Ask Wexell (Jan. 21)

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."

SteelerBill13: Any truth to the rumor that Rashard Mendenhall requested a swivel chair for his flight back to Chicago?

That's funny, Bill, but you saw how he finished the season, didn't you? In the next-to-last game, against Baltimore, Mendenhall fumbled coming out of a spin move, and then he used a spin move on five of the next seven carries to end the game. But he didn't use it once in a strong finish at Miami. It appeared that somebody had talked to him about it, finally.

SteelerBill13: Also, what's the biggest off-season move that nobody's talking about?

We're still not out of January yet. Are you crazy? Or would you feel better if I said Derrick Doggett?

Steelmann58: Is Randy Fichtner's move to QB coach the first step in him being the coordinator-in-waiting behind Bruce Arians?

It's nice to identify "coordinators-in-waiting," or the bright young minds on the staff, but too often that never comes to fruition. As I answered yesterday, Fichtner is highly regarded within the organization, but in many cases a team wanting to go in a new offensive direction will hire an outsider. As for the move to QB coach, I guess it's some kind of step up, but I can't see it, considering that coaching Ben Roethlisberger was best defined by Mark Whipple, who just left Roethlisberger alone. However, since the team made this move with Fichtner, perhaps there's more meaning to the position than I had assumed.

Mightyveg: Do you agree with me that WR Jordan Shipley of Texas is a great sleeper to groom as the next Hines Ward?

I normally fight these "Musberger guys," or guys who are so overhyped by stats-driven TV announcers that you can't stand them by the time draft day rolls around. So I've tended to avoid Shipley and the hype. Then there's the fact that he and his roommate QB have been best of friends since childhood. Between that favoritism and the hype, I'm just not sure how skilled he is. He did show good hands in the championship game, and I saw him make Perrish Cox look foolish with his route-running and underrated speed earlier in the season. His combine time will be important.

Cjfollett: Chris Kemoeatu seemed to take badly to the Larry Zierlein firing. Will he get over it? Will it hurt his progress? Or is this just a normal reaction?

He'll have to get over it or it will hurt his progress. I mean, if he doesn't get over it, is he worth having around? I assume this was a natural reaction. I liked Zierlein, too. He was an authoritative father-figure type who was quick to smile.

Steelmann58: Will Tyler Grisham get a legitimate chance to become the No. 4 wide receiver?

Don't take this the wrong way, but let this question stand for all of the "Do you think Steve McLendon is ready to play nose tackle yet" questions: Watch for yourself. Seriously, you've followed my coverage of Grisham as a walk-on who never dropped a ball in practice, to a guy who was activated off the practice squad late in the season, to a guy who was targeted on a couple of critical third downs. Use what you know and realize that the team obviously likes him and is already giving him a chance. Do I think he will become the No. 4 receiver? I don't know. I do know I'm going to watch him more closely in the spring. I'll try to update you on all the bottom-of-the-roster guys then.

Ironman63: Carlos Santana or Eric Clapton?

While I respect their enormous talents, I'm not really a big fan of either. Back in the late 1970s I had a couple albums from each, but have none of their CDs now. The modern Latin-style rock doesn't appeal to me as much as say Santana's Woodstock appearance did, and I've just never latched onto Clapton. I loved Cream, particularly the hardcore blues songs like "Strange Brew," and I saw his "Slowhand" show at the Civic Arena from the fourth row. But something has always bugged me about him; maybe it's from him hogging all of the Derek & the Dominoes love away from the great Duane Allman. I've always considered Duane to be the real star of "Layla." But to answer your question, I'll take Clapton.

Juststillin: From some of the coaching moves, or attempted coaching moves, do you perceive any hints of dissension on the Steelers' staff?

No. I think you're mistaking rats deserting a sinking ship with the delayed action the rest of the league takes with a Super Bowl champ. Interviewing the year of a championship is nearly impossible, considering the time element for teams looking for coaches. So it appears they're doing it now.

WYSteeler: The Steelers need another back if Willie Parker leaves. What do you think of Toby Gerhart? Would the Steelers be interested in him in the third round?

The third round is the earliest I would address the position. I presume Gerhart will be drafted in the second round, so I've had my eye on Ben Tate as the next sidekick for Mendenhall. I initially wondered if Gerhart could be the next John Riggins, and he might be with that power and that foot quickness in the hole, but Gerhart runs a little too tall and I worry that he'll take a terrific beating in the NFL. But I'd love to have him in the third round.


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