In the city of Pittsburgh, and anywhere Steelers fans reside, when the hometown team isn't playing up to "the standard" of their expectations, fans typically want to vent, and this is where the BTSC Mailbag certainly comes into play. Every week we reach out to our loyal fan base on Twitter and ask for questions, and those who follow us (@btsteelcurtain) showed up in a big way as the team prepares for the San Francisco 49ers this week.
If you want to have your question answered here on BTSC, follow us on Twitter (@btsteelcurtain) and leave us your question for the next mailbag article. There were a lot of questions, and I plan on answering all of them to the best of my ability. Here we go...
From: Sam Beeghley (@sbeeghley)
Question: It is a little too early to be looking into the 2016 NFL Draft, but will CB once again be biggest early round draft need?
Answer: For some, it is never too early to start thinking about the next draft, and count me as someone who thinks it is too early. However, it isn't too early to see some gaping holes on the Steelers' roster which they might look to fill through the upcoming draft. You suggest cornerback, but if I were to guess, I would say the team will look for safety early in the draft. This is where we sit right now, and a lot can change depending on who may leave in free agency.
For instance, if Kelvin Beachum and Ramon Foster are both lost via free agency, the Steelers will be missing two of their starting offensive linemen, which could alter their draft strategy. Cornerback could very well be another position of need if the team can't re-sign William Gay, Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin in the offseason.
It is early, but the play of Shamarko Thomas and Mike Mitchell combined with Will Allen's age, all will have the Steelers thinking safety early in the 2016 NFL Draft.
From: B-Rod (@Steelcityblitz6)
Question: How can the Steelers correct the miscommunication issues on defense by Sunday? They looked like the keystone cops.
Answer: One thing the Steelers have on their side is they played on Thursday night. Not only does it give the team a great chance to rest and recover from those bumps and bruises which can hinder performance, but it also gives the team time to prepare for the next opponent by learning from their previous game.
I am sure the Steelers defense has seen the film of the Patriots' Week 1 game so many times they have memorized it on a play-by-play basis; however, the only true way to fix those problems is for everyone to be on the same page, seeing the same things, but most importantly by getting on the field and playing alongside one another. With that said, the team needs to find the players they are going to play on a regular basis, and allow them time to gel and become a solid unit for the remainder of 2015.
From: Tre Atkinson (@TreAtkinson)
Question: Do you think Brandon Boykin will get solid playing time against the 49ers?
Answer: I think Boykin will play Sunday, but it depends on what you consider "solid" playing time. Will Boykin start? The answer is no, but I do expect to see Boykin being involved in specific sub packages and situations which require an additional cornerback to be brought off the bench. Boykin's playing time could increase if he makes plays, and the current duo of Antwon Blake and Cortez Allen continue to stumble. Fans just want to see what Boykin can provide, and by only playing 9 snaps on special teams in Week 1, they were left scratching their heads.
From: UC-LAK-LERS (@TDF4LIFE70)
Question: Why do you think the Steelers struggle so much in drafting defensive backfield players? Shamarko Thomas is a bust now.
Answer: This might just be the million dollar question among fans these days, especially when the team let Doran Grant walk before signing him back to the practice squad. Anyways, I think the underlying reason is the Steelers have always felt a great pass rush can mask a questionable secondary. Look back to the days of Chad Scott and Dewayne Washington, or Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden. None of those players were shut down cornerbacks like a Darrelle Revis, but the Steelers pass rush was able to mask the deficiencies in the back end.
An investment in a 4th or 5th round defensive back isn't quite the investment the Steelers have put into their front 7, until this year. Senquez Golson being selected in the 2nd round was a huge change for the Steelers, and it is a shame Golson won't be seeing the field in 2015 to truly gauge the team's scouting of defensive backs. With the front 7 so heavy with 1st round draft picks, expect the back end to start seeing some of those picks in the near future; however, whether those players pan out is the main question remaining unanswered.
From: Carlos (@ca_salasv)
Question: Heath Miller is looking great but why not use Jesse James in the red-zone? Yes, he is raw, but a 6-foot 6-inch target.
Answer: It is a numbers game. I see what you are saying with James' size, but if you give James a helmet on Sunday you are taking that helmet away from another player who might have a bigger impact on special teams. James is a large human being, but there aren't many better, or more savvy, in the red-zone than Heath Miller. Miller might not be as young and spry as he once was, but he still impacts a game. He averaged over 10 yards a catch in Week 1, and further proves there isn't a need to dress Jesse James on Sundays, Mondays or Thursdays barring injury.
From: Tre Atkinson (@TreAtkinson)
Question: Should the Steelers start Shamarko Thomas against the 49ers Sunday due to his run stopping ability being better than Will Allen?
Answer: Should they start Thomas on Sunday? Maybe, but they aren't going to. This game against the 49ers is going to be the polar opposite of Week 1 vs. the Patriots. The 49ers look to run the football, control the clock and grind their opposition into a nub. The Patriots aerial attack was the other end of the spectrum. Although Thomas does have better run stopping ability than veteran Will Allen, Mike Tomlin stating in his press conference Tuesday that Thomas needs to improve "from the neck up" is a direct reason why he hasn't been playing.
When the defense has struggled with communication, putting an inexperienced and less knowledgeable player in the back end will only add to the confusion and chaos which currently resides within the Steelers defense.
From: Tugg-z (@SteelTigersCavs)
Question: Do you think it is the year Jarvis Jones rises and finally makes an impact?
Answer: Funny you ask, because I did a video breakdown of Jones yesterday on BTSC showing some big steps forward in his progression to becoming an every down OLB for the Steelers. You should check that out, but to sum it up, he is making strides and getting acclimated with his role within the Keith Butler defense. People forget he hardly played last year due to injury, so he is finally getting a chance to show himself. I think he could be an impact player in 2015. Will he get double-digit sacks? Doubtful, but that doesn't mean he won't make an impact on the defense and the team.
Thanks for the questions! We will do this again next week following this Sunday's contest. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, as well as Twitter (@btsteelcurtain) and check BTSC multiple times a day for the best Steelers coverage anywhere.