Ray Fittipaldo's Steelers chat transcript: 3.3.14

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Poll Question: How much should the Steelers be willing to pay OLB Jason Woridls? Answer #1: $5 million per year (27%) Answer #2: $6 million per year (27%) Answer #3: $7 million per year (36%)Answer #4: $8 million per year (0%) Answer #5: He's not worth it (10%) Answer #6: Break the bank (0%)

Hart: If the Steelers retain Velasco do you think that they would keep him at center and move pouncey to LG? I think that would improve tbe line.

Ray Fittipaldo: If the Steelers retain Velasco he would be a reserve and he would be an interior wing guy, capable of playing guard and center. Pouncey is a three-time Pro Bowler at center and they have no plans to move him right now.

Jake: Hi ray, any news on the release/pay cut of any players? Also with the salary cap being raised do you see the steelers becoming more of a player in free agency now? Final question, why not use the franchise tag of worilds?

Ray Fittipaldo: Art Rooney II told Gerry Dulac of the PG that the Steelers might be more active in free agency if the cap is expected to go up as much as it has been rumored. The last figure I saw was for $133 million this year, which is about seven million more than last year. I think the franchise number on an outside linebacker is around $11 million, so I am not sure that's an option right now. As for terminations, those can come this week or early next week. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported this morning that Heath Miller's contract has been restructured. That happened a few minutes before the chat, so I don't have confirmation on that from the Steelers.

Tom: Does the salary going up help or hurt the Steelers sign their FA's this year? Yes, they aren't over the cap, but it also gives every other team (other than Dallas) more money to spend and may add a team or two into the mix.

Ray Fittipaldo: I think it does drive the price up on some players and Jason Worilds could be one of them. There was a report this morning from ESPN's Ed Werder that the Redskins will franchise Brian Orakpo, the top 3-4 OLB on the free agent market. If that happens it moves Worilds up the food chain.

fury1: Ray, Would the Steelers consider signing NT T. Cody from the Ravens? He did not play much there because of the talent in front of him, so he should come cheap and develope into a starter here.

Ray Fittipaldo: I have not heard any specific speculation coming from the Steelers about that possibility, but something like that makes sense for the Steelers -- getting someone buried on the depth chart who won't cost a lot.

jpbucco: We all know how the F.O. loves bringing back former players. Could one time prodigal son, Santonio Holmes be welcomed back when the Jets cut him?

Ray Fittipaldo: Don't think so. They traded him for a reason.

Ellwood From Ellwood City: Ray, Are Kelvin Beachum on the left and Adams/Gilbert on the right such surefire longterm answers that the Steelers can afford to pass on the Big 3 OTs (Robinson, Lewan, Matthews)should one or more drop to #15?

Ray Fittipaldo: No, but when you've invested two first-round picks and two second-round picks in offensive linemen in the past four years I am not sure you can afford to tie up that many high picks in offensive linemen. I agree with the strategy that you take the best player available, but if it's close between a lineman and, say, a WR or a CB or a safety I think you have to go with the other position.

Ellwood From Ellwood City: Ray, I was blown away by Justin Gilbert at the combine, especially when you pair his combine performance with his INTs and his kick return abilities. I saw the next Rod Woodson (hyperbole alert). Your thoughts?

Ray Fittipaldo: The 4.3 was impressive and he likely got some separation with Darqueze Dennard, who ran a 4.5 something at the combine. He is definitely someone who could be in play for the Steelers at No. 15 if his combine performance didn't make him a top 10 pick.

Tom: Is it possible to build through the draft when more of your picks are leaving than you are replacing with FA? We lost Wallace and had to use a pick to get Wheaton, lost Mendy and used a pick to get Bell, likely will have to use picks to replace Lewis and Worilds. Seems like the best they can do is break even by only using draft, right?

Ray Fittipaldo: But that happens everywhere in the NFL in this free agency era. You try your best to lock up young players, but there is only so much room under the cap, especially when you have to pay a franchise quarterback the going rate as the Steelers are.

Guest: I'm not one to say the steelers need to change with every whim in the NFL however, it's a passing league and it's acknowledged that a two gap nose tackle plays fewer downs. And as Kevin Colbert noted, the basis of a 3-4 defense is a dominant nose tackle. Does that imply that the 3-4 is an antiquated system unless you have a dominant nose tackle? And if that's the case, it would stand to reason the Steelers 2 options: Either draft or acquire a traditional 2 Gap nt that doesn't play much, or change the rest of their defense which is already built around the 3-4. It would seem the former is an easier option.

Ray Fittipaldo: I think there is a third option and that is tweaking your system. Mike Tomlin says he likes the 3-4 because it allows you have to have athletic players in positions to make plays on the athletic QBS that are so popular now in the league. I have heard similar things from other coaches. The Steelers aren't the only team using the 3-4. Plenty of others are employing it, too. The game is ever-changing and it's not out of the realm of possibilities that the Steelers will try to make some adjustments in their scheme. It happens every year.

JamesinNYC: Lets say Moncrief, Mathews, and Robinson all good sized WR are there in the second and the Steelers went D on round one...which of the above do you like and who do you think the Steelers like if different from you?

Ray Fittipaldo: I watched my fair share of Penn State games and was impressed with Robinson's ball skills. But that 4.6 flat in the 40 has to be a bit concerning for NFL teams. I saw less of the other players, although I heard a lot of good things about Matthews at the combine. The good thing about this draft is you can address your needs with a quality player in the second and third round because this draft is so deep.

fury1: Ray, How hard would the Steelers look at LB CJ Mosley if he is available at 15?

Ray Fittipaldo: I liked Mosley at Alabama and I didn't think he'd be available at No. 15 earlier. Now I've seen some mock drafts where he has fallen into the teens or 20s. I think he's a really solid prospect.

David: Ray, I think a nightmare scenario on draft day has Mack, Watkins, Evans, Gilbert, Mosely, gone and Nix, Ebron and Dennard available. I might guess that the Steelers would consider those three to be reaches at #15. Is trading down really an option at that point?

Ray Fittipaldo: Maybe, but I would have to think long and hard about Ebron if he is there. He could be the heir apparent to Miller at TE, a guy you can plug in there for a decade and not worry about him. He's not the complete tight end that Miller is, but he has even more upside as a receiver.

Guest: Can you elaborate on what tweaking your system without a @ gap nose tackle in a 3-4 is? And why they didnt (or did they) employ that last year? Just trying to understand how the defense can become dominant again. Thanks!

Ray Fittipaldo: It was a story for a day or two last summer in camp when Brett Keisel let it out of the bag that the ends had a little more freedom rushing the passer, they could change their rush lanes because the OLBs hadn't been quite as productive the year before. I have no idea what tweaks they might have in store for NT. I was just saying the possibility exists that they could.

Tom: Late round draft picks (5th, 6th, 7th,) rarely pan out and at best maybe one of the guys will turn out to be a quality player. I've never understood why teams don't package all those picks for mayber one 3rd or 4th rounder who is much more likely to succeed. Any thought?

Ray Fittipaldo: Antonio Brown was a sixth-round pick. I'd say he's a pretty good pick. Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick. I could go on and on. That's why you pay your scouts. For those later rounds.

Tom: How is it possible the Steelers never attract free agents? There has to be a veteran or two in Buffalo, Cleveland, or another perenial loser that would see the Steelers as a destination team over the farm club they are currently on

Ray Fittipaldo: The Steelers have spent to the cap in recent years so they haven't had the flexibility to necessarily go after big free agents. But with the new cap number the possibility exists they could add a player or two if they terminate and/or restructure a few other contracts.

Booooooger: Which players do you believe will not be in steelers uniforms this coming season due to salary cap issues?

Ray Fittipaldo: Ike Taylor is the most likely because of his salary and the poor season he had last year. There are a few others, but Taylor is the most likely.

Eric H: If the Steelers target a dt around the middle-end of the draft, who do you think they want the most? Justin Ellis? Daniel McCullers? Ryan Carrethers?

Ray Fittipaldo: Whoever it is hopefully he's more productive for them than their last mid-round nose tackle -- Alameda Ta'amu, who in Pittsburgh for one year before being cut in camp last summer.

Wild Bill: Are you suprised the Steelers haven't signed anyone yet? Especially a guy like Will Allen who left once and they gave another chance to. He is played well, is worth signing, and likely wants to stay in Pittsburgh? Same with Dwyer. They have all the leverage on these guys.

Ray Fittipaldo: I think they are waiting for the cap to be set. Kevin Colbert hinted at that at the combine. Until they know the real number it's hard to do business. Supposedly, the teams learned that number late last week and it's $133 million. That has not been announced officially.

Julian: Seems like we have some big IF's on D for 2014. What's the biggest IF, positive and negative?

Ray Fittipaldo: The CB and OLB situation. We'll know more about where they stand at both positions in a week or two. This defense needs productive edge rushers to be effective. They did not have that for a full season last year, which exposed an aging secondary. So if you don't have edge rushers you have to have players who can cover if QBs are going to have more time to throw.

Matt: Any word on the terms for Heath Miller's reworked contract?

Ray Fittipaldo: I saw the tweet from Rapoport shortly before the chat started and I don't know any of the details. Sorry.

Julian: If Worilds leaves, and i bet he does, I could see an OLB or ILB taken in the first round. We are after all the 3-4 that everyone wants to be and are depth at that position is troubling. Are the top linebackers a possibility for #15, and if so who. If not, what about second round.

Ray Fittipaldo: Anthony Barr from UCLA has been slipping in some mock drafts. He had been a top 10 pick before the combine. Shazier from Ohio State has been rising in some mock drafts. Mosely is the best ILB prospect. There are a few other quality ILBs but the value isn't there unless you grab them in the second or third round.

jpbucco: Do you think the fact that the team waits to play young defensive players hurts in signing them to a second contract? i.e. Lewis, Worlids and maybe Heyward? By the time they break out their first contract is over.

Ray Fittipaldo: I think it can. I wrote a story in December and asked Jason Worilds about that. he made it known he did not appreciate some of the things that happened early in his career. Is it such a big deal that he won't re-sign with the Steelers? I don't know, but he did answer my query honestly. Some players do not like waiting their turn. Others, like Heyward, when I asked them, took more of a company line.

jpbucco: Old dog new tricks scenario with Lebeau I'm afraid. Don't you think the defense could use a new voice?

Ray Fittipaldo: Dick still has a ton of respect from guys in that locker room. Many of them have Super Bowl rings they earned with him as their coach. Things have not gone well the past couple of years, especially last year, but he's so well-respected by players that I have a hard time buying into your line of thinking.

Ray Fittipaldo: Sorry for the delay. Aaron Donald just came in for an interview.

Julian: Do you think 2014 is Troy's last year? If Ike is gone before this year, do you think 43 and Lebeau retire together?

Ray Fittipaldo: I think Polamalu is 32 or 33. He is in the final year of his contract, so yes, I do think there is a distinct possibility that this is his final year.

Ray Fittipaldo: Folks, a few more Pitt players are scheduled to come in soon so I have to end the chat this week. Thanks for participating and we'll do it again next week.

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