Ask Wexell (Jan. 20)

Enough time has been wasted, so let's get right to our newest gig – that's not fashioned after the outstanding "Ask Vic" series in Jacksonville. No, this one's much different. It's called "Ask Wexell."

Choltzeakin: Have you looked at Mike Iupati again? He's intriguing.

Yes, sir, I have, and I have a newfound respect and appreciation for the massive guard from Idaho. Just to pick up from a week ago, I wrote that, to regain their physical style of play, the Steelers need at least one blue-chipper on the offensive line. My favorites were OT Bryan Bulaga in the first round and center Maurkice Pouncey in the second. I realize that's asking a lot from a team that needs to continue retooling its defense, but then Art Rooney II came out and pretty much agreed with what I had to say in the article, that the team needs to run the ball more consistently. This does not happen by turning on the switch. No, and because Rooney stuck his neck out to criticize the offensive direction, I believe he'll give the offense what it needs to achieve the organizational goal. That would be a blue-chip offensive lineman, another back, and perhaps even another tight end.

So let's talk about the blue-chipper here. After watching the job Bulaga did with the great Derrick Morgan in their bowl game, I presume Bulaga will be gone long before the Steelers pick at 18. Besides, he's a tackle and they really need a guard first and foremost. So I watched Oklahoma OT Trent Williams, who's considered to have natural guard potential, and fortunately he played center in his bowl game. But something is still lacking with Williams. For one, he lacks alertness and hustle, the skills I admire in Pouncey, who has the exact 6-5, 318-pound measurements as Williams. Since Pouncey will probably end up being drafted closer to the bottom of the first round, that's where I now rank Williams. The next night I watched Iupati and marveled at not only his obvious strength, but his mobility. I still question his pass-blocking, but this guy, a 6-6+, 330-pound guard, just might be the precise physical presence the Steelers need on their line, and he also has tackle potential down the road. As with Bulaga, I'm now concerned that such a massive and skilled player won't be available at pick 18, but at least he's doubled the chances for the Steelers. So, to answer your question, yes, I'm on the Iupati bandwagon.

Mulefunk: How many holding penalties were not called against James Harrison this season? Is the NFL now the bastard offspring of the WWE and Arenaball?

You're not the only fan who's complaining these days about Harrison being held, but I didn't really notice it being as big of a problem as it was last year, or in the Chicago game this year. I also think there's something to the criticism that Harrison is actually using those veteran DE moves that cause OTs hold him. It's almost like Harrison said, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." So I won't complain about it all that much. Either I didn't see it or I stopped paying attention.

Novasteel: If you look at the top 8-10 quarterbacks in the league, how many of them have physical offenses?

You probably have a good point to make, but those teams don't concern me. My analysis covers one team, and the Pittsburgh Steelers need a physical offense in the only NFL northern-based division without a dome or southern swing. The game in Cleveland is the perfect illustration of my point. The Steelers went into that game knowing it was the game of the year, yet they failed to adjust to the weather conditions. That falls entirely on the coaching staff, particularly since it was clearly THE big game.

Benbk: : Do you expect Limas Sweed to be ready for spring drills? Is it possible the Steelers could draft a wide receiver early?

I don't know if Sweed will be ready for spring drills, but I don't see the Steelers drafting a wide receiver early. I don't see much potential for anyone such as Dez Bryant falling into the second round. There's only one other receiver I'd consider in the second round and his name is …

Ironman63: Would the Steelers seriously consider Golden Tate in the first round? Or is wide receiver a luxury pick at this point?

Golden Tate is a football player through and through, a competitor in the Hines Ward mode. But, I still think the position would be a luxury pick, particularly with Sweed still an unknown. If they do draft an offensive skill player, I'd prefer a running back such as Ben Tate in the third round, or even a tight end such as Colin Peek in the fourth.

Benbk: Do you still think the Steelers will give Mike Wallace a chance to return kickoffs? Or will Stefan Logan be back?

Wallace will be next up if Logan doesn't make the team, and Logan will have to deal with a numbers dilemma. Logan will be a luxury to a degree since he doesn't play offense, except on the rarest of occasions, and he didn't show much as a kick coverer this past season. However, he was sixth in the NFL in KR average. Logan's KR average of 26.7 was the Steelers' best full-time average in 20 years.

GOSTEELERSGO: How is Aaron Smith doing? How is his son?

I talked to Aaron Smith twice since his surgery. Each time he gets more amped about playing next season. He thinks he'll come back stronger with the extra time he's had due to the rotator cuff injury. Aaron looked on the bright side and said the early shutdown this past season probably will be good for him, since his emotions had been working overtime throughout the previous year and a half. Of course, much of that emotion dealt with the health of his son. I don't probe too much into his personal life, but Aaron did say his son was doing well.

Tyranid: Will the new line coach go to the Senior Bowl or stay home to watch tape?

He'd better go to the Senior Bowl. That's where he'll get to see Trent Williams and Mike Iupati line up next to each other throughout full workouts. That's just as important as game tape, which he'll get to in any of the many 20-hour days that lie ahead.

Jenksinrke: With Troy Polamalu's recent injuries, not to mention his nose for the ball, wouldn't it be wise to move him to free safety? Therefore, wouldn't drafting a guy like Taylor Mays to play strong safety make sense?

I've seen this proposal quite a bit and don't agree with it. As it is, Troy calls the shots and switches the positions whenever he sees fit. And I'd hate to see him settle into what's pretty much a complementary position at free safety. Also, I don't think much of Taylor Mays as a ballplayer. He lacks instincts, and that's the most important attribute in a safety, particularly a free safety.


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