Ray Fittipaldo's Steelers chat transcript: 5.19.14

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Poll Question: How many of the Steelers nine draft picks will make the 53-man roster in September? Answer #1: All 9 (12.5%) Answer #2: 8 (25%) Answer #3: 7 (50%) Answer #4: 6 (12.5%) Ray Fittipaldo: Welcome to my weekly Steelers chat. Please post your questions and I'll be back soon to begin the chat.

JamesinNYC: Any of the undrafted guys standing out?

Ray Fittipaldo: James, it's hard to evaluate in that setting, especially linemen. They're in helmets and shorts. They do drills and run around, but it's not real football. I am writing about Chris Elkins for tomorrow. He is an undrafted guy from Beaver Falls and Youngstown State. I watched him closely because I planned to write about him. He did not look in over his head. I thought he did pretty well. He could push for a spot on the practice squad. I'll have more on him in the paper tomorrow.

bart: how did Howard jones look at mini camp this past weekend

Ray Fittipaldo: He looked raw to me. I think they like his athleticism, but from a pure football playing standpoint it looks like he has a ways to go.

bob: has anyone seen jarvis Jones? Doe he look bigger and stronger?

Ray Fittipaldo: I haven't seen Jarvis since the end of the season. OTAs begin next week. A lot of attention will be on him this spring and summer because the Steelers need a big boost in production from him.

bob: Will sean spence make the team this year?

Ray Fittipaldo: That's hard to say without watching him with pads on. He hasn't really done that for an extended period since his rookie camp before he was injured. He practiced for a few days last fall, but got hurt again and had to shut it down. Keith Butler, who said last year it would be a miracle if Spence came back to play, said at the draft that he is close to being proven wrong. Then again, the front office drafted two linebackers they said will play inside, so I am not sure what that says about their confidence in Spence's knee.

Go Steelers!: Ray, wouldn't Harrison be a better backup at OLB then Carter?

Ray Fittipaldo: From an outside persepctive it appears the answer is yes, but it does not appear the Steelers will go down that road. Harrison is older and perhaps they want to continue with their youth movement. They have Arthur Moats as a backup, too, and Jordan Zumwalt, the sixth-round pick from UCLA, worked outside and inside at rookie minicamp over the weekend. Maybe he'll be a versatile guy who can back up two positions. We'll see.

bob: Looks like the window for Harrison and Keisel has closed , would you agree?

Ray Fittipaldo: It appears that way, but injuries in training camp oculd change their mind on both fronts. The Steelers know what they'll get from those two guys if they do have to sign them late in the process.

Lily: who is the new RB coach?

Ray Fittipaldo: James Saxon. He was the RBs coach with the Vikings last season. He played in the NFL and has been a coach with numerous teams.

Lily: Have training camp dates been released?

Ray Fittipaldo: Not officially but it's looking like the first day of camp will be Friday July 25.

Corinne: If the CB (Gilbert) from Oklahoma was there at 15 were lthe Steelers ready to take him?

Ray Fittipaldo: Yes. Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac reported that on draft night. After Gilbert was off the board they set their sights on Odell Beckham. When Beckham was gone the next highest rated player on their board was Ryan Shazier and they took him.

Go Steelers!: If rookies don't make the team do they get any part of their contract? Does it affect the cap?

Ray Fittipaldo: No. They have to make the team to earn the contracts they sign.

Matt: Does Martavius Bryant injury sustained at mini camp serious?

Ray Fittipaldo: It does not appear that way. Mike Tomlin mentioned the injury Saturday afternoon and said he had a chance to practice later that day or Sunday. Those practice sessions were closed to the media, so I don't know if that happened, but Tomlin did not pain the injury as being serious.

JamesinNYC: I don't get Zumwalt, if they had taken a CB in round one it would have made sense. Was he picked because of Lake's influence? I guess why burn a pick on him when you could try to fill some other need?

Ray Fittipaldo: As I mentioned earlier, Zumwalt played inside and outside during rookie minicamp. Perhaps they took him because they believe he can be position flexible and provide depth at both positions down the road. Plus, he might be an impact special teams player. I watched him in rookie camp and he looked pretty athletic. He knows the defense, too, because he played in a similar one at UCLA under former Steelers assistant Lou Spanos.

Matt: Do the Steelers have the most ex-head coaches in the NFL? LeBaue, haley, Munchak?

Ray Fittipaldo: I believe that to be the case. I can't think of another team off the top of my head with that many.

Eric H: Would've you drafted a more typical nose tackle over Daniel McCullers? Beau Allen was available when he was drafted and he's around 6'1 330.

Ray Fittipaldo: Traditional nose tackles might be going the way of the fullback in the NFL. I'm not sure they have a place anymore. Mike Tomlin spoke to that before the draft. The Steelers played subpackage football 65 percent of the time last season. Defensive linemen have to be versatile and they have to have the ability to stay on the field in subpackages. I'm not sure if McCullers can do that yet, but he does have the height to move outside to play five-technique at some point.

Debbie: If Aaron Donald was available at 15 do you think the Steeelrs woudl have traded down or picked him?

Ray Fittipaldo: No. I think Donald is best-suited for a 4-3 defense. He would be miscast in a 3-4, which is why you never heard that possibility surface for the Steelers.

James: Do you think Mccullers could be a long term answer on the defensive line?

Ray Fittipaldo: Tomlin described him as a project the day they drafted him so we'll see what happens. Maybe he is a guy they can develop on the practice squad if he doesn't make the 53-man roster. He is very big and raw, but I think he has some strides to take before making an impact in the league.

Eric H: Do you think Shazier or Tuitt or more likely to have growing pains or disappoint in their first year like how Jarvis Jones was?

Ray Fittipaldo: I think they'l get an opportunity the way Jones did. It will be up to them from there. Jones was benched for Jason Worilds after a few games. I think the Steelers want them to grab onto roles, be it as starters or role players, and hang onto them.

Tony R: Do you think any of the invited tryouts will be

Tony R: Offered a contract?

Ray Fittipaldo: As of early this afternoon the Steelers did not announce that any of those guys signed though that can still happen.

Derek: Who decides what number the players wear?

Ray Fittipaldo: With the Steelers availability. The Steelers don't hand out certain numbers of former players. After that, I think the new guys have their choice.

Eric H: I don't anticipate Martavis Bryant having a big rookie year. I'm assuming he'll become a starter come his 2nd or 3rd year. What is his ceiling in your opinion? Could he be the next Megatron? Jon Baldwin? Alshon Jeffery?

Ray Fittipaldo: Hopefully not the next Jon Baldwin and you're dreaming to think he's the next Megatron. I think the Steelers are hoping for him to be a viable target in the red zone this season and in the future a starter opposite Antonio Brown.

Matt: Do you think the talent at running back will help shorten games and take pressure off the aging defense. I know it is not the trend but sure seems as if it could go a long way.

Ray Fittipaldo: Barring injuries the Steelers have a nice mix there with Lount as the power guy and Archer as the change of pace guy behind LeVeon Bell. If the Steelers do get a second-half lead it will be interesting to see how Bell and Blount are deployed. There certainly is the possibility that Blount and Bell can shorten games with the run game if need be.

Carlo: What rookie caught your eye the most, this weekend?

Ray Fittipaldo: Once again, it's hard to evaluate in that setting, but I watched the linebackers go through drills and Shazier and Zumwalt looked very good. Shazier is atletic and Zumwalt just looks like a football player. He moves well and he carries himself with confidence.

Ray Fittipaldo: OK, thanks for the questions this week. We'll do it again next week.


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