Ask Wexell (Jan. 22)

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."

SteelChowder: I noticed in an earlier thread on cornerbacks that you didn't mention Patrick Robinson. We know he has the speed after running down Noel Devine in the Gator Bowl, so what are your thoughts on him? And why have the Steelers drafted so many Florida State players the last 10 years?

Robinson had a great bowl game. As you mentioned, he ran down the speedy Devine from behind to save a touchdown and played his best overall game of the season. He had been ranked as a top 15 player before the season, but played poorly. One explanation is that he tried to do too much for a bad defense. I'll buy it after watching him play in the Gator Bowl. But he's still a bit short (I question the 5-11 listing) and you wonder if Devine was still bothered by his leg injuries in that game. At the least Robinson is a guy to watch in the second round. As for your second question, I'd only answer with the obvious, that it's a combination of a great program and coincidence. In the past decade, the Steelers chose five players from Florida State. They took four from Georgia and three from Texas.

Mineola: At what position do you see that an immediate infusion of talent could help the team? You had mentioned offensive line, but I see it as secondary and inside linebacker. Am I way off?

The problem with drafting to improve the secondary is there's really only one blue-chip cornerback, and Joe Haden will be long gone by pick 18. So do you reach for another? Do you draft a corner in the second round? By then you're just looking at another guy to get in line with what's already there and it wouldn't provide an immediate infusion. Of course, they need safety help. But, again, I don't see one stepping into Ryan Clark's shoes right away. I think they'll re-sign Clark and he'll mentor whomever they draft. I'm sure the depth will help right away.

As for inside linebacker, does Brandon Spikes step in right away? I don't see it. My understanding is that it takes 12 years of schooling and a Master's degree to learn the buck position, so I think you'll see James Farrior back in the lineup and mentoring a draft pick who will be helping the special teams as a rookie.

SteelerBill13: OK, Jim, if you had it your way what would replace Renegade?

Bill, you're trying to get me in trouble here. I thought I had come to peace with the fact that fans adore a song I abhor. I just never have had that touch with music in terms of mass appeal. I thought a song like "I'm Shipping up to Boston" would be a great Irish rock song for Heinz Field, but it stirs little reaction, if any, when played. I'm more about what people should like than what people do like, and that philosophy never seems to end well. When I was in college I once snuck upstairs at a frat party and replaced the disco tape with a Doors tape, and was escorted out with extreme prejudice. So, I'm probably not the right guy for the job.

SteelerFanInMD: What percentage of plays does Ben Roethlisberger call on the field? Does he call his own plays only in no-huddle? Since Dennis Dixon's offense ran the ball so often against Baltimore, does that give credence to the charge that Roethlisberger often audibles out of running plays?

If anyone can accurately pin this down, please let me know. But I'm under the assumption his priority is to get the blitzes blocked and change a few plays in the process. Yes, he calls the plays in the no-huddle attack, but, no, I doubt he's responsible for the large discrepancy between pass and run plays.

SteelerFanInMD: Now that Art Rooney II is in charge, will he change the playing surface at Heinz Field to artificial turf?

I hope not. This sanitized dome football we're watching in the playoffs is just too boring for me. Also, I'm not sure Art is in charge to that degree. There's also the hope that his dad's wisdom has rubbed off on him the last few years, particularly since the field has held up pretty well.

SteelerCooz: I thought Willie Colon played very well this past season. What level of tender should the Steelers offer him? More specifically, would a first-round pick be adequate compensation for one of the Steelers' only consistent lineman?

I could live with a first-round pick as compensation for Colon. That's the tender he received last year and I see the same tender this year. And I agree that Colon had an excellent season. One website (ProFootballFocus.com) assigns a numerical value to every play of every NFL player and they ranked Colon as the third best tackle in the league this past season behind Joe Thomas and Jake Long.

Jewelsongs: Does Leigh Bodden fit the Steelers' DB mold? Would he be a good free-agent signing?

I've always thought that Bodden fit the Steelers' mold, but they've never indicated any interest, at least that I've heard. He played college football here in the city at Duquesne, so they should know him very well. And I thought he always filled in admirably as a member of the Cleveland Browns. He's coming off another good season with New England and is still only 28 years old. I think he'd be an affordable signing and would in the least raise the competition level at cornerback opposite Ike Taylor.

SteelerBill13: Pro staffs often visit with college staffs to learn about some of the latest schemes. Is there any chance the Steelers would visit the Auburn offensive staff for that purpose?

It usually happens in reverse, but yes some of these unique schemes do grab the pros' attention every now and then. Auburn's power run game heads its high-tempo offense, but it's kind of risky unless you have the talent. Your defense could tire pretty quickly if you're not converting third downs. I'd take a look anyhow.

Cboath88: Any chance they'd look into a kickoff specialist? Better yet, why not have Daniel Sepulveda do it since he has a stronger leg and is a better tackler?

One of the reasons you would trade up in the fourth round to draft a kicker is so he could give you that strong leg in all departments. Look at Pat McAfee with the Colts. He's their punter, kickoff specialist, and long-distance placekicker. You would think Sepulveda could provide that big leg on kickoffs, but he claims Jeff Reed has the stronger leg. Then again, those two stick up for each other all the time. They have each other's backs. But, I agree, I'd like to see Sepulveda get the chance. As for bringing in a specialist for the job, that doesn't appear to be their inclination after re-signing Piotr Czech, and it's doubtful they'll spend another draft pick on a kicker.

Bpow0407: Have you heard any rumors about Keenan Lewis playing safety? Has he played there in practice at all?

They've had too many other CB-safety hybrids to spend any time with a rookie project back there. As for this season, there are no rumors. Mike Tomlin's keeping a tight lid on interviews. For example, no one has been allowed an interview with the new offensive line coach. One reporter arranged his own interview, and it was stopped once the PR staff found out.


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