Answer Man

The dog days of training camp and reporter Jim Wexell aren't meshing. We've turned back his "Afternoon After" columns and were ready to put him on notice, but his old pal the Answer Man showed up to save him.

JW: It's about time you showed up, Answer Man. The masses are restless. They're starving for information.

Answer Man: You've got the wrong guy if you want information.

JW: How about opinions? Can you at least give me some opinion?

AM: Depends on the question.

JW: I'll start with an oldie but goodie: What happened to Ben's thumb?

AM: Oh, that is an oldie, and never out of style. Roethlisberger's thumb? No one knows. There's nothing on the video.

JW: Bill Cowher said he couldn't tell. I assumed that was due to too many bodies being around Ben in the pocket.

AM: There weren't any bodies around him, none. I looked at his last three plays – nothing. There wasn't a player around him. That's why Cowher said he might've hit it on his own arm.

JW: Now that's funny. But Cowher said it with a straight face. I thought he was serious.

AM: Hey, maybe that's why the dude wants out of here. Maybe he doesn't want to put up with this kind of stuff for the next 10 years.

JW: Does Cowher want out of here? Is that what you're telling me?

AM: No. Actually, I think he's going to stay. I don't think anyone's in a hurry to get this done, and I don't see any reason for the rush either. Say he signs for $18 million for the next three years. That's guaranteed money. That's a lot to tie up in someone who could just up and say ‘no mas' after a year. He could force them to fire him and, remember, the money's guaranteed.

JW: He wouldn't do that.

AM: I realize that, but when you agree to big money contracts like that, there's always risk involved. My personal opinion is this is being blown way out of proportion.

JW: I agree. But you are churning out the information, now, aren't you?

AM: You can call it that. I call it opinion.

JW: Okay, while we're touching on the quarterbacks, what do you think of that other oldie-but-goodie here in Pittsburgh, the third-string quarterback?

AM: I don't like either one of them, but I will say that Omar Jacobs showed some decent instincts on that last drive last week. That fade for the touchdown impressed me.

JW: I liked the catch, too. Does Smolko have a chance?

AM: Maybe for the practice squad, but I'd cut all three of those young tight ends.

JW: Even Charles Davis?

AM: He's a basketball player. He plays like one. You can't keep that basketball [expletive] around.

JW: He made a beautiful catch in practice yesterday.

AM: Sure he did. And he'll pop up every now and then in practice, but he blocks like a basketball player. He gets no leverage, has no footwork.

JW: Back to the quarterbacks, why is Shane Boyd getting more reps than Jacobs?

AM: You're asking me to be Cowher. I have no idea what's going through his mind. I was standing on the sideline the other day when Boyd scrambled over in front of me. Ten yards up the field was Ricardo Colclough in his zone without anyone around him, and Boyd threw it straight into his chest. He's an interception machine.

JW: Can you go with two quarterbacks?

AM: Why not? I doubt either of them would be picked up, so you could keep one on the practice squad.

JW: I think depth at quarterback and running back are this team's biggest problems. What do you think about the young running backs?

AM: Cedric Humes looks good in every individual drill, but he doesn't put it together when he plays. And he runs way too tall. I don't know if Hoakie can get that kid's pads lower, but he's a fumble and/or an injury waiting to happen. I saw Chris Hoke crush him high the other day, and Hokie pulled up a bit.

JW: That's a "Hoakie" and a "Hokie" in one answer.

AM: I can retire now.

JW: Hoakie told me he likes John Kuhn. Do you?

AM: You can keep him on the practice squad. He's not a good lead blocker, but he can run a bit.

JW: I was telling another reporter the other day that Larry Csonka wasn't any faster than Kuhn.

AM: He wasn't.

JW: But this guy's response was that defensive ends weren't as fast then as they are today.

AM: Well, Kuhn's faster than Jerome Bettis was in his last few years and Jerome was effective.

JW: Kuhn's faster than Duce Staley, too.

AM: Duce is embarrassing.

JW: Is he a goner?

AM: Oh, I wouldn't say that. No one's really pushing him. Like I said, you can keep Kuhn on the practice squad.

JW: And that's what I mean by a lack of depth. I guess the Steelers could always pick up a player or two. They could pick up Tommy Maddox if they need a quarterback, couldn't they?

AM: The Pittsburgh Steelers won't be picking up Tommy Maddox.

JW: I was told that he hadn't burned his bridges.

AM: With the screaming matches with Cowher, the stuff with the White House? No way. He's burned his bridges here. You may have been told otherwise, but picking up Maddox is not an option.

JW: Thanks for the info.

AM: Well, that was the only bit. And you can take that one to the bank.

JW: One more. What's up with the Ike Taylor negotiations?

AM: There's no way he'll get eight figures here. Seven million is a nice-sized chunk of change for him at this point in his life, and I think his agent will come down soon. My opinion is they'll git-r-done.

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