One of our members, jpele, posted up this article from the Tribune Review. John Harris raises some good points as he talks about things that are of a concern to the Steelers or soon will be as this offseason moves forward to an eventual start of the 2011 season (whenever that is). Coach Mike Tomlin and Director of Football Operations, Kevin Colbert have a lot of decisions to make about his team. Below are the questions along with my answers to the potential scenarios. Be sure and join us in the forums and let us know what you think.
1. If the lockout isn’t lifted before April 28 and the Steelers are unable to re-sign unrestricted free agent cornerback Ike Taylor, should they reach for a cornerback in the first round, even if the cornerbacks available at No. 31 don’t have first-round ratings? – The Steelers will not reach for a player, so I will say no. However they may be more inclined to move up if they think their targeted player won’t be available at 31.
2. More important, will the lockout be lifted before the draft, which would give the Steelers a final chance to compete with other teams for Taylor’s services? (Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian said he’s approaching the draft believing the lockout won’t be lifted before April 28 and that teams won’t be able to re-sign their unrestricted free agents before the draft.) – It’s a 50-50 chance right now, it all depends on the judge’s decision. Currently, teams have to move forward with what they have to work with on their rosters now. When Free Agency is reinstated there will be a grace period to sign players though at some point, that’s almost a given.
3. If the Steelers invest first-round money in a cornerback for the first time since 1997, will they also want to make Taylor among the highest-paid cornerbacks in the league? Yes, it won’t be one or the other. They know their roster right now has no starting CB’s on it except Taylor. Letting him go and signing a first round CB is a step backwards or atleast sideways.
4. How much money can the Steelers afford to invest at cornerback when they’ll have to think about re-signing strong safety Troy Polamalu, inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons and receiver Mike Wallace after next season? It all depends on how long the lockout goes and how much time they might have to make early offers to guys like Timmons and Wallace before training camp starts. They can always use the Franchise or Transitional tag next year (assuming Woodley signs a long term deal which he will eventually).
5. Did the disappointing play of Bryant McFadden at cornerback and the lack of depth behind McFadden render questions about Taylor’s market value? Taylor was already one of the best CB’s available in 2011, the fact that the rest of his counterparts on the team now weren’t great just made his case even bigger for the Steelers to try and keep him.
6. Will young and unproven cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Crezdon Butler be given a fair opportunity to compete with McFadden? Most definitely, I’m am honestly foreseeing an open competition at CB with the exception of Taylor who we know will get his job back.
7. Is McFadden’s starting job in jeopardy? Definitely. He struggled on the field and with injuries in 2010, being picked on many times and getting beat.
8. Is William Gay worth re-signing if the Steelers play him where he belongs — at nickel back — and stop moving him around? Yes, Gay is not all that bad, he is a decent Nickel back and he blitzes very well.
9. Will Polamalu ever be totally healthy again? It’s possible but given his injury woes recently I would say it’s a good chance the rest of his career will be filled with some sort of issue with his knees or ankle. Troy played most of last season though and did well the majority of it.
10. Will the Steelers continue to replace free safety Ryan Clark during crunch time in games the way they did in Super Bowl XLV? Lebeau loves Ryan Clark, but he’s also not dumb enough to leave in a player who gets beat in certain situations. Clark is a good Safety but Dick knows what his strengths and weaknesses are.
11. If it comes down to choosing Willie Colon or Flozell Adams at right tackle, who would the Steelers keep? They want both, but in the end they would probably pick Colon just because he’s younger. Flozell will only play at the most, 1 more season. Personally I’d rather have Flozell, let Colon go, and draft a RT.
12. How will the Steelers handle outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley’s situation if a federal judge overturns the lockout and the upcoming season is played under 2010 rules? Woodley has signed his franchise agreement so he’s under contract. The Steelers will still try to get a long term deal done that is more cap friendly and frees up the tag for 2011.
13. Will the Steelers attempt to appease Woodley by offering him a long-term contract if he returns to being a restricted free agent and isn’t eligible to receive $10 million as the team’s franchise player next season? He has already signed his franchise tag, there’s no way he’s giving that money back or the promise of that money if you ask me. They will sign a long term deal with him before he ever gets a chance to hit the market though. Even given the lack of a CBA right now which puts the franchise players tags in a state of flux, when it is reinstated the Steelers will not let him go should it come down to needing to retag him which probably won’t happen anyway. He already signed the 1 yr. deal. Another thing to mention on the CBA, the owners will not let a deal go through that essentially eliminates the Franchise or Transition tag, and risk losing top players.
14. Or will the Steelers tell Woodley, “Sorry, but business is business” and offer him about $3 million for one season as a restricted free agent? Nobody really knows at this point how it will play out because we’ve never had a situation like this in the modern football era. The strike was the last time we had a work stoppage and things are worlds different at that time, than they are now. Wood wants to stay in Pittsburgh, the Steelers want him. They’ve already committed the franchise money to him knowing full well they’ll have to get him a long term deal at some point that is more cap friendly. They did this knowing also that there was probably going to be a work stoppage so it’s not as if they aren’t going to keep him when a new CBA is finally signed.
15. Does signing Woodley to a long-term deal become more imperative, considering fellow outside linebacker James Harrison will be 33 years old next season and coming off two back surgeries within a nine-day span last month? Why do people keep harping on Harrison’s surgery. It’s not a chronic issue, he injured his back during the Jets regular season game and played through it all during the playoffs and super bowl. He will be fine and has atleast 4 more years left in him. Signing Wood is imperative because there’s nobody behind him that can play at his level, period.
16. Should the Steelers be concerned about Harrison’s recovery, given that tackle Marvel Smith retired at age 30 following two back surgeries? No, Harrison will be fine and is already on the road to full recovery according to his tweets and Facebook posts.
17. Speaking of veterans recovering from surgery, how many more productive years does receiver Hines Ward have left? 2 years left max I’m thinking. It depends on what you call “productive” though, given that fact that Brown, Sanders, and Wallace will be the feature guys in the future. Ward could stay on the roster longer in a backup role if he wanted too.
18. Should the Steelers consider taking Pitt receiver Jon Baldwin with their first-round pick if he is the best available athlete? There are times when taking the “best athlete available” is a the right move. This is not that year though for the Steelers. The obvious need at Cornerback is too great, and the need for depth on the Defensive line and Offensive Line is too big to take a player just because they may be the best overall on the board at the time.
19. Do Baldwin’s impressive physical attributes (6 feet 5, 230 pounds) remind you of former Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress? Sure, but we can do without Plax’s attitude when he was here in the beginning of his career.
20. Do you think Roethlisberger, who got along so well with Burress on the field, would approve of Baldwin — the quintessential big receiver — for a wedding gift. Ben will/would never question the gift of more targets to throw too as long as the player is a benefit on the field and off. The last thing we need is more distractions after the offseason heading into 2010.
Obviously all of these answers are based on the fact that at some point the Lockout will be lifted and we’ll have a new CBA in place. Nobody knows or can foresee what will happen at this point. It’s a sad time for the NFL right now, lets hope it doesn’t drag on any longer than it has too.