Jim Wexell's one cool dude. Seriously. You guys and gals are really going to enjoy what he has to say in this Q&A. I figured he was busy, so I thought I was kind of tossing soft balls to him, but as you'll see, he really gives us fans some gems in here. James 'Silverback' Harrison's real nickname? It isn't Silverback, that's for sure. Think instead of a villain in a 90s Ice Cube movie. Read on, that's just one of the many enjoyable and insightful things he has to say.
Huge thanks and respct to Jim Wexell for bringing it to us real, with thought, candor, and humor. As always, you can check out his stuff at SteelCityInsider, Steelers Digest, The Tribune Democrat, and The Herald Standard. And don't forget, his most recent book, which chronicles Jim's travels last season, as he followed the team and met with "fans, former players, families and friends and rivals of current players, anything to do with the Pittsburgh Steelers," is due out any day now.
The book's going to be great, and I'll be sure to let y'all know when and how you can buy a copy, just as soon as I can. Arrive in Seattle tomorrw. Check y'all then. -MB (Blitz)-
1) Random question here, but can you tell me a little bit about the strenghts and weaknesses of Chris Kemoeatu's game? He hasn't seen the field much in his career, and I'll freely admit I was not watching his every move during the preseason action that I was able to catch.
JW: Don't look at me like I'm some kind of scout. I only think pretend I am. But Kemo has brute strength. That's why I rooted for him to start at RG the previous two seasons. He started two games, and in the 45-7 win over Kansas City, he, at the goal line, feigned pass pro since it was a draw or something, and then threw his man to his right and knocked down both RT Starks and the guy Starks was blocking. It was like a bowling ball picking up a spare. The Steelers scored a TD on the play. On the flip side, he's said to have trouble with the mental part of his position. (Isn't that a nice way to put it?) But my guess is the coaches so love their screens and Simmons' potential as a move guard, that they don't want to dummy down their approach. In other words, overcoaching is the reason this bad-ass brute has been on the stinkin bench so long.
2) In a previous interview here at BTSC, you astutely 'predicted' that you didn't see Limas Sweed or Rashard Mendenhall having as tremendous an impact as some might be hoping for, particularly Sweed. From where I'm sitting, that's a good call. Still contend the same thing? To be clear to the readers though, in Mendenhall's case, you were more referring to the unlikelihood of the team deployinga 2-back set with him and Parker, not necessarily that he wouldn't see the field much. As a quick follow-up, have Mendenhall's fumbling problems cost him goal-line duties perhaps?
JW: It absolutely caused him goal-line duties, but the fumbling was only the second part of the equation. He hasn't proven to be Brandon Jacobs just yet. (Wow, did that horse look good the other night or what?) Mendenhall and Sweed have both shown plenty of potential, particularly in the last game. Sweed's catch in the corner of the end zone has to stick out in the coaches' minds. I know, it didn't count, but nothing in preseason counts except perceptions, and my perception of Sweed is someone who in the future will be a stud with fade passes. My problem with Sweed is that when I told him this, he was surprised. He wanted to hear more. The guy needs more confidence. I hope the coaches told him what a great play that was, one he can build on.
I think everyone else sees him for what he is -- a big, fast, nervous young man in the first year of his chosen profession. Still could go either way, but I like what I've seen. Mendenhall, I don't think we need to waste much time here because he's really starting to look terrific. I was surprised to learn he never fumbled in college. Now, that stat may have been for lost fumbles. Anyway, the guy's strong, fast and has the right attitude. But let's not pidgeonhole him as a short-yardage guy. Right now, that order, I believe, is Parker, Carey Davis, Mendenhall-Russell. Even Mewelde Moore will pound a couple draws in because of the weight he added (much to the chagrin of the punt-returns coach) to improve as a pass-blocker.
6) Will LaMarr Woodley be on the same side as against rookie T Duane Brown? I sure hope so. I can't see any way that the noise of Heinz Field plus the multiple looks of LeBeau's blitzes does not get to him.
7) One more game related question: do you think the coverage units will be significantly better than they were last year? Interestingly enough, at least to me, the Texans, while not great, may provide one of the better challenges in the two departments where we're most vulnerable: pass protection and special teams.
JW: Let's hope, huh? You have to like Keyaron Fox and the job Anthony Madison's doing as a gunner. Deebo and Timmons will also be blowing people up. I also suspect the lack of a booming leg will temper the enthusiasm of the coach. They'll just tell Berger to get it out of bounds when a real dangerous guy's back there.