Ray Fittipaldo's Steelers chat transcript: 2.24.14

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Poll Question: Which player at the NFL combine will be the best pro 5 years from now? Answer #1: Jadaveon Clowney (13%) Answer #2: Johnny Manziel (9%) Answer #3: Teddy Bridgewater (4%) Answer #4: Sammy Watkins (48%) Answer #5: Jake Matthews (13%) Answer #6: Eric Ebron (13%)

Nick: How long until we should be concerned that all is quiet on the Jason Worilds front?

Ray Fittipaldo: We are still a few weeks away from the start of free agency. He does not become an unrestricted free agent until March 11. I have seen some predictions that Worilds would do well if he went on the open market because there is not a strong group of 3-4 OLBs. So perhaps his agent would like for him to get to March 11 before signing a deal. The Steelers want him back, but if he gets a crazy offer after March 11 I am not sure they would be inclined to match it.

Guest: Does it bother you how people say louis nix is the 2nd coming of hampton? I dont recall nix having the low center of gravity that hampton did the strength or the abilitly to destroy running plays like hampton did either. Casey hampton may have been the greatest 3-4 NT to play the game. Nix isnt even close and i will be very upset if they waste the 15th pick on him

Ray Fittipaldo: I think Nix is often mentioned with the Steelers is because of the way they have played the 3-4 and the fact that he is the top 3-4 nose tackle available. The Steelers did take Hampton at No. 19 overall so there is a precedent there to take one high. However, as I wrote in the Post-Gazette last week, much has changed in the past 13 years since they invested that No. 1 draft pick on Hampton. The NFL is now a passing league and the Steelers played 60 percent sub-package football last season. I am not quite sure you're getting bang for your buck at No. 15 if you take a nose tackle.

Guest: What are the chances we keep both Worlids and Woodley(restructured) on the roster? Im as sold on Worlids as much as im not ready to give up on Woodley. The recent cap change would make this possible. what do you think?

Ray Fittipaldo: I'm glad you brought up the cap increase. The latest projection I saw from John Clayton of ESPN was that it was expected to be $132 million next season. That is good news for the Steelers if that is true. It means they could be more of a player in free agency than they have been in years past. Gerry Dulac talked with Art Rooney II about that on Saturday in Indianapolis. But that does not mean Woodley and Worilds together makes sense. The only way Worilds comes back is if he is guaranteed a starting job. He believes it's his time to shine and it would be be his time to shine if Woodley remains with the Steelers. Both are most effective at LOLB and the Steelers just used their No. 1 pick on Jarvis Jones, the ROLB, last year.

Nick: Where does the money from the cap increase go to? Lets say its an additional $8mm.

Ray Fittipaldo: It goes to the pool of money each NFL team can use to sign players. The Steelers have until March 11 to get in compliance with the cap. They are currently over. But terminating someone like Ike Taylor and/or Woodley as well as some restructures would go a long way toward getting cap compliant.

Guest: What's your take on bringing back Ike Taylor? I personally think Steelers should cut him and save money. Don't even think about moving him to Safety, that's a joke.

Ray Fittipaldo: Termination or drastic cut in salary seems in order based on his production last season. The Steelers had to go away from matching him up with the other team's top WR late in the season because QBs were going at him and having so much success against him.

Jake: Do you think theres a chance we trade back to add another pick and grab someone like dee ford? Theres plenty of wr and cb depth so adding another pick would seem smart especially if we can't keep worilds.

Ray Fittipaldo: Depends what is offered I suppose, but this is a pretty good year to have the No. 15 overall pick. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network has talked to scouts and GMs and they're all saying having a top 20 pick this year is like having a top 10 pick last year. If I'm the Steelers and I can get the guy I want who can come in and play right away I draft him.

Teke: Will Jerricho Cotchery be back? Do you know if he wants to return? He wss surprisingly productive last year.

Ray Fittipaldo: I think he'd like to return. He was productive here. However, he was productive as the No. 3 receiver in the slot. What happens if the Steelers take Mike Evans at No. 15. Then Evans is likely the starter opposite Antonio Brown and Wheaton is the slot. Cotchery was the No. 4 with the Steelers before last season so he might not be opposed to such a situation, but he was most effective in the slot. I think they'd like him back at a reasonable price, especially if for some reason they cannot land the big WR they want somewhere in the first few rounds.

Guest: Red Bryant? Louis Delmas? Possible adds for the Steelers? Steelers need depth and overall better players.

Ray Fittipaldo: I agree with you that the depth must improve. I think that's why this year's draft is so important. You'd like to get some quality players on the roster to compete with some of the guys who are maybe borderline NFL players. But I am not sure about Delmas. They brought him in to check out his knee. I don't know what they found. He could be an option, but they could decide to take a safety fairly high in the draft as well. That could eliminate the need for someone like Delmas.

Nate: what are the chances the steelers take gilbert with their first pick? would this be their best option in your opinion?

Ray Fittipaldo: The more I think about it the more I am convinced a WR or CB is the way to go in the first round. Gilbert and Dennard are considered the top CBs in the draft. If I'm running the team I am more intrigued by the addition of Mike Evans because of what he could bring to what is already a pretty darn good offense. Plus, this is a deep draft for CBs so you could probably get a quality one in round 2.

Dennis: If There Is One Player You Think We Should Move Up To Get,Who Is That playeR?

Ray Fittipaldo: In most mock drafts, you see three QBs and three OTs in the top 10 or 12. The Steelers don't have a need for either while other teams do, which means they'll get someone like Evans or Gilbert or Dennard who is ranked in the top two or three at their position. That's pretty good. I don't think there is a need to move up, but since you're asking Sammy Watkins looks like he's going to be really special. So he's my choice.

Clint: Would a guy like Troy Niklas make sense for Steelers in 2nd or 3rd rd as a complement to Heath at TE?

Ray Fittipaldo: I could see them taking a TE to groom as Miller's replacement, but it's not a need like a big WR, a CB or a safety. So using a second-round pick on someone like that might not be the way to go when you have Miller making $8 million to be the starter next season. But I agree with your premise that Miller is nearing the end and TE has to be addressed if not this year then probably next.

Mo: I know it's early, but if you had to choose a most likely pick at #15 for the Steelers, who would it be?

Ray Fittipaldo: Mike Evans, the 6-5, 232-pound WR from Texas A&M. He's big, fast and a former basketball player who has skills to go up and win 50-50 balls. He tested really well at the combine so there is a chance he moved higher than No. 15, but if he's there I'd take him.

Guest: Do you see Landry Jones developing into the backup role this season? Thanks

Ray Fittipaldo: Bruce Gradkowski is under contract and they are not unhappy with him at all. Plus, Jones had a really slow start to his pro career and needs more seasoning. So, no, I don't think he'll be the backup next season unless he really comes on this spring and summer and impresses the coaches.

vv Ariel Solomon: Is Levi Brown no longer a Steeler and did we trade a pick to Arizona for him last year?

Ray Fittipaldo: Brown will not be a Steeler March 11. He will be cut and the Steelers did not give away much of anything to get him.

Guest: Any chance Sammy Watkins falls to the Steelers?

Ray Fittipaldo: No. I would be shocked if that happens. He's a definite top 10 pick and maybe top 5.

Mel: After Mike

Evans combine showing there is no way the Steelers let him slip past in favor of another prospect, am I right?

Ray Fittipaldo: I would think not, but you never know. Not only did Evans run well, but his hands are big and his arms are long, so he really is a big target in every sense. Ben can throw to bigger windows with someone like that.

Guest: Oh I disagree with that. Louis Nix would be a good pick at 15th! He takes up 2 lineman, which will free LB's more. Then Pitt can move McLendon to DE. Louis Nix reminds of Wilfork not Hampton.

Ray Fittipaldo: As nose tackle last season McLendon played 455 snaps. Most starters who remained healthy played upwards of 1,000 to 1,100 snaps. So he played 40 percent or so of the snaps. I am not arguing the importance of a nose tackle in a 3-4. I am arguing about the value of a nose tackle at No. 15 considering the number of snaps he'll likely play.

John blaze: This defense is far away from being #1 across the board however will they be able to become more fundamentally sound this year? (i.e. Tackling, limiting big plays and not busting assignments and coverages)

Ray Fittipaldo: Based on their tradition, last year seemed like an aberration. They had some guys in different positions trying to make up for some deficiencies in other places. If they get the pieces back to where they fit I would suspect some of those big plays will no longer happen. But that's assuming they address nose tackle and/or ILB in the draft. Or have Foote come back and be effective. Or have Sean Spence step in and be effective. Lots of questions there and too early to have any solid answers for you.

Guest: oood Afternoon Ray,I ws wondering if yo knew the team's real opinion of Shamarko Thomas? I was alittle surprised they seemed to move so quick to court Louis Delmas when Detroi c him loose. Is Thomas no longer viewed as a starter?

Ray Fittipaldo: They took Thomas with the idea that he'd be a starter. He's likely the starter next season opposite Polamalu. I think the reason they're looking into the possibility of Delmas is depth in case Thomas does not work out or if they view him as more of a strong safety than a free safety. One way or the other he'll be a starter by 2015 because I don't think Polamalu will be back in 2015.

Quintin M: I like CJ Mosley for Steelers at 15. Great tackler, but his coverage skills will take some pressure off of Timmons and Troy will not have to play nickel lb. What do you think?

Ray Fittipaldo: I don't think Mosley will be there at No. 15 for the Steelers.

Eric H: How do you think we should address fs for next year? Would we better off drafting somebody (Clinton-Dix, Pryor), signing a free agent, or letting Shamarko Thomas play at fs?

Ray Fittipaldo: I don't know how they envision employing Thomas but it would eliminate a need if they believed he could step in and play FS next season. The only problem with that is you'd have two 5-9 safeties, which is not ideal with the number of big WRs in the league these days. Opposing offenses would definitely game plan to try to take advantage of that.

Eric H: Do you think the Steelers have any interest in drafting Ebron and implementing using 2 te's?

Ray Fittipaldo: Like Mosley, I don't think Ebron will be there at No. 15. But if he was I would have to think long and hard about taking him. Not only would he be a big target for Ben but he'd be a long-term replacement for Miller. You'd be killing two birds with one stone.

Mo: How long until we start seeing some restructured contracts and resignings? I know the deadline is March 11th

Ray Fittipaldo: Coaches and GMs are focused on the combine now. It ends tomorrow, so I think you might see some things heat up around the league after that. It's not just quiet with the Steelers. It's been pretty quiet everywhere.

Guest: Any chance we draft a Punter?

Ray Fittipaldo: I would think they learned their lesson when they invested a fourth-round pick on Daniel Sepulveda and he turned out to be injury-prone. You can get those guys late in the draft or more likely as free agents. Plus, I think they'd like to see what they have in Brad Wing, the former LSU punter who signed a futures contract after the season.

matt: Do think they would ever consider moving woodley to de

Ray Fittipaldo: Don't think so although some will tell you he's big enough to make a move. Woodley was a productive player when healthy at OLB. I just think he has to get healthy again and I'm not sure the Steelers are willing to gamble on that happening with his contract.

John B.: After us going winless without Heath Miller early in the season, and the lack of depth behind him, how can we not see TE as more of a priority?? Spaeth is not even half as good as Miller

Ray Fittipaldo: Spaeth is a good blocker. That's why they signed him. Miller, when healthy, is a good blocker and receiver. What I was saying was TE is not a need this season. It might be in 2015. So do you gamble and hope you can draft someone like Miller in the first round next year? Miller was so good he started right away and helped the Steelers win a Super Bowl. It doesn't always work out that way, so that's why I think taking a TE makes some sense this year.

Carcosa: Was this your first combine? If so did you find it to be an interesting experience or as boring as it looks on TV? And did you eat at St. Elmo's?

Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, it was my first combine. The journalists who cover the event are busy doing interviews and writing. There is not much time to watch the workouts. If you are a member of the Pro Football Writers of America like I am they let you watch at certain times, but not all the time. But it doesn't matter. I was there to conduct interviews and write stories. And yes, I ate at St. Elmo's. It lived up to its reputation. Very good meal.

Guest: IF Mike Evans is off the board, what's the chance Steelers take Ha-Ha Clinton Dix over a DB or Nix? Ray Fittipaldo: As I said earlier, I would take a CB if they think he can come in and start because I think the need is bigger there. But they'll need a safety next season and in this defense most players have to be groomed for a year or two, so a safety does make sense early. I'm just not sure I'd take one over a CB like Gilbert or Dennard at No. 15.

JamesinNYC: Does Evans get extra points for playing with a guy that is basically a Mini Ben?

Ray Fittipaldo: That's not a bad point, James. To play with a guy like Manziel you have to know how to keep plays alive by coming back for the ball and changing your route. But the Steelers have tried to limit Ben's scrambling under Haley, so I am not sure it's a huge part of his scouting. I think his size and wingspan is much more appealing than that.

Guest: Ray, Who makes the final call on a draft pick?

Ray Fittipaldo: Mike Tomlin was asked that question during the season because reporters have been taking the Steelers to take for some of their draft picks in recent years. Tomlin said he is responsible, but I read that as more him taking the blame and owning the situation. I think it is collaborative between Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert. But if there is a real debate on a player with a certain pick I would think Colbert would let Tomlin have his guy if he felt that strongly about it. I think we all remember the Jason Worilds pick from 2010. That was an example of Tomlin wanting and getting someone.

CoachFi: Since we don't normally draft this high don't you think it's important to get a sure starter, if so, who can come in and start this season?

Ray Fittipaldo: When you draft at No. 15 I think most teams are expecting to get someone who can contribute right away. In most situations that means you're a starter. It doesn't always work out that way. We saw what happened with Jarvis Jones last year. I think it's more likely the guy contributes on offense right away with the Steelers. Pouncey was a starter as a rookie. DeCastro wold have been if he didn't get hurt. There is much to learn for rookies but not as much on offense compared to the defense where the Steelers are concerned.

Eric H: Do you think it's possible that Nix falls to us in the 2nd round?

Ray Fittipaldo: I was wondering about that this morning when I saw him run a 5.35 40-yard dash. And I know 40 times are not important for nose tackles. But I was just thinking about what could make that happen. He didn't have a great workout. His knees might be an issue. He's probably best for a 3-4, which might eliminate some 4-3 teams. I still don't think he'll fall to the middle of the second round, though. If he did that would be ideal for the Steelers.

Marty: Talking with a friend of mine-we all agreed the Steelers need to look at FA nose tackles. Who is available for the steelers to consider? We can move McLendon to DE & concentrate on DB/MLB/WR in the draft!

Ray Fittipaldo: That might be another option. Terrence Cody is behind Ngata in Baltimore and could be an option, but I am not sure what he'd command and what the Steelers owuld be willing to pay for someone like him.

Mel: My mock draft has the Steelers selecting Marquise Lee WR USC

Ray Fittipaldo: Lee is considered the No. 2 WR by most behind Sammy Watkins. So I don't think he'd be there at No. 15.

Dan: who do you think is the best possible prospect that could fall to the steelers in round 2? With tuitt having the injury could he be an option?

Ray Fittipaldo: Allen Robinson of Penn State did not test well. He ran a 4.6, which was one of the slowest times for WRs at the combine. If the Steelers don't go with a WR in the first round could Robinson be someone they target in the second round? I liked him when I watched him on TV. He goes up and gets the ball. But I'd be worried about that 4.6 40. It's nice that he high points the ball but he'd have to get some separation to be effective in the NFL.

Pittsburgh Mike: If worilds signs some where else don't you think steelers would be in trouble. From what i saw of woodley last year i would hate to stat him and jones

Ray Fittipaldo: If Worilds signs elsewhere they'd almost have to go with Woodley and hope he can regain his 2010 or 2011 form. It's not a bad option. He's done it before. He'd just have to stay healthy.

Carmen DeSantis: Am I the only person who thinks a first round CB or WR is a bad idea? WR is as unpredictable as QB when it comes to NCAA-NFL translation. Look at the countless busts at both positions (QB/WR) and the ability to find starter quality receivers in the middle to late rounds of drafts. As corners go in our 3-4 an elite corner is wasted if you have elite safeties which are more necessary in the Tampa 2 schemes and we don't use base defense enough anymore with all the passing these days.

Ray Fittipaldo: I agree with you to a certain degree about CBs in the Steelers' 3-4. It's not like they're allowed to jump a lot of routes. They pretty much asked to cover and tackle and not allow any big plays. But there comes a point in time when you have to address certain positions, and the Steelers have not selected a CB in the first round since 1997. It might be time to make some changes to the way they do things. So, in other words, if you draft a CB like Gilbert or Dennard maybe you let them have more freedom and take advantage of their skill sets.

Bob: If the steelers are going to try and sign Worilds then when would you think they are going to do so since free agency is just a few weeks away

Ray Fittipaldo: That's a good question, James. I haven't researched that, but I can only assume the market is lower for players who basically plays half the number of snaps as a starter.

DSF: And, not bashing Lebeau here, but with the need to have players contribute earlier, wouldnt it make sense to transition away from the complex 3-4 so first and second year players can have an impact?

Ray Fittipaldo: The Steelers have been effective in the 3-4 under LeBeau for such a long time. Not so much the past two or three years but overall it's been a very good scheme. Plus, they've drafted 3-4 specific players in recent years such as Jones last year.

Dom: Who is this years Vontaze Burfict/Tyrann Mathew? Great upside but character concerns will drop them down the board. Those players seemed to have worked out well for the teams willing to take the chance.

Ray Fittipaldo: Good question, Dom. Other than Clowney I cannot think of any guys where character is a big issue right now. I am sure there are some out there, but just not ringing a bell right now.

Mo: Are there any top 10 pick caliber players that you see potentially dropping to us at 15? I remember being surprised a couple years ago when Decastro fell to us

Ray Fittipaldo: As I mentioned earlier, the three QBS are being pushed up and will be drafted above their actual ranking, so yes, I do think the Steelers could land a top-10 caliber player or something close to it. And after the way Evans performed he's looking like a top 10 type of guy.

Tim: Do the Steelers have any RBs on their radar in the later rounds? If so, who would you guess?

Ray Fittipaldo: I haven't looked at the RBs too much because I'm focused on more positions of need. Nowadays, you can get RBs late and feel pretty good about getting a backup.

Dom: If Worilds is not resigned where does OLB become a priority in this years draft?

Could it make Barr or Mack options in the first?

Ray Fittipaldo: Mack and Barr will be gone by No. 15. They look like dynamite players, but I don't think the Steelers will have a shot at them.

Eric H: What rookie from our last draft do you think will have the biggest season in 2014? Jones? Wheaton? Thomas? I'm not counting Bell.

Ray Fittipaldo: For the Steelers' sake, it had better be Jones. They are desperate for a better pass rush. And he's a first-round pick. As Bill Cowher once said in that famous NFL films clip to Greg Lloyd: "Rush the quarterback."

Ray Fittipaldo: That's all the time I have for this week. Thanks for chatting. I'll be back next weak at the same time.

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