Ask Wex (1/10)

Well here we are, answering questions about the off-season instead of preparing for a playoff game. I don't expect customers to be tossing me softball questions about the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I'll try to hit some sharp singles anyway.

Chris Kane: As your source stated, "The offense looked pretty good at 6-3." What happened? We never saw anything close to that offense again.

Plain and simple, injuries happened. Ben Roethlisberger went down in the middle of that ninth game, and when he came back in the 13th game the running game went soft after injuries to LG Willie Colon in the 10th game and RT Mike Adams in the 11th. As I've noted several times, with those two in the starting lineup the Steelers averaged 4.7 yards per carry; without them, 3.1.

dpahoops: How involved is Mike Tomlin in the game-planning each week and during the in-game adjustments on both sides of the ball? Does he let his coaches coach or is he more hands on?

My understanding is that he's "hands on" during the week and is the overseer during the game when he lets his coordinators coach. He establishes the tone of what he wants done early in the week and then meets with his coordinators late in the week to tweak things.

Stillerfreak: Which running backs will the Steelers try to sign? And, will they be looking to draft one this year?

Rashard Mendenhall is the only unrestricted free agent among the running backs, and a national report had them negotiating with him during the season. We all know that's not the Steelers' operating procedure, so it's easy to dismiss that report. And I will.

I assume Mendenhall will be gone and the Steelers will move on with their restricted free agents Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer must lose weight, though, and I'm sure he was given a strict directive to do so at his exit interview. Dwyer might've weighed in the 255-260 range by the end of the season.

I don't know if they'll draft a running back, but I would. There might be enough skilled backs in rounds 3-5, in fact, for every team to get one.

Steel Diesel: What are your thoughts on the Steelers drafting a young backup QB? Do you think if a guy like Tyler Bray or Aaron Murray is available in rounds 3-5 they'd take one?

Last year, for the first time in the Ben Roethlisberger era, GM Kevin Colbert admitted that drafting a quarterback in the early rounds was a possibility. They didn't, but certainly that possibility exists again, and is likely now a probability.

Tyler Bray is an underclassman who's coming out and he has great tools, but was inconsistent, if not erratic. I doubt they would draft him in the first or second rounds, but possibly the third. Aaron Murray hasn't declared yet, and I doubt they would take him in what likely would have to be the first round.

My guys are E.J. Manuel or Landry Jones in the third round – at least right now. Once the draft begins I'm sure I'll be shouting for guys who play other positions, such as D.J. Swearinger, Ryan Swope, Chris Harper, Jordan Reed and Dion Sims, to name just a few third-rounders.

Kentucky Steeler: Why don't coaches and players admit that injuries are a BIG part of losing? A backup here and there is one thing but third-stringers all over the field is another.

That's for us in the media to deduce and declare. If a coach were to use that excuse, it's an excuse for any of the first-stringers left on the field to latch onto. Coaches have to understand top-down messaging, and Tomlin does. They really can't even let themselves believe it.

Steeler Junky: If they sign Keenan Lewis, what three positions do you think the Steelers will most likely look to improve in the first two rounds of this year's draft?

And, secondly, does Ben Roethlisberger spend much time studying for a game? Enough to be constantly good at a quick passing attack such as Todd Haley's? I know he can do it for a game or two and has proven that in the past, but I see many QBs studying photos while on the sideline during games. Rarely does the camera catch Ben doing that.

I've seen Ben studying the still shots with Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich, but I'm sorry that I really don't know enough to answer your second question completely. I've heard both sides, that he does study and that he doesn't.

As for your first question, if the Steelers sign Lewis, the cornerback position might be the only one they feel is secure enough to avoid in the first three rounds. But I would never complain about drafting a cornerback for value's sake. In fact, I wouldn't complain about OT, DE, QB or the interior of the O-line either, but I look for them to select the best value at WR, ILB, TE and S. They might also draft an OLB in the first round, but they already have second- and third-round value presently backing up those two positions.

Iron City Jay: Wex, I want to get philosophical. The offense has spent No. 1s on QB, WR, TE, RB and OL (twice), and several other high picks on OL and WRs. Yet, the results you may expect (for a myriad or reasons) haven't been there, consistently at least. The defense has been consistently good, with a similar investment. Are the Steelers - at this point - willing to reload and rebuild the defense with high draft picks for Dick LeBeau and his successor and ride with what the offense gives them at this point? Or do you see the Steelers looking for skill in the high rounds?

I wish I could give you an answer as well thought out as your question, but all I can say is that I expect the Steelers to continue to work on the offense with high picks at WR and maybe even TE and/or RB this coming April. I don't believe you stick to a balanced back-and-forth plan (i.e. offense-defense-offense-defense) when one side of the ball clearly needs more attention.

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