Hey, Wex (3/4)

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.

rbriggs3: Will Jonathan Dwyer be ready to make a difference next year and displace either Mewelde Moore or Isaac Redman?

The Steelers seem to have a glut of "slot type" receivers in Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Do you think we could see them go for a WR early in the draft to get an outside option to take pressure off of Mike Wallace?

Why would you want Dwyer to replace Redman? I want to see more, more, more of Redman. Anyway, I'm not sure Dwyer will improve his pass-blocking, but I'm not sure Moore will be back. So the questions are wait-and-see for everybody. But, my guess is that Dwyer will forever have trouble reading pass rushes and considering the lack of attention he pays his body, perhaps a young-en is necessary for motivational purposes.

As for the wide receivers, perhaps a Jon Baldwin will tempt them in the first round. That idea is really growing on me. But I'm not sure they feel they need a WR this year with Ward still playing. At the same time, they can get one last look at Limas Sweed.

steelerjunky: Why do teams sign players to reserve/future contracts? Are they hoping to find a player for the roster to try to avoid using a late-round draft pick? Or merely for camp competition?

They're allowed 80-man rosters in the off-season so they add their practice players, injured players, and street free agents when the season's over. Maybe a few can ease positional needs in the team's collective mind on draft day, but usually they don't. The hope, of course, is these players can become more than camp competition. No sense wasting time on a guy you know you'll have no use for, so everyone really does have a chance.

SteelWoman: Hey Wex, regarding the Super Bowl loss, based on what you saw, especially when you re-watched the game with the players miked-up comments, what player positions do you feel we are most vulnerable? And how would you address those issues?

Also thanks for the wonderful updates, you make the off-season bearable ...

Hey, at least I'm good for something :->. Thanks. As for your question, I'm not sure the miked-up comments made a difference. I do know Greg Jennings was begging his coach to isolate him on a corner route with Troy Polamalu, but that – and Kevin Colbert disagrees with me – was because of Troy's injured ankle. Colbert believes Troy's middling performance had nothing to do with what appeared to be very limited change-of-direction skills. I also heard quotes from Aaron Rodgers that were piped into the press box to the effect that he couldn't get Troy to bite on some things he'd bitten on earlier in the season, and that Troy was frustrating them, so I do think the Steelers played the proper defense in the game.

Um, really, the only miked-up comments that meant anything to me came from Packers assistant coach Kevin Greene. He had me fired up, and I thought he should've drawn the Steelers' interest about five years ago when he started his coaching career at training camp as a volunteer for the Steelers.

To answer your question, the same positions need addressed: defensive backfield and offensive line, and the draft is always the key. I don't see anyone on the practice squad ready to step up yet, and free agency will only help sell papers and online subscriptions this spring. Clearly, the group of subscribers here is after more than superficial headlines.

SteelChowder: Two unsexy kicker questions: 1) What percentage chance do you think there is for Shaun Suisham being our opening day kicker next year? 2) Could Jason Kapinos be kept instead of Daniel Sepulveda next year?

Somebody had to take the plain girls to the dance, so thanks for stepping up here Chowder. I'd peg Suisham's return at 85 percent probable. I asked Colbert about him and he said he wants him back. Suisham will be a free agent so you'll see the Steelers looking at kickers this month just to cover that base, but I do expect Suisham back. I also expect Sepulveda back, but former punter Josh Miller surprised me with his comment on The Fan radio here in Pittsburgh that the Steelers should replace the injury-prone punter. I think Dan's too talented to give up on just yet.

Dam3391: Jim, I know you calibrated yourself after Dale Lolley's great article about Ben Roethlisberger bouncing back next season. I would like to hear your take on Ben. Will he do the small things necessary to advance his career? He is 28 and in the prime years of his career; however, he has a long laundry list of injuries and he can't play sandlot ball forever. Do you think he takes his game to another level over the second phase of his career? Or are we looking at someone who'll fade away as his physical gifts diminish and he does not change his game?

I don't know that he has a long laundry list. I mean, it's typical bumps and bruises. And he had some scar tissue in his foot that was blown up into a "broken foot." His scariest injuries deal with his head, so even if he wanted to improve his game mentally he may not be able to. (I started that as a joke, but I'm really not sure it is a joke.) Will he get serious? I'd like to think this past season was a great learning experience for him. He saw what all of his hard conditioning brought him. I also have a nagging feeling that this Super Bowl run was more about regaining lost honor for both Ben and the organization than it was about winning – note the rush to show good sportsmanship by Mike Tomlin and the rest that followed him to the podium. I suspect that that need lurked in the heart of a team that's already won its rings. I'm of the opinion that was a hurdle for them, and now it's back to winning, and winning with an edge. Will Ben regain the edge of a player with single-minded purpose? I think so. But I wish he'd quit drinking. That would help me answer your question in the affirmative. As of now, I have no evidence either way to help me get off the fence.

by1297: by1297 wrote: Jim, I realize Shaun Suisham came in and performed well (for the most part) in tough circumstances last season, but I personally don't trust him. 1.) What's your opinion of Suisham and his chances of sticking with the team long-term? 2.) If you don't think the chances are good, do you think the team would consider using a mid to late-rounder on a good prospect to groom, as they did with Sepulveda?

I touched on this, but to expand: I don't trust Suisham either. However, I'm sure the team does, and they have a pretty good winning percentage in these types of decisions. They're logical about bottom-line results and his were strong. Sticking long term? Well, you saw what happened to Jeff Reed. Just keep kicking it through, baby.

As for your second question, you already gave the answer in that they've been willing to draft specialists in the past. But in this case I feel they'll stick with Suisham.

rbriggs3: What are the chances that Troy doesn't sign a contract beyond his current one? He just seems to have many other interests and his body is failing him every year now. And do you see the team having any interest in drafting a RB? Or Henry Hynoski?

Good questions, briggs, and thanks for separating them from your openers today. Troy wants to re-sign after his contract ends post-2012. He loves football. He loves the Steelers. And he loves Pittsburgh. It wouldn't be will that keeps him from an extension. It would be an injury.

As for the Steelers drafting a running back, I think there's a good chance they'll bring in someone to compete with and push Dwyer for the third spot. I wouldn't mind the other Pitt back, Dion Lewis, in the fifth or sixth round. If they don't get one, they can re-sign Moore.

As for Pitt FB Hynoski, the Steelers met formally with Lance Kendricks and D.J. Williams at the combine, so I'm excited about either one of those two tight ends becoming the team's fullback. With Bruce Arians, the days of traditional lead blockers such as Hynoski are over. But if you're going to replace one with D.J. Williams, I have to admit to being excited about it.

CrispyRat: Jim, beside the fact the Steelers made the Super Bowl, why keep Arians?

Know that I am asking in earnest. Yes, I have seen an improvement in the offensive playcalling - or at least its efficacy. There is still something that feels herky-jerky with the offensive flow. Make the case as to why they kept him, maybe dealing with some of the traditional angst that we fans have with an Arians-led offense. Thank you sir.

I feel I must stand up to the rest of the Bob Smizik-led media – that herk and jerk to meaningless statistics and are trying so hard to find contrary opinions in order to stand out – and say that I agree wholeheartedly with your frustration with the offensive coordinator. The scripted portion of the offense works great, but the adjustments seem to be non-existent. The relationship with Roethlisberger is critical, but the general direction of Ben's career as a playground director has me worried. I could go on and on, and frankly it won't do anybody any good. As I've said before, no one knows as much about the OC as Tomlin, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. With productive-to-sensational first-round draft picks at QB, WR, TE, RB and C, the offensive struggles have to do with either the OC or the rest of the O-line. I'm willing to improve the O-line if Tomlin feels it's not the OC.


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