Ray Fittipaldo's Steelers chat transcript: 3.14.16
March 14, 2016 3:02 PM
POLL: Will Martavis Bryant ever play for the Steelers again? A. Yes (43%) B. No (57%)
Touchdown Joey: There has been talk that 4 mystery teams have offers on the table for Eric Weddle. Do you think the Steelers are one of them?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't know how much of a mystery there is. He came out in Peter King's MMMQB and said the Raiders, Panthers, Patriots and Steelers appealed to him because they should be in contention for the Super Bowl. Weddle's free agency has been interesting. You don;t hear about him making the rounds to visit teams. It's been very quiet. There was a report last week that he was supposed to make a decision today, but I don't know if that will be the case.
The Card Says Moops: Any credence to the reports that Bryant's substance-abuse issues might be depression related?
Ray Fittipaldo: His agent put that out there. I don't know if it's true or not. Either way, he has some serious issues and is smart to seek help.
Guest: Do you foresee Weddle signing with us?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't have a great feel for Weddle. As long as he remains unsigned it remains a possibility, but the Steelers have been more interested in tackles it appears. At least they're playing host to them. Once again, that might not mean anything. Weddle might not be interested in visits. It's hard to tell what he's thinking because there's not a lot of information out there at the moment.
Ron from SoCal: In your article on dealing with the loss of Bryant, you didn't mention Sammy Coates. It was reported he was really coming on at the end of the season. Couldn't he be a significant player next year in the absence of Bryant?
Ray Fittipaldo: I should have mentioned Coates at the end of the story when I mentioned DHB, Green and Bell. Coates did improve as the year went on, once he got in shape and learned the playbook. He'll be in the mix, but it remains to be seen how much he is used. They drafted him because of Bryant's issues. He is big and fast like Bryant, but he has to earn his place in the offense.
The Card Says Moops: Ray, can you say something to all the people out there who think, "Martavis has all the advantages in the world, how could he keep screwing up." People need to look around, Martavis is not alone and substance abuse is not that simple.
Ray Fittipaldo: Depression is a serious disease if Bryant does indeed have depression. It's mental illness. However, of the millions of people with the disease, there are hundreds of thousands who seek help, take medication and keep their jobs. For whatever reason Bryant didn't seek help prior to getting suspended for the year. One way or the other, that's on him, his agents, his family and the Steelers for not understanding entirely what was going on with him.
Guest: So, Weddle is visiting NE today. Does that mean he's gonna sign there?
Ray Fittipaldo: Just saw a tweet from a reporter before the chat started that Weddle was not in New England today.
FreeTankCarter: So we can pretty much assume Martavis Bryant's days in Pittsburgh are over right? What a shame.
Ray Fittipaldo: It's the poll question. Some optimistic Steelers fans as far as I can see. I'm not as optimistic. But 2017 is a long ways away, so we shall see.
Guest: What kind of salary do you reckon Okung was offered by Steelers?
Ray Fittipaldo: Hard to say, but he's been in the NFL for six years. Started a bunch of games for Seattle. Never made a Pro Bowl or All-Pro but he has been a good left tackle. I'd have to think he's in the $6-8 million range
Guest: If McClendon leaves they'd have to sign a veteran NT to replace him, right? Can't start McCullers I wouldn't think. Who are some good fit FAs out there?
Ray Fittipaldo: Not quite sure they would do that. They have Daniel McCullers on the roster. And this is a very deep D-line class. They might be banking on picking someone up and plugging him into the lineup. Nose tackle is the one position on this defense where you can do that. There's not much of a learning curve. You line up over the center, eat up two or three blockers and stuff the run. There's not a lot to learn.
ChicagoNate: Hi Ray, do you know if the Steelers feel Sammie Coates can be a similar style player that Bryant was?
Ray Fittipaldo: Well, he's similar to Bryant. That's why they drafted him. But expecting Coates to be as dynamic as Bryant would be a big leap of faith. As I noted in my story today it'll likely be a combination of Green, DHB (and Coates) replacing him in the offense. I don;t think you can replace him with one player.
ChicagoNate: Hi Ray, does losing Bryant in your mind make this team less of a Superbowl contender or do you feel they still have the talent and emerging players to cope with the loss?
Ray Fittipaldo: Well, they averaged 28.6 ppg with him with the past two seasons and 22.2 without him. So they'd have to win lower scoring games. To do that you'll have to improve your defense. They haven't really taken any steps so far in free agency to do that. Maybe Le'Veon Bell will make a big difference. Maybe Markus Wheaton will play better because he's in a contract year. Maybe Coates can come on... That's a lot of maybes. So I think the Steelers have to prove to the world and to themselves that they can be a dominant offense without Bryant. To be blunt, they've been quite average without the past two seasons.
Guest: With Bryant out, could Eli Rogers or Shakim PHillips make team? Which is the better of the two players?
Ray Fittipaldo: Rogers made an impression on Ben in the spring and the first week of training camp before he was injured. They kept him on IR because they believe he has a future. He's that shifty slot receiver the Steelers really don;t have on their roster. Yes, I think he can make it if he can stay healthy. Phillips had a nice camp and was added to the practice squad. I like Rogers better, but Phillips isn't a bad option either.
Derek: wow weddle is signing with baltimore!
Ray Fittipaldo: Just checked Twitter. You are right. Cross him off the list. I guess the Steelers are keeping their eyes on the draft for their safety.
Guest: Didn't we all see this suspension on Bryant coming?
Ray Fittipaldo: It should not have been a surprise to anyone. When you're in Step 3 of the NFL's drug program after one year in the league it's not a positive sign. I heard during the season the Steelers were not thrilled with the people Bryant surrounded himself with. His mother moved to Pittsburgh to try to keep him on the straight and narrow. That did not change his behavior or his personal situation. If you're the Steelers you can only do so much. They can't assign someone to follow him around.
Touchdown Joey: With them visiting with Okung and reportedly a few other tackles, it's clear that they are not comfortable going in with Alejandro as the starting left tackle. Does it look that way to you and if so, do you agree with the thinking?
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes it does. I thought Villanueva was solid. But I think the reviews on him by others were a little better than he actually played. The Steelers insulated him. They kept tight ends and running backs in to help him. When they didn't do that, when he was in one-on-one situations, he didn't always fare well. He's a big guy and he's a worker, but with them being in contender mode they probably feel like they need someone to challenge him.
Guest: Do the Steelers really have interest in signing Russell okung?
Ray Fittipaldo: They had him in for a visit. I don't think they would waste their time if there wasn't some interest.
NaplesDave: Hi Ray, It seems no one stepped in when Martavis missed his first test and allowed the misses to pile up. Poor monitoring by Steelers or his agent? Thoughts
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't know how much contact there is between players and teams in the offseason. They are on their own for a few months. They are welcome to come in and work out if they want, but there is nothing formal, per the CBA. It was probably more on his agents and family members to make sure he was doing what he had to do.
Guest: Neophyte question....at what point do the Steelers draft a QB to take over when Ben retires. I'm not implying that he's close to being done, but do you take someone 2-3 years before you thing he might be done?
Ray Fittipaldo: Maybe you draft someone in 2018 or 2019.
Rob: How much does the Bryant situation effect the draft strategy or do you think they are content with their pass catchers?
Ray Fittipaldo: They drafted Coates last year because they knew Bryant was in the NFL's drug program. So now it's up to him to develop his skills to the point that he can help the team. They might draft a receiver, but they don't have to, and certainly not in the first few rounds. It's not a great crop of receivers anyway.
Tom: Are you surprised the Steelers haven't signed a FA DE to be a backup? Seems like there are a few veterans out there still who would come cheaper but still have experience.
Ray Fittipaldo: Free agency is ongoing. That could still happen. And they might get someone in the draft to fill that role. Or maybe LT Walton comes on, or Cashaud Lyons.
Adam: Why does the NFL and the fan base fail to differentiate between substance abuse and depression? From everything I've read, Bryant has bad depression and smokes weed to help. Instead of punishing the man why don't we help him and let him play instead of attacking the man and taking away his paycheck?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't mean to sound callous, but of the millions of people in the world who have depression I would venture to say there are hundreds of thousands of them who don't use drugs or alcohol to cope. They seek help through doctors and therapists and they are given medication. I have empathy for him if he is struggling with depression, but let's not act like he didn't have responsibility in all of this.
Zack B: Wow, Weddle sign with Baltimore for 4 yrs/26 million. Wayyy to much $$$ for him. What do you think?
Ray Fittipaldo: That's not that high. I think Mark Barron from the Rams got $9 million a year. He's younger. Weddle is 31 so that's probably why. He certainly has more accolades than Barron.
Adam: I think Cody Wallace filled in nicely for Pouncey last year. I'm finding it harder to justify his massive salary. Could the Steelers potentially trade Pouncey for a 1st round pick?
Ray Fittipaldo: They probably could, but they won't.
Adam: Does this increase the chances that the STeelers take Hunter Henry in the first round or some kind of offensive playmaker in the first couple rounds?
Ray Fittipaldo: Um, they just signed Ladarius Green last week.
WAROnTheRock: Ray...in the Cowher Era there is no doubt that Bryant would be gone...why the equivocation now? Is there a genuine concern in management for this kid's health?
Ray Fittipaldo: I am sure there is if he does indeed have a problem, but there is no need to sever ties with him now. If he does get his act together he has value.
Adam: The NFL is such a joke when it comes to drugs. Would we really rather Bryant turned to alcohol instead of pot? One is far more destructive and perfectly legal for players to consume. It's time for the NFL to help players like Josh Gordon and now Bryant rehab while they play.
Ray Fittipaldo: I do wonder if 20 years from now we'll look back on this period in the NFL and think 'That was silly, suspending a guy for pot.' On the other hand, it's a rule. He broke a rule. Repeatedly.
Guest: i thought weddle wanted to sign with a contender?
Ray Fittipaldo: The Ravens have been a contender, except for last season. It's not like he signed with the Browns.
Adam: Are the Steelers waiting to extend Bell or DeCastro or will they wait till the end of the offseason?
Ray Fittipaldo: They traditionally do those during OTAs or minicamp, or early summer.
Adam: Should the Steelers just extend AB to a long term deal right now to show how valuable he is to the team?
Ray Fittipaldo: In an ideal world, yes, but they have DeCastro and Bell first.
Big City: Mike Wallace has had a rough few years, but he also had mediocre QBs throwing to him. I have a feeling he could do really well with Flacco and the Ravens or even back here in Pittsburgh. Thoughts?
Ray Fittipaldo: Flacco can certainly sling the deep ball.
GSK: So since Weddle is gone is their any other DB's the Steelers have shown any interest in? Hard to believe that they would not make a move in free agency for a safety or a corner.
Ray Fittipaldo: It just might mean they feel comfortable thinking they can address their needs in the draft. Might be a bit of a gamble, but this is a pretty good class of CBs. And there are a few decent safety prospects.
Guest: Von Bell or Eli Apple
Ray Fittipaldo: My opinion: Eli Apple if he is still available.
TShip: The team had to know the Bryant suspension was coming down. Do you think this maybe played a part in signing the type of TE they did?
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes.
Rob: Can Cody Wallace play guard?
Ray Fittipaldo: He can, but he's probably a better center.
Adam: Green is Hardly a proven playmaker. He has had some flashes but San Diego didnt hesistate to let him leave up against a 36 year old Gates.
Ray Fittipaldo: This is true. The Steelers feel he has untapped potential though.
Adam: Ray I also get what you're saying about comparing NFL players to the general population. I think we all hold players to a different standard. I'm not saying it's a good thing, but it's the reality.
ChicagoNate: I would just like to set the record straight for everyone, Martavis Bryant will remain on the Steelers roster while he is under contract. There is zero change they cut him. Lets move on from that thought. Thanks
JamesinNYC: Will the Steelers draft a WR/return guy?
Ray Fittipaldo: It's a possibility, but I don't think until later in the draft.
Adam: Do you think the Steelers take a CB and S in the first 3 rounds?
Ray Fittipaldo: Based on the roster now (assuming no free agents are signed before the draft), yes.
Kurtis: Martavis Bryant just dropped his appeal. Looks like serving whole year. Waste of talent.
Ray Fittipaldo: Wow lots of news happening during my chat.
Alan: I would lose my job on the 1st flunked drug test. I hope he gets help, but he has responsibility for breaking rules.
Backus: Any chance the Steelers pick up an additional WR through free agency or the draft, or are they comfortable with the wrs on the roster?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think they are comfortable. This was not a good free agent WR class. And most of the best ones signed early.
Backus: Does Ryan Shazier take it to another level next year and become the Polamalu of the LB core?
Ray Fittipaldo: He has the talent and the potential. Can he stay healthy?
Touchdown Joey: Could they end up going into the year with Robert Golden starting at safety and if so, is that such a bad thing?
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes they could. I would expect they try to draft one high to compete with him, but he has four years of experience they wouldn't have. And he was OK as a starter for three games last year.
Adam: In fairness to the Steelers, they never drafted WRs very high and we may already have a long term replacement for Bryant. We should be just fine assuming guys stay healthy?
Ray Fittipaldo: Agreed.
Adam: Do you think Brown will have an even better year in 2016?
Ray Fittipaldo: I've learned not to bet against that guy, but how much better can he get? He's already a phenomenal player.
Adam: What happened to Shamarko? Is he still with the team?
Ray Fittipaldo: He's still on the team. I think he'll have to show something in camp this summer to prove he's worthy of making the roster again. I know people say "he's a cheap special teams player." But every time I notice him on special teams he's making a dumb mistake that hurts the team. Sometimes the best thing a team can do is admit a mistake and move. Maybe the Steelers will do that in August.
Adam: Does Doran Grant make the team this year and compete for a starting spot?
Ray Fittipaldo: Depends where they play him. Mike Tomlin left it open after the season ended whether he'll be playing corner or safety next season.
Ray Fittipaldo: OK almost a full hour today. We'll do it again next week. Thanks for taking part in the chat.
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