Ray Fittipaldo's Steelers chat transcript: 1.25.16
January 25, 2016 3:04 PM
POLL: Carolina is a 4-point favorite over Denver in Super Bowl 50. What's your take on the line? A. Carolina wins and covers (75%) B. Carolina wins but does not cover (0%) C. Denver wins (25%)
Ray Fittipaldo: Welcome to my weekly Steelers chat. Post your questions and we'll get started soon.
WAROnTheRock: GREAT JOB this year to all three of *yinz* covering the Stillers, Ray and thanks!!! Curious as to what you think will be addressed via draft and what will be addressed during Free Agency...?
Ray Fittipaldo: Thanks, WAR. I'll just lump it all into one big need. Some of these can be addressed in free agency and others in the draft. I think cornerback, safety and tight end are the three biggest needs. After that I think you could be looking at a guard to replace Foster if he signs with another team and defensive line depth. If the first-round pick is a CB, S, TE, OL or DL I'd be OK with that. I realize everyone wants to draft a CB high, but the best ones are usually off the board by No. 25. Maybe they'll get lucky this year and one will fall to them, but don't get too caught up in that need this year. I've done it too often the past few years.
SteelByDesign: The Mock Drafts are already out in full force. As usual, I see nothing but CB's to the Steelers in the 1st. I feel like they once again disappoint those that want that to happen. Your thoughts?
Ray Fittipaldo: It's obviously too early for accurate mock drafts. The underclassmen list just came out last week and we still have to get through the Senior Bowl, combine and visits. We have more than three months until they pick at No. 25. As I stated in the first question, the best CBs will be gone by No. 25, but there could be a safety or tight end. Those are big needs in my estimation as well.
SteelByDesign: Lawrence Timmons and Heath Miller both carry cap hits that are way above their level of production at this point. What do you think happens with both>
Ray Fittipaldo: Miller's capt hit isn't all that bad. I think it's $4 million for the final year of his contract. Even if they draft his replacement in the first round and he earns playing time it's well worth to keep Miller around as a mentor for one year. Timmons is the contract that has the large cap hit. I think it's around $15 million in this the final year of his contract. He is young enough that I'd ask him to sign a new deal to take that cap hit down. He is past his prime, but if I can get him to play for $6 million per year over three years I'd be happy. If he doesn't agree to that then you'd have to look at your options, but I would think he's amenable to signing one more contract with the Steelers that would help their cap in 2016 and give him some guaranteed money in future years.
Bryan (Roanoke, VA): Should the Steelers be considered the favorite to win the AFC next year assuming they can stay healthy?
Ray Fittipaldo: The Steelers are certainly in my top 3. The Patriots have some problems with their offensive line and Tom Brady isn't getting younger, but I'd still have to give them a slight edge over the Steelers. The Broncos will still have a nice defense next season, but not sure if they can continue to compete for a Super Bowl with their QB situation. So right now I'd say Patriots 1, Steelers 2 and Cincinnati or Denver 3 depending on what the Broncos do over the offseason.
GSK: Would the Steelers look at M.Adams as a guard to replace Foster or is he strictly a Tackle?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think he's strictly a tackle.
Steeler in Texas: great work Ray. Mount McCullers seemed to disappear this year. Has the coaching staff soured on him? Any chance we go after someone like Malik Jackson?
Ray Fittipaldo: The Steelers definitely need some depth along the defensive line. Mike Tomlin was asked about a rotation next season to help Heyward and Tuitt and he basically said he's not opposed to that as long as there are players who are worthy of playing. No one expects Cam Thomas to return and L.T. Walton has to get much better in order to see the field. McCullers, as you noted, didn't play a lot down the stretch, but that might have more to do with subpackage football than what they think of him. McLendon was doing a nice job and he took the majority of the reps at nose when the Steelers played base defense. I don't think they've given up on Big Dan, but this is an important offseason for him because McLendon is 30 and is a free agent.
Guest: Wouldnt you put OLB at big need too? I know Harrison played a lot and he dropped into coverage frequently too, but JJ had 2 sacks and 3 qb hurries in a year!!! I can't imagine that the team thinks he is a long term player or solution.
Ray Fittipaldo: Good point. I would put OLB fourth or fifth or sixth after cornerback, safety and tight end though. I don't think you have to go out and draft one in the first round. Jones is under contract for at least one more season and maybe two if they pick up his fifth year option. Can't see them doing that now, but who knows. Plus, if James Harrison returns he gives you some quality depth.
SteelByDesign: Will Gradkowski be back in 2016 or will they look elsewhere to find some competition for Landry Jones?
Ray Fittipaldo: I was banking on Landry Jones being the backup in 2016 until I heard what Tomlin said at his season-ending news conference last week. It wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement for Jones. As for Bruce, he's coming off shoulder surgery and has to prove he can still play.
Bryan (Roanoke, VA): Could we trade a linebacker or two to recoup some draft picks (Boykin & Scobee)?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think you'll see the Steelers try to trade Shaun Suisham to recoup a draft pick. They can do what the Jaguars did this summer and hold onto two kickers throughout camp until a team gets desperate. There's not as much depth at LB as you might think. Sean Spence is a UFA. Garvin is a nice special teams player, but I'm not sure you want him as a primary backup. Inside linebacker is another position you might see the Steelers address in the middle rounds.
Jason: With Ben's window closing, do you see the front office being an active player in the free agency market to shore up the secondary?
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, I can see that, but it has to be the right player for the right price. I don't think you'll see the Steelers signing Josh Norman for $10 million per season or whatever it is he'll command on the open market. But if they can get a second-tier guy in the mold of Mike Mitchell at CB or S I think that is more likely. They have the salary cap space this spring to do something like that.
Steeler in Texas: Seems like BA still hasn't learned. He didn't give enough help to Ben while he was here, and didn't see alot of help with the tackles against Carolina yesterday....your thoughts
Ray Fittipaldo: Arizona's offensive line struggled in the playoffs. In the NFL, you have to pick and choose where you spend money. They're paying Palmer franchise QB money, same with Fitzgerald and some high-priced guys on defense. We can second-guess all we want about their pass protection the past two games, but they did win 14 games during the regular season. In most years that's good enough to get a No. 1 seed. They just happened to play in the same conference as the Panthers, who were 15-1, and as Sunday showed the superior team.
Guest: seeing as we did draft Golson and Grant, do you really feel that we need another draft of a couple more CBs?
Ray Fittipaldo: What gives you any confidence Grant can play CB? He was cut and then spent the first half of the season on the practice squad. Last week Tomlin said he might be a candidate to move to safety. So now you have Golson and Cockrell and Cortez Allen under contract. Allen won;t be back. So you have Golson and Cockrell. I'd try to re-sign Will Gay to a two-year deal, but I still think you need someone to compete with Cockrell. Plus, I think you need to add size to that position. Gay and Golson are smallish CBs and the way the NFL is now you need big CBs to deal with the bigger WRs. That's why Allen busting out is such a hard deal for the Steelers. They thought he was that type of player when they signed him to that big contract. Now they have to eat a lot of it and it will be dead money this year.
SteelByDesign: Heath's cap hit is just over 7 mil, not 4 mil.
Ray Fittipaldo: OK. But still the only way I'm cutting him is if Hunter Henry is the first-round pick AND Miller doesn't want to take a pay cut.
Go Steelers!: Hi Ray, is Bell expected to be ready for the start of the season?
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes I believe he is on schedule to return by then
Alan: I think the Steelers need to be aggressive in upgrading their secondary by doing what they did when they got Polamalu - if possible and if it makes sense, trade up in the 1st round or (2nd round) and get a corner or safety. Do you agree?
Ray Fittipaldo: If they think that player is worth it then fine. They showed pretty good judgment when they did that with Polamalu.
SteelByDesign: Will another edge rusher be a priority this off-season? Or are they happy with Jarvis, Dupree, and Moats long-term?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't think it's one of their top three priorities, not after selecting an OLB in the first round in 2013 and 2015.
Jason: There's going to be some decent corners in free agency that would certainly be an upgrade over what we have had over the past couple of years. Any chance we go that route since the best ones in the draft will be gone by the time that we pick at 25?
Ray Fittipaldo: Sure, if the price is right. Just don't expect Josh Norman.
SteelByDesign: A lot of people seem to not have a high opinion of McLendon. Am I the only one that thought he had a very good season? The goal line D in particular was very good with him in there.
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, I thought McLendon had a good season. But how much money do you want to pay an aging nose tackle when you only play him 33 percent of the snaps?
Tom: The top defenses yet again are in the Super Bowl. Why is everyone obsessed with this being a "passing league"? Why are the Steelers focused on an offense to carry the team?
Ray Fittipaldo: I wrote about this before the wild card game vs. Cincinnati. Of the 12 teams in the playoffs this season, 11 had top 12 defense. Only the Redskins (17th) did not. Seattle won the Super Bowl with the No. 1 defense in 2013. Other teams started to believe you could win again with defense. Look at the Broncos and what they did. But who is to say that will be the case again next season? The Giants won the Super Bowl with the 25th ranked defense in 2011. The Saints and Colts also won Super Bowls in the past decade without great defenses. I'm OK with the Steelers building their team around a franchise QB. I just hope they fix their red zone problems by next season. It's the one thing that's holding them back on offense.
Guest 6Rings: I would cut Timmons now; take the $6.4MM cap hit, let 51/98 play for him, and allocate the $8.75MM salary elsewhere as needed.
Ray Fittipaldo: Even tough Timmons did not have his best year I think the Steelers still think he can play. And he's not yet 30. I'm not doing a long-term deal, but I could live with something that takes him until he's 32 as long as it's in the $6 million per year range.
sask,steelerfan: With the steelers gaining a lot of cap space on losing dead money (Polamalu , Woodley )and dead weight ( Allen ) what are the chances the steelers sign a free agent like Eric Weddle or Prince Amukamra to fix the secondar
Ray Fittipaldo: Weddle is an intriguing name. He was very good for a long time in San Diego before they went through a bad divorce at the end of the season. He'd have to fit the scheme and come at the right price, but I think that's someone to keep an eye on. I just don't know what he'll command on the open market.
Guest: Ray it seems to me the steelers defense wears down in the 4th Qtr. Do you think this is due to a lack of depth/ player rotation on the DL? Heyward and Tuit are playing 90% + of the plays.
Ray Fittipaldo: It could be. That's why it's important for the offense to score more next season in the red zone. The defense wouldn't have been in that position in the playoffs vs. the Bengals and Broncos if the offense could put TDs and not FGs on the board.
Guest: Chances we don't draft Hunter Henry TE out of Arkansas? How often does a Pass receiving TE that can block come out?
Ray Fittipaldo: He's certainly a possibility, but there is no guarantee he'll be there at No. 25. Plus, you have needs at safety and cornerback as well. What the Steelers do in free agency will have an impact on who they draft in the first round.
Guest: Do you think Ben is good enough to carry this team? Yes the offense put up record yds but didnt score TDs in the red zone. Years ago the reason was b/c Ben didnt have a tall WR, now he has 2 but the excuse seems to be b/c he doesnt have an TE masked as a WR. If he is one of the best qbs with arguably the best wr and rb and a compliment of other weapons, they should score tds not make more excuses.
Ray Fittipaldo: I think he's good enough, but they have to fix their red zone problems. It's been problematic for years now. They made some small improvements, but with the talent they have they should be more successful in the red zone. If they deem the lack of a pass-catching TE as a problem then that's why I say take one in Round 1 if he's graded high on your board.
Guest: What to you make of the Grant situation? He went from being cut to a player they put on their 53. Gerry seems to think he has some potential but it seems odd they cut a 4th rounder. Was it a misevaluation of talent twice?
Ray Fittipaldo: He was never going to be a shutdown corner. He was a boundary corner. It's interesting. Carnell lake was asked the day he was drafted if safety was a possibility and Lake said it was. So maybe he's one of those guys who is a better fit at safety than CB in the NFL. Evaluations are never easy. There are a lot of variables involved. It did not seem like he was close to competing for a role at CB so maybe safety is an option for him.
Go Steelers!: Do you think Bryant can stay clean this offseason? Do the Steelers have any plans to help him while away from the team or is it all on him?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't have any way of predicting that. But I do know the Steelers drafted Sammie Coates as insurance against another misstep by Bryant. Everyone is hoping for the best, but they'd be dumb if they didn't have contingency plans.
Bruno: Could we trade the scouts of WRs for CBs for the next 3 years.....If the Steelers could draft CB in the middle round lie they draft WRs they would be invencibe...
Ray Fittipaldo: What, you didn't like the Shaquille Richardson and Terry Hawthorne picks?
Guest: Teams that try to build through FA (Bills, Dolphins, Browns) tend to fail. Teams that are built and then use FA to put them over the top seem to be successful(Denver, NE, AZ) Why do the Steelers pretend they don't need FA? Even guys like Mitchell are essential.
Ray Fittipaldo: The Steelers dabble in free agency. Their goal is to compete every year. Not sure of the long-term ramifications of the Broncos recent signings. They went for it in a window with Manning. They got to a Super Bowl. Good for them. But I'm not sure they'll be contenders for years to come when those contracts are up.
sask,steelerfan: How exacty did Senquez Golson injure his shoulder ?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't think that has ever been disclosed.
Guest: Haven't we been trying to fix our Red Zone offense for years now. Hasn't the "sky been the limit" for the offense going back to Arians. Haven't we not won anything in the playoffs since we shifted to offense first? Offenses fail year after year
Joe deee: a long way to go but defense appears to be looking up- though JJ was not a sack machine, his play up and down the line in layoffs was surely noticeable- hoping for some late growth- thoughts????
Ray Fittipaldo: I thought Jarvis improved as the year went on. But I still don't think it's a good sign that Harrison played more than he did. And I don't think three sacks or whatever he finished with is the type of production they covet from a first-round pick.
Guest: How do you interpret the consistent misjudgment of talent in the secondary? Thomas, K. Lewis, C.Allen, Grant, etc, etc. I understand that there are some misses of course, but the last talent they drafted and kept is Gay.
Ray Fittipaldo: That's a great question and I don't have a good answer for you. Other teams find CBs in later rounds. Richard Sherman was a fifth-round pick. I think Josh Norman was a fifth-rounder, too. Maybe that's something they have to look at this offseason.
Ray Fittipaldo: Thanks for taking part in the chat this week. We'll do it again next week at the same time.
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