Ask Wexell (Feb. 4)

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."

Dam3391: Who is Doug Whaley? I know he was the Steelers' pro scouting coordinator and has just been hired by Buffalo, but what was his internal function with the Steelers?

The new assistant GM for the Bills was a high school great at Upper St. Clair and then played safety at Pitt. The Steelers hired him 10 years ago when former pro personnel director Charles Bailey went to New Orleans to become the Saints' assistant GM. With the Steelers, Whaley was the advance scout for pro games and was Kevin Colbert's main assistant in formulating the pro player board for trades, waiver acquisitions and free agency.

Steelmann58: What do the Steelers emphasize most in assessing prospects – game tape, Senior Bowl practices, or combine/pro days?

By far it's game tape, and that's why they've completed most of the process. But the Senior Bowl practices, personal interviews and track times all add to the complete profile of a prospect.

Ralo71: The Steelers were surprisingly good in short yardage this season, but only had three rushes up the middle of 10 or more yards. Why?

My guess is that if you take out the third and fourth-down quarterback sneaks, their short-yardage stats wouldn't rank quite as high as whatever stat you've uncovered. Their interior line needs help and tight ends aren't good lead blockers out of the backfield, no matter how hard they try.

Steel Chowder: What will happen with the third quarterback? Was 2009 the last year for Charlie Batch? And if so, how will they replace him?

I just spent a couple of minutes searching around the net for the comment, and couldn't find it, but I believe it was Colbert who was quoted as saying the Steelers wouldn't be looking for a quarterback this draft because Batch would be the No. 3. I was actually hoping the injury-prone backup would become the QB coach, but I have no problem with him behind Ben Roethlisberger and Dennis Dixon one more season. If not, I'd like to see Tyler Palko as the No. 3.

SteelBlitzkrieg: Do you foresee any interest in my wife's imaginary boyfriend, Tyson Alualu?

Your wife and I have something in common. I've become a fan of Alualu because of his non-stop motor. His body type doesn't fit the Steelers' normal definition of a 3-4 DE, but his effort does. I enjoyed watching him at the Senior Bowl and in his bowl game and wouldn't rule out the Steelers considering him in the second round.

WYSteelers: If both Bryan Bulaga and Mike Iupati are gone, who would be your third choice?

By draft day I'll have 18 names, and Bulaga and Iupati won't be Nos. 1 and 2. I've used those names in assessing who, in all practicality, will be available when the Steelers pick 18th. Using that definition, after those two I'd also consider Jared Odrick, Brandon Spikes (if he doesn't run a 5.0 40 at the combine), Maurkice Pouncey, and then the DBs: Chad Jones, Earl Thomas, and maybe even Kyle Wilson. I wouldn't be upset with Sean Weatherspoon, Dan Williams, Anthony Davis or Bruce Campbell. That's with the understanding that players such as Eric Berry, Joe Haden or Rolando McClain don't slip through the cracks.

SteelerBill13: Question – If the Steelers add Iupati to a team that already includes Troy Polamalu and Chris Kemoeatu, would you contemplate opening a Primanti Brothers on a Pacific Island? Or would you wait for them to draft Harvey Unga next year?

Bears beat Battlestar Gallactica. No, all joking aside Mr. Shrute, I can't say I'm a Primanti Brothers fan. It seems to be food for people who want to be from Pittsburgh. But I'd consider your proposition if they draft Iupati AND Alualu this year.

Illinois Steeler: Do you suppose the Steelers have marked Legarrette Blount as DND? He'd be the tough-nosed, short-yardage back the Steelers need.

Yes, I assume they've taken Blount off of their draft board. Before punching that jerk from Boise State, and fighting with teammates who tried to stop Blount from going after fans, Blount was suspended from spring ball because he skipped off-season conditioning. Prior to that, he was suspended for part of a 2008 game. That's too much of a character risk, even for a team in desperate need of a short-yardage power back. Maybe they'll look to Toby Gerhart if he's there in the third round.

SoCalC: I love the way The Deuce [Art Rooney II] spoke his mind. I think pressure from the top can be a great motivator. With that, are you tempted to ask Mike Tomlin/Bruce Arians how embarrassed they feel about turning the Steelers into the softest team in the division while allowing the franchise QB to be sacked over 150 times in three years? And do you think The Deuce had that stat in mind when he said he wants a better running game?

To answer your first question, no, I won't ask them with an insult, but thanks for making the point yourself. And, yes, I'm sure Rooney II wants to protect his investment with a sound running game. It's the easiest way to do it.

Labguy1: What does the coaching staff think of last year's rookie cornerbacks? Are they destined to be special-teamers or do they have the potential to crack the starting lineup?

This is the kind of info we reporters will uncover at spring drills, so I'll keep you apprised of the coaching staff's opinions of Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett. I'm assuming they have the potential to crack the lineup, being as full of holes as that lineup was in 2009.

Mightyveg: Aside from Iupati, is there anyone you'd trade up for at No. 10 or so? Would you do that for Anthony Davis or Trent Williams? Maybe Joe Haden?

Just to be clear, I like Iupati at 18 but wouldn't trade up for him. Haden I might consider for a couple of seconds, but he's not Rod Woodson by any means. I'd rather wait until the second round and hope to come away with a Devin McCourty to play cornerback. As for the other two, Davis has left tackle potential but a reputation for laziness, so I'd only consider him at 18. Williams was awful at LT this year, and then in the bowl game, as Oklahoma's center, he wasn't near the player inside that Pouncey is. So he's a RT only and I'd pass on him at 18 – with extreme prejudice.


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