Whoever said Pittsburgh Steelers fans pack it in after the season and don't come out of hiding until training camp don't know the fans here at BTSC. When I asked for submissions for this week's BTSC Mailbag article, I was inundated with questions.
I chose to answer more this week, and keep the answers brief, but if you'd like to have your question answered in the weekly mailbag, simply follow BTSC on Twitter (@bsteelcurtain) and respond to the tweet when the question is posed on social media.
Time to open the mailbag once again...
From: I Am Jaguar Paw
Question: Do you think Jesse James will start Week 1 in place of Heath Miller? Are there any notable Tight Ends in this year's draft?
Answer: To answer your first part of the question, I do think Jesse James will start Week 1, but I won't go as far as saying "in place of Heath Miller." Like Troy Polamalu before him, Heath Miller isn't walking through the team's headquarters anytime soon, and the fans shouldn't expect the next in line to be the next Heath. I think the Steelers will be able to utilize James in a variety of ways, some which they couldn't with Miller -- especially later in his career. It will look different without No. 83 on the field, but that doesn't mean it will be bad.
As for notable tight ends in the upcoming NFL Draft, I like Nick Vannett of Ohio State a lot, but Hunter Henry of Arkansas is the most complete tight end in this limited tight end class. Some are also pointing to Austin Hooper -- who the Steelers met with at the NFL Scouting Combine -- as a potential prospect in the upcoming selection process.
From: Sam Beeghley (@sbeeghley)
Question: Does the retirement of Heath Miller drastically alter the Steelers' draft plans? If Hunter Henry is available, is he considered a must draft now?
Answer: I don't think it should impact their plans all that much, to be honest. The team wanted to address the TE position in the draft anyways, and defense is still the top priority. The only difference might be they will look at TE earlier than the might have if Heath were returning. If Hunter Henry is available, I don't consider him a must draft player. They could easily sign a free agent TE and have him join Matt Spaeth and Jesse James as the team's top tight ends in 2016.
From: Its a SteelersWorld (@steelersworld1)
Question: On the TE front, do you think the Steelers should stick with Jesse James, sign a FA or draft a tight end?
Answer: I'll take both. I think the Steelers could sign a free agent TE like Jared Cook to a nice 2-year contract, and draft a TE like Nick Vannett possibly in the 3rd round of the draft. Cook's deal would cover Spaeth after 2016 and give them a nice transition with two young TEs moving forward.
From: Nicholas DeRosa
Question: Could Ben Watson be a possibility to step in for a season or two as Jesse James hones his skills or another TE is drafted?
Answer: Ben Watson could be a player the team takes a look towards in free agency, but to answer your question in another way, I do think the Steelers will look to target a TE (maybe Scott Chandler from the Patriots who was just released) in free agency.
Question: Will Markus Wheaton actually leave in FA next year? Wouldn't his best bet be to ride it out with Ben Roethlisberger, and when he retires look for new scenery?
Answer: In a perfect world Wheaton would stick around until he felt it was time to move on to greener pastures, but that isn't reality. The reality is Wheaton will be able to get a better contract if he tests the free agent waters. I see Wheaton as the same type of player, maybe not as polished though, as Emmanuel Sanders. When their contract is up, they will see if they can make more money elsewhere -- and they will. Would it be nice to keep Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant all on the same roster together for an extended period of time? Absolutely, but that isn't how the modern NFL is structured.
From: Robert D. Henderson (@JollyRob86)
Question: Would you draft Kendall Fuller or Darron Lee and play them at safety? Or just draft Vonn Bell or Darian Thompson?
Answer: Call me crazy, but I am not a fan of players who are forced to switch positions. Some players, like Su'a Cravens of USC, have done so successfully in college, but not everyone can just become a safety. With that said, the Steelers have one of the few coaches on their staff who could certainly help a young defensive back make the transition, and that is Carnell Lake. Lake made the move himself from cornerback to safety when he played for the Steelers in the 1990s. If I am pulling the trigger for the Steelers in their draft room, I would take a natural safety like Bell or Thompson over a cornerback possibly being moved to safety.
That's all of the questions for this week! Be sure to check back next week for the next edition of the BTSC Steelers Mailbag.