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. This week’s full chat session can be read here.
Most of Bouchette’s answers to fans questions are one-liners. It is hard to glean useful information from that, so I decided to expand on questions he takes with answers of my own. The chat lasts around a half-hour so I cherry-picked some of the questions. For a bit of fun with this, if you put BTSC at the end of your nickname there and your questions get answered, I will include your questions in next week’s article. Better make it good -- do not want the BTSC faithful to chide you.
Question: Your thoughts on the draft specifically can the safetied they drafted be expected to fill the hole at ILB?
Bouchette: No, they cannot, not in the base 3-4 defense, but in the pass defense -- most likely the dime this year -- they can use 3 safeties, 3 corners and one linebacker. Or, they could even put an extra safety in the box and have no linebackers if they really want to get creative (the two OLBs would be ends in that)
Flip: The Steelers only run about 30 percent of their defense out of the base 3-4, so player personnel flexibility is a must. This flexibility is going to hinge on how first-round rookie Terrell Edmunds transitions to the NFL. If the transition goes as most fans hope, he will be brought in as the third safety in dime situations. As quite a few draft “experts” see Edmunds as a reach (some even had him projected as late as the fifth round), could he be brought on slowly?
As far as running a 4-1-6 with Edmunds being the lone LB, I find this hard to get behind. This D puts a ton of pressure on our front four to generate a pass rush and a rookie safety to cover a lot of ground, depending on what he is asked to do. Pitt has not run much dime in the past. Has this been because of the scheme or personnel?
One thing that needs to be answered is who ends up with the green dot on their helmet and calls plays for the Steelers this year? If it is Bostic or Vince Williams, that eliminates Edmunds from the 4-1-6. Could Burnett end up being the solution?
Question: I think Landry Jones has matured into a very serviceable backup QB. I can’t imagine the Steelers not wanting the insurance he brings. Do you agree with this?
Bouchette: Yes, I do. Drafting Rudolph meant Dobbs is probably gone.
Flip: This is going to be a highly contested topic until the Steelers make their final cuts. LJ is a polarizing player within BTSC; half the fan base would be perfectly happy if Pittburgh moves on from him, while the other half see him as a valued backup QB.
Jones has a leg up on his competition as he’s entering his sixth season with the Steelers — with 19 regular-season appearances. Josh Dobbs showed flashes last year in preseason but struggled overall. Tossing up just a 59.4 percent completion rate while putting together two TDs and three INTs — the Steelers may have seen all they needed to see out of Dobbs. giving up on a fourth-round pick after just one season would be a tough pill for GM Kevin Colbert to swallow. I do believe it is in the Steelers’ best interest to do so, though. Roethlisberger is not getting any younger and has missed more than a few games over his long career. In case of an actual Ben injury, I’d put more value on LJ than on Dobbs, who has never even seen any regular-season action.
Question: Ed, with the few Millions left over after rookie salaries and no FA worth signing, what will Colbert do with the surplus CAP?
Bouchette: He could start by signing Chris Boswell to a long-term deal
Flip: In my latest cap article I show that there really is not any cap space remaining; there’s actually a deficit. Boswell is a prime candidate for a long-term contract. Any extension should reduce his 2018 cap hit. Punter Jordan Berry, is currently on his RFA tender that is paying him $1.9 million. Could he face competition or do you think he has earned an extension? The only other player who could drop his cap hit with an extension would be Le’Veon Bell. I think negotiations are dead in the water — therefore, this is off the table.
Question: Thanks for the chat Ed. I asked you last week about the possibility of us trading MB and try to get a 4th rd pick. Why so quick to dismiss?
Bouchette: Because I never thought someone would give up a high three for him.
Flip: In last week’s edition, I dismissed this as well. I get why Pitt traded Bryant. One year left on his deal, him being a squeaky wheel, and one more failed drug test away from Goodell’s purgatory. Like Bouchette, I never would have figured Pittsburgh would get a third rounder for him. What I did not like was that Pitt created a void that needed to get filled. Many fans saw the WR position as being thin, even with Bryant being with the team. Trading Bryant moved the WR position way up the need chart. Bryant might have landed the Steelers a compensatory third-round pick, so it may very well be a net gain of only 20 draft slots. I will be keeping my fingers crossed hoping James Washington’s stats were not inflated by poor Big 12 defenses.
Question: Is WR Justin Hunter still on the team? If yes, why?
Bouchette: Yes, because they have 90-man rosters right now and because after the top 3 (including the rookie), they need another 2 or 3 on the 53-man roster
Flip: Hunter is currently on the roster, but a better question might have been “Will he be on the 53-man roster?” Bouchette points out how the Steelers’ first three WRs are all but locks to make the 53-man roster, and Pittsburgh is currently carrying nine WRs. Four of those remaining WRs have never appeared in an NFL game. Darrius Heyward-Bey, who is currently ahead of Hunter on the depth chart, has eight grabs in the past two seasons. At this point in his career, DHB is only valuable on ST and in certain situations. The Steelers have carried six WRs into a season before. It is more likely that the team rolls into the 2018 season with only five WRs because of the poor depth. Are the Steelers hoping Hunter, and his 2013 second-round pedigree, finally live up to his NFL potential? Are they hoping that he turns into the next DHB special-team ace but at a cheaper rate? Is he just a placeholder for one of the young WRs or one (Eli Rogers?) not currently on the roster?
Question: This is Bell’s last year in Pgh right?
Bouchette: Never say never
Flip: Bouchette takes this question almost every week, but he gives a more complex answer than his usual “no” this week. Is he tossing out a James Bond reference here?
In my opinion, contract negotiations with Bell are dead. The sides are doomed by fundamentals. Bell started out wanting guaranteed years — dead end. Now I believe he has shifted gears and wants up-front guaranteed money in the form of a huge signing bonus ($30 million plus?) — dead end.
His last season in Pittsburgh? Well, not so fast. Another franchise tag is off the board as it would be in excess of $23 million. Could Pittsburgh slap Bell with the transition tag at $17.4 million? Unlikely, but never say never. Think of the drama that would cause.
Bouchette’s snarky comment of the week.
Question: I have to confess that I am a little worried. If this kid from NC State, Jaylen Samuels, plays several positions, then he will want to get paid as he worth 2 or 3 draft picks, right? Does he have the same agent than LeVeon B?
Bouchette: A smart aleck after my heart
Flip: Samuels has to average 129 total yards per game to see the big money. He did average 59 yards per game in college — just a tad behind Bell’s pace.
While Bouchette has covered the Steelers going on 45 years, fans would appreciate more valued information. Fans do need to remember these answers are all off the cuff, which is a tough style to undertake. He has no time to prepare or gather information. Do you read or participate in the chat sessions? What is your opinion on the sessions? As I try to attend the chats, any particular question you would want me to ask Bouchette?