Many thanks to Dale Lolley for taking the time to answer a few questions about the Pittsburgh Steelers. I asked Dale a few personnel questions, some questions about the Steelers' sloppy 23-20 win over the Colts Sunday night, and a few bigger picture items that I learned quite a bit from. Let's see if the same answers that resonated with me stand out with you. This Q&A concludes a five-part series I had arrange with Lolley. Hope you enjoyed the two live chats, two interviews, and the column he led off with back in August. Dale graciously offered to continue dropping in for us, so we'll get him back on for another chat, have him join a podcast, or see if he'll pen another column or two sometime a bit later in the season.
- Michael B. -
1) Before appeasing the nervous nellies and negative nancy's of Steeler Nation, a couple quick questions that aren't doom and gloom. Firstly, what did you think of Ben Roethlisberger's performance against the Colts? Obviously the turnovers have to be cleaned up, but outside of the interception, he wasn't entirely at fault obviously. Am I alone in thinking that he's slinging the ball around really, really well? Outside of cleaning up the turnovers, is there something he definitely needs to improve upon in your eyes?
Lolley: I think Ben is getting a little greedy at times and that has caused some of the turnovers. For example, the sack/strip by Dwight Freeney was a draw/pass option. Ben opted not to run the draw and then held the ball waiting for a deep receiver to open up. On the sack/strip by Robert Mathis, he stepped up into the pocket and waited well past a normal amount of time for something to open up downfield. He needs to realize it's OK to run the ball or take a checkdown instead of looking for the big bang every time.
2) How would you assess the weekly progression of James Harrison so far through three weeks?
Lolley: James is rounding into shape. He's held up well and looks like the Harrison of old. The power, if it isn't all the way back, is nearly there. At the very least, it's more than good enough for him to be effective.
3) On a similar note, what about Troy Polamalu?
Lolley: Troy looks like Troy. It's obvious that he's healthy and the ankle injury is behind him.
4) From the sofa, it seems like the tandem of Aaron Smith and LaMarr Woodley are struggling in ways that we've not really seen on the left side of the defense. Question: is it too much of an adjustment to move either a DE or OLB from the right to the left side in the middle of the season? Basically I'm wondering if it's a foolish train of thought to even entertain the idea of moving Harrison over to Aaron Smith's side.
Lolley: I have a theory that Woodley is struggling - if you can call 1 1/2 sacks in the first three games struggling - because Smith is struggling so much. Woodley has also been a streaky pass rusher. He gets his sacks in bunches. Aaron obviously isn't himself right now. You expect him to get there at some point.
5) Speaking of Smith -- there seems to be mixed reaction to his performance. Surprise, surprise, some fans are ready to issue him his pink slip; others think he played fairly well, at least on a fair number of snaps against the Colts. What did you see?
Lolley: He's not played like Aaron Smith to this point. He seems to be struggling with his power. But he's a hard worker and there is so much respect for him in that locker room that he's not getting benched. If it continues, look for Smith to approach the coaching staff about taking a back seat to Ziggy Hood. He's that kind of guy.
6) Can you clarify at all what happened on the play where Jonathan Scott completely whiffed on Dwight Freeney, which in turn led to the second strip sack of the second quarter? I argued that despite Scott getting manhandled by Freeney for most of the night, that it was hard to argue that there wasn't some sort of miscommunication on that play. He may have gotten his lunch eaten by Freeney, but Scott at least got a hand, helmet, or at least his butt on Freeney -- with mixed results. But still, no complete whiffs. Was there some confusion there?
Lolley: I touched on this earlier. It was a draw/pass option and the ball was supposed to be out quick if it was a pass. Scott was supposed to let Freeney up the field and the ball should have been gone.
7) Over/Under -- Mike Wallace receiving yards: 1800.
Lolley: Under. Wallace's pace at this point is probably unsustainable. He won't get to 1,800 because teams can't continue to let him get deep. Can they? He'll miss it, but not by much.
8) Has Keenan Lewis done enough to make Tomlin and LeBeau think twice about automatically reinserting Bryant McFadden into the starting lineup?
Lolley: Lewis has played well, but they are not at the point where they are looking to replace McFadden until they see him totally healthy.
Lolley: Gilbert will definitely play. If I had to bet on it, I would say Legursky is active but doesn't start. He could be available if they absolutely need him. Scott will not play.