Steelers tight end Jesse James pulls in a pass as he's defended by the Browns' Nate Orchard during a November game at Heinz Field.
Guest: Any chance Shamarko Thomas sees a significant amount of snaps on defense next season?
Ed Bouchette: That will depend on Shamarko Thomas, who Mike Tomlin singled out as a good special teams player today, but did not praise his play on defense
Scott from Erie: I can't remember a worse performance by a Steeler punter in recent history...Did Jordan Berry's hang time ability work against him in the Denver winds?
Ed Bouchette: He did hurt his shoulder trying to make a tackle early and will need surgery on it. Perhaps that affected his punting.
FreeTankCarter: Your thoughts on passing up the field goal attempts? You were there, did you think Boswell had a chance to make either, considering the wind conditions.
Ed Bouchette: The one would have been 54 yards into the wind. They wanted to pin back Denver, but the punter kicked that one into the end zone. The other would have been 50 yards. I thought going for it on fourth-and-one instead was OK and Mike Tomlin has been aggressive there this year, but going for it all in the end zone instead of trying to pick up the first down did not work.
Thad: Do you think Suisham gets cut, or do they manage a trade?
Ed Bouchette: I'm sure they'd like to find someone willing to trade for him, the way they gave Jacksonville a 6th round pick for Josh Scobee this year. But Suisham's salary may prevent that and they may have to wind up cutting him.
Guest: Would Le'Veon Bell have made the offense better in the red zone? (I mean over the entire season, not just in Denver.)
Ed Bouchette: Of course. As one of the best runners in the league who is a dual threat to run or receiver, he would have.
Theo: Hi Ed, great chat as always. How do you see AB's contract situation playing out this offseason? Do they do anything with it?
Ed Bouchette: I think they will do what they did last year, advance him $2 million from his 2017 salary. Then, in 2017, tear it up and give him a new deal.
Tom: Think next year the Steelers will have a backup RB ready if one is put on IR? Would Fitz have had an easy fumble if he was given more reps in the regular season to learn how to protect the ball?
Ed Bouchette: They had one ready this year. DeAngelo Williams. There's not a team in the league who has three ready.
Guest: What did the conditional pick end up being for Brandon Boykin?
Ed Bouchette: Fifth
Mean Smilen Jack: Ed, What are your thoughts on paying L Bell big bucks as opposed to signing a (Carolina?) FA DB or keeping thier WR corp intact?
Ed Bouchette: I think they'll wait until training camp and assess the situation and his health, it also will depend on how much he wants. Too much and they will just go into 2016, in my opinion, and let him play and see what happens after that.
From FrustratedFred: Every NFL season demonstrates the need to have a decent backup quarterback — someone who can, you know, actually play. The Steelers have three backups on their roster and no fan has any faith in any of them when they're called upon to do anything more than run out the clock in garbage time. How is this situation going to resolve itself?
Ed Bouchette: There are not a lot of teams who have stars as their backup quarterbacks. The Steelers believed they had a capable veteran in Bruce Gradkowski, but his shoulder never came around. The backups went 2-2 in the four games Ben missed, 3-2 if you count Landry Jones' brief start when Ben replaced him.
From FreeTankCarter: Just curious how Senquez Golson injured his shoulder. Lifting weights?
Ed Bouchette: Mike Tomlin said he's come along fine and he will consider him as a second-year player in 2016.
From Guest: It sounds Cortez Allen is gone. Do you agree? What's the possibility we trade Wheaton for draft pick?
Ed Bouchette: There is no way they bring Cortez Allen back.
From Tom: Ah finally it is Mock Draft time. How many have you read and when is yours coming out?!
Ed Bouchette: I'm still working on the mock drafts from 2015.
From Jim in VT: So, Ed the over/under on capital letter clogged questions that make your head hurt in this chat is....
Ed Bouchette: Not many clogged with capital letters. Better questions today, excpet for the inane who keep asking me if the return of Mendenhal or Woodley would help them. They do not see the light of day.
Guest: Does Jesse James have the potential to start or do the Steelers use a high draft pick on Heath's long-term replacement soon?
Ed Bouchette: I don't know about a high pick. Jesse James is a tall, intriguing young TE.
Rick: Boykin on the team next year?
Ed Bouchette: I don't think so. Not the way they used him. His contract is up.
Tom: Last year Blount was gone by the middle of the year, Bell was out by week 7. Williams was considered your primary back. Rephrasing the question, would it have hurt to get Fitz some touches from week 10 on just in case?
Ed Bouchette: Why? He did pretty good in those last two games right up until he lost the fumble. Would more carries earlier in the season have prevented that fumble? I don't know. We will never know.
Guest: To all the people bashing the backups: I'm not saying they're great, but Vick pulled out the win in San Diego, and Jones came in and beat the Cardinals. Without either of those, the Steelers miss the playoffs.
Ed Bouchette: Thank you. But they do need to get a better backup, even if that is Bruce Gradkowski again.
pete in ohio: Ed, thoughts on who is kept in the secondary. Do they keep Gay and Allen for leadership, Golston and anybody else?
Ed Bouchette: Gay is up but I think they'll try to keep him. Will Allen is a good one to have around, as long as he returns for vet minimum. You cannot count on Golson but as second-round pick, they saw enough talent in him that if right he should help
Brett: So the Steelers have no fifth or sixth round picks, but two in the seventh, correct?
Ed Bouchette: Yes, pending compensatory picks and further trades
Dude_From_Cali: Does FO have a chance to see Bell in preseason before a second contract offer? Do you predict Bell gets offer?
Ed Bouchette: They will have all the way through the preseason if they'd like.
Ed Bouchette: As for predicting an offer, I mentioned earlier, it depends on his health and contract demands.
Touchdown Joey: Ed, is it possible they let Foster go and use one of Wallace or Pouncey at the guard position?
Ed Bouchette: I don't think they'll move Pouncey. Wallace might be a consideration, although he is not as good on pass protection as Foster.
Rick: Since none of our assistant coaches have been asked to interview that does not say much as to how they are perceived league wide. What are your thoughts?
Ed Bouchette: They cannot make lateral moves anyway without the Steelers permission if they are under contract. Todd Haley wants to stay here and let it be known he wants to. Keith Butler is in his first year as defensive coordinator and near 60, so not a strong head coach candidate.
Who cares how they are perceived league-wide anyway. It's how Mike Tomlin perceives them.
Scott from Erie: In case of injury, shouldn't the Steelers have at least two experienced punt returners on the game day roster? Markus Wheaton was clearly not prepared, and I think Special Teams coach Danny Smith should be held accountable.
Ed Bouchette: So you think it's Danny Smith who finds the punt returners?
pete in ohio: Ed, what are your thoughts on the play of big Dan this year. Is he worth keeping or do we draft another nose tackle to pair with McClendon
Ed Bouchette: He did not play much, and played less as the season went on. I think that tells you what his coaches thought.
Scott from Erie: Did the Steelers make a mistake not holding onto Jacoby Jones? I have to think he would have been better than Wheaton on punt returns.
Ed Bouchette: Did you see Jacoby Jones' performances when HE was returning?
Guest: Good or bad, have you ever seen a year where a coach makes so many 4th down/2pt conversion gambles?
Ed Bouchette: No. I think the 2-point conversions were largely a success. The fourth-and-ones mixed.
Guest: How many more years do you see Heath Miller playing?
Ed Bouchette: I think he has another good one in him.
Guest: Just following up on the red zone question: So does Bell give the offense something DeAngelo Williams can't?
Ed Bouchette: He's better.
TBurg_Pete: Hello, Mr. Bouchette! Do you think Shazier can replace some of the playmaking ability lost when Troy fell off his game? ( NOT as a S, of course--he reminds me of Farrior, body-wise)
Ed Bouchette: I believe you saw him doing some of that toward the end of the year.
LeoLee: Hi Ed, who gets cut/released from their current roster?
Guest: Which of their free agents do you think the Steelers will sign and bring back?
Ed Bouchette: I am writing a season-ending analysis and hope to take a look at both of those questions in my story that will appear in our special Steelers section on Sunday.
Ed Bouchette: Thanks for another great chat. We'll continue in the offseason on Tuesdays unless something pops up and we have to change. 1:30.
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