Ask Wex

Welcome back to another offseason. It came upon us a little sooner than anticipated, but with all of the injuries it was inevitable, wasn't it? Oh, that's right. You're asking the questions around here.

QuebecSteeler: 1.) The last two minutes of the 2010 Super Bowl loss to the Packers and the last two minutes of the 2011 loss to the Broncos with the score even, were carbon copies of the other --boneheaded calling by Bruce Arians and boneheaded execution by Ben Roethlisberger. In both instances, where was Hines Ward?

2.) I know Ben is good. But could it be that his motorcycle accident left him with traumatic mental or visual problems that would explain some of the judgment or visual errors he shows in situations like the above?

Sorry to cut your questions short, but I think these are the two for which you really want answers. In fact, I really want the first one answered, particularly as it pertains to Ward in the Super Bowl. I asked Hines about it last training camp and he said, "Good question. Maybe we can talk about it someday." As for not throwing to Ward vs. the Broncos, I think Hines lost his place in the offense due to the midseason high ankle sprain that he tried to play through. I'm hoping he not only gets the chance to make the team this year, but is healthy and determined and makes a great comeback.

As for your second question, I can't buy that Ben is damaged goods after the accident because he's had so many great moments, including a comeback to win a Super Bowl. I realize that after losses we only think of the bad things, but too much good has happened to say he's suffering from something like that.

Steeldominance: Hi Wex. I have a question about four guys: ILB Mario Harvey, NT Anthony Gray, OT Trevis Turner, TE/HB Jamie McCoy. These guys were in camp last year. Good things were written about each of them by various observers. They had no OTAs and their athleticism didn't matter. QUESTION: Do any of them have a shot at being in camp this year? Do you think any could make the 53-man roster?

Harvey and Gray were limited athletically and needed to show something in preseason games. They did not and I doubt they'll be asked back. Yes, they could've used OTAs, but that's the tough luck of an athlete. As for Turner and McCoy, yes, they are back. Turner is a potential right tackle in the making. McCoy is more of a true fullback who will have a better chance of making the roster this year with Todd Haley as the OC.

JJT07: Would love to know the coach's thoughts on Jason Worilds. I thought he filled in fine but a lot of people are already writing him off as a bust. He was thrown into the fire, had to switch sides, never had an offseason, and had that quad injury that could have been lingering all year. If the coaches are down on him, it may change our draft strategy.

I doubt the coaches are down on him. He showed flashes, put up some stats, and the team was 5-2 in games he started. I know Mike Tomlin for one is not down on him. If I hear anything else this spring I'll let you know.

dstep: What areas of the team need improvement through FA and/or the draft?

They need a third OG, a fourth OT, a speed back to replace Rashard Mendenhall, a return specialist (as evidenced by three RS picked up off the street recently), a tight end or two, and a DT and ILB to groom behind Casey Hampton and James Farrior. I'll be on this story starting next Thursday at the combine. That's when the draft season will heat up this site.

shoaf13: The Steelers quietly picked up Jamon Meredith and Al Woods, and reserved roster spots for each throughout the second half of the season. Which of the two do the Steelers seem most excited? Do you see either of these two, or a guy like Chris Scott, making a significant contribution next season?

I don't see it now, but the third year is the time when guys like Woods and Scott either "get better or get gone," to paraphrase Tom Donahoe. I wish I could give you the inside thoughts on those players, but that will have to wait until spring, at the latest.

IACAPA: Does the front office seriously expect Mendenhall to play a role with the team in 2012? My research says you need at least 9 months and won't be full strength for two years. One study showed a one-third drop in production, another said only three backs have put up decent numbers one year later (Ronnie Brown, Jamal Lewis, Deuce McAllister). None of those backs was injured as late in the season as was Mendenhall. As we know, this is the final year of Mendenhall's contract. Can they really justify paying him?

Kevin Colbert is making comments that lead me to believe Mendenhall will be kept, and that his salary won't count against the cap if he's on IR. I'm not sure if that's true, but that's what he said. Sometimes Kevin is wrong about the cap, so his comment needs to be followed up.

By the way, IACAPA, you deserve kudos for being the lone wolf on this topic for quite some time. Your concerns have turned out to be legitimate, to say the least.

IronCityJay: Do you think the restructuring of the linebackers (assuming James Farrior is not back next year) involves moving James Harrison to ILB? This would allow Worilds to play ROLB (where I think he is more comfortable) and could prolong Harrison's career?

I know this has been a favored move by many insightful fans, but I just don't see it. Harrison's main asset is his strength and leverage getting around the corner, not in coverage, and an ILB has to stop the run first and cover second. In fact, stopping the run is a given at that position. It's like expecting your shortstop to be able to field. Hitting is what gets him in the lineup. Coverage will do the same for the guy who follows in Farrior's footsteps.

jbwal27: How do the Steelers improve scoring offense in the red zone? Draft a tall WR and/or better utilization of Heath Miller and Weslye Saunders in the red zone? Perhaps it starts with better OL to relieve TE's of blocking duty.

For a coordinator that believed in multiple tight ends, Arians sure had some lousy ones after Miller. I believe Saunders has a chance, but he was very raw last season. So, yes, that could be part of the problem, but I tend to believe it had more to do with poor playcalling and offensive line play.

Studog: Ben is obviously an excellent QB but I have a question concerning his playing shape. Ben is as much of physical freak as any QB that has ever played. My concern is that he continually has allowed himself be out of shape. For a QB whose play still relies on his physicality, why do the Steelers allow him to get so out of shape?

Clearly I've let these question linger in the queue far longer than I should have. As you probably know Ben has begun working out earlier in his career than ever. You know, when I saw pictures of Ben and his wife golfing, I got the impression that A.) He's settled down and B.) He needs to go to the gym every day just to get away from the Missus. Not saying anything bad about her. It's just that I've just been married for 27 years and have stayed married by getting out of the house and into the gym. Perhaps that's what we're seeing here.

And that will to do it for the post-season session of "Ask Wex." I'm sure you'll have plenty of questions for me after the combine. I'll be looking forward to them.


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