Ray Fittipaldo's Steelers chat transcript: 3.31.14

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Poll Question: How many touchdowns will LeGarrette Blount have in the 2014 season? Answer #1: 3 TDs or fewer (0%) Answer #2: 4 TDs (6%) Answer #3: 5 TDs (19%) Answer #4: 6 TDs or more (75%)

Ray Fittipaldo: Welcome to my weekly Steelers chat. Please post your questions. I'll be back soon to answer them.

Touchdown Joey: Darqueze Dennard was a "shutdown corner" in the plodding Big Ten. No way should they take him over Eric Ebron. There will be a serviceable corner to take in the second round. Thoughts?

Ray Fittipaldo: Dennard did very well against the competition that was provided. The Big Ten does not have the quality of receivers that they SEC or the Big 12 had, but there was some quality competition. At this point, every draft-eligible player is being picked apart. Since the fall, Dennard has been listed as the first or second-best cornerback in this draft. The Steelers have a need for a corner and they attended Dennard's pro day a few weeks ago.

paul: Ray, love your chats, who will be our starting DE and NT. If Steve M starts at NT is that a temporay move until someone better comes along and pushes him to DE. Can that someone be Camn Thomas?

Ray Fittipaldo: Even though Cam Thomas played nose in San Diego and looks like a nose more than an end, I am going to take Kevin Colbert at his word that Thomas was brought in to play end. He said that does not mean Thomas won't be tried at nose, but they're looking at him at end first. So I think McLendon will start at nose in camp and they'll go from there. I think Heyward will start at one DE, McLendon will be starting at either nose or DE and then Thomas or someone else will be the other starter.

Miller: Top-end speed should be the final factor in determining if a CB should be taken at No. 15. Gilbert has it. Does Dennard in your opinion?

Ray Fittipaldo: Dennard is not as fast as Gilbert, who ran in the 4.3s at the scouting combine a month ago. But Dennard ran in the 4.5s. That's not slow either. If you have good technique and an understanding of how to play in a defense you don't have to have elite speed.

Alan: Lets go Bucs. any injury info on Howlings. Will he be ready to go?

Ray Fittipaldo: I have not heard much on Stephens-Howling at all.

Joe: can arthur moats compete for a starting ILB job or is he mainly OLB depth?

Ray Fittipaldo: I think they like his versatility in that he can play inside or outside. I don't know if they brought him in to challenge for a starting job inside, though.

JamesinNYC: If C.J. Mosley happens to fall to the second round would the Steelers bite?

Ray Fittipaldo: There is a need there and from everything I have read and seen about Mosley he would be a good value in the second round.

mr bill: hello ray, have not heard much about the steelers' desire to address their pass rush needs. we certainly need a major improvement in that area. any thoughts or inside scoop? thanks, mr bill

Ray Fittipaldo: The Steelers certainly have draft needs at DE and OLB, but it's highly unlikely that draftee would start this season, so I think they're hoping Jarvis Jones takes a big step forward in his second season and Jason Worilds continues to play the way he did in the second half of last season. Beyond that, and some inside push from Cam Hewayrd, they'd have to get some help from ILBs and DBs to produce more sacks.

Nick Kelly: Ray, speaking of middle linebackers, from what you have heard, do Steelers feel they will get their starter from either Williams, Garvin, Spence, or maybe even Moats?

Ray Fittipaldo: I've mentioned this in previous chats. This is not a deep draft for ILBs after Mosley, so unless they get Mosley I am guessing the starter comes from one of the four you mentioned.

Dirt Winston: Ray, Tomlin is a players Coach, do you think he would like to roll the dice with some character issue guys, i.e desean Jackson etc but that would conflict with Steeler Management philosophy?

Ray Fittipaldo: There Steelers don't have the salary cap space to sign DeSean Jackson and he does not strike me as someone the Steelers would want to take a gamble on. They recently rid themselves of Santonio Holmes, who had his share of off-field issues. I am not quite sure why they would want to add Jackson, who appears to have his share of distractions as well.

Big City: Blount seems like a good add, but as a pure back-up for Bell. They still could use a third down/speed back type of guy. Or do they plan on using Bell for that role too?

Ray Fittipaldo: I would not be surprised if they used a middle or late round pick on a scat back in the mold of Chris Rainey or LaRod Stephens-Howling. It's well-known Todd Haley likes to have those types of players on his roster. But as you mentioned Bell is really good out of the backfield, so it's not a desperate need for the team at this point.

JamesinNYC: Do you think Keisel is really going to sit if come June 1st they offer him vets minimum + a small bonus to play? Hard for us common folk to think about turning down a Million dollars for 9 months of work. I understand he doesn't gain anything by saying he would, just hurts his barginning position.

Ray Fittipaldo: That's the position Keisel and his agent have taken. I am sure they want to get the best deal possible. But things can change. If no other teams come sniffing around between now and June he might be more willing to accept the veteran's minimum, especially if there is a chance to receive a lot of playing time, which it appears there might be if he did re-sign.

Raven Hater: Hello Ray. I do not understand the compensatory selection process and how Baltimore received 4 substantial extra picks. Last offseason, the Ravens lost outside linebacker Paul Kruger (Cleveland), inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (Miami), safety Ed Reed (Houston) and cornerback Cary Williams (Philadelphia) in free agency. Both Ellerbe and Kruger singed big contracts. Reed and Williams contracts were not near as big as Keenan Lewis. In addition, they signed Elvis Dumerville to a substantial contract while Pittsburgh signed Bruce Gradkowski. So, how do they get such high compensation of one 3rd round, two 4th round, and one 5th round selections and the Steelers get a 5th round for Lewis? To me, it does not add up. Even if Dumerville was not considered a free agent signing, I believe the Steelers should have at least received a 4th round selection for the loss of Lewis. Thanks!!

Ray Fittipaldo: Sorry but I don't have a strong handle on the process, either. Ed's chat is tomorrow. He might have a better answer if you post in his chat tomorrow.

Jerry: Not much has been talked about the tackle situation as of late. Do we know if Munchak has a preference of who he wants at the two tackle spots between Beachum, Gilbert, and Adams? And with the Steelers doing a lot of "research" reportedly on Taylor Lewan, is this a guy they could take round one even with the high amount of offensive lineman taken in high rounds recently?

Ray Fittipaldo: I don't think they'll draft a tackle in the first round. They've taken two offensive linemen in the first round in two of the past four years. Plus, two second-rounders in that same span. I think the hope is Munchak can coach them up better and produce some better results that what we've been seeing the past couple of years.

Guest: If McClendon starts at NT and, as Colbert noted, the 3-4 needs a dominant NT, does that translate into another year as a mediocre defense? It seems for the opposing offense, it will be easy to run the ball with the DEs we have.

Ray Fittipaldo: Run defense was not a strong suit last season, and you're right, this defense is predicated upon stopping the run. So on the surface it does not appear they did a lot during free agency to help in that regard other than signing Thomas, who was benched late last season in San Diego. So perhaps everyone gets a little better up front and at linebacker. But yes, it's certainly an area of concern for Tomlin and his staff going into camp.

Nate: Ray, is it mandatory for the Eagles to share the info they learned about Jackson with Goodell? Or with other teams?

Ray Fittipaldo: I don't know if it's in the NFL bylawys or anything like that, but anything their security people learned likely will be or has been shared with the commissioner. Not with other teams, though.

Touchdown Joey: It seems like people are expecting Munchak to make a huge difference. I'm not so sure that anybody can just come in and make professional players do that much better than they've already shown. He's still human, not a magician.

Ray Fittipaldo: In most cases, position coaches don't make a huge difference. But in this case, you're adding a Hall of Fame player and a coach who has a track record of developing linemen. So this is one of the few cases when a position coach can make a big difference. I've been on record from the day he was hired that he'd be the biggest offseason acquisition on the offensive line. He has the ability to get more out of those players than the previous coaches.

JamesinNYC: Could the Steelers draft go TE WR CB CB or is the need too great to skip a CB in the first two rounds? For me Ebron is good value at 15, tons of fringe 1st/2nd round talent at WR, CB is good 1st but better value 3rd and 4th round.

Ray Fittipaldo: I don't know what their draft board says now or what it will say May 9 but I'd have to think if Dennard or Gilbert is there at No. 15 and Evans is gone that they'd take one of them before Ebron. I hear what you're saying about the depth at WR and CB, but Heath Miller is still on this team, so it's not like Ebron would come in and start.

Nick in MN: Ray, I love the Blount signing but I am a bit perplexed. His stats are outstanding - may be even star level - but he was not resigned by NE and he agreed to a relatively meager contract with the Steelers to be a back-up. What am I missing other than the de-emphasis on the run in the NFL?

Ray Fittipaldo: I think you hit the nail on the head with your last sentence. RBs are finding the sledding tough in free agency. Blount actually got a decent deal, a little less than $4 million over two years. That's better than some guys like Darren McFadden got, and McFadden will be in a battle for a starting job in Oakland. I like the Blount signing, too. I think he provides some options on the goal line, which could save Bell some pounding.

Guest: Given that it's a passing league and no one want to draft a 2 gap NT high to play only half the downs, does that mean that unless you currently have that NT on the roster, or are lucky enough to find them late, that the 3-4 is an antiquated defense?

Ray Fittipaldo: No, it just means noses are becoming de-vauled just as RBs are being de-vauled.

Guest: Hi Ray. When the cap space frees up a bit in June, will we see a few extensions? (Worilds, Pouncey, etc)

Ray Fittipaldo: You could and maybe a stray free agent signing or two.

Chunkles: Ray, Evans should be gone at 15, why not go for Ebron? Doesnt this pick fill two needs, a tall receiver and Heath's eventual replacement?

Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, it would. I would be on board with that if Evans, Dennard and Gilbert are gone. But if one of those three on there the need is bigger at their positions.

Tony Balogna: Hi, great chat as always. Question about linebackers - obviously Jarvis is better suited inside, why not get Harrison back for minimum and move JJ to his more natural position?

Ray Fittipaldo: I've seen this opinion offered by others (or perhaps it's always you Tony) but Jarvis was drafted as an OLB and will play OLB. And I'm not sure why you think he's better suited for ILB???

Leonardo: Brazil's Question: Can we expect a 12-4 this season?

Ray Fittipaldo: That's quite optimistic, Leonardo. At this point, I think Steelers fans would settle for 9-7 and a playoff berth after two seasons of not taking part in the tournament.

John Y: Love the steelers to bad they felt the need to raise ticket prices after consecutive 8-8 seasons. No love for the fans.

Ray Fittipaldo: You can always watch at home.

Ray Fittipaldo: Thanks for all the great questions this week. We'll do it again next week at the same time.


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