Answer Man: Get in here and close the door.
JW: Why so secretive?
AM: The quarterback practiced today, but no one's supposed to talk.
JW: But –
AM: Shhh. Keep it down.
JW: OK, so you're in lockdown around here. Did he take all the first-team reps?
AM: There's been a re-emphasis on not reporting practice maneuvers around here.
JW: I know. The Trib screwed up the other day.
AM: Leave them out of it. Worry about your own paper.
JW: Hey, we didn't report anything that happened at practice. I just want to know what's up with Ben. Is he going to play?
AM: It'll be a game-time decision, but I think he'll play.
JW: How did he get injured anyway?
AM: I think he got hurt on one of his running plays last week, but no one wants to ask him about it. He might say his toes are broken.
JW: Yeah, he's a little strange with injuries. He has some Terry Bradshaw in him.
AM: Then I can understand why Bradshaw and Chuck Noll had so many problems. I think Ben's driving this coach crazy.
JW: Well, Ben told me he's going to play.
AM: Sure, sure. They always say that.
JW: There's a difference. When I ask players one on one, and keep my tape recorder off, they usually tell the truth. When I'm with a pack of TV guys, the player turns on the clichés. I think Ben's telling the truth. Which knee is it anyway? Ben's been keeping his right leg wrapped but Cowher said at his press conference it's his left knee.
AM: He said that? That's not like Cowher to give away that kind of info.
JW: I know. I asked him about it Thursday and he said "I don't want to make that information public." I told him he'd said "left knee" at his press conference and he said "I could've been wrong." Whatever. Tell me, will Ben need much mobility against Houston? They've been the worst pass-rushing team in the NFL over the last two years.
AM: You know Dom Capers is a high-pressure guy. He won't sit back and let you punch him all over the field. He's going to come after you. That defense will be honked off and coming.
JW: But do they have the talent?
AM: Their front three, really their front seven, is the strength of their team, and out of the front seven it's the front three and the inside backers. Gary Walker is still playing at a very high level. He's short but has a good club. He and Max (Starks) are gong to have a good tango. Walker works hard and has a knack for blowing up plays. Seth Payne is a bigger Chris Hoke. He plays with a high level of intensity and sometimes shows a quick burst. Robaire Smith is a very talented guy who cruises sometimes. I don't think he's lived up to their expectations, but he's also the kind of guy who can hunker down and go. Antwaan Peek looks like just a guy to me. Jason Babin has athleticism and skills, but hasn't yet figured it out, but he'll hit the edge quick if you're not watching. Kailee Wong and Morlon Greenwood are good, tough NFL backers inside.
JW: The Steelers almost drafted Dunta Robinson last year. How's he doing at cornerback?
AM: Dunta's a player. He can run and his ability to stick in coverage is tremendous. The other guy is Phillip Buchanon. He has talent but sometimes loses his head and commits dumb penalties. But you can put them in man-to-man and blitz.
JW: About their offense, is their line as bad as it looked last week?
AM: It was a bad day in Buffalo. I like their right guard Zach Wiegert. He's a brawler and is pretty good. On the other side, Chester Pitts is pretty much a guy. The center, Steve McKinney, is OK. To me, Wiegert is the best blocker on the line. No, the truth is the best blocker is Mark Bruener. He's playing at a high level. When he blocks, he just locks on to people and doesn't quit. I was impressed. In his 11th year, there's no back-up in his giddy-up. He doesn't play it soft. He works until the whistle. Victor Riley is not impressive. He's got great size and all, but he watches a little too much. The other tackle, Todd Wade, is not a great athlete.
JW: Who are their threats?
AM: Domanick Davis is a good back; not a great back, a good back. Andre Johnson is the guy you've got to really watch. You have to shut down Davis first, but Johnson is a very productive wide receiver.
JW: Will David Carr ever put it all together?
AM: The man needs some help. It's hard to throw from your back. He's got mobility, and he's fearless. He hangs in that pocket and hangs onto that ball. The Great Wall of China could collapse around him and he's going to wait for the receiver to come open. I think he's a very resilient young man. He doesn't get happy feet. I think he has courage, leadership skills and a good arm, but it's hard when you're getting blasted.
JW: So, will this be an easy win?
AM: My gut feeling is if you go down there with the proper mindset to take care of business, and get out in front – there's going to be a lot of emotion there with the evacuees and all – it could be easy. But you've got to take the crowd out with purpose and focus. They're home and they'll be trying to make a big splash, and it's going to be very, very hot. If you can get points early, it's going to be key. It makes my gut churn a little bit, knowing the kind of raw emotion they're going to be facing with a team that's very, very hungry to do something positive.
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Steel City Insider03/17/2017