Re: Ray Fittpaldo's Steelers chat transcript: 1.20.14
CP: Does a junior-strengthened draft make it easier or more difficult (since it is seen to be a deep draft also) for the Steelers to trade down in round 1, to get a pick in round three besides the likely compensation choice in that round?
Ray Fittipaldo: This is said to be a very deep draft, so it might be a good year to trade down, but the Steelers have so many needs on defense that it's also a good year to be drafting high. To answer your question, I guess it would all depend on the trading partner and their needs.
Ray Fittipaldo: Run stoppers on defense and a big WR for the offense. I already addressed Nix as a possibility at nose tackle. Mike Evans is a big WR from Texas A&M and Kelvin Benjamin is a big WR from Florida State. I don't think Eric Ebron, the TE from North Carolina, will be there at No. 15, but he might be an option if he is because Heath Miller is entering the final year of his contract.
Wild Bill: The Steelers used Free Agency very wisely to build their championship caliber teams in both the 90's and 00's. Can the Steelers afford to sit out FA yet another year while they lose their own solid draft picks to other teams via FA?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think at this point they're focused more on keeping their own free agents, such as Jason Worilds than signing other team's free agents. Usually, the Steelers aren't int he market for the higher-priced free agents, but they have been known to land some secondary guys such as Ryan Clark and James Farrior.
Wild Bill: Contrary to popular belief the Steelers have drafted pretty well lately. The problem is they are trying to solely rely on the draft to build their team. Is that even possible when you lose your young drafted players in free agency (ex. Wallace, Lewis and likely Worilds)?
Ray Fittipaldo: One thing that has not been talked about enough since the new collective bargaining agreement was reached last year was how draft picks (most taken after round 1) are now free agents sooner. So a guy like Worilds is unrestricted after four years. I wrote about this late in the season because the Steelers bring their defensive players along so slowly. It's fair to wonder if the franchise is developing a new approach to this because once you discover a guy is good it's time to pay him.
Haleys Comet: Is there a way we can bend the space-time continuum so that Joey Porter and Richard Sherman could square off next week in the greatest Media Day jibber-jabber of all time?
Ray Fittipaldo: That would be awesome. If anything, the Seahawks have improved their smack talking from 2005. Richard Sherman trumps Jeramy Stevens big-time.
Clint: How would you grade Jarvis Jones 2013 season? LB's rarely in LeBeau's system excel early, but more was expected of him I do believe.
Ray Fittipaldo: Jones was given an opportunity to start and he didn't produce much so they were forced to bench him and play Jason Worilds. People look at that now and think it was a huge mistake, but people tend to forget Worilds did not produce much as a ROLB. He didn't become a presence until Woodley left the lineup and he moved over to LOLB. So yes, it was a disappointing rookie year for Jones because he was given an opportunity and did not take advantage. However, you point is well taken that the vast majority of outside linebackers in this system take time to develop.
paul: After yesterday's games, there is no doubt steelers have to get some physical defensive players and take WR later on in the draft. I want to see their Defense become intimidating again like SF or Sea.
Ray Fittipaldo: As I watched that game yesterday I kept thinking to myself that this is what the Steelers used to be and they're not anywhere close to that now. I am sure I was not alone in those thoughts. I do think you'll see a heavy dose of draft picks used on defenders because so many of those guys on defense are in their 30s
Nick: It seems like NT are always graded out too high for their draft position. For example, Star Lotulelei and Shariff Flloyd were projected top 5 picks at one point and both were on the board at 15. While there is certainly time for Nix's stock to rise, why are we trying to talk ourselves into over-valuing a position that is constantly undervalued? At this point its hard to agree that Nix will be BPA regadless of how the draft unfolds.
Ray Fittipaldo: I have looked at a lot of mock drafts and there was not one where Nix was not taken in the first round. So my point is if you believe he is a franchise nose tackle in the mold of a Casey Hampton you take him at No. 15 because the chances you land someone else like him declines as the draft wears on. There are only so many franchise nose tackles available every year. If you're convinced you can get one I don't think it's reaching, especially when you watched the way the defense performed last season.
Lucas: What is the situation of Sean Spence and Terry Hawthorne ? To me Sean is better than Vince and Terry is a lot better than Gay and Ike
Ray Fittipaldo: Terry Hawthorne didn't even make the team out of training camp and I don't think even landed on a practice squad. And William Gay graded out as one of the best cornerbacks in the league this year. As far as Spence goes, much will depend on his health. The Steelers gave him the opportunity to rehab and allowed him to practice with the team for a stretch this season. They got a decent look at him then, but training camp will be his make or break time.
NaplesDave: Hi Ray, Steelers have plenty of bodies on the OL for the new coach. What linebackers do you like in the draft? Any Pitt players under the radar?
Ray Fittipaldo: I love Aaron Donald, but I don't see how he fits into a 3-4. I view him as someone who almost has to play in a 4-3. For that reason, a number of teams drafting cannot take him. When Devin Street is healthy he is a good player, but he is slight and I wonder about his long-term ability to stay healthy in the NFL. That's about it from Pitt. I'm not a big fan of Tom Savage even though he has a big arm.
Wild Bill: Why do guys like David Johnson Poulson make the team year after year when they contribute nothing? Johnson has been on IR 3 years in a row and Poulson showed he can't catch or block. Why not bring in two random TE's and pay them less? You will save money and they can't be worse?
Ray Fittipaldo: Paulson was a seventh-round pick and isn't making a lot of money and Johnson isn't making much more in the grand scheme of things. They like Johnson because of his ability to block and catch. Paulson is more of a pass-catcher and he might be in trouble next season because Michael Palmer moved past him on the depth chart halfway through the season. Andrew: Is henry melton or stevie brown worth signing to become a starter
Ray Fittipaldo: If the Steelers are going to take chances on other team's free agents they had better be up to date on their injury situations. That's a slippery slope. Those guys might be options, but as I said before, I think they're focused on signing their own free agents more so than others right now.
Wild Bill: How nice would it be if the Steelers used Free Agency to sign a guy like Riley Cooper? He is affordable, is 6'3" 222, and a decent #2. Sure would free up the #1 pick to be best available def player, right?
Ray Fittipaldo: Riley Cooper had a very good year, but he might be a tough sell in the locker room.
Wild Bill: Should the Steelers really risk giving Worilds a bigtime contract? Hasn't he been just as injury prone in not more so than Woodley?
Ray Fittipaldo: Worilds had a wrist injury that needed time to heal early in his career. That held him back at the time but it hasn't been an issue since. Woodley has had recurring problems with his hamstrings. I think there is a difference. Plus, if I was Kevin Colbert I'd be more concerned with why Worilds was so productive at LOLB than ROLB.
Old Galoot: Do you think Aaron Smith will have a shot at the HOF?
Ray Fittipaldo: Aaron Smith was a great Steeler, but I don't think there will be much of a movement nationally to get him enshrined. He played a position in a defense that is selfless and for that reason he doesn't have HOF stats. He should go down as one of the team's top 3-4 defensive ends, though.
Ray Fittipaldo: Thanks for all the great questions this week. We'll do it again next week.