Hey Wex (2/16)

In a philosophical shift we're 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.

Timmons94: Hey, Wex, have we seen Aaron Smith play his last down in the NFL?

I don't think so. I've talked to Aaron several times since the injury and he's indicated nothing of the sort. He's anxious to play and feels he has a few good years left. Now, if there's any news on that front – from a medical or team perspective – I'll find out for you soon enough. In the past, the team would've considered cutting a Smith for a Ziggy Hood, but I can't see that much heartlessness from a team whose parts have become so identifiable.

KentuckySteeler: Does the FO still view upgrading the O-line as a major focus? Or has finding a true No. 1 WR jumped up the list a little? Also, will DB be in the mix for biggest needed upgrade? Thanks. Great job this season.

Thank you. As for your questions, don't confuse my list of their draft needs with their own list (which they won't be revealing until April 28). I just worry about life beyond Hines Ward, since Mike Wallace was kind of exposed in the Super Bowl and the rookie "smurfs" in my mind are slot receivers. By "exposed," I mean that Wallace just doesn't have the gravitas, if you will, of a Greg Jennings or any other big-bodied receiver who can carry his team with both short and long work. I would presume DB is in their draft mix, particularly a cornerback, but as for the offensive line the front office may think that Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Willie Colon, Flozell Adams, Jonathan Scott, Doug Legursky, Trai Essex and Chris Scott give them all the depth they'll need. And it wouldn't be a ridiculous assessment.

novasteel: The window questions: Is the window closing, closed or still open for a few years? Factor in the ramifications of losing the Super Bowl vs. losing a playoff game or missing the playoffs. I have to think it's 10 times more devastating … some teams never seem to recover.

Appreciate the great job you've done this season. Haven't been able to watch NFLN, ESPN, listen to Sirius, but at least I have this site to come to.

Thanks. I'm off sports right now, too, particularly the local variety, but I do find that our site's message board is an easy visit.

I certainly believe the window's open, and will be for 4-5 years. In fact, I have no reason to see an end in sight. The problem is not the talent core, but one of opportunity: Can they stay healthy enough? Can they get the breaks in the playoffs? And can they get the additional break of a powerhouse team being upset by a division rival that's then too spent to win the next week? The realization that all came to pass and the Steelers kicked it away is a depressing one, and one that I feel leads to runners-up falling apart the following season. I do believe a lockout might provide time for this team to come out of that funk before the season begins. So – gulp – Go lockout!

SteelerBill13: Hey Wex, what is our offensive identity? I ask because I'm of the belief that when we get into trouble offensively it's a direct result of not staying true to who we are - which is an issue because I don't know who we are.

I'm not much on "identities." I think it was just something for Bill Cowher to use back in his day, and now it's something a sportswriter uses to make himself feel smarter. If I were to stereotype this offense, I'd call it unpredictable. It's a team that can run or pass, and the steward of it is – depending on your view – either a genius or an idiot. And really, there's a fine line separating those two terms anyway.

fellasheowed: Hey Wex, wasn't the question about replacing Styx with Heart like replacing Jonathan Scott with Tony Hills? Also, any chance of Phil Collins and Billy Joel being permanently banned from Steeler team activities? And I guess "Roger That" by Young Money would be out of the question.

Hills over Scott; that's the answer I should've used. It's brilliant (although Scott surprised me down the stretch this year.) As for Collins and Joel, I'll again risk ridicule by saying I don't really care for either. Since Elton John ripped Joel recently for not writing anything these days, I kind of like him a little more. Same goes for Collins, who's been the subject of much hatred from modern rock fans of late. That Roethlisberger went to a "Piano Bar" and sang some Billy Joel songs strikes me as something a dumb jock would do to be cool. And playing "In The Air Tonight" (or whatever it's called) at the hideaway hotel the night before the game sounds like something Tomlin would do in an "unleash hell" dream sequence. So, in other words, yes, ban both of them. Fine by me.

I have no idea what "Roger That" or Young Money means. I guess I could use another of your brilliant retorts here, but alas have come up short once again.

steelmann58: Jim, even though I know the answer, any chance the Steelers go for a free-agent cornerback? I'm also wondering about the three top needs you see them drafting in the first three rounds.

One misnomer about the Rooneys is that they won't spend the big buck in free agency because they're "cheap." Really, their philosophy has more to do with keeping the team's pay scale in order. They're not going to make an outsider the highest-paid player on a team that just bled and sweat together. And that philosophy works. Jeff Hartings and James Farrior were well-paid free agents, but were still bargains considering their talent. I could see the Steelers finding a free-agent CB after they sort through the value bin, just as I used to do with Kinks records.

As for the first three rounds, again, it's all about value. The smart team doesn't patch holes as much as it thinks ahead to future team captains. That said, let's go CB, WR, OG. And I could reverse those for the sake of value, too, or even throw in any other position but QB and PK. Value, value, value.

rbriggs3: What is the deal with Keenan Lewis? I don't want to throw out the "bust" word, but I mean how bad is he when we actually have Anthony Madison playing in the dime? Madison can't cover a bed with a blanket.

I thought Madison played well in the Super Bowl. Give the guy a little credit. Also, Madison is a slot corner. Lewis is strictly an outside corner. He doesn't have the shiftiness necessary inside. That said, Lewis has been a disappointment. Give him another year. I was always someone who needed more time at whatever I attempted to do, so I tend to root for those guys.

steelmann58: Do you think Lewis can be moved to safety?

He has the body for it, but nowhere near the instincts – at least from what I've seen. Instincts are more important than body type back there.


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