Poll Question: Which position is the biggest concern heading into training camp?
Answer #1: Starting WR opposite Antonio Brown (4%) Answer #2: Starting DE opposite Cam Heyward (9%) Answer #3: Overall depth at OLB (26%) Answer #4: Overall depth at CB (61%) Answer #5: Other (0%)
Ray Fittipaldo: Welcome to my weekly Steelers chat, the final one before training camp as I will be on vacation next week. Please post your questions below and I'll be back to answer them soon.
Tship: Hi Ray and thanks for your time. Who is/are the players with the most to prove as camp sets to begin, For me it's Jarvis Jones and Cortez Allen. The first to prove he can be a force and the second to prove he can perorm at a high level consistently.
Ray Fittipaldo: Those are two good ones, Tship. I'll add Markus Wheaton, too. Jones once again is being handed an opportunity to start and this time there is no backup plan. If he fails the option is Arthur Moats. Jones must improve upon the 1 sack total he registered last year as a rookie. Allen has the raw ability to be a good corner, but he has struggled with injuries and consistency his first three seasons in the league. They need him to take a step forward this season and it's in his best interests to step up because it's a contract year for him. And Wheaton is entering his second year after an injury-plagued rookie season. The opportunity is there to start and play a lot, but he must prove he has what it takes in training camp.
Carlo: Any update regarding Harrison and/or Keisel coming back?
Ray Fittipaldo: No updates. Camp starts in 10 days and I don't foresee either being in Latrobe unless there is a serious injury to one of the current players on the roster.
David: Any update on the miami nightclub situation with Markuice pouncey ?.....and if the allegations are true what do you think the punishment will be?...suspension?
Ray Fittipaldo: Miami Beach police are investigating whether Maurkice Pouncey was involved in the incident. He was not named in the initial incident report filed by police. Two people, a man and a woman, accused another man of punching them in the head. Police said they had bruises but refused medical attention. Those two victims are scheduled to give sworn testimony later in the week and police are attempting to obtain video surveillance footage from the nightclub. That's the latest.
Tship: Unless I've missed it no ruling yet from the Commish on a Ray Rice suspension, shoudl this be coming soon, seems like they didn;t waist as much time when BR had his issues?
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, Ray Rice is still awaiting on word of his possible suspension. The NFL has yet to issue a suspension for Colts owner Jim Irsay as well. I am guessing both will be punished in some form or fashion before the season.
RVASteelers1: with all of the ILB depth this year, is there ny chance of the Steelers using Timmons at OLB if Jones or Worilds can't put it together?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't think they want to do that, but it might be a last-ditch scenario if there are injuries. Don't see them doing it otherwise.
Jud: Lebeau states that Mitchell and Troy will work fine together right off the bat. Do you buy that?
Ray Fittipaldo: Mitchell is a veteran and is entering his sixth year in the league. It's not like he is a rookie trying to gain his bearings. I think they should work fine together.
Jud: With the veteran losses, do you forsee a similar start to the year as last year?
Ray Fittipaldo: Le'Veon Bell and Heath Miller missed the first few games, which contributed to the 0-4 start. It didn't hep matters that Mike Adams did not hold up at LT. Kelvin Beachum solidified the LT position after Adams was benched. Barring injuries it should be a much smoother ride for the offense to open the season. There are concerns on defense, but all things being considered I have a hard time seeing how this team gets off to another disastrous start.
Bob: Do you see Jason Worilds signing long term sometime this year? If we let him walk, then I assume we'll have to use a high draft pick on an outside linebacker in 2015, and we won't really be building through the draft. Why does it seem we are unable to keep OLBs around in recent years?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't think he'll sign a long-term deal this year. They don't negotiate once the season starts, which means it would have to get done sometime between now and the beginning of September. There was nothing going on with that contract negotiation last month. And you have to remember, if Worilds plays well the Steelers can use the franchise tag on him and keep him for 2015 should they so choose.
Jake O: Any thoughts on what will become of Mike Adams? He seemed to do well in run blocking at times. It seems too soon to consider him a loss. Any chance he rebounds or excels in another position on the line? (Right tackle)
Ray Fittipaldo: Marcus Gilbert is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Adams could be the starting RT next season if Gilbert does not re-sign.
Zack: How much pressure is on mike tomlin to turn the team around from back to back 8-8 season
Ray Fittipaldo: There is always pressure on an NFL coach, but remember Bill Cowher once missed the playoffs three years in a row. The next season the team was 13-3 and played host to the AFC title game.
Mikey7: What kind of practices will the Steelers have with the Bills during camp? What type of drills and matchups could we look forward to?
Ray Fittipaldo: The Steelers have not done of these dual practices in a while but usually the linemen do one-on-one pass rush drills and there is 11-on-11 scrimmaging.
JamesinNYC: I don't understand the polar opposite views of Pouncey, someone like Ed(who's opinion I trust to be fair if usually a little critical) seems to have a good view of him while what we see of him in the national press and some of his actions leave a lot to be desired. Can you explain it?
Ray Fittipaldo: Not really. Are you speaking the national perception of Pouncey the player or Pouncey the person? To my knowledge he has never been arrested or charged with a crime. I understand he has put himself into the limelight for the wrong reasons at times such as last year's Free Hernandez controversy. I just think people have different points of view on everything and it's no different with Pouncey.
Karen: With Dick Lebeau, 76, only getting older, how many more seasons can we expect from our legendary defensive coordinator? And when he's gone, do you expect any big changes to the defense with the hiring of a new DC?
Ray Fittipaldo: LeBeau goes year to year and I don't expect this year to be different. If he is healthy and feeling good I would not be surprised if he came back in 2015. LB coach Keith Butler continues to wait in the wings. He is the odds on favorite to get the job once LeBeau does step down.
Jud: Is training camp all business for you or do you get to enjoy it as a fan as well?
Ray Fittipaldo: It's all business. We interview players at lunchtime then we start to write our stories. We watch practice and do more interviews and then finish our writing before doing it all over again the next day.
Alexdlc: Do you think the steelers should add another RB to the mix because Archer might be to busy learning the WR plays? I mean Bell and Blont can't do everything, and I'm not such a big fan of the rest RB we have..
Ray Fittipaldo: They have a bunch of guys like Alvester Alexander and Jordan Hall and others who will be in camp. One of those guys will end up being on the practice squad and could be called upon during the season if there is an injury.
Steve: Who is the biggest addition to help in the red zone: Legarrette Blount or Martavis Bryant?
Ray Fittipaldo: I'll say Blount because he has a track record.
SteelersFaninAtlanta: What are the odds of Cortez Allen, being extended before the regular season? I hate for us to lose another promising CB next offseason.
Ray Fittipaldo: There hasn't been any chatter on that type of stuff since minicamp because team personnel and agents are taking some time off now before training camp. After Pouncey got his extension in June Allen is the next most likely possibility because with a good season he could command a big contract after the season.
Ted: Do you see Stephon Tuitt beating out Cam Thomas and starting at all this season?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think it's a possibility to happen at some point this season, but I would not bet on that happening by Sept. 7. Thomas took the first-team reps this spring. We'll see what happens in camp, but DL have a hard time picking up this defense and Tuitt has no experience to draw on.
ryan: i know the depth at CB is a concern but i think the depth at TE is more alarming do you agree?
Ray Fittipaldo: Not as much. Spaeth is a good blocker, which is important for this offense. Palmer and Paulson have experience.
Evan Macurak: Has there been any word on Jarvis Jones? Didn't really hear much about him during OTAs
Ray Fittipaldo: Ed wrote a piece about him. He'll benefit from the tutelage of Joey Porter.
Alex Tavares: I'm concerned with our young WR's, and I feel like our O-Line will shine this year. What would you say our biggest concern on Offense be?
Ray Fittipaldo: The running game has been poor for some time now. There has to be some improvement there if the offense is expected to be really good. A good running game opens up so many other things for an offense. Ben has kind of been doing it all by himself the past few years and even though he's had his moments the team has been mediocre with 8-8 records.
Bob smith: What do u think the Steelers record will be in 2014. Will they win the AFC North?
Ray Fittipaldo: AFC North will be tightly contested. The Ravens and Steelers have a chance to be better this year and the Bengals might take a step back. 9-7 or 10-6 is possible. 10-6 might win the division this year.
Heeeath: I remember when the team was so deep, that you knew as a fan that Keisel was gonna be good when they let Kimo walk. In the same context of up and coming and "knowing", I knew the same with Fwp, Silverback, Woodley, and Timmons. It's no wonder as a fan that I felt good stuff was gonna happen and they were REAL GOOD for a lot of years. I'm apprehensive by that "not knowing" about Spence, JJ, Shazier, Shamarko, Wheaton, Adams (I want to be surprised),and so on. I "know" Who is gonna be good in Heyward, Bell, Blount, and DeCastro. Do you "know" what I mean? Are you getting that feeling again? Comfort me....sing us a lullaby
Ray Fittipaldo: No lullabys, but I see your point. There are more than a few positions with guys stepping in with no experience. I think that happens all over the NFL nowadays and it's not exclusive to the Steelers. The best teams are the ones that can incorporate those new players in a more seamless fashion than the others.
Mikey7: It looks like Shazier will be the starter next to Timmons during Camp and likeley to start the season. What do you see his role being? On the field on all downs (even long passing situations)?
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, I think he has a chance to stay on the field in sub-packages because of his pass rush skill set. That's one of the things they really liked about him at Ohio State. He has impact speed and you want that speed on the field when you have to get off the field.
Jud: Do you and Ed have to battle for stories with an editor or is generally more of a friendly environment?
Ray Fittipaldo: Ed is the beat guy so he gets first dibs on stories and writes the news of the day. We're always aware of what stories the others are working on so we don't pursue the same stories.
Guest: Do you believe Antwon Blake's stock keeps rising, and could see some starting time this season?
Ray Fittipaldo: The coaches appear to like Blake, but he only has eight defensive snaps on his NFL resume in two years in the league.
Indy: Ray in your opinion is all this optomism justified or is it more wishful thinking all the additions an free agents will pan out?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think there is optimism this team will be better than 8-8 and anything can happen once you get in the playoffs, but I have a hard time seeing this team as a legit threat to Denver or New England at this point.
Art Griffin: Do you think we will see more two back sets with the talent we now have at RB?
Ray Fittipaldo: That's a distinct possibility. Bell's threat to catch balls out of the backfield gives Todd Haley lots of options should he want to pursue a backfield with Blount next to him.
Jud: Do you think that Manziel will be a challenge for the Steelers?
Ray Fittipaldo: I'm not even convinced Manziel will be the starter at Heinz Field on Sept. 7. Former Steeler Brian Hoyer is likely to be the guy for the opener.
Art Griffin: Derek Moye seems to be left out of a lot of conversations as to taking one of the open recvier spots. What's his story?
Ray Fittipaldo: He's a good player, but since the end of last season the team added veteran Darrius Heyward Bey, drafted Martavis Bryant and Justin Brown has improved. Todd Haley said this spring the WR position is "as deep" as he has ever been around. He said some good players will not make the team. Moye might be one of those guys through no fault of his own.
Jud: If Hoyer is the starter, does that give the Browns an advantage in that he knows many wrinkles of the defense?
Ray Fittipaldo: It could but the Steelers also know Hoyer's strengths and weaknesses.
Guest: Do you think the Browns will try to trade for Andre Johnson, as it appears Josh Gordon will be suspended for the better part (if not all) of this season? They certainly have draft picks to do so.
Ray Fittipaldo: The Browns are rebuilding and I'm not sure a new GM wants to add an aging WR who is near the end to his team. I know Johnson wants out of Houston, but I think a contender makes more sense for him.
SteelersFaninAtlanta: I know that several teams have shown interest in Keith Butler in the past, and he has always turned them down. Now, I am a big Dick Lebeau fan, but how long do you think Butler will continue to wait for a promotion? I admire his loyalty to the organization, but it can't last forever.
Ray Fittipaldo: Maybe it can if he likes it here.
Rocky: I'm hearing a lot of positive comments on Howard Jones with his speed and size he will impress. What are your thoughts?
Ray Fittipaldo: He is a project, but there is not a lot of depth at OLB. I think practice squad is a possibility for him. He did not play at a major college and he is very raw.
Jud: How long do you think that Omar Khan sticks around? Do you have many discussions with him?
Ray Fittipaldo: He's on a lot of short lists around the league. He interviewed with the Dolphins after the season and did not get that job.
Guest: True or false: Daniel McCullers makes the team and contributes on special teams.
Ray Fittipaldo: I'll say false because I have no idea where a guy of his size will contribute on special teams. If he makes the roster he'll make it because he can contribute as a DL in the defense. If not, they'll try to sneak him onto the practice squad.
Steel: What are your thoughts on Wes Johnson rounding out the final 8?
Ray Fittipaldo: Johnson has versatility, which always helps when you're a depth guy trying to make a team. He could be in a battle with a guy like Guy Whimper who held down that backup G/T role last year.
Rocky: Ray, do you feel we have a weakness at punter?
Ray Fittipaldo: It's been a weakness the past few years, but there are two new guys so maybe one of them will step up and be a positive.
Dominique: So I don't really get the difference between Martavis Bryant an Derek Moye. Both r 6'4-6'5 range, both run in the 4.4 range. And both had very similar junior year college stats. But Martavis Bryant is looked at much more highly and was drafted in the fourth round while Derk Moye didn't even get drafted. do you have any clue why these two r looked at differently?
Ray Fittipaldo: It's all about how their skills project. We'll see how they do in camp. But speed is only one part of the equation. You have to have ball skills. You have to be a good route runner. You have to understand defenses and what they're trying to do against you.
Guest: Could Shaquille Richardson be the answer at cornerback to replace Ike Taylor? or is that just wishful thinking?
Ray Fittipaldo: He's a fifth-round pick. The Steelers drafted a cornerback in the fifth round last year and cut him in training camp. I'm not saying Richardson can't make the team but to project him as a long-term answer for Taylor is a bit ambitious.
Ray Fittipaldo: OK, thanks for all the great questions this week. I am off next week so my next chat will be Monday July 28 live from training camp.
First Published July 14, 2014 12:00 AM