William Gay breaks up a pass on fourth-and-long during the final minutes Dec. 20 against the Broncos at Heinz Field.
Ed Bouchette: Good afternoon, let's begin.
Trevor: Who's one guy you would like to see the steelers sign in FA?
Ed Bouchette: Other than their own, Eric Weddle. San Diego reportedly will not tag him today and while he is one of the top safeties available, I think you can get him reasonably and convince him it's his chance to get a ring.
WAROnTheRock: Has the reduction in need for a NT a function of the game or a necessity created by a lack of an adequate replacement for Big Snack ?
Ed Bouchette: The game. Defenses deploy more in the secondary and remove the nose tackles to defend against the pass.
dave: Do you think the Steelers will tag any of their players?
Ed Bouchette: No. There is no player even remotely considered in that category.
Guest: An aging safety like Weddle? Really?
Ed Bouchette: They've tried young with Shamarko Thomas and it hasn't worked. I did not say sign him for the next 5 years.
Bob: Is a nose tackle worth the 25th overall pick?
Ed Bouchette: Not nearly.
Alan: I'm a bit concerned that the Steelers are going to take their usual route of going after second and third tier free agents. They have a window of opportunity with all the special talent on offense and signing a real impact player for the secondary could really help them take that next step. Your thoughts?
Ed Bouchette: You are concerned that a team that has done as well as the Steelers have will continue to operate the way they've been operating?
Britt: Do you know if any other Steelers will retire before the start of training camp?
Ed Bouchette: I don't see any. There could be some forced early retirements (Cortez Allen?)
me: Do you think they'll try to re-sign Gay? He's not great, but he's the best they've got.
Ed Bouchette: Yes, I think they will and I think he will re-sign with them.
Jeff: What seems to be the decision they are going to make on their corners from last year? Blake? C. Allen? W. Allen? Gay?
Ed Bouchette: I believe they will sign Gay and Blake.
Sam W: William Jackson III seems like a perfect fit for this team. I think draft media is sleeping on him. Thoughts?
Ed Bouchette: Sounds like an uncomfortable nap for draft media.
Bruno: Any chance the Steelers draft Tom Hackett in the 5th round?
Ed Bouchette: No, since they do not have a fifth-round draft pick (used it for Boykin)
Orange Julius: What's the real story on Shamarko Thomas, is he just too dumb to play safety? He went to Syracuse you know
Ed Bouchette: Whatever the reason, Thomas has not panned out and I do not think they believe he is much of a candidate to play safety in 2016.
dave: Colbert said they could make up for Heath's retirement by utilizing their other weapons on offense. Do you think that means TE will not be a high priority on draft day?
Ed Bouchette: Yes, I believe tight end will not be a high priority on draft day.
guest: Do you think the Steelers could look at offensive line early in the draft, if they lose both Beachum and Foster in FA? I like Villanueva but there would be a big drop off at left guard.
Ed Bouchette: They always look at offensive linemen in the draft and usually find one or two. this year will be no different. I think they can get Ramon Foster back, though.
Steeler fan in SC: Just saw that LeVeon was cleared to run today. I assume that bodes well for him being ready to go to start next season?
Ed Bouchette: I would guess he will be ready for the opener.
Greg: With Wheaton being unlikely back with us next year, what are your thoughts on trading him if you could get a 2nd or 3rd round pick
Ed Bouchette: No, I would keep him. You never know what can happen and without Heath Miller, he becomes even more of a target in 2016. Plus, if he leaves as a free agent next year, the Steelers will receive a comp pick for him.
TK: Isn't Martavis Bryant a FA after next season? If so, will they try to re-sign him before this season starts?
Ed Bouchette: Bryant is signed for the next two seasons, through 2017. A free agent in 2018.
Rob: I think Ray said yesterday he would take the best available defensive playmaker in the first round. Do you agree with that sentiment? Anyone in particular catch your eye?
Ed Bouchette: Many, but since the draft isn't for nearly 2 more months. I'll keep looking.
Miller: James Harrison gives the staff a nice option for when Jarvis Jones struggles and if Harrison decides to retire, do you see a veteran signing to back up Jones or does the staff see Anthony Chickillo as a viable option for snaps?
Ed Bouchette: You want to know who I think will be the starting ROLB for the Steelers in 2017? Not to be cruel, but let's start with 2016 and save that one for a few weeks.
Guest: Do you see the Steelers bringing in a starting tight end via Free Agency?
Ed Bouchette: No, I do not.
SteveM: Since the Steelers use the sub package so often has the true NT become obsolete to them and others?
Ed Bouchette: Not obsolete, just not as important. I also think Steve McLendon is a good, modern nose tackle because he's not 380 pounds of run-stuffing stuff but an athlete who can move and be an asset in the passing game as well if need be.
Phil: I heard the Steelers held am interview with MacKenzie Alexander yesterday. Any chance they move up to get him?
Ed Bouchette: Please do not put too much emphasis on all those breathless reports about who the Steelers interview at the indy combine. They interview tons of players there.
Jim: Do you think Robert golden is capable of being a starting safety for us?
Ed Bouchette: I don't want to put any limits on Golden, who has gotten as much out of himself as most of their players. I just think you have to do better than that.
Jon P.: Do you foresee AB holding out again for a new deal? Will the front office forward his signing bonus again?
Ed Bouchette: No to your first question, yes to your second.
Guest: Shouldn't a great franchise like the Steelers be able to attract free agents like Weddle? NE never overpays in Free agency and they attract quality veterans every year to keep them in AFC championship rd
Ed Bouchette: You just wrote that they never overpay in free agency. I think they did with a few, but the Steelers have a formula that works for them and re-signing their own free agents has been a bigger priority than going after others.
Dexter Broadnax: Would it be wise for Steelers to trade out of the first round and acquire more picks even if a legit corner like Eli apple is still on the board?
Ed Bouchette: Since they pick 25th, it would not take much for them to trade out of the first round. They have not done that in my entire time covering them, nor in many year previously. You have to go back to the 1960s to find the Steelers without a first-round pick. Plus, you can control your first-rounder for five years if you want, a second-rounder just four.
However, if they see a chance to improve themselves by making such a trade, they would consider it, I believe. But I don't think it would be just because a good corner wasn't still available.
Bottom line, I don't see them not having a first-round draft pick.
Miller: No, sorry, Ed. I mean in 2016, if Harrison does not return.
Ed Bouchette: I don't think you can count on Anthony Chickillo as a starter.
Tom: Do you pull a Wallace/Brown contract with Wheaton and Bryant? Throw the contract out there and see which one you can wrap up long term for average money?
Ed Bouchette: I don't see it. They usually pay one WR big money and that will be Antonio Brown.
Touchdown Joey: What would be a better usage of available free agent money -- a starting cornerback or a starting safety?
Ed Bouchette: You can get starting safeties a lot cheaper than starting cornerbacks, provided they are rated equally at their positions.
Eternal99: Ed, do you think that safety is more important than corner with the first pick? Golson will finally debut with a year of studying the playbook and gay returning should make safety more of a priority right?
Ed Bouchette: They need to think beyond 2016 in whatever they do in the draft and I do not see many quality cornerbacks on their team. Gay is 31.
JamesinNYC: If Boykin does not resign as expected will he count in the compensatory draft pick tally?
Ed Bouchette: For next year, yes because he would sign elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent. Maybe he can play well enough and be paid high enough that the Steelers could recoup that fifth-round pick they gave up for him this year in 2017.
Ron: Ed, you end all of your chats with, "thanks for another great chat". Are all of your chats great?
Ed Bouchette: Some are, some are not. The endings are always great.
Jon P.: Ed, what's your 40 time? ;)
Ed Bouchette: I can type 40 words per minute in my sleep.
Rob: So what happened to Cortez Allen? How doe a guy go from showing promise to off the team?
Ed Bouchette: Sometimes, the game is just too big for some players.
Guest: why havent the steelers made a push to resign any impending free agents? if gay and mclendon leave the defense could take a step back next year big time
Ed Bouchette: I'm not sure what you mean by "push" but they are negotiating with a number of them. Also, they have had success re-signing players after free agency hits, McLendon among them.
Jim: Would the Steelers look into trading either Suisham or Boswell before the draft to replace a draft pick they traded away?
Ed Bouchette: I would think they will try to trade Suisham, not Boswell.
Greg: Do you buy that Darian Thompson ran slow because of an illness?
Ed Bouchette: I have given that no thought whatsoever.
David: How many Dbs do the steelers draft this year? 2? 3?
Ed Bouchette: No more than 2. They only have six picks right now (2 in the seventh) and could pick up another 7th as a comp.
Guest: What's wrong with using free agency? Many teams get quality players to fill holes without overpaying. Baltimore does it really well IMO
Ed Bouchette: No one said the Steelers won't sign any free agents, but they have a history of not signing the big-name, expense free agents.
Ed Bouchette: Thanks for another great chat. See you next Tuesday.
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