Poll Question: Of all the offseason moves, which one do you like best?
Answer #1: Mike Mitchell signing (29%)
Answer #2: LeGarrette Blount signng (39%)
Answer #3: Getting younger (26%)
Answer #4: Lance Moore signing (3%)
Answer #5: They didn't make any good moves (3%)
Tom Newberry: The free Agent signings wreak of desperation. What happened to the Steeler way of building through the draft and keeping your young players, not taking the Raiders leftovers?
Ray Fittipaldo: There has been an overreaction to the signings of Darrius Heyward-Bey and Brice McCain last week. It's true both players have struggled in recent years. It's also true that the Steelers are paying them the minimum, so there is little risk involved. If McCain's signing means Isiaih Green isn't on the roster next season, then so what? The same goes for Heyward-Bey if he replaces Derek Moye. So what? Moye dressed only a handful of times last season and did not contribute much. The fifth WR this year might not dress very much either. If Heyward-Bey is that guy this year it's really not a big deal. It only means they think he's better than Derek Moye. And I should say there are no guarantees either will make the 53-man roster. Both could be cut. In that case, the Steelers lose very little.
Big City: How much of a problem do you think lack of strong leadership in the locker room has been in these past 2 disappointing seasons, and do you think it will continue to be so?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think the problem the past two seasons has more to do with lack of talent than lack of leadership to be honest with you. I'm not downplaying leadership, but there were a lot of strong leaders in that room the past two years and the results were what they were.
Alan: I know a lot will depend on who's available, but what's your best guess right now in terms of the position the Steelers take at #15?
Ray Fittipaldo: Because I think Mike Evans will be selected before the Steelers draft at No. 15, I am going to guess that Darqueze Dennard will be available and will be the pick. But it's still early. T minus 32 days and counting...
Touchdown Joey: Any character concerns with bringing in Legaratte Blount? Of course everybody recalls his infamous knockout incident, and he's alraedy on the 4th team of his young career.
Ray Fittipaldo: The Steelers are not known to bring in malcontents and I am assuming that did not change this spring. I am sure the Steelers investigated Blount's past before signing him. To tell you the truth, other than the incident against the Boise State player in college, I don not recall any problems in his four years in the NFL with Tampa or New England. He was with Tennessee for a short time as a rookie (in camp) and did not make the team. And remember, Mike Munchak was on the Titans staff then so he would have known him fairly well from a character standpoint.
Deion Figures: Do the Steelers have any interest in Kyle Fuller if Denard and Gilbert are gone at CB?
Ray Fittipaldo: I know Mike Mayock, one of the draft analysts for NFL.com, really likes Fuller. He said so before the Indy combine. I just don't know if he's a guy you take at No. 15. I think he's been more in the late first- early-second round range in the mock drafts I've seen. He might be a reach at No. 15.
Jake: Albeit, it wasn't much, but were the caches impressed with what they saw from Landry Jones? Do they see him as a future piece going forward?
Ray Fittipaldo: They obvious believe he has a future because they invested a fourth-round draft choice in him. I don't think they ever envisioned him as an heir apparent to Ben, but I think the idea was to develop him as a long-term backup who might develop into something more. Jones did not have a good training camp. He was erratic. I think he improved some as the season went on, but as you point out his reps in practice were very limited once the season started.
Mike: Say by some chance BOTH Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard are there for the Steelers at 15, obviously assuming Mike Evans is gone, who do the Steelers pick?
Ray Fittipaldo: Good question. If Eric Ebron is there I would take him, but I am not sure if the Steelers feel the same way. I know Mike Tomlin visited with Ebron at the Indy combine, but all coaches and scouts visit with a lot of players there. I think it makes sense from the perspective that he fills the need for a big target for Ben and he is someone who could potentially take over for Heath Miller as TE. And if he does not project to be the all-around TE that Miller is, so be it. The Steelers coaches are good enough at what they do to tailor their offense to a player's skill set. Just my two cents.
J Peazy: What kind of year do the Steelers expect out of Jarvis jones this year to be successful? 12-15 Sacks? Is he the lynchpin next year on defense?
Ray Fittipaldo: 12-15? He had one last year! If Jones has a good offseason he'll improve. He really needed to get stronger first and foremost. Above and beyond the physical aspect, I think he'll be much more comfortable in the defense. He told me last year in a long conversation how difficult it was for him to pick up initially. But I think by the end of the season things were starting to click for him a little more from a mental standpoint. So I think they will only get better. The physical part is up to him. I guess we'll see how he looks in May at the OTAs.
FreddieFromFreeport: Ray, The dark horse candidate du jour for the #15 is Ryan Shazier, OLB Ohio State. Not a bad pick, especially when you consider he is bigger and faster than Darqueze Dennard, yes?
Ray Fittipaldo: The only problem with that is they just invested their first-round pick in an OLB last year. They also have a former second-round pick signed up for close to $10 million next season, and they hope to sign him (Worilds) to a long-term contract. So where exactly would Shazier fit in?
Touchdown Joey: I actually think the Steelers policy of staying away from sketchy characters has been eroding for a good few years now. For example, time was they would have never touched Mike Adams with a ten foot pole. There are other examples.
Ray Fittipaldo: You know it's quite possible that Mike Adams is merely not the player they thought he would be. Not because, as you put it, of his "sketchy" background. He has struggled on the field as a pro. But I don't have any reason to believe at this point that any of that has to do with any off-field activities.
Marty: Hi Ray. When will the schedule (showing the dates) come out?
Ray Fittipaldo: It's usually the third week of April, but I read some reports out of the owner's meetings that there is not a set date. They still had some things to work through and they didn't want to commit to an exact date yet.
Parker: Any chance we take Kelvin Benjamin?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think there is a chance, but I would be surprised if it came at No. 15. Maybe if he slips to the second round or maybe he would be a later first round pick if the Steelers traded down.
FreddieFromFreeport: Ray, I just don't understand the Steelers apparent refusal to consider taking an elite O-Lineman at 15. The Steelers lack elite players -- at EVERY position. And people forget that when you pass on an elite player to fill a need, you not only fail to include that player on your roster, you also get the pleasure of lining up against him when you play the smart team that drafts him. Thoughts?
Ray Fittipaldo: You make some good points, but I would argue that the Steelers' needs at CB and WR outweigh their needs on the OL. Would it be nice to get a franchise left tackle that you can pencil into your lineup for a decade? Absolutely. But when you look past drafts and the number of high picks they have invested in linemen it makes it hard for me to believe they would do that again when they have so many other needs, especially at WR and CB. They have used two first-round picks on linemen in the past four years. They haven't drafted a CB in the first round since 1997.
Jake: Has there been any talk around the team that you have heard, behind the scenes or not, about bringing Harrison back?
Ray Fittipaldo: It could be a possibility post June 1 depending on what happens in the draft. They need some depth at OLB. They might be able to find that in the draft.
JamesinNYC: I am happy to see they didn't extend Timmons. Do you think the Steelers are trying to fix their cap issues privately/quietly?
Ray Fittipaldo: But they did extend Heath Miller and Troy Polamalu and they will absorb some cap hits in the future if those guys are not around in 2016. I think to your point they might not want to do that as often, or as often as they had been doing, but they're still doing it to a certain extent.
Guest: Who has more upside going forward on the OL Decastro/Pouncey/Marcus Gilbert?
Ray Fittipaldo: 1. Pouncey
Pouncey has all the tools to be a very good player in the zone blocking scheme.
Chunkles: Prayers go out to Jim Kelly and his family. It got me to thinking about his career and he took a lot of heat for going 0-4 in his Super Bowl run BUT I cannot imagine another quarterback EVER taking his team to four straight Super Bowls again, win or lose?
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, said to see what he is going through. It should be pointed out that since he went to four straight Super Bowls no QB has gone to more than two in a row. And before him in the Super Bowl era, only Bob Griese went to three in a row. It might be a feat that is never matched again.
Wild Bill: With knowing that both Adams and Gilbert significantly strugle in pass protection and require a TE to chip, will the Steelers really be able to line up a TE in the slot? If the top corners are gone, they will go with CJ Mosley IMO.
Ray Fittipaldo: Lots of ways to skin a cat when it comes to pass pro. Plus, isn't this where Munchak comes into play? he was brought in to make guys like Gilbert and Adams better.
Mel Jr: In my mock draft I have the Steelers trading down and selecting Brandin Cooks WR Oregon State. At least that's what I'm hearing.
Ray Fittipaldo: Well, Mel Jr., that would be two Beavers in the same WR corps. Hopefully, Cooks doesn;t break his fingers as often as Wheaton.
Parker: Some mock drafts have us taking Anthony Barr. Is that a real option considering Jarvis and Jason like you talked about previously.
Ray Fittipaldo: I would be surprised if they took an OLB in the first round.
TD: Two fifths, a sixth and two seventh round picks aren't going to improve your team. Statistically one may pan out to be good or even a starter like Brown. Why do teams not package their non-comp picks to select one higher pick that is more likely to pan out. A 4th rounder is exponentially more likely to be on a team after 3 years.
Ray Fittipaldo: Because compensatory picks cannot be traded. It's an NFL rule.
Edd: Sugar Ray, are the Steelers hosting S Calvin Pryor visit today? They also hosted a safety (Vereen) last week. This is surprising given their depth at the position. Also, teams can only host 30 draft prospects.
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, Pryor is visiting today. I have a small writeup on that in the blog today. The other safety they brought in last week was Brock Vereen, who is projected as mid- or late-round pick. I think that is more likely than Pryor in the first round because Mike Mitchell was signed last month to be the starting FS.
The Chief: Adams had a good first year at right tackle, why did they try to move him to LT last year?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think it was a combination of things. What Tood Haley said publicly was Marcus Gilbert is a better run blocker than Adams and that since the Steelers run the ball to the right side more than the left he would be better suited to play on the right side. But there was a reason they tried him at left tackle to begin with. It's generally viewed as the most important position on the line because that player is responsible for protecting Ben's blind side. So I think the other aspect of this was they didn't like what they saw from Gilbert in camp on the left side and they decided to roll the dice with Adams there. It did not work out and the team suffered early in the season as a result. I am not sure if they have their long-term starter at left tackle on the roster, but Kelvin Beachum did well enough in Adams' place last season that he'll get the shot at it this summer in Latrobe.
Renegade: Ray, Really enjoy the insight and substantive responses in your chats. Any idea how high the Steelers are on Arnfelt and Williams for DL? I know we need a DE starter but if these guys have good talent, then why not bring back Keisel for one more year in the DL mix and try to develop these two young guys while focusing 2014 draft on CB, WR and maybe LB?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think they want to see what they have in those guys. They liked Arnfelt enough to being him up to the 53-man roster late last season. I think it's too early to say he's a guy they can count on. I think they'll find that out in camp. Williams is a project and he missed all last season with an injury. It's harder for me to answer a question about him because of that.
Clem: Would Steelers consider trading up to Number 9 (giving up their number 1 and number 2) to draft Gilbert or Dennard (assumes Evans is gone).
Ray Fittipaldo: The Steelers have so many other needs at key positions that I find it hard to believe they would trade their second-round pick, especially since their third-round pick is the compensatory late-round pick. (Their third-round pick was traded to Cleveland last spring).
Guest: Can't TE's be had later in the draft? Elite TE's with a number 15 pick overall? No way
Ray Fittipaldo: Vernon Davis was a high first-round pick. Rob Gronkowski would have been a first-round pick if not for his injury concerns. The game is changing. I'm not saying Ebron is on their radar in that scenario, but I'm just telling you he could be that tall target for Ben if Evans is not there.
Edd: Any news on an extension for Worilds? Are talks on hold or are they actively negotiating a deal? An extension would certainly help their cap this year.
Ray Fittipaldo: They'll get $8 million in cap space June 2 because of the Woodley release. They want to sign Worilds long-term but I don't think anything is happening on that now.
NaplesDave: Hi Ray, Enjoy the chat. How can Sean Spence be in any ILB discussion? If Mosely from Bama is available, should they draft him at 15? Or now-unretired McClain, late of Oakland?
Ray Fittipaldo: Spence has missed the past two seasons with a knee injury. He came back to practice for a week or two last fall and he said he felt really good. He was enthused about practicing again this spring in OTAs. As I've said before, I don't think they're counting on him. But they're not counting him out, either. Mosely is a good player. He might fix some of their run defense problems. But I don't know if they take him at No. 15.
The Chief: Ray, thanks for the Chat. How would answer the question posed today about the offseason moves?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think Blount has a chance to be a hammer in the goal line offense. He showed he could perform in that role for the Patriots. So I kind of think he might have the biggest impact of all the free agents. I think he can score 6 or 8 TDs and be a solid backup to Bell. I know there is a lot of hope for Mitchell to step in and provide better play in the back end, too. So I would one of those two. I think Moore will be solid in the slot, too.
Kevin: Is there any chance they would "reach" for Kelvin Benjamin at 15? Not sure why it matters if they pick someone a few spots ahead of where they should go
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't know exactly where Benjamin is on their draft board, but if he's at No. 30 then yes it's a reach. It all depends on what their scouts think of him. I'm just telling you where I see Benjamin in most mock drafts.
JamesinNYC: Do you think it makes sense to pick small school players in the mid to late rounds as a strategy? Looking at the past "successful" later rounds picks they come from smallers schools and that is held against them, for example Allen, Taylor, Greg Loyd, Brown. If coming from a small school is a negative mark don't you think it is better than a character/physical flaw?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think the Steelers have done very well with those types of players you mentioned over the years. In the middle rounds, if your scouts are good, you can find some really good players who were under the radar in college. Of course, the problems come in when scouts fall in love with potential and take someone like Jamain Stephens in the first round or Scott Shields in the second round.
INT Joey: Before this year, Worilds was underwhelming and hurt most of the time. Is it wise give him an extension based on one half seasib, and just assume that will be the version you are going to get from here on out?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think what they found out is he is much better suited to play on left side than the right side. It takes a special skill to excel as a ROLB because you are constantly going up against really good left tackles. So I think the trick for the Steelers is finding the appropriate price to pay Worilds for what he does. You're right about only being productive for only half a season, but the Steelers didn;t really have a choice to put the transition tag on him. They knew they had to cut Woodley, so Worilds had to be signed. I think he will be signed long-term if they can come to a fair price. And it's not the $9 million he's getting this year.
Ned: Do you know which numbers the free agent additions will wear? Steelers.com only lists #27 for Blount and #16 for Moore.
Ray Fittipaldo: I just know those two because I follow Blount and Moore on Twitter and tweeted out their new numbers. I don't know for any of the others. Are you planning to buy a Brice McCain shirt?
JamesinNYC: I figure the legit choices for the the Steeler are Evans 10%, Gilbert 15%, Dennard 50%, Ebron 20% and some combo of Ewan/Mathews/Barr 5% sound about right?
Ray Fittipaldo: People are connecting the dots with the Steelers and Dennard because he was in for a visit and Tomlin and Colbert attended his pro day. It looks like he might be their target at No. 15, but there are some teams ahead of them in the draft order that have CB needs as well.
Kris: Is there a chance Louis Nix falls to 2nd round for the Steelers?
Ray Fittipaldo: I can see him falling to the second round for sure. He's been projected as a late first-round pick, so it wouldn't take much for him to fall to the second. I think it would be very fortuitous if he fell to the middle of the second round though.
Ned: Ray, that was good. If I buy a Brice McCain shirt, I'll make sure I keep the receipt.
Dude from Cali: Ray, why do most teams accept unproductive players' DEAD MONEY simply as accounting write offs. Is Dead money business as usual in the NFL?
Ray Fittipaldo: It's a way many teams do business in the salary cap era. If players live up to their contracts it's great. But if they are cut early the front office of that team becomes an easy target for fans wanting to place blame.
Kevin: Do the Steelers work anybody out when they bring them in or just interviews? I know they are pretty quiet about that stuff
Ray Fittipaldo: I think for the most part it's interviews and getting to know the player.
Dude from Cali: briefly what is zero or three or 5 technique for a D lineman or LB?
Ray Fittipaldo: A three technique is a defensive lineman who lines up on the outside shade of an offensive guard. A four-eye technique is a Dl who lines up straight up on the tackle. A five-technique lines up on the outside shade of the tackle. A zero technique is a nose guard.
Ray Fittipaldo: Thanks for taking part in the chat this week. We'll do it again next week at the same time.