For whatever reason, I opted to reach out to beat reporters other than Ed Bouchette for interviews when I determined that Behind the Steel Curtain had been around long enough to warrant even just a little bit of time and energy from the Steelers' most respected reporters. Jim Wexell came first and his kindness and willingness to share his insights on the site has always been extremely appreciated by me. More recently, I reached out to Dale Lolley. He too was kind enough to talk to the site, as well as to write for this year's preseason publication for Maple Street Press.
Again, not sure why, but Mr. Bouchette came last. Maybe that's because he writes for the flagship paper, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and figured he had better things to do knowing damn well he had a massive audience already. Or maybe it's because he often sounds exacerbated by fans in his humorous weekly chats and I didn't want to be dismissed by him like he might do to a fan who calls for Coach Tomlin's head after the first minor setback.
Who knows, but I'm glad I finally asked him for a minute of his time. Bouchette was remarkably gracious and responsive and I hope it's not the last time that we have him on the site talking shop with us.
Bouchette: Bruce Arians and Mike Tomlin confirmed on Monday that they have special packages just for Dennis Dixon. Byron Leftwich will start, but I think both are going to play. If Leftwich falters, it would not surprise me if they inserted Dixon. Of course, Ben will start when he returns.
2) How many running backs do you think the Steelers will carry? And who are those guys in your estimation?
Bouchette: Mendenhall, Moore, Redman, Frank the Tank, and maybe one more. Dwyer would be the favorite, although Wright might have a shot. Dwyer has to start showing something, though.
3) Flozell Adams didn''t looked all that great on Saturday, and from the sounds of things in your columns and others on the beat in Latrobe, the same can be said of his first two weeks of practice with the Steelers. What do you think of his chances to make the team and be named the starter at right tackle for Week 1. Because he wasn't given any guaranteed money, is it possible the Steelers might cut him if he doesn't look like a viable starting option for the long haul in 2010? Do you think he'd be okay with a reserve role? And finally, who's the most likely candidate to beat him out in the next few weeks?
Bouchette: Adams did not look good Saturday. He looked slow. He looked terrible again Monday in practice when the OL was blocking individually against the Dline. Maybe he's one of those vets who does not treat camp seriously and has had the Cowboys made for so many years it didn't matter. But I think it matters now and if he does not show something, I believe they can dump him. I'm not sure who would go there. Jonathan Scott has been running No. 2 and Ramon Foster really hasn't been playing much tackle. You could put Trai Essex there and start Ramon Foster at RG, assuming Pouncey will be at center.
Bouchette: I still think it's going to be Sanders. Brown is a cocky kid who has great confidence. He looks like a steal as a sixth-rounder. It did not go over big with the coaches when he popped up Saturday and pointed "first down,'' when it wasn't even a first down. But he had the TD and he caught a nice shoe-string grab off a low throw on another. I also think he may be their return man.
5) Can you briefly comment on what you know about Dennis Dixon as a student of the game. I remember reading as well as hearing from former Steelers LB Bruce Davis, that Dixon was one of the most studious and thoughtful guys on the team.
Bouchette: He's learning. One of the early knocks on him was that he was slow picking up defenses, but I believe his performance in Baltimore last season on late notice that he would start and his play Saturday showed his improvement in those areas. Bruce Arians, though, was not happy that he ran so much vs. the Lions; said he did not have enough patience with the pass on some of those plays.
6) Not sure if this is kosher being that you have a vote each year for the Hall of Fame, but do you think Hines Ward is on the inside track to Canton?
Bouchette: I don't know about the inside track, but he's on a track. Wide receivers are having a tougher go of it because of the increasing numbers of receptions in the league as NFL became more pass-happy with the more liberal rules and all. But he has a lot going for him, putting up those kinds of numbers on a team that traditionally runs the ball, his Super Bowl MVP and his blocking. Plus, he's still going strong.
7) One thing that you'll never grow tired of as one of the most recognized and senior journalists traveling the country to cover the NFL?
Bouchette: The camaraderie of the press corps (I still call it press, but I guess it includes all media). My most enjoyable moments covering the Steelers have been my relationships with my colleagues, including those I've competed against. Plus, I've gotten to know so many others around the country who cover football. I've met as many "stars" in my business as I have those who played the game.
8) Favorite current player or coach to speak to? Former player or coach?
Bouchette: There are way too many to single anyone out and I would kick myself if I overlooked someone. There are many, many more good ones than bad apples, just as in society as a whole. And sometimes the most ornery have given me the best stories. Certainly, Bubby Brister was one of the most entertaining Steelers to cover and interview.