Ray Fittipaldo's Steelers chat transcript: 2.15.16
February 15, 2016 3:13 PM
Dave: Ray, just for kicks, which games do you think will get scheduled in primetime this season?
Ray Fittipaldo: I would expect the Steelers to get the maximum five primetime games again this season. I think the Patriots game has a very good chance to be in primetime as do the Bengals and the Cowboys. I just hope the NFL does what's right for the the welfare of the players and they don't schedule the Steelers-Bengals in primetime in Week 4, the week Vontaze Burfict is back. I hope the NFL doesn't schedule that game at all in Week 4. If they do it would mean they're selling out to the networks and not putting the players first. That game will have too much bad blood. What's wrong with putting the Steelers and Bengals as the Sunday or Monday night game in Week 1 after the Broncos open the season on Thursday night? I'd be all for that. What I don;t want to see is another spectacle like the one that took place in Cincinnati in the playoffs.
James: If the opportunity presented itself, would you trade Martavis Bryant for a top 10 pick in the draft?
Ray Fittipaldo: First of all, I don't know a team that would trade a top 10 pick for a player who will be suspended for 10 games the next time he fails a drug test. But if you're the Steelers and you consider yourself a Super Bowl contender in 2016, why would you do that? He's such an integral part of the offense. If this team was rebuilding it might be another story, but they have a legit chance to compete for the Super Bowl. Plus, he has two years left on his rookie contract. Have to max that out while he's cap-friendly.
Ryan: With Vontaze Burfict's suspension being upheld, what are the chances the Steelers play the Bengals week 4?
Ray Fittipaldo: Please see above answer. I hope the NFL is smart enough to avoid that.
Clint: After watching NE and Carolina get carved up by Broncos front 7, how much more credit goes to the Steelers OL that they kept Ben mostly clean in 2 games?
Ray Fittipaldo: You make a great point and I pointed that out in my story Sunday on the offensive line (the first in an 11-part series every Sunday for the next 10 weeks, by the way. This week Gerry Dulac takes a look at the WRs)... Back to your point, Carolina gave up seven sacks and the Patriots four. The Steelers allowed three. Von Miller was held without a sack by Marcus Gilbert. The entire line did a nice job in the playoff game and the game late in the regular season.
Michael: Do you think its possible for the Steelers to re-sign Beachum and Foster, while also giving new contracts to DeCastro and Bell all this offseason?
Ray Fittipaldo: No. Even after they create some room with the cap I don't think they'll be able to make all those moves. I think DeCastro is the first priority and then Bell is he is amenable to an extension. And I think it's more important to get a starting safety or cornerback in free agency than it is to re-sign Foster or Beachum. I think they need to shore up the secondary if they want to make a run next year. I think they can fill in the pieces along the line if Foster and Beachum aren't here. No disrespect to them, but there is a salary cap that dictates offseason moves.
Vanessa: If Gradkowski doesn't come back, and Vick doesn't either, would you rather see the Steelers sign a FA QB to complete the depth chart or draft with a later pick?
Ray Fittipaldo: A veteran signed for the league minimum or thereabouts would be fine with me. You don't have fifth- and sixth-round picks this year so don't waste one on a backup QB.
steelmann58: Hey Ray if the steelers are going to look on the Outside for a FA what position or Postions do you see them Target?
Ray Fittipaldo: I say safety or cornerback if they are going to spend the money.
Theo: how in the heck are they up against the salary cap with Troy and Woodley's $$ now off the books?
Ray Fittipaldo: Ed explained in this story last week. I don't have much to add to that. He also said there are extensions and restructures that would easily get them under by March 9.
TShip: D line question. Safe to say that a true NG like Hampton was is a thing of the past. Can someone like Tuitt play the nose on a regular basis?
Ray Fittipaldo: I wouldn't waste Tuitt playing on the inside. He's a very good end. The trick is finding guys from college who can project to being more than a nose tackle. So you want a guy who can stuff the run on first and second down and then play in a rotation as a pass rusher on third down. The Steelers could use a player like that, and this is a good draft for DTs.
Hunter: Do you feel confident with Villanova as the LT moving forward if thats what ends up happening?
Ray Fittipaldo: Villanueva had some problems in pass protection, but the Steelers were 7-5 with him as a starter. In an ideal world, Beachum would be re-signed, but the Steelers are operating within the confines of a salary cap.
Leaper: What position would you take first, cb, s, og or olb?
Ray Fittipaldo: CB, safety or TE if CB and safety are not addressed through free agency.
Amanda: I seem to remember Eli Rodgers being an exciting player in camp and returning kicks and punts if I'm not mistaken. If he is healthy when camp starts and continues looking good, could his potential at the return game get him a real shot at the 53?
Ray Fittipaldo: Rogers had a really nice rapport with Roethlisberger during camp. He rehabbed at the Steelers facility all season. The Steelers like him and yes I think he has a chance to make the 53-man roster ahead of someone like Darrius Heyward-Bey. He would also be that shifty slot receiver the Steelers really don't have when they play Antonio Brown on the outside.
Leaper: If the Steelers beat Denver do you feel they would have beaten NE at Foxboro?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think they would have been underdogs and I would have had a hard time picking them to win up there, especially if Antonio Brown wasn't able to play. But I do think it would have been a competitive game because I think the Steelers defense was much better by the end of the year compared to the opener.
AZ Brian: Hi Ray, thanks for the chats as always! What do you think the likelihood is of the Steelers trading out of the 1st round to scoop up additional picks in the 2nd and 3rd rounds?
Ray Fittipaldo: Too hard to say at this point. We're still more than two months away from the draft and I have no idea what teams would offer to move up into the first round. But that's always an attractive option if you don't think you're getting value where you're picking.
Michael: Is it realistic that the Steelers can sign someone like Janoris Jenkins and Eric Weddle? Or is it almost certain they can only afford one FA starter-caliber player?
Ray Fittipaldo: I've always thought they would sign only one starter in free agency. Not even sure that happens, but I think they realize they're close and there are only so many more legit opportunities with Roethlisberger as the QB.
Leon: I keep reading quite a bit about Timmons having to take a pay cut or possibly being cut. Has he dropped of so sharply? I didn't notice him not playing up to the standard...
Ray Fittipaldo: I think he remains a useful player, but he's scheduled to earn around $8 or 9 million and count $15 million against the cap. I don't think he's worth $8 or 9 million at this point in his career. He is going to turn 30 and late in the season he was subbed out for safety Robert Golden in the dime package. If they can tear up the old contract and sign him to a two or three-year deal for maybe $5 or 6 million per year I would be OK with that. But to answer your question I don't think they can keep him on their roster under the current parameters of his contract.
Leaper: Has AV done enough to consider him the future at LT?
Ray Fittipaldo: As I wrote earlier, in a perfect world, Kelvin Beachum re-signs with the Steelers, but he could get a bigger contract from another team that doesn't have the cap issues the Steelers have. So the Steelers might not have a choice but to go into 2016 with Villanueva as the starter. He did play 12 games and the Steelers did well enough with him that they almost made it to the AFC title game.
Leaper: Is Hines Ward a HOFer?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think he should be, but the receiver position is going to be backlogged for a long time because of the numbers these guys are putting up these days. Ward didn't post numbers like Terrell Owens or some of the others who will be up for election, but he does have a Super Bowl MVP on his resume and he is among the best, if not the best, blocking receiver of all-time. I think that will count for something, but I don't think it gets him in anytime soon.
Tprod: With Foster most likely gone, who plays guard?
Ray Fittipaldo: Chris Hubbard is a candidate. They've taken a long look at him the past two preseasons and liked him enough this season to make him their top reserve at tackle and guard after Beachum was injured. The guy I really like is B.J. Finney. I thought he had a really strong training camp. He was injured in the final preseason game and they had to cut him. But he resurfaced after his injury healed and spent the final 12 weeks or so on the practice squad. Or they could draft a G in the second or third round and hope he becomes a starter. If they don't draft a guard I think it could be a pretty good camp battle between Hubbard and Finney. I suppose Cody Wallace could throw his hat into the ring, too, but I'd bet on the other two.
Scott in Dallas: Will the Steelers blow out the cap, sign some top level talent and take the salary cap hit later, for the last couple of years that Ben will be an elite QB?
Ray Fittipaldo: Their goal is to be competitive every year, so I don;t think they'll stray far from that model. However, if ever there was a year to go for it I think this is the offseason to make a bigger move.
Leon: realistically, what contribution from Doran Grant can we expect this year? They've been really hitting on those second round picks since 2010 or so, does that streak continue?
Ray Fittipaldo: Grant was the team's fourth-round pick. Senquez Golson was the second-round pick. I think they'll be counting on Golson as a starter or nickel back. He is only 5-9 so I would expect him to start out in the nickel as the slot corner, but I suppose he could play outside right away if he impresses in camp.
Tprod: Even if the Steeler draft a safety in round one or two, doesn't their complex zone scheme almost mandate most of the year watching from the bench trying to learn it?
Ray Fittipaldo: Good point. Troy Polamalu didn't start right away. That's why I think signing a veteran in free agency might be the move to make this offseason. With all that being said, Mike Mitchell said he didn;t feel completely comfortable until this season so I'm not even sure a veteran would be completely comfortable in this defense in year 1. It's certainly something to watch next month when free agency begins.
NaplesDave: Hi RF, What are JJ's deficiencies at TE that Coach M can't shore up? I like his pass catching and height in the red zone. Plus with so few picks, not going for a TE will help add depth at other positions. Thanks
Ray Fittipaldo: I'm not sure of any glaring deficiencies in his game. I just think as a fifth-round pick he was always going to be more of a role player than a starter. Hey, he could prove me wrong. I don't know. But he's not a finished product as a blocker. I did like what I saw from him as a pass-catching TE. He's a good player. I would expect his role to grow this coming season.
Scott in Dallas: I know it is not the Steeler Way but i want to see them "Scrap The Cap" for a team that could win 1-2 Super Bowls in the next 3 years. I say that knowing it would be a rough couple years after. Better than early playoff exits or mediocrity...
Ray Fittipaldo: I wouldn't call this past season an "early playoff exit". They were in position to go to the AFC title game before Toussaint fumbled.
Guest: I don't understand why you don't think signin Beachum to a one-year deal for example coming off of his ACL is a worthwhile move for the steelers. They wanted to sign him to long term deal before his injury
Ray Fittipaldo: I think that would be great, but what if another team desperate for a left tackle offers him a $40 million contract for five years? There is no way the Steelers could match that. I don't even know if they could afford to match a $30 or 33 million deal over five years.
Guest: How much does the salary cap increase this year?
Ray Fittipaldo: Projections are for $155 million or more. They'll announce it a few days before free agency begins March 9 though the number is usually leaked during the combine, which begins next week.
Keith: Assuming no change with Leveon and DeAngelo, do you expect the Steelers to try keep Fitz or Todman as the No. 3 back with the idea they could be the No.2 if DeAngelo departs after 2016?
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes but with one caveat. Depending upon how Bell's extension talks go (let's say things don't go well), you might see an RB in the middle or later rounds of the draft.
Leon: Do they take the option on Jarvis Jones?
Ray Fittipaldo: It's projected to be $8 million or so. I don't think he's worth that much. But they'll likely sign him to the option and make the decision after the season about keeping him.
Guest: I don't think the steelers are all the bad at CB. They're never going to pay at are is for example but I think Cockrell could be another Taylor. He has potential. They could pick up a middling free agent corner and be fine if the resign Gay. Do you agree or disagree? I think safety is more of a priority
Ray Fittipaldo: I disagree. I think you have to try to upgrade. Art Rooney II said as much after the season. I think they would be OK if they re-signed Gay and plugged him in his usual role. Then you'd have Golson as the slot corner and ideally a veteran free agent or a young draft pick who could play right away. Not sure if that guy will be there in free agency or at No. 25 in the draft, but that's how I would approach it.
Ray Fittipaldo: Thanks for taking part in the chat this week. I am on vacation next week so my next chat will be in two weeks. Gerry will have all your Steleers news from the combine in Indianapolis.
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