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Answering the burning questions surrounding the 2018 Steelers

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Taking the time to answer the burning questions surrounding the 2018 black-and-gold.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports writer Ed Bouchette holds a weekly chat in which he takes questions from the general public. If you are unfamiliar with Bouchette, he is definitely an interesting character. He’s is known for breaking important Steelers news and also for his snarky and colorful comments.

I have kicked around the idea of answering questions that Bouchette fields more in depth as a lot of his answers are simple one-liners that may leave readers unsatisfied. As his chat usually lasts over a half-hour, I will cherry pick some of the better questions. (For whatever reason, Bouchette also ends up answering silly questions or even ones that have nothing to do with the Pittsburgh Steelers or the NFL during these sessions.) The full chat session can be read here.

Question: Ed, if at 28 they feel a franchise qb is on the board how can they not take him right?

Bouchette: And do what with him over the next 3 or 4 years?

Flip: This is a hotly contested aspect that Steeler fans have been debating since Ben Roethlisberger hinted at retiring after the 2016 season. Big Ben has since backtracked and has even talked about playing for another three seasons. Using a high draft pick is a head scratcher here if he does indeed play for another three seasons or longer. How often would such a QB see the field in the next three-plus seasons? Pitt might not have any glaring holes to fill this season, but currently three starters are not under contract in 2019 and a much larger number are not under contract in 2020. Then you throw in the fact that Aaron Rodgers is the only QB drafted after Pick 19 since Dan Marino was selected in 1983 to turn into the face of the franchise in the first round. Take these two factors into account and it is very hard seeing Pitt use such a valuable pick on a position that is not a need.

Question: Are the Browns for real this year?

Bouchette: They are for real at the moment. I’m not sure what is supposed to be real for them. 8-8?

Flip: Anytime there is mention of the Cleveland Browns on the BTSC boards, there are also always comments talking about how the Browns are the same bad team that they have been for so very long. But a lot has changed, especially with the hiring of highly respected former Kansas City Chiefs GM John Dorsey. Dorsey has spent the past year wheeling and dealing. The feather in his cap was the landing of former Buffalo Bills QB Tyrod Taylor for the meager price of the No. 65 overall pick in 2018. The Browns are stacked with three solid WRs, a 2017 first-round TE and a pass-catching back. Cleveland still has five draft picks in the top 64 and two in the top five. The loss of future HOF shoo-in Joe Thomas is massive and has to be addressed. In my opinion, 8-8 is too optimistic with such a young team but not unobtainable, depending on Taylor’s play. Leaning on the seventh-best run defense is a start.

Question: Do you think all the analyst’s talk about Vander Esch dropping out of the first round because of medical concerns is just that: talk?

Bouchette: That’s all there is this time of year, talk.

Flip: The news that Leighton Vander Esch was actually being dropped from draft boards by teams was being reported by Walterfootball. Walterfootball is not knownas a notable source for this type of big news. Could they simply be getting hoodwinked during the “lying season”? LVE missed most of the 2016 season due to a neck injury that has been reported to be a pinched nerve. While the nature of the injury was not reported by Walterfootball, Pro Football Weekly obtained a copy of LVE’s medical report done at the combine. “We don’t expect this incomplete and seemingly inaccurate report to have any bearing on Vander Esch’s draft status,” PFW’s Eric Edholm wrote. LVE was not asked to return for a combine recheck. During his meeting with Pitt, his medicals were most likely reviewed with him. If Pitt was actually concerned with his medicals, would they have wasted one of their 30 pre-draft visits?

Question: A lot of people don’t see us drafting a TE, yet we have met with a lot of them. Do you think we will draft one?

Bouchette: I think they could draft one, yes, just not high

Flip: Pitt did meet with a number of TEs at the combine and went to South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert pro day, but did not host any TEs for a visit in Pittsburgh. I agree with Ed that it is hard to see Pitt drafting a TE early with all three of Pitt’s 2017 TEs under contract in 2018. Vance McDonald had a mediocre year in 2017 but was a bright spot in the playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jesse James will never been confused with an elite blocker, nor will his pass-catching ability or athleticism be confused with Rob Gronkowski’s. However, James does bring solid mitts to the table and is a huge target, especially in the red zone. Xavier Grimble, who was lightly used in 2017, could be on the hotseat if Pitt does select a TE with one of their later-round picks. Will it actually happen? Your guess is as good as anyone else’s.

Question: Bell, Bryant, and our first and fifth for the Cleveland fourth pick and a chance to land Barkley...would u?

Bouchette: Only in Madden Football.

Flip: A Bouchette chat session would not be complete without one of his typical snarky comments. It is understandable why he answered such a silly comment in the way he did. It is just not realistic. The NFL does not make ridiculous trades like the Herschel Walker trade anymore. While the Browns could use Bell and Bryant might have a tough time cracking their starting lineup, it is solid. For you Madden junkies, is such a trade even possible?

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Bouchette is a legend who has been covering Steelers games since 1973 and has been with the Post-Gazette since 1983. Bouchette has probably forgotten more Steelers history than most Steelers fans have ever known. He could give more detailed answers, but it is understandable that his answers are all off the cuff given the short time frame his chats are open. The snarky comments are sometimes annoying when a serious question is asked, but that is just part of his character. Do you read or participate in the chat sessions? What is your opinion on the sessions?