Answer Man

JW: Morning, Answer Man.

AM: Morning. I just finished reading that long, over-written piece you did for your web site.

JW: What did you think?

AM: You could've shortened it by about 12 pages. Other than that, it was mediocre.

JW: Yeah, I probably could've cut it some, but the Plaxico Burress stuff led me into it. It's kind of interesting how well Plax played last week, isn't it?

AM: Let me tell you what I think about that. I think he's uncomfortable and that's why he's playing so well. See, he was comfortable here, and if he were still here he'd be even more comfortable. Plax is an immature guy. He's a good guy, but immature, and immature people, immature players, need pushed, right? I don't think he was pushed here. Tom Coughlin, he's the kind of coach who can make you uncomfortable, and that's what Plax needs. He needs to be pushed; he needs to be made to feel uncomfortable, because when he's uncomfortable, when he's playing with a chip on his shoulder, he can play this game. But that's just my opinion.

JW: You know, I was going to ask Hines Ward about that, but you answered it for me.

AM: What are you hearing in the locker room?

JW: Well, Duce Staley practiced without pain, so he might play a lot Monday.

AM: I don't know about that. I was just talking to someone, someone who knows, and he says Jerome's going to play. I couldn't get any specifics, but that's my understanding, that Jerome (Bettis) will play and Duce will be inactive.

JW: Are you going to San Diego?

AM: No, I have to go to Penn State on Saturday.

JW: Who do you think will win?

AM: I guess Ohio State. I figure they'll shut down the Penn State running game and make Michael Robinson beat them by throwing the ball. That'll be tough for him because he's not a quarterback.

JW: I hear that when he comes to the league, he'll come as a safety.

AM: No, he'll come as a running back. I think he's a little too tall to play safety. I don't like tall safeties. It's too hard for them to break down and tackle runners in the open field.

JW: Since we're on the topic, might we see LaVar Arrington here in the near future?

AM: Why? We don't have a Pitt punter he can push around, or a Boston College lineman he can jump over. But seriously, I don't think he could pass a physical. I understand his knee's really bad. And if you're a freelancer in this league, you have to be a real physical specimen. With a bad wheel he'd have to rely on good fundamentals, and frankly he doesn't have them.

JW: Which brings me to right guard. What's Kendall Simmons's problem? Does he lack good fundamentals?

AM: No, he can play. If you watch him, he's good for three, four steps. He raises up, comes off the ball and moves well for three or four steps, but after that you'll see his knee buckle. He's having a problem with his knee.

JW: Are you concerned?

AM: No. He'll get back to his old level of play.

JW: I'm trying to remember if he was really that good to begin with.

AM: Oh, yeah. Kendall's an athlete and a player; trust me on that. He can run and hit.

JW: He can run, but is he strong enough?

AM: He's plenty strong. He's a strong guy. I'm not worried about that.

JW: Does this team miss Keydrick Vincent?

AM: Keydrick had his problems pulling and in pass pro. He has heavy feet. Kendall's a better run blocker, that's for sure. Kendall can also pass block, but I don't understand why they have him and Alan (Faneca) dropping back two, three steps in their pass sets. If you watch, it looks like a bowl-type of pocket they're trying to set up. Kendall is better suited to come up and punch right away and then latch on rather than dropping back a couple steps. That technique's fine if you're a tackle and have the angles, but if you're a guard, and you drop back, you're giving your man a two-way go.

JW: What about putting one of the rookies out there? Has that been discussed?

AM: Let me put it this way: There have been preliminary talks, but nothing serious. Kendall will be alright.

JW: What about Monday night? Do you see the club bouncing back?

AM: Yeah, I do. I think they will bounce back. I think there were a number of reasons San Diego was able to beat New England. Number one, everybody plays New England like it's the Super Bowl. San Diego came out very physical; they were talking a lot of smack. Number two, the injuries mounted. I know you hear about Rodney Harrison and Matt Light and some other guys, but Kevin Faulk is the one, to me, who seems to have hurt them the most, at least against San Diego. I mean, they just didn't get the same production on throws to their running backs.

JW: What's San Diego look like on film?

AM: San Diego's offense is good. Obviously they want to get the ball in LaDainian Tomlinson's hands; Drew Brees is a good quarterback; (Antonio) Gates is terrific and poses match-up problems; the offensive line is good -- not great, not bad, just good; Keenan McCardell can still get it done. Defensively, Luis Castillo's been a pretty good addition to their line and their linebackers fly around, but their secondary's not very good.

JW: So the Steelers could light them up?

AM: They could.

JW: Run and pass?

AM: Yeah, I think.

JW: What's your assessment of how the Steelers played against the Patriots?

AM: They didn't win the battle in the trenches. That was the key. I thought they'd be much better offensively at controlling the line of scrimmage. That was the biggest surprise to me in the New England loss. Even having said that, it was still a final-possession game, and so if I look at that, and whatever you want to say about injuries and coaching, the bottom line is these games are won and lost in the trenches.

JW: So what makes you think the offensive line will play better Monday night?

AM: I just think you have games like that. Guys are up and down. I think in New England's case, to them, they were tired of hearing about the Steelers. Like the way they felt about Indianapolis last year, that's how New England felt about the Steelers this year, and it showed up in their play.

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