Poll Question: Which Steelers rookie will play the most snaps in 2014? Answer #1: Ryan Shazier (77.4%) Answer #2: Stephon Tuitt (19.4%) Answer #3: Dri Archer (3.2%) Answer #4: Martavis Bryant (0%)
JamesinNYC: Is the best case scenario for the Steelers with Worilds something like 14 games maybe with like 9-10 sacks, something that sets the bar at a reasonalbe level?
Ray Fittipaldo: James, Worilds had eight sacks in what amounted to half a season last year. I would think the Steelers and Worilds are hoping for double digit sacks in 2014. He has plenty of incentive. He'll play 2014 on a one-year contract (the transition tag) unless he is signed to a long-term deal before that. I thought he played really well in the second half of the season. It seemed like the light finally went on for him. I expect him to continue on an upward trajectory.
Dan Scott: What should we expect out of the steeler defense this year after the rebuilding process that took place this offseason?
Ray Fittipaldo: I would expect a faster defense. I think that was the obvious theme of the 2014 offseason. They brought in a fast safety in Mike Mitchell to get more speed in the back end. They drafted an ILB in the first round who can run a 4.38 in the 40. Will they be better? We'll have to wait and see. I think the new players gives Dick LeBeau some more aces in his deck in terms of the ways he can attack offenses now. It should be fun to watch it develop.
Jim: Any chance the beard is back for 1 yr deal for depth and leadership at lower pay?
Ray Fittipaldo: Ed Bouchette made reference to that again in his blog this morning. And he mentioned that Keisel has balked at playing for the veteran's minimum. If he backs down from wanting a lot of money I think it could make sense. If you look at the depth on their defensive line there are not a lot of experienced NFL players after McLendon, Heyward and Cam Thomas.
Terry: Any talk of spence moving to safety now that Shazier has moved into the ILB position with extra depth there?
Ray Fittipaldo: No, he was working with the LBs in the first week of OTAs.
JamesinNYC: True but if he gets double digit sack they will never be able to sign him.
Ray Fittipaldo: I think that's why ideally they'd like to get a deal done before the season. He would make himself a lot of $ if he performed well over the course of an entire season. Maybe his agent is giving him the advice to play it out and bank on himself. Joe Flacco had a similar approach in a contract year two years ago and look how that played out for him. He's making top 10 money in the league. Sometimes it pays to bet on yourself.
Alvinvideo: Why is there so much talk about last year's receivers not being able to stretch the field. There was plenty of speed. Don't you think it was the offensive scheme and QB pressure kept them from going down the field, not receiver speed?
Ray Fittipaldo: Antonio Brown is very good getting yards after the catch and he can be successful every once in a while on a deep route, but that's not his strength. The same goes for Emmanuel Sanders, who was ideally suited to play the slot but had to play split out because the Steelers didn't have anyone else. You need a fast and preferably tall player to have an effective deep passing game. When CBs have good coverage a tall WR can go up and make a play on the ball. Martavis Bryant could be that player in the future. We'll see if he's ready to play a large role in the offense as a rookie.
Vic: We heard a lot about LeBackfield with Bell and Blount, but is there a competition for the third sport and which are the candidates ? (Sorry for my english, I'm a french fan, because the Steeler Nation is everywhere !)
Ray Fittipaldo: Le'Veon Bell is the starter and LeGarrette Blount will spell him and likely get the bulk of the carries in goal line situations. The third-down back in all likelihood will be third-round pick Dri Archer.
Slater: Love the chat Ray, it's become obvious that Shamarko isn't what they hoped he'd be (yet), who do you think got chewed out over the decision to use a third round pick on him?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think it's interesting that Will Allen, who is on a one-year contract, was getting Polamalu's reps the first week of OTAs. But some guys develop slower than others. Let's see how the situation develops. I thought it was worth noting that he was not yet part of the youth movement, but there is plenty of time between now and the season for him to make a move.
Jim: With Heath getting old, any panic by next year to really address TE? Still seems like thinnest position.
Ray Fittipaldo: I think they're banking on getting another year or two out of Miller and perhaps they'll draft his long-term replacement next year or the year after. They took Rob Blanchflower in the seventh round out of UMass. He figures to push David Paulson and Michael Palmer for a roster spot, but I'm not sure he is a future starter.
Jim: With importance of Brown WR staying healthy, why would they at all use him on PR or KR?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think the plan is for Dri Archer to learn how to return punts so Brown doesn't have to perform in that role any longer. Archer has the speed but he didn't return punts at Kent State.
Slater: Do you think Mike Wallace ever returns to the Steelers? I forsee another year in Miami for him and once his guaranteed money is done there they will cut bait, and he should command a much more reasonable contract given his performance thus far. Thoughts?
Ray Fittipaldo: Wallace wanted to move on to make big $ and that's what he's doing in Miami. It was his right as a free agent. He took advantage of the system that is in place. As far as returning to the Steelers, never say never, I guess. But I don't think that's on anyone's radar right now.
Ryan: Speaking of tall receivers, what are the chances that Derek Moye or Justin Brown make the team? Can either of them make an impact this season?
Ray Fittipaldo: I thought Justin Brown had a really strong first week of OTAs. He was catching everything, laying out for balls, looking impressive. I wrote about him a week or so ago. He is much more comfortable in the offense in his second season. If it comes down to Brown, Moye or Heyward-Bey I would not be surprised if Brown was the guy if he continues to play the way he did last week.
Macon Steeler: With so many misses the last few years in the draft, do you think the Steelers should make changes to their scouting department?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think they're happy with the scouting department. Those "bad" drafts that you speak of were in 2008 and 2009. I think if they had problems with anyone in the department that change would have taken place already. By the way, the 2010 draft is looking pretty good. I'm withholding judgment on 2011-13.
matt: Can we relay on William Gay as our 2nd cb?
Ray Fittipaldo: Gay was one of the best slot corners in the NFL last season. He had one of his best season. So if he plays that way again it will be a huge plus for the Steelers.
HoustonJR: If Timmons gets injured, who takes over wearing the mic'd helmet and calling the plays to the defense?
Ray Fittipaldo: Doubt it would be Shazier as a rookie so whoever wins the backup job (Vince Williams, Terence Garvin, Spence...)
PittsburghBill: How is that QB they drafted last year from Oklahoma doing? I still don't understand why they wasted a draft pick on him. That is a pick someone should have to explain ...not moving up to take Thomas.
Ray Fittipaldo: Landry Jones in the third-strong QB. He won't play unless there is an emergency. I agree it is curious why the team used a fourth-round choice on him, but it's not like he was taken with the idea he'd be the starter someday. I think they thought they could develop him into a backup. That could still happen.
Tom S: Could it be more the fact that Will Allen played extremely well when Troy was hurt a few years back and then stepped in and did the same last year after rejoining the team? How many 1st or 2nd year guys are really better than a proven veteran who knows a system?
Ray Fittipaldo: That's probably true, but they know exactly what they have in Will Allen, who is entering his 11th season and is playing on a one-year contract. I have no problem with Allen playing safety this season if Polamalu is hurt if he is the better player over Thomas. I merely noted that a veteran on a one-year contract is getting first-team reps over a player they moved in the draft to get. And let me repeat, it's June. Thomas could open some eyes in camp and move up the depth chart.
Tim: Do you think CB has been addressed enough this off season?
Ray Fittipaldo: If there is an injury to any of their top three corners this season the Steelers could search the waiver wire for a more experience player. They might be even do that in early September after final cuts are made even if Allen, Gay and Taylor are healthy. LeBeau and Lake are on record saying they like some of the young guys without much experience, but it's tough to play defense in the NFL these days without experienced corners and the Steelers don't have many beyond All, Gay and Taylor.
Tim: Velasco performed very well last year do you think we can sign him as a security blanket?
Ray Fittipaldo: It appears that ship has sailed. They signed Cody Wallace, who is the second-string center in OTAs. They also brought in Chris Elkins, an undrafted free agent from Youngstown State. He looks like a nice development al player for the future.
Jonathan Mack: Hey Ray, who do you think will win the job opposite Antonio Brown. I feel it will be Wheaton and Bryant will have a year to develop.
Ray Fittipaldo: I think that's a good guess.
matt: What can we expect from Jarvis Jones this year?
Ray Fittipaldo: Hopefully for the Steelers sake more than one sack. To me, he's the biggest question heading into the season. If he plays well the Steelers defense could be good. If not, I think they could struggle big-time again. OLBs are the cornerstone to that defense and those guys have to produce.
John: Who do you see winning the backup nose tackle job? It would seem that Cam Thomas fits better as the 3d DE, but doesn't fit as the prototypical NT. Last year Mclendon wasn't the only issue, but if our run D struggles to start the year, they would need an alternative in there, no?
Ray Fittipaldo: Cam Thomas started at nose tackle for most of last season in San Diego. I would argue he is the more prototypical nose tackle when compared to McLendon. But I don't think that matters much anymore because I think the Steelers (and most NFL teams) are getting away from the traditional noses of the past and going to someone who is capable of playing insub-packages as well as the base defense.
SCOTT: Good afternoon..we understand that OTA's really say very little but in your opinion who stood out to you interms of looking the part..again I do understand as coach Tomlin would say "it's football in shorts" ?
Ray Fittipaldo: I mentioned earlier Justin Brown had a good first week. I liked the way Shazier competed. That's what you watch for now, how guys compete. They're just getting their feet wet.
Guest: Why did keisel balk at playing for the vet minimum? Is he out of his mind? With his age, injury issues and subpar play last year, hed be lucky for anyone to call him
Ray Fittipaldo: You're right about the injury issues, but when he was on the field I thought he played pretty well. As for his decision, it's up to him. Maybe he doesn't want to put his body on the line anymore for the veteran's minimum. That's up to him. And maybe as camp approaches he'll change his mind, too.
SCOTT: How has our number 4 draft pick ( wide receiver ) looked thus far at OTA's ?
Ray Fittipaldo: He's looked OK. Hasn't stood out.
Tim: Do you think there is anything to the rumors of Harrison coming back?
Ray Fittipaldo: Haven't heard those rumors in a while.
Eric: I realize the focal points of a football team will always be offense and defense...that said special teams has cost us more than a few games over the last few seasons...has there been any special emphasis placed on improving those units?
Ray Fittipaldo: Well, after they used a third-round draft choice on Dri Archer, Kevin Colbert came into the media room and said he views special teamers as starters. It was in response to a question as to whether they Steelers reached for Archer in the third round. An elite return guy can cure a lot of ills when it comes to special teams.
Guest: Do you think Timmons could make his first pro bowl or all pro berth this year? I feel as if Shazier develops as anticipated he and Timmons could make a case for being the best duo of inside linebackers not named Willis and Bowman
Ray Fittipaldo: Timmons is entering his eight season. I thought he was really good in 2012 but was not as good last season. Late last season he spoke about his year. He mentioned that he is more effective when he is blitzing and not in coverage. Maybe they'll utilize him in a different manner this season, but it's hard seeing how right now. Shazier is the young and fast guy, known for his ability to disrupt in the blitz game. If they use Shazier in that manner I would assume Timmons will be playing in coverage more.
Anthony: Do you think we add any CB from free agency right now?? Is there actually any good CBs left in free agency worth signing????
Ray Fittipaldo: No, I think you wait until teams make their cuts in September.
HoustonJR: Who's starting week one against the Steelers - Manziel or Hoyer?
Ray Fittipaldo: It would be great theater if it was Manziel. I'm going to say Hoyer right now but I think Manziel by the middle of the season.
SCOTT: Crazy question this early but how do you think the Steelers will finish this year I'm predicting playoffs !
Ray Fittipaldo: I'm not going to predict the Super Bowl like Herm Edwards, but I do think they can be 9-7 or even better if they catch a break or two. New England and Denver are the class of the AFC, but I think the Steelers could challenge for the playoffs if some things fall into place.
dsf: so if the prototypical nose tackle's are a thing of the past what does that say about the 3-4 built around those nose tackles?
Ray Fittipaldo: It doesn't change the role of the nose. Coaches are still looking for that player to stop the run, but they're only on the field about 65 percent of the time now. So when teams are lining up in four- and five-wide sets coaches also are looking for a player who can rush the passer.
Guest: Do you think we are going to regret on passing up on both CB Dennard in the 1st Rd and CB Desir in the 4th Rd?
Ray Fittipaldo: Time will tell but if they didn't like those guys enough to draft them where they were slotted then maybe the Steelers didn't think all that highly of them in the first place.
Bahama John: Hey Ray....it was great to see Dan Marino visiting Jim Kelly in the hospital as he fights cancer. Who would vote as the top Western PA QB of all time?
Ray Fittipaldo: Good question. I think six guys from western Pa. are in the Hall of Fame. I'd have to go with Unitas because he was so clutch and won championships. Marino was awesome, never had a great defense, but he only got to one Super Bowl and lost. Kelly's feat of playing in four consecutive Super Bowls might never be witnessed again. Kelly just finished his radiation treatments, by the way.
SCOTT: Ray, I have a feeling that are running game this year will be in the top five in the NFL ! What say you ???
Ray Fittipaldo: That would be quite the leap after being ranked 27th last year. I'd settle for improvement to the middle of the pack. Mike Munchak will help, but a lot of the same linemen are still in place and those guys have been on the teams that have struggled so much in the running game the past few years.
Fred: If he is healthy and playing well how much do you expect to see Sean Spence on the field? He is a great story if he can come back strong but with Shazier and Timmons I don't know how many opportunities he will get.
Ray Fittipaldo: Not to mention they drafted another ILB in the sixth round -- Jordan Zumwalt. If Spence works his way onto the team, great. But I don't think they're counting on him. At least that's what I read into them drafting two ILBs.
Guest: What are the chances they sign a another veteran wr if Wheaton doesn't pan out at the 2. Do they look to replace from within or look at FA
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't think that's going to happen. If they didn't think much of Wheaton they would have pursued a big-name WR in free agency or drafted one higher than the fourth round. They are counting on Wheaton.
Jason: It seems the Steelers are loaded at WR at this point, with Bey's speed experience and size, do you think that puts him on the fast track to the 5th spot
Ray Fittipaldo: Loaded? I think they can have a solid WR corps this season, but some things will have to fall in place such Wheaton developing into a starter, Lance Moore picking up the offense, Martavis Bryant making some contributions in the red zone ... That seems like a lot of ifs to me.
Derek: Who is your surprise up and comer that will really turn it on this year?
Ray Fittipaldo: As me in the middle of training camp.
Ray Fittipaldo: That's all the time we have for today. Thanks for taking part in the chat. No chat next week as I am on vacation. We'll pick it up again June 16.