Hey Wex (2/14)

In a philosophical shift we're now calling this column, "Hey, Wex." I'll still take questions from the message board but now your comments, diatribes, rants and insults are also fair game. Enjoy.

stillerfreak: Is Jason Worilds close to being a starter? That would make Woodley expendable.

I prefer to look at these questions in reverse. I don't make Woodley expendable because he's just too damn good. I thought he had a heck of a Super Bowl. I know everyone's patting Bryan Bulaga on the back these days, but I think that's more out of relief than it is actual congratulations. I thought Woodley was a force the entire game. Even Mike Tomlin was picked up raving about Woodley's first half. That makes me steal from the movie Rounders and say, "Pay that man. Pay that man his money." Woodley's been quietly and effectively going about his business at a paltry sum the last couple of years. It's time for the Steelers to Pay That Man.

As for Worilds, he looked like an NFL pass-rusher to me against Miami way back at midseason. I don't know where he stands on the learning curve, or whether he's become more gap-sound against the run, but I don't expect much at this point. I'm sure they'd like to allow him another year to develop before starting him.

Also, I do wonder what if Worilds was sniffing around that fumbled punt return instead of Keenan Lewis. I was disappointed that Worilds didn't get a Super Bowl hat because he's a guy who could've made something big happen on special teams.

thunderkwb: Hey Wex, is it common for the Steelers to deny permission for a position coach to interview for a coordinator position? Do you know much about our future DC?

I assume they're allowing for the fact that Dick LeBeau could resign as defensive coordinator. LeBeau told USA Today he's going to take a little time and consider his options, so if he told a reporter that you can bet he told the Steelers that. Therefore, to respect his wishes and really allow him time to think about it, they had to take advantage of that somewhat-new rule and deny Keith Butler permission. My guess is LeBeau will come back. I hope he does.

nysteel: Wex, will they finally rid themselves of Arians? Though the whole team did not play well, it seems to me that the offense was most culpable for the SB loss. Three key shortcomings on offense in my mind: (i) turnovers (pick 6 was a killer); (ii) inability to take advantage in 3Q when the defense had GB stopped and gave offense great field position (we needed 14 points and got only 7 points); (iii) horrible 2-minute offense at the end.

This offense does not seem to have made a lot of progress under Arians and it showed in the SB. There is nothing they do significantly better now than 4 years ago. And it is not clear to me that Ben is a more efficient QB or leader. Most games they look sloppy. The Super Bowl was a continuation of that sloppiness.

The defense is not sloppy. They have a personnel issue. They don't have enough guys who can play man coverage. It shows up brutally against QBs like Rodgers, Brady, Brees. Others (Flacco, Sanchez) cannot exploit that weakness. But even with this weakness, we were in a position to win at the end. But the offense did not deliver.

I just hate the argument that they should not fire Arians because the team went to the SB, and was close to winning. The better question is whether the offense is achieving its full potential. I don't see it. I don't even see progress.

This has become the most difficult question in all of Steelers football. I agree with much of what you say, but, you know, Tomlin has to have a definite direction in mind, a young coach in mind whom he trusts and with whom he's ready to bond and develop a long-term relationship. If he has no one in mind, it's kind of futile to fire Bruce Arians.

Yes, that last possession was an utter disgrace. At that point in the season, in an offense that prides itself on comebacks, that lack of communication was a fireable offense. But I don't know that offense can be taught any differently with Ben Roethlisberger. Yes, like you, I'd like to see it tried, but maybe Arians is right in facilitating "playground ball" with this QB all along. It kind of does suit him. But the only person who really knows the answer here is Tomlin. I'll defer to him at this point.

SteelerBill: Hey Wex! What are you wearing? (*Had to.) Limas Sweed?

SteelerBill, you've asked this question several times in the past. I've ignored it not because I'm worried something will catch on with the other readers, but because I have no idea what you mean. If it's something other than just a nice Valentine's Day message, please explain in the "Hey Wex" thread from which I cull these questions.

Limas Sweed shows up in the locker room every now and then and appears to be in sensational shape. But I haven't been able to make a determination as to whether he'll continue to drop critical passes during games. I hope I don't sound "shoddy" here, as Bill Cowher might say, but we'll all learn the next step of Limas's progress at the same time.

Mineola: I realize the game was indoors but why didn't Ben wear a glove? A few too many throws were off the mark for my liking and I thought he was more accurate outside in the wind.

This isn't something I've monitored over the years, but I know the basics, that Ben found the glove useful during his first playoffs run and used one through this past playoffs. You're right in that he was uncharacteristically wild. I thought it was more Super Bowl jitters, but you could be right about him not wearing the glove inside the dome as a matter of procedure. I remember Jim McMahon talking about the "tackiness" a glove provided him during the Bears' run in 1985. He then wore his glove inside the Superdome for the Super Bowl and had an outstanding game. Ben's probably wishing he wore the glove in the dome. I'll make it a point to press him on the issue next year in Indianapolis.

TheCurtain: Where do the coaches and FO stand on Kemoeatu after his less-than-stellar Super Bowl? Do they see that or RG as the weak link on the OL? Do they have faith in him starting at LG next year? And is there any talk of reshuffling the OL (moving Willie Colon or Kemo to RG) after the impressive play of The Hotel this year? Or is the goal to resign Colon, keep Adams/Essex/Legursky as backups and maybe draft a future prospect?

The one thing about Chris Kemoeatu is he's NFL strong. I think I – a repeat critic of the Steelers' left guard – overlook some of the things he does well while pounding my fist on the table after another of his drive-killing mental mistakes.

As much as I'd love to see a first-rounder take his position, I don't see the coaching staff or front office a.) getting rid of his size and strength and b.) terminating an inexpensive contract. OK, draft one and develop him, but Kemoeatu will stay during that developmental phase.

As for Colon, I would've felt foolish asking Sean Kugler about moving a guy with whom he hasn't spent a day in pads. That question can't come up until both Colon and Flozell Adams are together in camp.

Draft value will answer your last question about re-signing guys such as Trai Essex and Doug Legursky. I'd think Legursky is a lock to return, while Essex would be at the right price.

pghtwo: 1. Hey Wex, with BA coming back we need a quality h-back to run this offense right. Are there any you like in the draft?

2. With Matt Spaeth a free agent, do the Steelers re-sign him or draft somebody? I would love them to add solid, early-round TE for insurance should something happen to Heath Miller.

3. Do you think letting Thaddeus Gibson go was a mistake? We are now thin at that position going forward IMO because Lawrence Timmons is an inside guy and now the future of that position hinges on Worilds, who seems injury prone. This scares me.

4. Your choice: What Steelers FA do you bring back who do let go? What players on the roster get released?

5. Do you let Essex go now that Jonathan Scott can be your swing guy at tackle?

6. If Colon comes back with Flozell here do you move him inside? That would be a nasty line, IMO.

7. What do you think the chances of Ike Taylor, Woodley and Colon all coming back are?

8. What's up with Kemo's up-and-down play at guard ? Is the team fed up yet? Are you?

9. Have I asked too many dumb questions yet?

No, but you asked so many questions I went back and numbered them for easier syntax all the way around.

1. It's so hard for me to wrap my mind around H-backs. They've been automatic scratch-offs with this organization in the past, and scratch-offs are the only way to winnow those massive draft lists. But anyway, D.J. Williams of Arkansas showed me some blocking skills at the Senior Bowl that I wasn't sure he had. Still, my preference is the Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks who's a converted WR but at Wisconsin he really had to learn to block. And they run a lot of the same things Arians does.

However, I just can't see them adding another expensive weapon unless he's a future No. 1 WR. Personally, I'd rather draft someone like Michigan's big blocking TE, Martell Webb, in the seventh round.

2. I wouldn't mind them re-signing Matt Spaeth. I know he's been an easy target for all of us through the years because of his leverage problems in blocking, but really he had a solid year blocking, and I know he can catch the ball (regardless of that dismal start against the Jets this season.)

3. I didn't think letting go of Gibson was a mistake at the time, and that's when the decision was made. You can't now say, ‘Well, Aaron Smith didn't even play, so letting go of Thaddeus Gibson was a mistake.' At the time, it was thought that Smith could come back, and so the risk was taken. I can't fault them for that mistake, particularly since I was thinking at the time that Gibson really had a lot of growing up to do. And I don't mean to say he was a pain in the butt or anything like that. I just thought that he wasn't ready, and that was the word I got back from the Steelers. I say good luck to him in the future, and that I don't think Tomlin should look back.

4. On taking an axe to the roster, I'll just take from Dan Rooney's book of patience and say that if I don't have to make those decisions now, I won't. Sorry. Maybe after I meet with the coordinators and the accountant and the head coach, and receive all of their input, I'll let you know. ;-)

5. Essex was pretty damn valuable this season, don't you think? I'm not so quick to let him go, but I was impressed with Jonathan Scott down the stretch. He looks like a serviceable backup to me, and I say let the bodies pile up. O-lines, I'm beginning to learn, are a lot like Major League pitching staffs. You need, oh, about 13 to 15 bodies, and proceed from there.

6. I'm not smart enough to know whether Willie Colon can do what Kugler needs from his right guard, or if he can do it better than Ramon Foster. I'm beginning to feel comfortable with Foster at RG, and there's also the fact that Adams would only play one more season. Of course, I've always believed Colon has the body type and enough mobility to play RG instead of RT, but it's not as important these days with the improvements that have been made inside.

7. The chances are good the Steelers will re-sign Taylor, Woodley and Colon. Let me put them at 67-33, or 2 to 1.

First of all, I'm sure Art Rooney II believes this group has a good chance to win another Super Bowl. He should believe that. Secondly, the oldest of the three – and thus the most vulnerable to being let go – really wants to remain a Steeler. And finally, the lockout will, I believe, make free agency a matter of each team re-signing its own players, or being forced by an emergency rule to keep its own players.

8. I've voiced by displeasure with Kemoeatu in the team paper, if that means anything. But I've also gone back and watched the Super Bowl and came to the realization that he's one of the reasons they have a physical offense. I heard Rex Ryan's miked up muttering of "Ten-minute drive right up our (bleep)" on the NFL Network. I love that capability, and Kemoeatu – with his drive-killing mental lapses and all – is part of the reason.

9. They're far from dumb questions; there are just too many. I've allowed it in the past, so I'm grandfathering it now, but let's try to spread the questions out a bit. Remember, it's a long off-season.


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