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Old 02-06-2008, 05:29 PM   #1
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Default Steelers Q & A: Scott Brown answers your questions


By Scott Brown
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tribune-Review Steelers writer Scott Brown answers your questions about the Pittsburgh Steelers.
What do you think of the Steelers trying to signing Bryant Johnson as a UFA? He has good size, good hands and will come at a good price. I think drafted WRs take time to develop so I would like to get one on the free agent market. The Steelers should focus on the defensive line on the first day of the draft along with the offensive line. The only player I would want to see the Steelers pick on the first day other then the big uglys up front would be Matt Forte of Tulane. But after his Senior Bowl performance, I think his stock would be rising.
- Dennis Abbate of Coram, N.Y.
For full disclosure purposes Bryant Johnson and I share the same alma mater (Penn State). That said, he caught me eye when I first looked at the list of unrestricted free agents.
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He had a solid season as a reserve for the Cardinals in 2007 and, as you pointed out, the Steelers won't have to break the bank to sign him. Another receiver I think the Steelers should look into signing is Andre Davis from the Texans. He set a career-high in receiving yards last season (583) and returned three kickoffs for touchdowns.
Agreed that the Steelers need to focus on bolstering each side of the line early in the draft. You would hope, however, that they don't take a player just to fill a need when there are better ones still one the board who could also help the team.
Check out Scott's View from the Press Box blog entry for his latest take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Q: Given that the Steelers will likely be done with Dan Kreider and Jerame Tuman because of their age and injury issues, I am wondering whether you think they might be interesting in drafting WVU's bruising FB/TE Owen Schmitt? Some are speculating he may still be available in rounds 3-5, and one Pittsburgh sportswriter told me Mike Tomlin "loves the guy." He could also be used as the primary back in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He's a physical freak to be able to do the things he does at his size and he has the heart of a lion and would give the Steelers everything he has in every game. I think he would fit in perfectly with the Steelers mentality and toughness, what do you think?
- Scott Davis of Moundsville, W.Va.
A: I think Schmitt is an absolute stud. As you pointed out, what's not to like about the guy? He has incredible physical gifts, fits the mold of a "Steelers" player and could be used in a number of different capacities. I would think the Steelers will consider drafting him. The question is can they afford to use a high pick on Schmitt -- I'll be shocked if he lasts past the third round -- given the other needs they have? That said, they couldn't go wrong in drafting Schmitt as I think he'll be a really good player at the next level.
Q: 1. Do you feel that any coaching staff member should be/will be fired?
2. With little second-half adjustments made all season do you feel Cowher played a larger part in the defenses in the past?
3. You thoughts of a line consisting of Simmons at center, Colon and Kemoeatu the guards and Smith, Starks, or Essex at tackle?
4. Should Ben Roethlisberger tell the Steelers that they must draft an offensive lineman with two of the first three picks, and then he will talk money?
5. McFadden played the whole game and his name wasn?t mentioned too often. LaMarr Woodley had pressure much of the game. Why aren?t they starting?
- Joseph S. Basile of Chippewa, Pa.
A: Here are my answers in order:
1. Mike Tomlin has said and reiterated that he will keep his coaching staff intact. I agree with him that continuity is important though if the special teams don?t show marked improvement next season he will have to make a change there. Same probably goes for the offensive line.
2. Tomlin is not as hands-on as Cowher was but he probably has more input than we think, particularly on defense since that is his background. Don?t forget that even though the Steelers faltered a bit down the stretch, they still finished with the No. 1 defense in the NFL.
3. I would have no problems with the changes to the line you propose. I?ll go a step further and say the Steelers take an offensive tackle with their first-round pick in April since Starks may leave as a free agent and tackle is a position of strength in the draft.
4. I don?t think Roethlisberger needs to tell the Steelers they have to upgrade their offensive line. They are well aware of it along with the fact that when they make Roethlisberger the highest-paid player in franchise history they will need to protect that investment.
5. Clark Haggans will not be back next season, which means Woodley will almost surely be the starter at left outside linebacker in 2008. McFadden has to overtake Deshea Towsend, who has a solid season in 2007, if he too wants to crack the starting lineup.
Q: The Steelers opponent list for 2008 looks brutal. However, after taking a second look at it, I found a couple of favorable aspects. First, the Steelers play all 16 regular-season games in the Eastern time zone. Second, the farthest road games are New England and Tennessee, which are fairly short flights from Pittsburgh.
Do you think that having a "local" schedule will help the Steelers? In 2004 they had only one game outside the Eastern time zone (@Dallas) and they won 15 games.
- Nate Pigott of Mechanicsburg, Pa.
A: Not sure how much playing exclusively in the Eastern time zone will help the Steelers next season though it certainly is a plus. For whatever reason this team didn't travel all that well last season, and the Steelers played two of their worst games (at Arizona and at Denver) after traveling across the country. It can't hurt that the Steelers won't travel nearly as far in 2008 as they did last season but the schedule is still plenty tough, and the strength of it is one reason why I don't see the Steelers approaching anywhere near 15 wins in 2008.
Q: What do you think the Steelers starting offense will look like next year? There doesn't appear to be many spots open on the starting offense at all. The line looks to have two, maybe three spots.
You figure Marvel Smith will be at LT (for at least the last year on his contract). We'll need depth there with a young draft pick (who can back up and play LT and RT in year 1, before starting at LT in 2009).
Hopefully, Alan Faneca can get a contract worked out and be at LG. If not -- a vet free agent would be good here ... or a first-round draft pick who can start in year 1 at LG. (Sean Mahan would move from starting to utility backup lineman ... and be a nice, versatile backup at LG, C, RG).
Center is the position I see as needing a new starter. Whether it be Simmons, Colon or Stapleton ... or going outside to draft or sign someone. I think Simmons is set start somewhere on the line ... probably RG (since he just signed a long-term deal -- unless he moves to LG or center) and Colon at RT seems pretty set. Remember, this staff picked Colon over Starks ... so, they must see something in him.
Depth at RT is an issue ... with Essex the only LT/RT backup (unless Max Starks re-signs to be a backup RT/LT with the hope of being the starting LT in 2 years).
The skill positions look to be set -- (Parker, Ward, Holmes, Ben, Heath) ... maybe some depth would be needed at WR (tall receiver FA or fifth-round draft pick) and definitely some depth at fullback/RB ... or guys that are backups and play special teams (i.e. third, fourth WR need to play punt cover, kick cover, kick return, punt return). Some developing players at WR, RB for depth and special teams appears all that there is room for.
So -- where are the possible spots for free agents or rookies on offense in terms of starters?
Thanks - love your column. Go Steelers in 2008!!!

- Julie Tran of Fitchburg, Wis.
A: I don't know about you, but I feel fairly confident in saying that nobody has ever accused you of not knowing your Steelers. You pretty much nailed it as far as what the offense needs and where openings may be.
A couple of things: first, Alan Faneca is as gone as those Wrangler jeans my mom, dear as she is, bought me a few weeks ago. He is primed for a big payday, one that I just can't see the Steelers giving him once the free-agent signing period starts on Feb. 29. That is one opening the Steelers must fill, and it wouldn't surprise me if, as you pointed out, they draft or sign a center (or move someone there) and make Mahan a swing guy.
I could also see the Steelers taking an offensive tackle in the first round of the draft. This appears to be a good draft for tackles, and taking one would give the Steelers some insurance if Smith's back problems persist and/or allow them to move Colon from tackle to guard. In any event, the line is the only area on offense where there will be significant changes, but I do think the Steelers need to upgrade their wide receiving corps and consider getting a running back that can be a compliment to Willie Parker. I'm not sure Najeh Davenport is that guy.

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Old 02-06-2008, 07:31 PM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers Q & A: Scott Brown answers your questions

I would like to see us go after Johnson, but I doubt it will happen.
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Old 02-06-2008, 07:39 PM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers Q & A: Scott Brown answers your questions

great post! i agree with all of the above, except we need help on the D-line also.

a brutal pass rush sure can take over a game (see giants '08 and steel curtain).
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Old 02-07-2008, 03:46 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers Q & A: Scott Brown answers your questions

Sounds like tomlin is interested in owen schmitt opefully we can land this guy in a later round.
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Old 02-07-2008, 04:18 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers Q & A: Scott Brown answers your questions

Randy Moss would be nice. Woodley starting makes me happy. McFadden replacing Deshea is expected. Our Defense should be fine. I hope Anthony Smith can improve his coverage skills.

Improve special teams. Man, how many times have I said that the last 8 years. Seems that our best year on special teams was the year we won the Super Bowl. Randle El was awesome and Gardocki was clutch in the playoffs with his punts.

Steelers ALWAYS draft need in the first round, I see them drafting a Tackle/Guard.

That full back Owen Schmitt sounds good, we defiantly need a good fullback for Willie.

I don't know what to think about next year. I think decision making the last half of the year was the problem next to the O-line issue. I really think Tomlin will need to back up his good talk. If you want to win, don't run the ball three times when you have a lead on your own 20. I just cant figure out why he did that when Big Ben was destroying their defense.
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Old 02-07-2008, 02:33 PM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers Q & A: Scott Brown answers your questions

Originally Posted by galax steeler View Post
Sounds like tomlin is interested in owen schmitt opefully we can land this guy in a later round.
I'd love to see that as well. He impressed me all season in the WVU games I was able to watch, not the least of which was his stellar performance in the Fiesta Bowl. Just not sure he'll last as long in the draft as the Steelers might think.
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Old 02-07-2008, 05:05 PM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers Q & A: Scott Brown answers your questions

Originally Posted by slippy View Post
great post! i agree with all of the above, except we need help on the D-line also.

a brutal pass rush sure can take over a game (see giants '08 and steel curtain).
umm we need a OLB's if u want a brutal pass rush... i just wish vernon gholston had a crappy season... then he mite be available for us...
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