Ask Wex (1/23)

Here we are again, answering questions about the offseason instead of the Super Bowl. I don't expect customers to be tossing me softballs about the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I'll try to hit some sharp singles anyway.

Dookies: Given Mike Adams' problems protecting the edge, while showing elite quickness and movement skills in the run game, might it make sense to move him to left guard and let Willie Colon move back to right tackle? And do they like Kelvin Beachum long term at right tackle? Did they see what I saw, that he looked better on the edge than inside? And finally, do you think Chance Warmack will last to pick 17 and make the first question irrelevant?

You offer an interesting solution but I think tackles are more difficult to find, so I wouldn't move Adams inside unless it's a last resort. At this point he's only just started his career so let's see if he can handle pass-rushers as a tackle. Adams strikes me as a natural tackle, so let's watch some more.

Beachum also strikes me as a tackle, particularly since strength is his issue at a light 303 pounds. There's talk of him moving to LG but I just don't see him handling massive interior players -- which brings me to your third question.

Yes, I think Warmack would fit perfectly at LG here. He would be the muscular guard to complement David DeCastro, the move right guard. I think Warmack would be a perfect fit, but I can't say that he would be the final piece because I'm unsure if Marcus Gilbert can adequately fill the LT spot. Drafting a young LT and moving Gilbert inside might be the better solution, and therein might rest the answer as to whether they should use another No. 1 pick for a guard: It's a fallback spot that can be filled rather easily by failed tackles. And right now I'm not sure that Gilbert can or cannot play left tackle. They'll likely need a year to find out whether he and/or Adams can fill those spots.

I hope that all makes some sense.

Zd65452: Wex, what are your thoughts on Denard Robinson? Maybe Slash 2.0? I know he cannot pass worth a lick, but would love to see what he could bring to this offense. His speed and leadership abilities would be a god-send to our Offense.

Well, unlike Kordell Stewart, Robinson has no dream of playing QB in the NFL. So that's a start. And I thought Robinson looked like a natural tailback in his bowl game. That would allow him to slide into that read-option QB spot more readily during games. But I have to say he's looking pretty good at WR during the Senior Bowl practices. He's starting to impress me as a rich man's Josh Cribbs, particularly with that No. 16 jersey of his. If Robinson runs a sub 4.4 at the combine, he could become a very coveted player on draft day.

Big Steelz: What's the better fit for Todd Haley's offense: drafting a speed WR to replace Mike Wallace or drafting another TE to pair with Heath Miller? And what is the story on Rashard Mendenhall? He was clearly the best back on the team, but received very little playing time even though the running game struggled terribly.

My guess is that Haley will be able to fashion an offense around the talent, so the question becomes what's the bigger need? And in today's game, even though tight ends have become so effective, I'm going to stick with WR, particularly since it's such a need on this team. Now, in fitting that answer with the draft crop at hand I would look for a WR first because the TE crop is pretty deep and one should be available in the mid rounds.

As for Mendenhall, I don't know Mike Tomlin's thinking, so I'm going to give you mine (since it seemed to mirror Tomlin's). Coming into the season, I viewed Mendenhall as a bit of an oddball who really didn't fit in as a blood-and-guts type of team player. That's not always a bad thing. I don't want to exclude any personality type from my group. But I also had a problem with his lack of vision as a runner. And then there was the knee. So at first I would ease him into his return. And then, after Mendenhall injured his Achilles' tendon right away, I wanted to make sure I waited until he was fully healed. And besides, the guys behind him, whom I liked coming into the season, were starting to pound the rock behind a line that appeared to be coming together. But after a few games, when neither Isaac Redman nor Jonathan Dwyer took command of the position, it was time for Mendenhall. And then he fumbled. So I recalled that damn fumble in the Super Bowl and yanked him, embarrassed him, and probably lost him because he didn't show up after I had gotten over my anger.

So, when you add that entire thought process together, it's just better to part company. He may shine with a fresh start, but I know I, as a coach, need a fresh start, too.

Again, I hope that makes some sense.

ProBowlPorter: Wex, my question is this: Why have our coaches not been held more accountable for the development of players? The measuring stick to me is Carnell Lake. In two years he has transformed a unit that was considered a major liability into one of the best in the league. Who have coaches like Kirby Wilson, Scottie Montgomery, Amos Jones, and even Keith Butler developed to warrant keeping a job? I see we keep bringing in guys and drafting players but many of our players are just not taking the next step in their development and some are taking steps backwards.

I don't know enough about what's going on behind the scenes to know whether Montgomery was responsible for turning a sixth-round pick into a Pro Bowl player, or whether Jason Worilds is going to turn into a consistent pass-rusher, or whether the undrafted Redman was hurt all of last year and that was why he didn't produce as expected, or whether Redman is just too slow for any coach. Is it the coach or the talent? I just think it's often an overreaction to blame assistant coaches when talent doesn't emerge, and vice versa when it does emerge. Everyone's being held accountable, just maybe not to your lofty standards.

pmarron: If the Steelers cut Colon and don't draft a guard early, is there a chance that Maurkice Pouncey could move to guard and they re-sign Doug Legursky to play center?

I thought this move was made during the season only out of necessity, and I really don't want to see it again. Pouncey is a natural center, and might be the best in the league, regardless of whether it's fashionable to bash him in order to look smart or not. Legursky is a serviceable backup, but even he could be replaced if he asks for too much in free agency.

Southern Stiller: The offense hasn't been a top 10 scoring team in forever. Is this a result of a lack of talent, poor play, philosophy, or what? They scored 30 points once this year; the Pats average 35. And what's really going on with Haley and Ben? Is this all media hype and folks pushing speculation as reality?

Also, does the team consider Worilds a legitimate starter going forward to replace Harrison? Sean Spence for Larry Foote?

I guess these questions are why Scout pays me the big money. The offense has had a problem since 2007 with its offensive line, but I feel it's nearly rebuilt. Now, in the meantime, they've lost – or are in the process of losing – their playmakers. I don't know if any of this should be pushed on the offensive coordinator or the quarterback, but people want to push it somewhere and that's the most convenient spot. I thought the line was just about ready to take off when injuries hit it bad. I know other teams have had more injuries, but these injuries were critical. If I'm just making excuses, well, so be it, but I don't think I am. Hopefully I will be proven right next season.

As for Worilds replacing Harrison and Spence replacing Foote, no one knows. The coaches believe the potential is there, but it can't be known until it's tried. I will say this: No one is as excited about these backups as they are about Cortez Allen, or were about Harrison back when Joey Porter was pushed out the door. That may be what the next first-rounder is: a defensive backup to get everyone excited for when his day is at hand.

RyFrm2: Considering the loss of a "Leader" (a.k.a. Hines Ward), or someone who has the "credibility" to talk to the "young money," will Plax be considered a priority to re-sign?

As for running back, the Steelers appear to have a really solid offensive line for the future, so do we really need a back early in the draft? Can't we have a successful running game with this OL?

You know, you bring up an excellent point about Burress and leadership. I forget where I read that the "young money crew" used to roll its eyes at Ward's advice. I'm not even sure it's true, but it sure fits their collective demeanor. But Burress is different than Ward. Five years ago I would've laughed at the suggestion, but Burress has been matured by life. I think they would really listen to him say something like, "Look, I screwed up and wasted time by doing it this way. You should do it that way." I really believe there's a wisdom that Burress could bring to the young-ins. But does that make him a priority? I'm not sure I'd go that far.

And, no, I don't believe they need to draft a running back in the first round, but only because there will be so many good mid-rounders available in this draft. Today, my flighty heart belongs to Datone Jones, and now I don't even think he will last to pick 17. He struck me all year as an outstanding 4-3 DE, but after watching him the last couple of days I just want him as a pass-rusher, someone who'll learn for half a year behind Harrison's replacement and force himself into the situation after a few effective appearances. But, hey, just draft any truly dynamic force first and tap into that rich vein of offensive playmakers later.

Steeler Bill 13: First, in keeping with tradition: What are you wearing? Also, "feature" backs the Steelers would consider via the draft or in free agency?

Mocking you didn't work two years ago, and ripping you to shreds last year didn't work, so this year I'm just going to answer the stupid question: I'm wearing my favorite gray, V-neck t-shirt, plastic sweatpants, and white socks, not in honor of my favorite team but because I worked out today.

As for your second question, now I will rip you. Do you really think "feature" backs are available for a second-round draft pick the way Jerome Bettis was? You get one of those surprises per generation, and they won't be able to afford a free agent. As for the draft, a good one will be available in the third round.


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