Answer Man

<p> </p><p> </p><b><i>Me:</i></b> Hey, Answer Man. Nice tie, dude.<br> <b>Answer Man:</b> You know, we were talking about you back there this morning. Everyone's getting a little tired of your weak attempts. OK, we blew one last week. But what do you want? What do any of you want? You're all acting like we owe you money or something. What, did you lose a bet? Aw, well that's just too damn bad. I'm here for your questions, not your abuse.<p>


Me: No, really. Nice tie. Anyway, I hear Bill Cowher ordered the kill-the-clock offense and the no-blitz defense in the fourth quarter. That's why he wouldn't let his coordinators talk to the media after the game. Is that what you're hearing?
AM: No comment. Make of the situation what you like, but I'm moving on.

Me: Tell us about the Titans.
AM: They're playing well. Steve McNair's not forcing the ball the way he used to and Eddie George is back to full force. He looks 100 percent better than he did last year. The only thing, I feel, that he's missing is that top-end speed. But he's running well. In the passing game, they'll have a problem if Frank Wycheck doesn't play. Not that he's playing all that well these days, but he is McNair's checkdown guy. If Wycheck doesn't play, they don't have a third receiver.

Me: No third receiver? No backup tight end? Come on.
AM: Of their backups, (Drew) Bennett is slow and Justin McCareins is just a vertical guy, and not a very good one at that. Erron Kinney's not a bad tight end. He'd be the pass-catcher and Shad Meier would be the blocking guy, although Meier made a nice diving catch for a touchdown last week. As for George, he'll be helped if Greg Comella returns this week. Mike Green had been playing fullback and he's a converted tailback, so Eddie wasn't getting much help there. As for their offensive line, their tackles are good but sometimes they look like they don't want to play. Their guards, (Benji) Olson and (Zach) Piller, are phone-booth guys.

Me: Oh, I love hearing the new lingo every year. What's a phone-booth guy?
AM: If he doesn't have to leave the so-called phone booth, he's OK. But out in space? Forget about it. Their center, (Gennaro) DiNapoli, is a good angle blocker, but he'll struggle if you put someone over his head, so Casey (Hampton) should have a good game.

Me: What about your line last week?
AM: Alan Faneca and Jeff Hartings had bad games. Let's not get too far into that. That was Faneca's first bad game in a while. Hartings, I think he'll come around.

Me: OK. The Titans' offense, same old offense - run the ball and pass off play-action?
AM: Yes. Defensively, they still like to play variations of that Bears 46 defense. They'll put two linebackers at one end of the line and move their linemen down. Their line's OK. (Kevin) Carter's playing well. Carlos Hall, the guy who replaced Jevon Kearse, is a lot like Kearse in that he has up-the-field rush skills, but he's not very good against the run. I like their tackles. John Thornton, the West Virginia kid, can be disruptive. Henry Ford is a veteran, a good motor guy. Ha. Ha. How do you like that one, pun-head?

Me: That was awesome, but I'm in charge of the jokes around here. You're in charge of the info. Tell me about their No. 1 pick. Is he a bust?
AM: Albert Haynesworth, isn't playing well and is taking a lot of criticism, but he can break out of it at any time. He's got the tools. When he was in college, he got by with size and strength. Now, he's got to use technique and that's why he's struggling. But, like I said, he can break out at any time. At linebacker, (Randall) Godfrey's been out. The guy behind him is-

Me: John Fiala?
AM: No. I like Rocky Calmus a little better than that. But their best player is Keith Bulluck.

Me: When he came out, there was a report that he hates coaches and that's the reason he fell to Tennessee in the draft.
AM: Well, he must like this coach because he's really playing for him. Their other linebackers are non-descript. They make some nice plays, but more often than not they get caught up in the wash at the line. Their safeties are OK. Tank Williams, the rookie safety, will hit you. He can cover a little bit, too. I like him. Their free safety, (Lance) Schulters is OK as long as he keeps everything in front of him. If he has to break down in space, he's in trouble. I like (Andre) Dyson at cornerback. He's a little short but he can cover. I've never been a big Samari Rolle guy. He's always a step away from the play. I don't think he wants to hit. Their nickel back is Donald Mitchell. He's good, but he'll probably be matched up with (Antwaan) Randle El all game. That could be a key match-up.

Me: What about your corner, Chad Scott? He can't be washed up already, can he?
AM: No. He's just in a technique slump. He's got what we call "active eyes" He's looking at the ball instead of closing on his man, first, and then looking to break up the pass.

Me: OK. While we're on the Steelers' defensive problems, one more question, what was up on the third-and-longs last week?
AM: The guys in the middle, the linebackers and safeties, bit on the underneath stuff instead of dropping into their passing lanes. It might have had something to do with Michael Vick and the techniques the coaches were using to stick to the man in their zone. I don't know. You'd better ask the coaches that one.

--Jim Wexell

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