Steelers' DeAngelo Williams pulls in a pass against the Broncos in the first quarter Dec. 20 at Heinz Field.
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Comment From GjSteel: Hi Ray, don't know about you...but I thought that was one of the least exciting Super Bowls of all time...one big play...(defensive td)...no real drama at the end...your thoughts?
Ray Fittipaldo: Well, if you like defense it wasn't all that bad. And at least it was close til the end. I'll take that over the 55-10 and 42-10 Super Bowls that seemed to occur almost every year in the 1980s.
Comment From PhillySteel: Hi Ray, thanks for doing these chats. Can you explain to me how Cam Newton can be voted MVP yet he is incapable of running a two minute offense?
Ray Fittipaldo: I was completely underwhelmed by his performance. He was huffing and puffing early in the game. He was missing throws. He never tried to impact the game with his feet when those many passing plays broke down in front of him because of the pass rush. But the reason I have no respect for him today was not going for that fumble. It was 16-10. A touchdown wins the game for the Panthers, and he begs off like he didn't want to get injured. That play will follow him around until he wins a Super Bowl. And I doubt that ever happens.
Comment From JoeSteel: Ray, with the Steelers needing D Line help, any chance of them looking to bring back a couple of guys who were on their practice squad a couple years ago. Josh Mauro & Nick Williams. I know they both got plucked from the Steelers practice squad to other teams active rosters. If I remember correctly, the Steelers were very high on both of them.
Ray Fittipaldo: I think they were higher on Mauro than Williams, but let's be honest. They weren't all that high on him. They could have cut Cam Thomas or Daniel McCullers to keep him and decided to keep both over Mauro, who has been good with the Cardinals. Maybe it was a mistake. We'll see how Mauro's career turns out. He is a free agent and could be had, but it will come for much more than they could have had 18 months ago. As for Nick Williams, I was never much of a fan. Plus, he was hurt a lot when he was here.
Comment From jake: What do you think the front office does about the secondary? free agency? it seems that the powers that be have alluded to that...
Ray Fittipaldo: I think it's a possibility. If ever there was a time for the Steelers to add through free agency it's now. They have multiple needs on defense and all of them cannot be addressed via the draft. At least not adequately. They need help at cornerback, safety and defensive line. The draft is stocked with very good defensive line prospects. I would add a corner or safety via free agency and then address the other two positions early in the draft.
Comment From Guest: What was the Steelers' offense able to do to beat the Broncos during the regular season that the Steelers, Patriots and Panthers couldn't do in the playoffs? I don't think it was simply that Denver had Manning at QB during the playoffs, or that the Steelers didn't have DeAngelo Williams. It seemed like the Steelers had something figured out in the regular-season meeting, but the Broncos shut them -- and everyone else -- down in the playoffs.
Ray Fittipaldo: Well, I think Roethlisberger figured them out after the first quarter and a half of that game at Heinz Field. The Broncos were without their two starting safeties in that game, he still attacked Aqib Talib and especially Chris Harris. Antonio Brown had 189 yards receiving in that game. I'd venture to say if he played in the playoff game in Denver we'd be talking about Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Even without Brown in the playoff game, Roethlisberger threw for 339 yards and had several big passing plays. The difference in that game was the Broncos made a few plays -- or interfered with Steelers receivers -- to keep the Steelers from scoring TDs.
Comment From Tom K: Which of the Steelers unrestricted free agents do you think they will try the hardest to resign?
Ray Fittipaldo: Gay is the only one I feel strongly about. Maybe McLendon, but if you get an interior defensive tackle in the top three rounds (and it is a loaded class of DL) those types of guys are usually plug and play starters right off the bat. So even though I think McLendon is valuable and played well I think that might work against him. Still wouldn't be surprised if he re-signed though. And of course, Beachum. I just don't know if the two sides will come to terms. They weren't close last summer.
Comment From Ricky Smith: Hi Ray, Thanks for doing the chat. Will the Steelers address the ROLB position this coming offseason, or try another year with Jarvis, Chickillo and maybe Harrison?
Ray Fittipaldo: Well, we all saw how important outside linebackers can be the past few weeks with the Broncos. Harrison was once that type of impact player but that was from 2007-10 or so. He's not that player any longer. I would like to have him back, but at 38 he is only going to be a role player. The big key to the defense is Jones and whether he improves his pass rush productivity. Jones and Bud Dupree have to provide more in 2016 if the Steelers are going to be in the Super Bowl 51 discussion. They can't be relying on Harrison the way they did this past season.
Comment From Jamie: As we've repeatedly seen high powered defences win Championships. Can we do it next year without a significant improvement to our defence? Or are Ben, AB, Bell, Martavis good enough to buck the trend?
Ray Fittipaldo: One can make a strong argument that Pittsburgh beats Denver handily if Brown plays in the playoff game in Denver. So, as Bill Cowher liked to say, it's a fine line. It has been proven, though, if you have a great defense, you'll be in a lot of games. The Broncos found a way to win three close playoff games. Kudos to them, but it's not like I'm picking them to go back to Super Bowl 51. No one even knows who their QB will be in 2016. That's why I like the Steelers and Patriots in the AFC next season. If their offensive stars remain healthy -- and I realize that's a big if considering their histories -- I think it could be their year, even if the defense is about the same as last year.
Comment From SteelCity: Hi Ray - Who do you or don't you re-sign; Beachum, Foster, Gay, Blake, Boykin, Spence, W. Allen? Who do you or don't you extend; DeCastro, Bell, V Williams?
Ray Fittipaldo: Extend DeCastro. Re-sign Gay. Not sure the others happen. And there is no reason to extend Vince Williams now. He still has a year left on his rookie contract. He is a reserve LB.
Comment From jtbsteeler: I'm hearing a lot of "THis Denver defense is the best ever" from radio heads, basically looking make people listen. Also heard that the Panters were the best offense that Denver face this season. How do you come down on those Q's"
Ray Fittipaldo: They're not even close to being the best defense ever. It shouldn't even be a discussion. As I pointed out earlier, the Steelers were short-handed for the playoff game, down two starting skill players, including the NFL's best receiver. I give the Broncos credit for beating the Patriots and Panthers, but they still gave up 44 points in three playoff games. It was nowhere near the playoff run of the '85 Bears, 2000 Ravens or '75 Steelers, who gave up 10 points per game in their three playoff games, 10 apiece to the Colts, Raiders and Cowboys. The Raiders and Cowboys each won Super Bowls in the same era. Let's see what Broncos do in the future. They had a very good defense, but it's silly for people to compare them to any of the all-time great defenses.
Comment From PhillySteel: I agree whole heartedly with your assessment of Newton's performance. Watching Denver win that Super Bowl had me thinking about a missed opportunity for the Steelers. Will anyone other than us realize what Ben and the offense did to that defense? Why isn't Ben ever in a serious conversation for MVP?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think this past year it was the injuries. He missed four games and parts of five others. I think if he stays healthy in 2016 he will be in that discussion. You also have to remember he's been competing against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in their primes for most of those years. How many MVPs did they win in that time? More than a few.
Comment From Steelmann58: Hey Ray season is over what do you see the steelers doing once Fa starts maybe a Vet Dl or Secondary Help.
Ray Fittipaldo: As I wrote earlier, this draft is stocked with really good DL. So I say go for a CB or safety in free agency and address the other and DL early in the draft.
Comment From The Chief: Ray, how many of the members of the Steelers Defense that ended the season could start for the SB Champions?
Ray Fittipaldo: Cam Heyward and maybe Ryan Shazier. That's about it. How many you got?
Comment From Steelmann58: Hey Ray I(f the Steelers stay at pick 25 what postion do they target are just go with BPA
Ray Fittipaldo: Way too early to say at this point, but if I had to guess it'd be CB, safety, DL or TE in round 1. And CB or safety more than the other two.
Comment From Guest: Defense clearly wins championships even in today's pass happy NFL. Why are the Steelers focused on the Offense carrying the team?
Ray Fittipaldo: John Elway deserves credit for reinventing his team after it was thrashed by the Seahawks in Super Bowl 48. They went from an offensive team to a defensive team by some shred free agent signings. But he did that knowing he had an aging QB that could no longer carry a team. The Steelers have a franchise QB in Roethlisberger who is playing as well as he ever has. So I have no problem with them devoting money to that side of the ball. However, they do need to improve on defense. That's why I'd go heavy on defense in free agency early in the draft if the right players are there.
Comment From Dave: If Shamarko has the talent but the issue is between the ears, can't good coaching make him the player they thought he could be?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think it's better if we all just move on from the Shamarko questions. I don't think he'll even be on the team next fall. Time to get a safety in free agency or the draft.
Comment From Guest: Do you think we could see maybe 1 or 2 free agency signings in the first days?
Ray Fittipaldo: Well, all the good free agents get scooped up in that time frame, so if you’re hoping for any impact players that would be the time it happens.
Comment From Steelmann58: Hey Ray Do you feel this is going to be a defensive draft? The Steelers need a playmaker in the Secondary as well as OLB and deprth on the DL
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, only big need on offense is tight end. I just think if they add a really good pass catching TE they'd be even harder to defend. I also realize it's not an immediate need because Miller is under contract for one more year.
Comment From Guest: Did you notice Peyton has tried the fake fall down and get back up routine multiple times since the Steelers games? Could this be a trend for others to try?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't think so. The officials made a mistake by letting him to that in the playoff game. I think that gets blown dead 90 percent of the time.
Comment From PhillySteel: You mentioned this draft being deep in DL. What about DBs?
Ray Fittipaldo: It's not as deep for CBs or safeties. There are a few CBs who are projected to go in the top 20. Maybe three of them right now. It's even harder to find safeties that fit the NFL mold because so many college teams run the spread now. There are a few with first-round grades, but I will also tell you those guys vary from draft guru to draft guru. It's more clear about the DL. Everyone think it's a great year for DL.
Comment From Guest: Will or has any offense carried a team to a SB victory in the past 10 years (Saints won with pic 6/special teams and same with Indy)?
Ray Fittipaldo: What about the Packers in Super Bowl 45? Got up big early on a defense that was very strong in total and scoring defense in 2010? How about the Ravens in Super Bowl 47? Go up big with their offense and hung on. That wasn;t a great defensive team by any measure.
Comment From Go Steelers!: Hi Ray, I hate instant replay. The idea is to get it right every time but 50% of the time the announcers call it opposite the actual ruling. Obviously even with slow motion replay a lot is left to interpretation so what's the point? Let the refs make the call and keep the game moving. Think this will ever change?
Ray Fittipaldo: No. This game needs replay review more than ever. The NFL just has to come up with a better catch rule. No one knows what a catch is any longer?
Comment From Tom S: Did the Broncos show just how important a punter can be? Ginn Jr. was integral to setting up the offense all season. Broncos punter had pinned him on the sidelines or hung it up for no returns. Do the Steelers put enough emphasis on Special Teams in your opinion?
Ray Fittipaldo: I'm sure they try to be good on special teams, but they just haven't made many impact plays in recent years. And let's face it. It's hard to find punters like Colquitt. He is very good. He's one of the reasons the Broncos beat the Steelers in the playoff game. He was much better than Jordan Berry, know how to handled the windy conditions better than the rookie
Comment From Guest: I'm dumb. I completely forgot that Brown didn't play in the playoff game. Yeah, he would have made a difference.
Comment From Andy: I'm sure that if Antonio Brown had played in the game that the Steelers would have beaten the Broncos. But I'm just as sure that they would have lost to the Patriots. The Pats own the Steelers I'm sorry to say.
Ray Fittipaldo: You might be right. But it would have been a far more interesting game than the opener with Martavis Bryant rediscovering his game in the playoffs. Remember, he didn't play in the opener.
Comment From Steelmann58: Hey Ray Think James will come back for his Final Year? And Will the steelers exercise Jones Option sorry but think the steelers missed there on picking him so High.
Ray Fittipaldo: If I was the Steelers I would try to convince Harrison to return. As for Jones, I can't see paying him $7 or 8 million for his fifth year option when Harrison plays more snaps than he does. He just hasn't merited that type of contract. Now you could try to work out a long-term deal. If he'd be willing to sign for, say, $4 or 5 million a year maybe you do that in hopes that he would blossom.
Comment From Warsa Catch: Does Belichick's run a News Conference Camp? If so I suspect Cam Newton attended it.
Ray Fittipaldo: Cam walked away from that news conference just as he walked away from that fumble.
Comment From Andy: Maybe the Steelers should sign Manzel when he's cut by the Browns? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Some team will be dumb enough to sign him. Who do you think might be interested?
Ray Fittipaldo: No NFL team is that desperate. Manziel should go to rehab and get himself better before even thinking about the NFL again.
Comment From Ricky Smith: Ray - Of Beachum, Foster, Gay and McLendon, who would you say is the biggest priority in free agency?
Ray Fittipaldo: For me, it's Gay
Comment From FDr: Hi ray. What do you think of Cam Newton's pouting in defeat, after being so brash and arrogant in victory?
Ray Fittipaldo: Not a good look for him, but far worse than his news conference was not going after that fumble. I wouldn't want him as my QB. And I mean that.
Comment From Guest: Why don't we ever hear about FA interested in playing for the Steelers? Do the Steelers ignore it so much, players don't even bother looking into us as an option?
Ray Fittipaldo: That's not true. James Farrior was a free agent. So was Jeff Hartings. They tend to get guys who fit their system more than the high-priced guys on the market, but they do find guys who are impact players in free agency.
Comment From Moses John: Ray, Do the Steelers have enough money to go after a top free agent defensive back? Do you see any dbs in the draft that would be worth taking in the first round at #25? If not do they go for a tight end?
Ray Fittipaldo: Not in the Josh Norman price range, but I could see them giving a CB or safety $6 or 7 million a year if they thought he could step in and be the missing piece to their Super Bowl puzzle. With Roethlisberger turning 34, it might be time for the Steelers to go for it.
Comment From Watsa Catch: Do you see a Safety in the draft who could start early in our system?
Ray Fittipaldo: So hard to say. Troy couldn't start right away. CBs more likely to come in and start early. But I will point out that all young players are being given an opportunity to play earlier than a decade ago. It happened with Jarvis Jones. It happened with Tuitt. It happened with Dupree. The Steelers realize they have to get more out of these guys earlier in their careers.
Comment From The Chief: Ray, your thoughts on how the League MVP handled his Presser.
Ray Fittipaldo: On a scale from 1-10, a negative 10.
Comment From GSK: Hi Ray, how about safety Eric Weddle and CB Trumaine Johnson that would be a an upgrade to the secondary...or do you think they would be too expensive for the Steelers?
Ray Fittipaldo: Will be interesting to see what the market is for Weddle. He just turned 31. Has never been to a Super Bowl. Does he want one last big contract or a chance to win a Super Bowl? And I am leaning toward a safety in free agency because I don believe it will be harder to get an impact guy at that position in the first round.
Comment From Guest: I don't get it. Are people suggesting that the Steelers shouldn't try to be as good as they are (or better) on offense? We all know they need to get better on defense. That doesn't mean they have to try to become the 2000 Ravens and turn Ben into Trent Dilfer. A good offense is a good thing. And it's not as if they're focusing on offense at the expense of their defense. Most of their top draft picks in recent years have been on defense. (Whether those picks have panned out is a different issue.)
Ray Fittipaldo: I agree with you.
Comment From Watsa Catch: Is there any way the team can improve their chances of staying healthy?
Ray Fittipaldo: Stop playing their stars in the preseason. Really, I think that's something they and other teams have to consider. I understand football is a tough sport and players have to get conditioned to the hitting and such, but two of the best players in the game were lost for the season in the same preseason game at Heinz Field last August. How might this season have been different if Pouncey and Jordy Nelson not been hurt in that game?
Comment From Andy: I was shocked that Cam didn't even try to dive for that fumble. I was expect him to go after it in a regular season game, to say nothing of the Super Bowl.
Ray Fittipaldo: Exactly. I can't imagine any other starting QB in this league not going for that ball. OK, maybe Jay Cutler, but that's it.
Comment From Andy: Ryan Clark was a quality free agent for the Steelers. So was Kevin Greene.
Comment From PhillySteel: The Steelers have always preferred tall corners playing outside. Why?
Ray Fittipaldo: So they can better contend with all the big and athletic WRs.
Comment From Andy: Who would you say is the Steelers' biggest draft bust of the Mike Tomlin era? Limas Sweed? It's obvious who the best pick of his era is: it's Antonio Brown.
Ray Fittipaldo: Sweed, or if you want to go with a first-rounder it's probably Ziggy Hood.
Comment From truesteelerfan: Now that the season has concluded - when would you anticipate we start hearing about things such as coaching revisions, free agent visits, our FA visiting other places, etc?
Ray Fittipaldo: Free agency begins in about a month, the second week of March.
Comment From jtbsteeler: The Steelers have to get away from paying fringe players like Cortez Allen etc. Make a splash in FA for once and get this defense into a top 10 level. Then like you said, they can draft front 7 again like they like to. Cant believe Butler wants to go into the season with a poor secondary again. Heavy defense this offseason, re-sign Foster and let Beachum walk.
Ray Fittipaldo: Good thoughts. The Allen signing was obviously a mistake. And Art Rooney II made it clear a few weeks ago that they need to upgrade the secondary.
Comment From Latrobe guy: Ray, do agree that it's more important to try and get a impact/good safety free agent to pair with Mitchell than a CB? Not that a CB isn't important, but with another good solid safety that would help out the corners.
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, for two reasons. I think it would be hard to step into this defense as a rookie safety. And I don't think it would be as difficult for a CB.
Comment From Andy: HOF chances- most likely to least likely for the following: Hines Ward, Polamalu, Faneca?
Ray Fittipaldo: Faneca, Polamalu, Ward.
Comment From JamesinNYC: Did they get to cute and not let Cam be Cam? When he ran he looked good when he tried to be Ben he got murdered.
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't think it was Mike Shula's finest hour. At some point in that game, you have to tell Cam it's on his shoulders as a runner. They had so many opportunities to win that game. Someone with his athletic skill set could have done more damage to that defense with his legs than his arm.
Comment From Andy: Ray, do you think Mike Mitchell would be better as a strong safety?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think he could move to strong safety without much of a problem.
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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