Answer Man

The Answer Man hasn't given up on the Pittsburgh Steelers. He likes their matchup against the Oakland Raiders this week and thinks it could springboard the club. Then again, he thought that two weeks ago.

JW: Was that a devastating loss? What's going to happen with the Pittsburgh Steelers?

AM: They've got one of two ways to go: run and hide or lock and reload and go. There's no choice. I think the head man said it best a couple weeks ago when he said the answers are in that locker room.

JW: Is there any reason for optimism after that game?

AM: Yeah. If you look at the players, there's a lot of optimism when you're putting points on the board and playing as well as they did in the first half. The problem has been they can't close out a game. That's been the problem.

JW: Should the defense take the blame?

AM: If you look at the turnovers and the short field, turnovers and Mike Vick put together are a dangerous situation.

JW: Why does this team have such trouble with tight ends over the years?

AM: That's a good question. You draft a Troy Polamalu to match him up with the top tight ends in your division ...

JW: With all due respect, he's not going to be able to cover a refrigerator on wheels, is he?

AM: Right. The problem is finding a matchup that works. Alge Crumpler and Antonio Gates have wide receiver hands and refrigerator bodies and those are tough things to cover. For whatever reason, the secondary this year is not making plays like the secondary of last year.

JW: Why? Is it all because of Chris Hope?

AM: No. I don't think that's the answer. I think Ryan Clark has done well. For whatever reason, you get the breaks one year and you don't the next.

JW: This might be a stupid question, but can they beat the Raiders?

AM: There's no question they can beat the Raiders. If you look at the Raiders on film they're a very beatable team. If you read some of the quotes coming out of Oakland, Art Shell is trying to get the guys to move on and some guys want to celebrate this one win. That was a big one for them. It's common that a team, when it wins that first one, it releases a little bit of pressure and a little bit of hunger, so I think it's good that they got that first win down. And it's very important for the Steelers, maybe more so than for the Raiders.

JW: Are you saying it's going to be a contented Raiders team?

AM: One and five is not what I'd call contentment, but, yes, it is a less ugly situation. When you have that big doughnut on the board it makes for a very angry, nasty locker room.

JW: What is the Raiders' biggest problem?

AM: They've got problems all over the place. Their offensive line is the starting point. It's pretty horrible. They're on a pace to break the Houston sack record and that's a lot of sacks. That offensive line has really had problems.

JW: Could you break it down?

AM: Jake Grove isn't a bad center. The two guards: the right guard is a rookie and has some good, physical tools; Barry Sims, the left guard, is a little slow. He doesn't move well. Left tackle Robert Gallery had three sacks, a facemask and a false start last week. He has an unbelievable bucket step. He turns and gives a short corner time after time after time.

JW: Is it fair to say Gallery's been a disappointment?

AM: Yeah. I think the only thing that's distinctive about him is the long hair.

JW: What about the right tackle?

AM: Langston Walker is their best lineman. He's got a punch. He works the line fairly well. But if [Chad] Slaughter's in there ... they should slaughter Slaughter.

JW: So if the quarterback can survive the rush he'll throw deep to Randy Moss, right?

AM: He hooked up with Moss a couple times last week, but Walter's got a hamstring problem right now. Tuiasosopo is a throw and run and run and throw guy.

JW: Would he be better for them than Walter because of his experience?

AM: I know he'll stay alive in the pocket longer with his mobility. Justin Fargas is a decent back. LaMont Jordan is a good back but I don't know how his back's going to hold up.

JW: What about covering Randy Moss? Do you use Ike Taylor as a base again?

AM: Randy Moss, to me, is intriguing because you don't see the big things happening that you normally associate with Randy Moss. You'll see him go deep once and then you'll see him run a five-yard pattern. Even if you don't have the big arm to get him deep, he is a threat. He's always a threat because he's such a physical threat, but he certainly isn't shining on film the way he has in years past.

JW: About their defense, why are they ranked No. 1 against the pass?

AM: They have some good coverage people. And I think other teams can run on them. They're primarily a 4-3 over-under team. You'll see some five big ones against two tights. You'll see Rob Ryan come with some version of the Bear defense that his old man had. Derrick Burgess has 21 sacks the last two seasons. He comes all the time. Warren Sapp plays a three-technique tackle. When he wants to play hard he can still play; when he doesn't want to play hard it shows.

JW: He's one of the guys happy with the win, right?

AM: Oh, yeah. From the linebacking crew, none of them really jumps out at you.

JW: How's Michael Huff?

AM: He hasn't looked bad. I like Stu Schweigert. He's a good player, a good hitter. Their corners cover well. Derrick Burgess is the guy. He'll play over Max Starks. You'll have to chip. You don't want to just single-block him all day.

JW: It can't be possible for the Steelers to take this team lightly, can they?

AM: I don't think so. You go out and watch practice. That was a pretty hungry group we saw yesterday. I think they understand the severity of their position. It's really early in the year to have 4 Ls in the column. The Raiders will be a little hungry but they can take the steam out of them. I'm very optimistic.


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