Answer Man

Pittsburgh's smartest football man looks over the rookies, puts a few vets on the hot seat, and goes behind the Steelers' latest draft.

Q: What kind of grade do you give the draft?

Answer Man: Well, I give the first day maybe an A. The second day was probably more like a B, but there's obviously the unknown element to the second day. I saw in the paper that you didn't like the second day.

Q: I'm hearing good things about Willie Colon, so if he's a player than I guess the second day could turn out well. It wouldn't be the first time I was wrong about the Pittsburgh Steelers.

AM: I like Colon. I think he's a player. He's a nasty one, now. You look at him and you think you're looking at James Harrison. Those two guys are similar – strong, tough, nasty, inner-city kids.

Q: One of the reporters told me that when he approached Colon for an interview, Colon told him he was going to "shove my Red Sox cap up my ass." I'm sorry, but I've gotta love that.

AM: That's not a show. He's a tough kid from the Bronx, and I think he can play. He's strong, hungry and can move his feet. I like the center, too.

Q: You can't keep three centers, can you?

AM: Hey, just keep him on the practice squad.

Q: Marvin Philip would get plucked off the practice squad.

AM: Probably. So, maybe 10 offensive linemen make it. It's happened before.

Q: And keep six wide receivers, too? I think you're running out of spots.

AM: You're right. Other positions start playing a part in the best-laid plans, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if only five receivers make it. Sean Morey is battling Chidi Iwuoma for the special-teams job. Morey's not competing against the other receivers, so if Chidi wins that one, and the two rookies show they can return kicks, that leaves Quincy Morgan out and – voila! --only five receivers make it.

Q: That group of receivers would be awfully young, particularly with Willie Reid being so raw. Could you get away with it?

AM: Bill Cowher plays young players anymore. You know that. As for Reid, he might be raw but I like everything about him. I like the way he warms up; I like the way he practices; I like the way he runs, blocks. He's a tough kid, and he can catch, too. He's going to be a player, mark my words. He may not be polished, but he's got speed. Nobody better bite on a double move with those two rookies on the field. And I'll tell you something else: Bill wanted him. He would've taken Reid in the second round. He really likes him.

Q: So, Cowher watched the Orange Bowl, did he?

A: He watches more college football than you think. He's a big fan.

Q: I assumed he just looked over what was presented to him a couple weeks before the draft.

A: Noooooo. He's always watching college football during the season, particularly when the team's on the road. And after the season he watches a lot of tape. You guys give him grief for Alonzo Jackson, but everyone's entitled to a mistake. Bill Cowher has a good eye for college football players.

Q: I'm excited about Nate Washington. Am I right or am I being a nerdy sportswriter?

AM: No, I love Nate Washington. He's playing well right now. He's quick, and he's real quick with his hands. He snatches the ball out of the air so quickly. Watch him next time. He reaches up and just picks it. It's a snap. No, I like him a lot.

Q: Did you see the bombs he caught the other day?

AM: No, but I saw the one Cedrick Wilson didn't catch.

Q: That would've been a tough catch.

AM: I know, but that's how you separate yourself from the rest. I realize he'll probably be the starter, but he has to make plays like that to separate. I saw Cowher laughing at the time, but I guarantee you he'll remember it.

Q: I loved the big arm by Ben on that pass. That was in the 65 to 70-yard range with arc like it was thrown over a mountain. He didn't show that kind of arm last year.

AM: He had that thumb. That was a bigger problem than anyone here let on. And he couldn't take a shot because it would've numbed his fingers. Ben played through a lot of pain. I give him a lot of respect for that. A lot of people around here do.

Q: It'd be nice to see that kind of arm strength in the regular season. It'd be nice to see Omar Jacobs throw a deep ball, too. What's up with that? Why doesn't he air one out?

AM: I haven't seen it either, but he throws those long outs. He makes all the other throws. And his release is so quick. I noticed one of you sportswriters had this six-sentence description of his release. How the hell could you see all that in the instant it takes him to get rid of it? I'm not labeling him as a future star or anything like that right now, but I'm not ruling it out either. Just say I like what I've seen so far. He's accurate and he has the size. He has real good pocket presence, too. He has that natural footwork to avoid rushers in the pocket.

Q: I was hoping for Bruce Gradkowski in the fifth round.

AM: I like Jacobs a lot better. Nothing against Bruce because he's a good kid, but I don't think he'll be in the league three years from now. He doesn't have near the arm strength you need.

Q: You know, if you guys would tell me this stuff before the draft I could get it right the first time.

AM: I guess we all have jobs to do.


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