Hey Wex (2/18)

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

mightyveg: Wex, thanks for the answers! Here are a couple more Super Bowl questions, so we can get closure.

1. James Harrison had a phenomenal effort sack but otherwise a quiet game. Was it the injury? Was it the defensive scheme, with him dropping into coverage a ton (like Peezy did in SB XL)? Did Chad Clifton play well? Was it a combo?

2. What happened on the Mike Wallace overthrow? Was Wallace supposed to run a skinnier pattern, as Ben Roethlisberger's gesticulations suggested? Was Ben just not used to having that much time to throw and really step into it? Was he too used to playing in the winds of Heinz Field and just put too much mustard on it? Should we just chalk it up to "stuff happens!" What about the other overthrows to Wallace?

I thought the overthrows in general had to do with Ben's nerves, or even, as one questioner had suggested, the lack of the glove for a better grip on the ball. But on the specific play you mentioned, it appeared that Ben laid it up there for Wallace to turn it up and look over his other shoulder, as opposed to continuing his route to the flag. It makes sense, since it's a lot easier to score with more of the field at your disposal.

I didn't watch Harrison closely but in my mind he played well. He had a sack and also an additional pressure or two. The injury, I'm sure, had a limiting effect, but I think he played well and that Aaron Rodgers had him in mind throughout his dropback. Harrison also dropped into coverage, as per his usual assignments, but nothing extraordinary. Sorry, but I don't see anything worth laying blame here.

SteelerBill: Hey Wex! I realize with the CBA issues and that the Steelers don't traditionally chase free agents, but is there anyone that you would like to see in a Steeler uniform?

Regarding Rashard Mendenhall's fumble in the Super Bowl, did he stop? I've only watched the game once, but it appeared to me that he stopped at the point of contact.

And on Jonathan Dwyer, the front office/coaching staff liked him enough to keep him on the roster, but is he fighting for a roster spot in the spring or is he expected to contribute next year?

I doubt Dwyer will fight for a spot in the spring. Is that what you really asked? In the preseason, he'll be expected to understand blitz pickups better. If he fails, he gets cut, like anyone else. As per expectations, it's about competition and rising/failing to meet it. Coaches don't usually have expectations about a player who barely saw the field as a rookie.

As for Mendenhall, yeah he stopped running because Ryan Pickett decked him, and that's when glory boy Clay Matthews came up and knocked the ball loose. I don't see anything more than a basic fumble, and even the great Walter Payton fumbled once in a Super Bowl. As an aside, Matthews claimed after the game that he heard the Steelers bark out the play number to indicate a run his side, but if you heard him miked-up you heard him tell his teammates something like, "They're all looking at me. They're coming my way." It saved his day and probably his team because he had tread marks all over him from being run over the rest of the game.

Anyone I'd like to see in a Steelers uniform? Well, the obvious one is the great cornerback from Oakland, but unlike the rest of the world I haven't spent more than 10 seconds looking over free-agent lists because it's just not going to happen. So, mark me down for the CB whose name I can't spell.

Warfighter5: Thanks for keeping me sane during these dark days of post-season, off-season woes! It seems to me that we can neither draft quality DBs nor effectively coach up the ones we do draft. So I'd be very interested to hear your perspective on these comments:

1. Do you think there is a possibility we'll replace our D-backs coach?

2. How much input have the position coaches had in the final draft decisions for their specialty?

3. Is there any hope for Crez Butler? Or is he the next K Lewis (great physical measurables with little apparent football smarts)?

Thank Wex. I hope I didn't exceed my question quota.

Well, if I had a quota you would've exceeded it, but I'll let it pass since you show great enthusiasm.

As for your first, I apologize for being too slow in getting to these questions and hope you're aware the Steelers lost DB coach Ray Horton to the Cardinals. I'm not sure a replacement will help much since I thought Ray did a fine job with Ike Taylor and the rest. Not many secondaries can slow down the triumvirate of Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, so the Steelers shouldn't believe they have a serious DB problem. That said, I do think the Steelers will make the position a Round 1 priority for the first time since 2003. That's the longest stretch of any position on the team, so that could account for the average talent level there. And to answer your next question, since it fits here, Darren Perry, I learned while doing research for my next book, had plenty of input in the drafting of Troy Polamalu back in 2003. So, yes, the assistants have input and it's all digested by the head coach.

On the amazing Crezdon Butler, yes there's hope. But his measurables aren't similar to Keenan Lewis's. Butler's 17 pounds lighter according to the roster. I believe Butler is more of a cover man than a big, physical zone corner, but we won't learn much more about him until the preseason. I do know the coaching staff was high on him last summer.

SteelerBill: Your thoughts on the OL? I'm not so sure it's as weak as we once thought. Down the stretch they were pretty tough, especially in the playoffs. And with Max Starks and Willie Colon back it could be pretty formidable. Adding a top pick of course would help, but we may not be in such desperate straits as we once thought.

You pretty much answered your own question, Bill. I'll add that Starks and Colon have not shown they're recovered from injuries yet and Colon has not been secured from free agency. Those are questions only the team can answer, if in fact anyone can. I do like the depth that has been developed on the line, and if they see value I would fully support another pick there in the first round. But I don't think it's as big a priority as it was last year.

steelmann58: Hey Wex, what's up with Mike Tomlin finding a secondary coach? Would Tomlin bring in someone like Carnell Lake? I thought about him when Rod Woodson became the Raiders' secondary coach.

Steelmann, no one examines the coaching staff the way you do, and I apologize for taking time away from the phones and the South Side since the Super Bowl. My next assignment is the combine and I'm sure I'll uncover newsworthy nuggets at that point.

As for Lake, I always thought of him and Woodson as birds of the same feather, that they were too good at playing the game to become good coaches, that they didn't have to work as hard at technique and details to stay in the league. Those are the players who become great coaches – at least that's been the general history. I also thought those two were both too wealthy to get into coaching, which consists of hard work, late nights, low pay. They were also both kind of moody, particularly in comparison back in their day to a Jerry Olsavsky, whom I believe will become a fine coach some day. So I was surprised when the Raiders hired Woodson, and would become even more surprised if Lake came out of hiding to get back into the game.

mightyveg: I know free agency may not even happen, but what do you think about signing CB Drayton Florence? Would he be too expensive given the $$ we need to sign our own? If the price was right, do you think he fits the D and would be an upgrade over B-Mac?

Well, that's one player who was probably off their board when he came out, if the story one of the scouts told me about him was true. But then again I don't know all the facts. So from the little I know about him, absolutely not.

Dam3391: Hey Wex! This is fun...

1) Since the combine is coming and draft season is upon us, give me five guys, regardless of position and whether the Steelers have chance to get them, that you absolutely love as Steeler-type guys?

2) Can you give us your early draft priority list by position? I know you will be doing draft primers throughout the coming months, so I thought I would get us some early teasers.

To answer the second question, the first priority has to be the secondary and the rest had better simply be about value. I'll write about this in detail early next week before the combine, but the specific position would of course be cornerback and right now two players are in mind.

Which leads me into your first question. Those two players are USC CB Shareece Wright and Texas CB Curtis Brown. I like Jimmy Smith, as mentioned earlier, but feel he'll be gone. Wright and Brown have the combination cover skills/physicality the Steelers require, but I've put cover skills ahead of physicality since, to me, that has become the bigger need with the Steelers' increased late-season usage of press man, cover-2. I don't even know where Brown stands with the draftniks, but I watched Texas-Texas A&M last night to see Aaron Williams, a junior who started the season as the nickel back and moved up to replace an injured starter, and Williams has Steelers-type length. But Brown covered the better receiver and did it significantly better. Of course, that was just one game but I become intrigued nonetheless.

As for some of my other favorites – denoted in my papers with an excited asterisk (and I tend to ignore the highly touted top 10ers in favor of those who surprise me) – I noted Gabe Carimi, Rodney Hudson, Derek Sherrod, Mike Pouncey, Pernell McPhee, DeAndre McDaniel, Jimmy Smith, Ryan Kerrigan, Lee Ziemba, Dontay Moch, John Moffitt, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Lance Kendricks, Colin Kaepernick, Ugo Chinasa, Matt Szczur.

I've asterisked others whom I've seen again and dropped them off the list, but those were some of the surprises. Guys like Sherrod and Ziemba are almost overrated now, but they did flash and surprise me the first time I saw them this year. And I re-watched Florida-Penn State last night and can't fathom an interior player being drafted ahead of Pouncey. No way he'll last.

SteelerBill: Jim, here's one for ya: You get to address the team back at Heinz after the Super Bowl. What do you discuss/say to them?

Well, I tell them they should be proud of themselves, that they competed well and have really identified themselves as a team for the ages. The fan base should be very proud of this collection of individuals, and that any criticism should be ignored, that for the most part they acquitted themselves well. I'd also remind them that runners-up don't make it back because of depression-type issues, and that they should remember this after about a week or 10 days of feeling sorry for themselves, that the window is clearly open as long as they rejuvenate themselves and get back to work with unbridled Billy Mumford-like enthusiasm.

And then, once I've gained their full attention, I would remind them to return Wexell's phone calls because the projects he's putting together will be the most accurate historical portraits of what will be remembered as a great time in Steelers history. And that they should also give Wexell some interesting and newsy tidbits for him to share immediately with his well-deserving readership, because, doggonnit, they deserve it.

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