don't think Worilds will be getting, as you say, a "Big-time contract. And I don't think Worilds was out of shape last summer. I think he is better suited for the left side, which is where he had most of his success late last season after Woodley was injured. Jarvis Jones beat him out for a short time on the right side, but the coaching staff quickly went to Worilds after Jones struggled.

Chunkles: Ray, why is it fans are grasping? They like to mention Sean Spence. He only showed ability before he was hurt. Derek Moye, who? Jason Worlids? PLEASE! He had a HALF of a good season. Dont sign him. Now, fans need to realize, Joey Porter is NOT playing, He was hired as an assistant, hopefully to mentor Jarvis Jones. Stop grasping at straws!

Ray Fittipaldo: Agree with most of what you had to say, but I think Worilds is worth signing if he comes at a reasonable price.

Tom: WR is a sexy pick that the fans want, but does a bigtime WR improve a team at all? The best in the game are on non-playoff teams Meagtron (Detroit), Josh Gordon (Cleveland), Andre Johnson (Houston). You can even add in AJ Green (Bungles) and Julio Jones for having minimal impact on playoff wins.

Ray Fittipaldo: And the 49ers are in this continual search for one to round out their team that has been competing for Super Bowls the past three years. Yes, they are important. The Steelers had two good ones the last time they won the Super Bowl (Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes), and Holmes was the MVP in Super Bowl XLIII.

Jud: Are you going to the combine? Is there ever an offseason for you or the other PG folks?

Ray Fittipaldo: Gerry Dulac and I are going to the combine and we'll have a bunch of stories from out there later this week. Late June and early July is pretty much the offseason.

Evan Markowitz: What's the better choice for the steelers in the first round. Drafting a tall wide receiver to keep Big Ben happy, or go defense such as justin Gilbert or Clinton Dix?

Ray Fittipaldo: Defense has a bigger need, and I don't think it's a matter of keeping Ben happy. It's a matter of giving him the final piece to the puzzle.

Tom: Every expert agrees this is an incredibly deep draft, especially compared to last year. Isn't trading a 3rd rounder away for Thomas looking even worse right now?

Ray Fittipaldo: Perhaps but they knew they were getting mid-round picks in return when they opted not to re-sign Mike Wallace and Kennan Lewis. We don't know where those picks will be yet, but I think they operated in the manner they did last year knowing that they would have a pick(s) in the third round.

Evan Markowitz: With mike munchack now being the steelers new o-line coach, how high do you think the steelers will try to draft an offensive lineman in this years draft?

Ray Fittipaldo: Not in round 1. Would not be surprised with any pick after that.

DSF: Question about the nose tackle. While i understand that it is a passing league in general, but last year it was a passing league and they couldn't stop the run either. So even if it is a passing league, at least if the steelers draft or acquire a 2 gap nt, then at least they can potentially make that the only option. Whereas last year, the defense could stop neither, and the whole defensive philosophy is built around making teams one dimensional as opposed to hoping they will be. I guess my question is, even if the NT only places 2 downs, i dont see how we can afford not to have draft or pick up a traditional 2 gap NT. Thoughts?

Ray Fittipaldo: Very good points. As I mentioned earlier, Casey Hampton played half the games in his final five years in the NFL while other key players on the defense like Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and James Harrison (when he was here) played the majority of the snaps. It is a very important position in this defense, but the NFL has changed a lot since the Steelers drafted Casey Hampton with the No. 19 overall pick in 2001. Teams are passing more. That doesn't mean stopping the run is less important, but it has meant coaches having to adjust their personnel by bringing in more defensive backs on second and third downs.

Mike: What do you see as a pressing issue for the Steelers, is it to get Ben a weapon or shore up your secondary and or D-line??

Ray Fittipaldo: All three are pressing issues. I think the most important thing this offseason is figuring out why they haven't created more turnovers in recent years. Is it because of the secondary? Is it because of the pass rush? A combination of both? In the past the Steelers have forced mistakes by the pass rush. In other words, their defensive backs don't jump a lot of routes. They keep the plays in front of them. So do you change your philosophy some and invest a first-round pick in a corner? Or do you simply try to improve your pass rush by getting better in that area (ie. hoping Jones comes around)? This will be a very interesting offseason in that regard.

ben dover: Are the steelers going to be able to win some of their gimme games this year like against jacksonville tennessee (again) and tampa or find a way to lose them like they have been doing these last 2 years i.e. oakland tennessee minnesota etc.

Ray Fittipaldo: Great question. That's what kept them out of the playoffs the past two years more than anything. When it becomes a trend it probably means your team isn't very good in the first place so you had better make some changes to improve your team.

Derek: Who are you most looking forward to watching during the combine?

Ray Fittipaldo: It will be my first time covering the combine so I'll take in everything.

Mark C: What are the Steelers going to do with Stephens-Howling?

Ray Fittipaldo: He's a free agent so they would have to re-sign him if they want him to be a part of the team next season. He is a natural fit for the zone blocking scheme. He did very well in it last summer before getting injured. I guess it depends on how his knee has healed, too.

SP: Ray, all those teams Tom mentioned don't have QB better than Ben & all those receivers don't have a complementary receiver on the team. If steelers pick WR they'd have 2 good options

Ray Fittipaldo: I like your thinking.

ben dover: id say the steelers have 3-5 gimme games depending on who their teams draft. Tennessee (gimme) jacksonville (gimme) houston (if they draft a rookie qb plus its home and they have a rookie HC) and tampa (its at home and they too have a young QB) Will this years team find a way to win these games or just continually lose easy ones that will come back to bite them week 17

Ray Fittipaldo: They've lost to Tennessee the past two years, once at home and once on the road. They lost to the Raiders the past two years for crying out loud. This team, after being 8-8 the past two seasons, has no gimmes!

Guest: O is the strength of the steelers. Pick a big WR in round 1 and add to the strength. Spend the rest of the picks on imrpoving the team's weakness - the D. As you said a lot of good CB's in the draft.

Ray Fittipaldo: A solid game plan.

Jeff W.: Sean Spence's recovery has been a great story to follow over the past year. If he comes back and can actually contribute, how positive of an impact do you think that would have on the defense next season?

Ray Fittipaldo: It would have a big impact, but it's almost impossible for the Steelers to plan around that. He had a really bad injury that has taken two years to heal. When he came back and practiced last fall he got injured again. Now they won't be able to look at him again in a practice situation until after the draft... Do you see what I'm getting at? Unless they are convinced about him they have to have a Plan B.

Mark C: Has Wheaton showed enough to hand him the #2 WR,if Sanders leaves? He needs to show me more.

Ray Fittipaldo: He does need to show more, but that's not the way it works in this free agency era of the NFL. Wheaton has potential and they're hoping he realizes that potential next season.

Tom: Wouldn't signing a NT like T. Cody from Baltimore just open up the draft immensly for taking the best player available on Off or Def in rds 1 and 2? Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, it would. He is behind a great player in Baltimore, but I don't know what he will command and as I have said throughout the past few weeks they're concentrating their efforts now on their own free agents.

Mark C: Do the Steelers have to right pieces for zone blocking this year? Last yr was a disaster from the get go.

Ray Fittipaldo: The Steelers have a bunch of athletic linemen who are capable of transitioning to the zone scheme. I would argue last season's failed experiment had more to do with some coaching issues rather than personnel issues. And with Mike Munchak in tow, that should change this season.

harold: What do you think of suggs? Are his best days over? Hes got 1 sack in the last 4 games against us and in the 2 we lost, it wasn't because of terrell suggs. Have we found out how to take him out of the game or has his age caught up to him?

Ray Fittipaldo: All great players get older. He is over 30 I believe. They're probably saying the same thing about LaMarr Woodley down in Baltimore. When you get older you slow down and you get injuries. I think that's happened to both Suggs and Woodley.

Darrien C.: Can Munchak seriously turn the O-Line around or do some cough cough Adams... Seriously lack potential ?

Ray Fittipaldo: I think they're set up well at guard and center with Pouncey, Foster and DeCastro. Tackle is the biggest issue. Can he get more out of Gilbert and is Beachum a long-term answer at left tackle? Can he drill fundamentals into Adams, who really struggled with his pass protection last season. Munchak is a great teacher, so there is hope, but I agree there is a lot to fix when it comes to the tackles.

slicer: What are your thoughts on BJ Raji? If he is for the right price would he help out our defense in any way shape or form? Unless a DT can gets alot of sacks teams wont pay much for them and he may be affordable and GB does run a 3-4

Ray Fittipaldo: Raji, a former first-round pick, has really tailed off the past few seasons. He was really good in the Super Bowl against the Steelers, but his play has not been up to that standard the past few years. He'd be a gamble.

Mark C: Do you see Heath Miller having more of an impact this year coming off the injury of prior season?

Ray Fittipaldo: I would think so. That first season back after a knee injury is always the toughest. He didn't play poorly last season, but he wasn't the usual Heath Miller, either. I think the Steelers are hoping he gets back to the form that made him one of the best dual-threat TEs in the NFL.

jerry p in cali: Do you think Shamarko Thomas fits in our future as a saftey or is his height his downfall.. And we'll need to draft one again?

Ray Fittipaldo: They drafted Thomas with the hope that he'd be a starter someday, but with Clark likely gone and Polamalu nearing the end you could definitely see another safety drafted. Jud: Who do you think wins the AFC North this year?

Ray Fittipaldo: Bengals are so good defensively it's hard to pick against them, but they have to figure out if Dalton is their guy, or how to win with someone who comes up small in big games. The Steelers and Ravens are right behind them and could challenge them this season.

Ray Fittipaldo: Thanks for all the great questions this week. Sorry if I didn't get to yours. We'll do it again next week at the same time.

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