Answer Man

<b>JW: What's with the tie, Answer Man? Cat like you could tarnish a reputation with a move like that.</b><br><br><b>AM: </b> I'm telling everyone it's a Halloween costume, but really, things are kind of tight around here, if you know what I mean. Someone did some math the other day. A four-game losing streak in the NFL is the same as a 40-game losing streak in baseball. Think about that. So I'm just trying to show a good attitude.

JW: Well, I'm hoping for a little attitude out of you myself, as in answers to some real questions. I've got a long list.

AM: I figured. Go with your best first.

JW: Alright, what's up with the offensive line? Who's up this week? What's down the road?

AM: Word is that Marvel Smith will go back to right tackle when he comes back. You do know Oliver Ross is starting there this week?

JW: Right. But tell me more about Marvel. Can I go with this story?

AM: How can anyone around here tell? I mean, you realize (Bill) Cowher calls all the shots. He's never asked (Russ) Grimm for an opinion. Never. And (Mike) Mularkey? You don't think Cowher's leaving him alone do you? Hell, he was thick into that game plan last week, and you know he's doing the same thing with Timmy (Lewis). What do you think Keith Butler gets to say about Jason Gildon? He doesn't. There's only one person's opinion that matters around here.

JW: Tell me about Gildon. You see the films. Is he hurting the Steelers?

AM: He's not helping. And Clark Haggans hasn't done anything with his chances.

JW: What about Kendrell Bell? He really hasn't shown up much this year and now he's lost his job in the dime. Is he having a bad year?

AM: No way. He's having a very good year. He's really picking this stuff up. They wanted to give him a break from the dime and he played better last week in the base. He wasn't wearing down.

JW: What about the lack of pass pressure? Why the lack of blitzes?

AM: That's Cowher. He doesn't want to give up the big play. He's maniacal about it. Don't ever think he's out of that loop. He is the loop.

JW: With the draft, too?

AM: Sure. Here's one for you. Cowher wanted to draft Alonzo Jackson in the first round. He got talked out of it. There's some evaluatin' there. But, hey, let's change gears here. Shhhh.

JW: Alright. Plaxico Burress was complaining after the game. What do the films show about Burress? Is he as open as he says he is?

AM: Come on. What do you think? No. He's not. He's crazy. Remember the pass he dove for? That was an 11-yard route. He ran 16 yards. That's why he had to dive. Stuff like that.

JW: I need to talk to you about Seattle. This really is a season game for the Steelers. Hope they're looking at it that way. What strikes you about the Seahawks?

AM: Their defense puts a lot of pressure on you. They come after you a lot.

JW: Didn't Norman Hand get benched last week?

AM: Yeah. He's just a big slob. John Randle is pretty good because he's so active, a bull in a China shop who keeps coming. Their ends are average. Chad Brown's good if he's back. He's an outside linebacker and rush end in their sub and he's still got some rush moves. Anthony Simmons is good but he's 5-11. (Marcus) Trufant is playing excellently. I really like him, and Ken Hamlin, the safety. They're both playing really good.

JW: Is Hamlin playing that much better than Troy Polamalu?

AM: Yes.

JW: Should the Steelers have drafted Hamlin instead?

AM: Hamlin had some baggage coming out.

JW: Is that an absolute death sentence with the Steelers?

AM: Where he got picked? Yeah. But if he's there in the fourth or fifth round, that's different. But he already has one strike against him. If you waste a second-round pick on him, and he gets suspended, you've not only wasted the pick and the cap space, you've got to find a replacement. That doubles the cap space, so it's a dicey call.

JW: Is he a bad kid?

AM: I don't think he's a bad kid. He's just got drinking problems, and we all do. The big concern is he knew he was risking a lot of money at the worst time. That's what concerns you about him.

JW: Was he considered to be this good?

AM: He wasn't considered this good, but the way he played at Arkansas, he was closer to the line or real deep. I liked him. I just didn't think he'd come in and have such an impact this quickly, in a position like that because that's a position where you have to make calls and be in the right place and the right time. Good for them. He's excelling.

JW: What about their offense? Another line like the Rams?

AM: They're solid up and down. Three very good players and two good ones. Walter Jones is arguably the third-best tackle in the league behind Orlando Pace and Jonathan Ogden. Their right side isn't as good as the Rams' right side but they're close.

JW: And their skill people?

AM: Their receivers are very good, about a step behind those Rams receivers. Shaun Alexander is a very impressive back. He's always falling forward, has deceptive speed, can catch out of the backfield. Their quarterback, I like him because he knows how to play in that system. He's good with short timing patterns and short to intermediate passes. I don't think he can consistently threaten you down the field like Bulger could.

JW: What's the key to the game?

AM: Shaun Alexander. There was a 76-yard touchdown drive against Cincinnati and he accounted for every single yard. The other key is keeping their rushers off the quarterback because they're going to come after you. Ray Rhodes comes after you.

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