Answer Man

<p>Sorry I'm late, Answer Man. I was talking to Jason Gildon and he wouldn't shut up. He's pretty adamant about the defense and things being different from last year. He seems to be blaming the coaching staff, but he's not specific.<o:p> </o:p> </p>

Answer Man: Really? Again? He was asked if he had any examples at a meeting and he didn't have anything to say. Ask him about the time Joey Porter hit (Steve) McNair and he started celebrating. Jason threw his arms up in the air and started celebrating and McNair bounced out of it and threw a pass to Gildon's man. ‘I thought Joey had him.' That was his explanation. He's watching the game. I think that's the problem with these guys. They're not going 100 percent. They think they are, but they're not playing and practicing with the same intensity as last year. Last year, they became the No. 1 defense pretty early and they were determined to keep it. So they practiced with great tempo. Now, they've read their press clippings and they're standing around watching the game. Did you ask anyone else what they thought?


Me: I asked Porter. He said he doesn't know about the rest of the defense, but that he missed five tackles.

AM: That tells you something. Joey had a bad game last week and he stood up to it.


Me: What is the main problem with the defense?

AM: Well, the safeties stink and Chad Scott can't even cover Justin McCareins.


Me: Is Chad Scott destined for safety?

AM: Yes.


Me: Really? Is a plan in the works?

AM: The question hasn't come up, but he's a safety. One of our guys took some heat for saying he was a safety coming out of college, but he's right. Chad can't cover. He can't play cornerback. The move has to be looked at next year. I have a feeling it will.


Me: What about the play calling? I don't mean Gildon's "differences." I mean the conservative play calling late in games, defensively and offensively.

AM: Look at the San Diego-St. Louis game the same day the Steelers lost to Atlanta. There's a tape of (Marty) Schottenheimer telling his defensive coordinator to ‘defend. No big plays.' That's the same way here.


Me: Uh oh. The Marty-Bill family of conservative play calling. Look at these stats – Chargers led by 10 late in the third quarter and called 11 runs and 2 passes before blowing the lead to the Rams. The Steelers led by 14 late in the third quarter and called the exact 11 runs and 2 passes before blowing the lead to the Falcons.

AM: Well, that's the offensive shell. The defensive shell is no blitzing. No big plays. Sorry about being testy here, but facts is facts.


Me: Tell me about the kicker. How bad was that tryout?

AM: A couple fell down. It was rainy and windy that day. The high-school goal posts were up for the WPIAL championship games and it was hard to tell if they were making their kicks.


Me: What about Jeff Reed?

AM: He has a stronger leg than Todd (Peterson) but not a booming leg. His strength is probably his accuracy. He gets the ball to about the 9 on kickoffs, which is also a little better than Todd.


Me: Wow. That doesn't leave us much time for the Bengals. Hope this isn't as poor a priority as the team put on them.

AM: Oh, no. And you're not going to get me to say anything bad about the Bengals, either. That stuff filters down. This is a no bullshit game.


Me: Don't talk dirty like that. Run down the Bengals as honestly as you can without compromising the mission. This is a division game and this is the Insiders network. I don't know what's getting out, but I understand lots are reading.

AM: Good for the tuna. Anyway, I expect the Bengals to revert to their old game plan. Spread the field and run (Corey) Dillon. They've got the receivers. (Jon) Kitna's playing better. Chad Johnson's playing very well. So is the rookie tight end, Matt Schobel. He's big and fast. Levi Jones is playing left tackle now. He flashes, and will be good, but is inconsistent. Their interior linemen aren't very good. They're bad and the center's worse. But they have talent. When they want to, they can play. They're scary. Defensively, their linebackers are their strength. Corey Hall, the free safety, is good. Their strong safety, (Marquand) Manuel, is athletic and tends to short-circuit. Artrell Hawkins is playing much better than he was. The other guy is probably someone you should go after. On the line, Justin Smith's alright. If you double him, Vaughn Booker's above average to adequate. Without Oliver (Gibson), they've gone downhill up the middle. Glen Steele's just a big plugger and if you run right at their linebackers you negate their quickness. So I'd say run at them and go after (Kevin) Kaesviharn. Offensively, it's (Peter) Warrick, (Michael) Westbrook, (Ron) Dugans and Schobel. I see them spreading the Steelers out and running against the dime like Tennessee did. That was good coaching.


 ---Jim Wexell




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