Ed Bouchette: Welcome back. I see we have all of six people at the moment in the room. What's everyone doing? Working? Watching a replay of the Pirates latest victory? Let's begin.
hinestheman: Good morning Ed, Glad to see you back and can't wait for the season to start. Everyone seems to have jumped on the Browns bandwagon. What do you make of this? Last year at this time, Peter King of SI was putting Ben in the middle of the pack because he thought Ben had been too "inconsistent". This year, after one good year (except for the last 4 games) and 14 NFL starts, he sees Derek Anderson having a great year and making the playoffs.... Isn't Peter King (and other "experts") the inconsistent one with his analysis?
Ed Bouchette: If he were consistent, he'd pick the Patriots to win the Super Bowl every year and he would have been wrong for the past three. Lighten up, it's sports. Ben WAS inconsistent in 2006, and that's being kind. I remember Peter telling me that Favre was going to be great, and he had not yet been traded by Atlanta.
Terrible_Trousers: Ed- Good to have you back, pull up a stool! Hey, heard some talk yesterday about the O-Line coming in much lighter. Was this at the direction of the line coach, and is it because of a specific philosophy that may be new? Also, talk of getting the O-Line to buy into Zeirlein's (sp?) coaching/blocking techniques. Do you see the loss of Faneca as actually helping in this regard? As always, Thanks!
Ed Bouchette: The line did come in lighter, some appreciably so such as Max Starks. Center Justin Hartwig said he purposely put on a few pounds. This jives with the line coach's philosophy about using technique, and it looks as though many bought into it. I don't ever see the loss of someone as talented as Alan Faneca as being a positive.
Ed_Is_The_Man: What's up Ed ... do we get to see some of your great acting again this year?
Ed Bouchette: Yes, if you watch the Post-Gazette videos.
Adam_from_NY: How much does Casey need to lose to get into football shape?
Ed Bouchette: About a good used car.
hinestheman: Ed, call me optimistic but with Mendenhall and Sweed on the roster, and if (granted, that's a big if) the OL can protect Ben, I see a really explosive offense from the Steelers this year... More so than any other year. Do you agree?
Ed Bouchette: Yes, I think they have a lot of talent on offense. Sweed might take some time because of his position but if they can get some good play out of their line, this could be not only a good offense, but a balanced once.
black_and_gold: Ed, welcome back. I hope you came to camp in shape and that you did not strain your hammy.
Ed Bouchette: One out of two ain't bad.
chooch79: Can you please confirm for Steeler Nation that the QB rollout on 3rd and 6 has officially been taken out of the playbook?
Ed Bouchette: They promise only to use it on third-and-five.
MPM: I realize camp is only a few days old, but what rookie free agent, or free agents, has the best chance to make the final roster?
Ed Bouchette: Camp is not even three days old. It took me at least a week before I could answer that last year (Gary Russell). I was going to say Matt Trannon, but he was cut 2 days before they reported. How about one of those rookie D-Linemen, such as Kyle Clement, who is 6-3 and 315? Or one of the rookie outside linebackers such as Patrick Bailey? I like Ryan Mundy to make it at safety, although he was drafted in the sixth round.
chooch79: Any early predictions on who you think will end up returning kicks and punts this year?
Ed Bouchette: I don't even think the coach can tell you that yet. We have to see them do it first. For example, Rashard Mendenhall will get a shot at kickoffs but he hasn't done that since high school. Perhaps Jeremy Bloom can convince them to let him return kicks and punts. I know that would take an extra roster spot but they gave it to Allen Rossum last year and they had to waste a draft pick to do so.
hinestheman: Ed, should we be very concerned about Troy's injury so early? I tend to not read too much into those things (such as FWP's injury early last year). Is this really as minor as they make it sound?
Ed Bouchette: I believe it to be minor, yes. Otherwise, he would not have run all 8 of his conditioning run tests Sunday.
McSmooth: What food item at Giant Eagle will Casey Hampton have his name on this season?
Ed Bouchette: That's a cheap shot. Leave those to the sports writers.
Tom_M.: Please tell me Tyrone Carter doesn't make this team!
Ed Bouchette: I think Ryan Mundy will have a say in that.
chooch79: With the reduced time for special teams practice at camp this year, should we assume that the 2 point conversion try from the 13 yard line will see limited action?
Ed Bouchette: It came from the 12.
Adam_from_NY: Am I the only person not scared of Cleveland?
Ed Bouchette: I've been there and it is pretty scary.
DFWSteeler: How is the 5th receiver spot shaping up? Reid? Baker?
Ed Bouchette: You people do know this is the second day of training camp practices, right?
skot: How does Hartwig look?
Ed Bouchette: He's growing a beard and he resembles Jeff Hartings (Oh, they hope he does on the field as well).
mg: Do you think the Steelers would consider bringing in an unsigned vet like Booger McFarland or Orpheus Roye for insurance at DE or is it past that point?
Ed Bouchette: I think they will look at the waiver wire, but I wouldn't count on Booger or Orpheus -- they had their chance on both and passed.
ErieNick: How is Sweed stacking up in the deep pool of receivers that the Steelers have?
Ed Bouchette: At about 6 feet 4.
McSmooth: How is the placekick holder spot shaping up?
Ed Bouchette: I thought I'd get to that in our next chat. Truthfully? I did not pay attention in the first three practices to that part of the game, but I did notice that Jeff Reed, the kicker himself, drove a truck to camp that looks very much like one of those tow-trucks built to haul tractor trailer rigs out of a ditch.
Boris: How long before Casey Hampton can practice? Any idea? From the sound of it, it might take weeks ...
Ed Bouchette: He could practice now, but Mike Tomlin won't let him. I'd say a couple of weeks should do it.
DFWSteeler: It sounds like Starks took his offseason seriously. Any other players come in with other physical changes (outside of Big Snack)?
Ed Bouchette: They all look to be in pretty good shape to me.
tom: Ed, do you think Hampton's weight might have been an issue late last season? Everyone cites Smith's biceps injury as the sole reason for the weak play of the D-line, but Casey sure didn't seem to command quite as many double teams later on in the season.
Ed Bouchette: Yes, it could have been.
zachinphilly: Any thoughts on Max Starks for this season, and is there any way the Steelers can keep him if he has a good year?
Ed Bouchette: yes, they could make him their franchise player and guarantee him even MORE money as a backup.
Boris: Didn't Casey show up really overweight a few years, and he still dominated right? Is it simply to a much worse degree this time?
Ed Bouchette: I think it's a case where a new coach finally put his foot down.
Adam_from_NY: Writers often call Tomlin loquacious or verbose. I tend to find him more or less voluble. Your thoughts?
Ed Bouchette: I find him on the field after practice, normally, and then I call him "Mike" or "coach.'' He's a football coach, the other stuff doesn't matter.
matt: Ed, do you have any early impressions of how Ryan Clark is doing?
Ed Bouchette: I know this is our first chat since the spring and the first chance you have to ask me questions but I can't emphasize enough right now that I've seen three practices and one of them, this morning, was a laid-back one-hour version devoted to special teams. There hasn't been enough going on yet to form many opinions. Ryan Clark looks healthy and is running with the first team. The issue with him will be how he holds up over the longer haul.
Dmueller66: Ed - who are the 5 guaranteed spots for WR for us this year? Is Willie Reid done? Or could Nate, the "not so great" be done this year?
Ed Bouchette: There are 4, not five guaranteed spots with the 5th up for grabs. The four: Ward, Holmes, Washington, Sweed.
McSmooth: Did Casey Hampton train with Ted Washington this offseason?
Ed Bouchette: Now, with Sam Adams.
Ed_Is_The_Man: Any standouts in the morning practice today?
Ed Bouchette: I stood.
Steeler_Sherm: Do you think that Mendenhall can be the bashing back the Bus was?
Ed Bouchette: No, he's not that type of runner. Do I think he can be a successful RB? Yes, but then I thought Tim Worley could be one of those too.
SamFahnestock: Did Hampton's comments about being placed on the PUP list bother you at all? He seemed to think he didn't need to be in shape and that he doesn't take it seriously. His comments really bothered me as a fan.
Ed Bouchette: More than his comments were his action -- that he showed up out of shape means he did not take it seriously.
CaseysCholesterol: Which of the vets in their final season do you think they will try to extend?
Ed Bouchette: I'm starting to believe they will try to extend no one.
chuman121: How is FWP looking? Any lingering effects from the broken leg?
Ed Bouchette: He looks OK, as he did in the spring. You would not know he had an injury by just watching him.
McSmooth: Admit it. You missed us.
Ed Bouchette: Like I missed my last root canal.
Fat_98: How have Steely McBeam's offseason problems affected his performance in camp thus far?
Ed Bouchette: I caught a glimpse of him I believe yesterday. Or was it today? Maybe it was in a dream I had last night while trying to sleep in my dorm room that is constantly lit from the security lights outside the dorm window.
Big_Dumb: Will Tomlin be conducting special teams only practices this year? Those seemed to work out sooooooo well last year.
Ed Bouchette: He's taking volunteers. Hey, it worked for the Eagles back in '76.
Tom_M.: To me Hampton showing up in this shape, really drive home the fact they should've drafted a DL men early in the draft?
Ed Bouchette: You did not have to wait for Casey to show up to realize that.
DFWSteeler: Any contract extension talks with McFadden, Marvel, Farrior, others?
Ed Bouchette: My understanding is there is none.
highmcbeams: Have you seen Dixon in action yet?
Ed Bouchette: I saw him throw a really bad pass yesterday, but then every quarterback does that now and again. Also, he has skinny legs.
EB: Ed, give me a short cut to get to training camp - I heard the construction was a nightmare.
Ed Bouchette: Back door -- Route 22 to New Alexandria, then down through Latrobe and turn right at the light to Saint Vincent before you get to Route 30.
McSmooth: Do you wear any protective equipment while on the sidelines?
Ed Bouchette: Just the usual, like when I'm chatting with you people, which is more dangerous.
Big_Dumb: Any Stan Druckenmiller sightings in Latrobe?
Ed Bouchette: Unfortunately, I would not know Mr. D (That's what we actually called Eddie DeBartolo when I covered the Pittsburgh Maulers) if he knocked on my dorm room door. I did see someone with in the crowd wearing black and gold paint on their face yesterday, though.
McSmooth: What's Chris Fuamati-Ma'afala doing these days? He could be the answer for the 5th WR position everyone is interested in.
Ed Bouchette: This is 30 minutes long and you are wasting everyone's time.
DanSelner: What exactly is a "pony" backfield that the Steelers may use? What is the advantage to the Steelers in using this type of back field?
Ed Bouchette: Two halfbacks in the same backfield. See Steelers backfield, 1976.
ErieNick: Do you think James Harrison can be a dominating LB game in game out for an entire season?
Ed Bouchette: Wasn't he close to that last season?
Dmueller66: Is Woodley a "can't miss guy" for us?
Ed Bouchette: There are no can't misses, but I think Woodley will be everything as advertised and more.
Big_Dumb: Who's playing in Tampa Feb.1, 2009?
Ed Bouchette: Patriots and . . . . Pick one.
Fat_98: Do any of the players care about the ownership situation?
Ed Bouchette: I haven't found one.
zachinphilly: Speaking of the 1976 backfield, how come we don't have a statue of Rocky Blier in Pittsburgh? The man won a purple heart AND four rings...
Ed Bouchette: Rocky Bleier is a living, breathing statue.
Polu-hamstring: Do you think this schedule will have them more focused. It's difficult, but do you think a healthy Steelers team can get 11 or 12 wins?
Ed Bouchette: I'll never say never after once snidely remarking in the fall of 2005 that all the Steelers had to do was win 8 in a row to be Super Bowl champs. However, I think 12 is unrealistic.
highmcbeams: What's Mean Joe's role at training camp?
Ed Bouchette: He's a scout and he's here with the rest of them. They only stay here the first week, most of them, and then head out to scout the college practices.
Brown_Hater: Ed, glad to see you have kept your Love/Hate energy for all of us dumb fans!
Ed Bouchette: As Mickey Mantle once said after hitting another home run, if only they knew how difficult it is.
hinestheman: Ed, Final Question: Can we have these chats weekly between now and March?
Ed Bouchette: We can have them between now and the end of the season, how's that? In fact, this one begins it all. Unless you see a change on the schedule, they'll be 1:30 every Tuesday. See you next week.