Ask Wex (April 30)

Have any questions about the Pittsburgh Steelers? Check into the South Side message board and click on the "Ask Wexell" thread. publisher Jim Wexell will answer the question here on the front page.

Textmex: How are the Steelers going to use Ben Roethlisberger in the pre-season? First, is he even eligible to play (assuming he gets his lobotomy)? Will they bother playing him at all? If so, when? It wouldn't seem like they would want to give him any snaps against the first team since Byron Leftwich is going to need all of those. But at the same time, what is to be gained by running him out there for a couple series against the 4th quarter future UPS drivers?

At least he would get some work in the fourth quarter, be they UPS drivers or NFL first-teamers. Mike Tomlin has said he doesn't know how he's going to approach this dilemma in training camp. His first order of business is to find a starter before training camp, and his next step is to win the opener. I'd like to think he's not letting himself go much farther than that in his thinking.

BigDaddyMo: James Harrison seems like an all meat and potatoes type of guy. What type of a job does he do in mentoring young talent? Would he see a number of young, high draft picks at his position as a threat to his ability to put food on the table?

When Lawrence Timmons was a rookie, he was shunned by best friends James Farrior and Larry Foote, so Tomlin put Timmons under Harrison's watch. Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson may represent threats to Harrison's food supply, but I don't think Silverback is wired to think that way. He's a team player through and through.

BigDaddyMo: Aaron Smith has always been just about an every down player. Do you think the coaches are going to try to lean on Ziggy Hood or someone else to play the nose on passing downs this year in an effort to take some of the wear and tear off of the aging work horse?

I would think so. Aaron's snap count has been coming down in recent years, so even more rest this year is a good assumption.

Ellsy82: Due to Maurkice Pouncey's intelligence and quick feet, wouldn't the team be better off moving Chris Kemoeatu over to RG, where his run blocking strength can be better suited and moving Pouncey to LG for the time being?

I'm not sure they want to mess with Kemo's routine at this point. He also runs that counter power play pretty well.

SteelMagnolias: What's the hold-up with Tomlin getting an extension? Kevin Colbert as well? And what about LaMarr Woodley's contract situation? Will they actively try to give him a new contract?

What's the rush? Let's make these guys work for their money, and in Colbert's case let's see how some of these draft picks pan out. Woodley, as Ian Whetstone pointed out in his fine article, is more problematic with the math. He's the bigger concern of the three.

Steelmann58: Who are the guys as UDFAs we could look out for? Do the two CFL guys have any shot? And why no fullback?

The undrafted free agent who jumps off the list is hybrid OLB Lindsey Witten. I watched him struggle getting off blocks throughout the year, but he also struggled with a virus and weight loss As for the CFL guys, let's wait and see. The fullback is a converted DL from Virginia Tech, Demetrius Taylor, so let's wait and see there as well.

Steeldominance: Is there really open competition or do contracts and friendships rule for the final 53?

Most definitely open competition. In an uncapped year, the big bonus babies are more likely to be cut because there's no amortization of the bonus money. As for friendships, Tomlin has said he didn't want to bring Darren Sharper to the team because of their close friendship. So, no, it's all about winning, particularly after last season.

The Curtain: Which of the DBs will make the roster this year? WR? RB? OL?

I've only watched one OTA, but the guess on the DBs is that rookie Crezdon Butler will have to beat Anthony Madison as a gunner to win a job. At WR, the key battle will be Antonio Brown and Limas Sweed, and I'd think Sweed is behind the eight ball because his problems occur when the lights come on. Does he get that chance again with a numbers crunch? At RB, I think the No. 5 back will compete vs. the overflow of linebackers, and the O-line is a real tossup, depending on who wants it more and shows up for camp in the best condition.

KanOfCorn: How would you compare Pouncey to the two first-round centers from last year's draft?

First of all, Pouncey won't turn 21 until late July. Eric Wood played his entire rookie season as a 23-year-old and Alex Mack turned 24 during his rookie season. So Pouncey is at least two years behind both, and so that gives him a much higher ceiling than both. Pouncey can play guard and the Steelers didn't think Mack could, and I believe Pouncey's bigger than Mack. He at least has a bigger frame. And compared to Wood, Pouncey has more experience as a pass-blocker. We'll see if he can come off the ball like Wood, but in two years I'm guessing he'll be much better in all aspects than Wood was as a 23-year-old.

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