5 Smoldering Questions On the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 8

via newOK

Once again we are Hombre-less, and Ivan, Steeler Fever and I have attempted to fill his very large shoes.

(1) Fever asks: We are at the halfway point of the 2015 NFL season and our Pittsburgh Steelers stand at 4-4 coming off consecutive losses at Kansas City and home against the Cincinnati Bengals. How do you think they will end this season? Please state how you see the Steelers regular season record playing out and how far you believe they will advance in the playoffs, if you see the team making the playoffs at all.

(2) Landry Jones has been viewed as a total bust essentially since the pick was announced in April of 2013. Yet he had a very impressive college career. His draft profile noted he is a “prototypical NFL pocket passer with NFL size,” and lots of other nice things. 

In the Cardinals game we mostly saw Good Landry Jones. In the Chiefs game we saw Mostly Mediocre Landry Jones.

Now that Ben Roethlisberger is back, let’s indulge in some baseless speculation on Jones’ future with the Steelers. He has one more year on his rookie contract, and it would save the Steelers $675,000 on the salary cap if they cut him prior to June 1, 2016. Bruce Gradkowski is a free agent at the end of this season. If you were Kevin Colbert, and if you had to make the decision now, would you:

  • a) Re-sign Bruce Gradkowski and let Landry Jones play out his contract,
  • b) Let Gradkowski walk, extend Jones as the No. 2, and draft another developmental prospect to groom as the No. 3, or
  • c) Let Gradkowski walk, cut Jones, sign a veteran, and groom a developmental prospect.

(3) Speaking of contract questions, Ivan asks: In his short stint with the team, placekicker Chris Boswell has been perfect with his scoring attempts and has shown a strong leg as well. If you had to choose today, do you thank Boswell for his services rendered and welcome back Shaun Suisham, or do you release ‘Sweet Cheeks’ and take your chances with the cheaper rookie?

(4)  Will it take a 100% Ben Roethlisberger to overcome the loss of Le’Veon Bell, or do you think there is hope even if it takes Ben a few weeks to return to early-season form?

(5) Over the past several weeks Steelers Nation provided a clinic on what it means to be fickle as it relates to our sentiments concerning the relative worth of our backup quarterbacks. Assuming there is another game where Ben Roethlisberger is unable to go and both are healthy, who do you play, Michael Vick or Landry Jones? (In case you couldn’t tell, this was Ivan : )

Bonus question, from a Momma’s heart: Can anyone see any good reason to keep Dri Archer at this point? In other words, is there any reason to think he is going to “get it” with a bit more time, or has he amply demonstrated that what he did in college just won’t translate in his case to the NFL?

As usual, please feel free to read your classmate’s answers. And if you don’t like these questions, remember we were substitute teachers…

32 comments

  • 1) 10-6, with the playoffs probable but far from certain because of tiebreakers.
    2) wait on Gradkowski’s medical status before making any decisions. In the draft, no QB unless there is a clear BPA deal.
    3) Boswell vs. Suisham… I punt. Wait for Suisham’s medicals and if he’s okay have a thrilling camp battle in which Pittsburgh can’t lose.
    4) Yes, we need Good Ben. The injuries have kept this offense from gelling. If he can’t grab the reins that will continue and the fantastic defensive efforts we’ve been seeing will continue to get wasted.
    5) At this point I would take Jones over Vick.

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  • HERE GOES:

    1. I can see us going 11-5 or even 12-4. The only game that worries me is Denver, but that is near the end of the season and, barring injury of course, the offense should be running on “all” cylinders. The only other game I see as being tough is actually this week against Oakland. We tend to have trouble with the Raiders as of late, and their team is better than expected. I am confident we will make the playoffs, but beyond that, no predictions.

    2. A), though also draft and groom a development prospect. Neither Bruce nor Landry are the future of the franchise (beyond Ben’s retirement, whenever that will be. Hopefully many years down the road).

    3. Training camp competition between the 2, especially if Boswell continues to kick the way he has. Right now, they are both kickers i want to continue to see in a Steelers uniform. I am sure either would end up successful on another team and be picked up really quickly.

    4. No. The defense has been playing way better than anyone expected this year and, though Bell is irreplaceable, Williams should be a good fill in for the remainder of the season. I still can’t believe we got him on the team. Also, Ben’s play against cinci was i would say 40% Ben. Give us 80% Ben and we are good. Give us 100% Ben and we are awesome.

    5. Landry Jones. He knows the offense much better than Vick ever will, which enables more plays to be called. Also, he is a more accurate passer, if that is even possible.

    Bonus – Momma, I have been wondering the same thing all season. He is fast and I don’t think he has fumbled the ball, those are the only assets he has it seems to me. If he gets even touched by a defender he goes down, and he doesn’t seem to have the vision on kick returns to pick the right holes, or make quick decisions to just get up the field. Maybe we should try Shamarko Thomas in that position, he doesn’t seem to be on the field otherwise.

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    • In re bonus question, someone posted on Ed Bouchette’s weekly Q&A that Archers is actually No. 5 in the league in kickoff return average. I saw that after I had put up the question and thought I would leave the question anyhow, because given how often kickers kick touchbacks the next question is, is there a point on keeping anyone on any team who only returns kickoffs?

      But the optimist in me keeps thinking he’s going to wake up one Sunday, the pieces are going to coalesce in his brain, the rest of the return team is all going to do their jobs correctly at the same time, with no stupid penalties to call it back, and he’s going to take one to the house. And I conclude the coaching staff must feel the same, because they didn’t cut him when they had ample excuses to do so.

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  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    1) Before the season began, I felt the Steelers would be 10-6 based on the strength of schedule, injuries and suspensions. 6-2 in the second half of the season would fit this scenario but we really cannot afford any more key injuries.

    2) I will go with “c” here. Replace Gradkowski with a younger vet and bring in a new developmental prospect.

    3) I would trade one before the draft. They both have shown enough to be worth a draft pick and the Steelers are a bit short of picks. Let the other get the reps with the kicking team so the three of them are on the same page for week one.

    4) Ben was putting too much on his own shoulders against Cincy and I think the loss of Bell may well have upset him. I expect he will be ready this week.

    5) I would play Jones though if Ben goes down again it is all academic as far as the season is concerned.

    Bonus round: Archer has proven to be adequate as a KR. I wouldn’t cut ties with him at this point in time but I wouldn’t expect him to be on the roster next season.

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    • Agreed about Ben. I think he felt it was all on him after Le’Veon went down and he started pushing too hard. I noted that all of his INTs were well after Bell was carted off. Perhaps he was feeling slightly desperate.

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  • Toronto Steeler Fan

    1. This all depends on injuries. Assuming no more significant injuries, I think the team can go 10-6 and make it as a wild card. If they do, then they will have gone 6-2 against a fairly tough schedule and will be the team nobody wants to play in the playoffs.

    2. There is no reason to draft another developmental QB who spends two-plus years learning the offense and costs a draft pick. They spent a 4th round pick and two years teaching him to be an adequate backup and so now is the time to realize the return on that investment. The other QB should either be Gradkowski, if his health status is reasonable (I don’t want another Byron Leftwich) or another veteran.

    3. I agree with cold_old_steelers_fan here – trade one for a 6th round pick. At this point, I would favor keeping Boswell because he’s cheaper (we need cap space next year) and because of his bigger leg, but it all depends on how he does in the next eight games.

    4. We need Good Ben. Without him, we’re going to score 10-20 points per game, and that’s not going to cut it.

    5. Play Jones – it opens up much more of the playbook. And get Haley to call a decent game.

    Bonus – It’s difficult for me to tell by sitting in my living rooms whether Archer can develop into an NFL-caliber player or not. But what I do know is that he’s going to have to displace one of Brown, Bryant, Wheaton, Heyward-Bey, Bell or Williams in order go get a meaningful number of snaps on this team, which is incredibly unlikely, and so there is no opportunity to realize value from having him on the roster. That tells me it’s time to trade him and get as much as they can.

    Like

    • TSF: 24 hours before you posted this, Homer was in your fair city, checking e-mails at Union Station, ready to head out to the St Lawrence Market for lunch. It was either that or Smoke’s Poutinerie. On a warm and sunny autumn day, Toronto can’t be beat. Caught a late afternoon flight out of Toronto City Airport to Washington Dulles. Barely an hour flight. Less than a hundred bucks.
      Homer’s 100% red-white-and-blue, but he’s loves Canada. There’s poutine everywhere, and a Tim Horton’s on every corner. Tim Horton’s sells you sandwich combos with a sandwich, a drink, and your choice of donut. Ahhh, donuts. Is there anything they can’t do? Poutine, donuts, and cold beer: the Holy Trinity of nourishment. That is what is good in life.

      Like

  • 5 Feeling Honored Answers.

    1. 12-4 and winning the Super Bowl, obviously!

    2. Ask any Oklahoma fan and you will find that LJ’s stats are misleading as LJ is not to be counted on because of his inconsistency. We got a small taste of what OK had for four long seasons. That said, Bring back Gradkowski along with LJ hoping all either has to do is hold a clipboard.

    3. If Bowell keeps up his accuracy I say we go with Boswell. I love Suishammer but he is fairly pricey and I doubt he gained any leg strength with his injury.

    4. There is always hope, even when it is the only thing we have. Ben shakes off the rust and starts looking as good as he did before the injury.

    5. Ben isn’t getting hurt again, see answers 1 and 4 🙂

    Bonus answer: Haley promised to get DA involved in the offense this season, I still believe that he can be a difference making player for the Steelers. Keeping the faith. Go Steelers!

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  • 1 – I think they finish 5-3, with 6-2 possible. It is a tough slate, but the defense is playing well and Big Ben doesn’t usually have multiple clunkers. The team will have more time to get used to life without Bell. I do think 10-6 makes the playoffs..not sure on 9-7. If they hit 10-6, I can see this as an AFC Championship reaching team.

    2 – I’d pick keeping Jones as the #2 and keeping someone else to groom. The Steelers could always use a little extra cap room.

    3 – I’ve been thinking about this… I’d keep the rookie. He’s been solid, imperturbable, and has a stronger leg than Suish. I think he’d be the better guy going forward. That being said, if released by the Steelers, either kicker would be quickly snatched up by another team.

    4 – I don’t think BR has to be 100%, but he does have to be prepared to be without Bell. The issue is mental, imo. Someone at BTSC stated that ‘knee injuries don’t affect the brain’. That’s completely not true. I think, without Bell, BR only got more nervous about people buzzing near his knees and it showed. If Big Ben is not 100% physically, he has to get 100% mentally, or we’ll need to get used to rushed passes occurring more often.

    5 – Landry Jones. Vick did nothing and can do nothing.

    Bonus: If he can become a good returnman, that’s fine. I think the issue is the fans not being able to get over the fact that he is a 3rd rounder. There’s a bridge that needs to be built and walked over. He’s shown more ability lately on his KOs. It isn’t like there is someone on the PS or in street clothes that can be signed to replace him.

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  • 1) and 4) I think the Steelers will likely go 10-6 which will may not be enough for the Steelers to get a wild card position this year though I think an 11–5 record is possible and would secure them a wild card berth.

    Ben seems to cause the Steelers to lose 3 to 4 games a year due to poor passing on his part. I don’t fault him for this because he seems to win 12 games a year because he is elite. He has lost the first (possibly) and last games this season because of his passing “rusty-ness,” imo.

    I think if he plays above average for him, or better, for the rest of the season then I think the Steelers can win the Super Bowl because with this defense, with the way it is playing right now, the Steelers have the capability to beat anybody in this league.

    But Sunday’s game is a must win for the Steelers. Maybe Tomlin can take a page from Cowher and instead of using “Win this game for the Bettis” every week, he can replace it with “Win this game for the Le’veon.”

    2) I dunno. If G’s medicals look okay then keep him and draft a new guy. If not, keep Landry because he seems to play better than he practices. Besides, for a number three guy he knows this offense inside and out.

    3) Unless Boswell provides a good reason not to keep him, you don’t fix what isn’t broken. Keep Boswell. It’s his job to lose.

    5) Vick should only be handing Gatorade to the real quarterbacks on this team and yes, I’m including Landry in that.

    Bonus: With 25.3 yards/ave kick return, Archer is 10th in the NFL, 2.8 yards behind the #3 guy. If Archer returns his very next return for a touchdown, he jumps to the #2 guy. In other words, there’s not a lot of difference between numbers 2,3 and number 10.

    Still, I don’t see much utility from him for the team. I say try and trade him during the off-season though he won’t have any value unless he does return one or two kicks for large gains this year. Who knows, he might do well with another team.

    Like

  • 5 Smartaleck Replies:

    1) Like Bob Labriola, I tend to live in my fears. If you could tell me who else is going to be injured and unavailable I could answer the question a bit more securely. Started to write an article in this space, but it will be coming later in the week : ) I guess I feel I will know better after Sunday’s game. If they can hold on to beat a increasingly good Raiders’ team, especially how they have struggled against bad ones in the past few years, I’ll be much more optimistic. What is it about the Raiders?

    2) It’s my question, but I I think I would go with a), assuming Gradkowski is 100%, and I would let them duke it out in the pre-season for the No. 2/No. 3 spots.

    3) This one is a killer, because I love Suisham, but if I had to decide today I would probably go with Boswell. I like the trade idea, but realistically I’m guessing it would be a lot harder to trade Shaun, and given that he’s getting long in the tooth, and is likely to be increasingly injured, keeping him might well mean we are in the same kickerless situation again.

    4) Again my question. Notice how I manage to avoid actually answering questions if I can. But if I could predict how well the offensive line will hold up I could tell you what % of Ben we need. In other words, if the line continues to run block well, and can get a bit more secure in the pass blocking, I don’t think Ben needs to be really sharp.

    5. Sorry, Mike, I play Landry. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Vick used for the occasional snaps, but given how little chemistry he had with the receivers, and how different the offensive plan has to be to accommodate him, it seems like a no brainer.

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  • Here we go:

    1) 10-6. Maybe 9-7.

    2) Re-sign Gradkowski. Sign and develop someone younger. Save the cap money and say goodbye to Jones. He’s not the future and there are better fill-ins available.

    3) Keep the Boss. Thanks for everything, Shawn, but the new guy has a bigger leg for kickoffs. We’re gonna trade you for a 6 or something.

    4) It will take 100% Ben, which will be even more difficult because he doesn’t have Bell as a weapon coming out of the backfield or as a threat to run.

    5) Say the Rosary and don’t stop. Say a prayer to the Chief and one to St. Myron Cope. Then start Landry Jones.

    6) It’s now or never. He’s gotta do something out of the backfield now that Bell is lost. I don’t see it happening, but, then again, we didn’t see Landry Jones having that one good game. I’ve given up on Archer, but I’d love to be pleasantly surprised.

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    • cold_old_steelers_fan

      Did you enjoy your trip through the Rockies?

      Like

      • Absolutely. There were many highlights and surprises. Expected BC to be all wet and rainy like Seattle. Had no clue that the area just before Kamloops (love the name Kamloops) is high desert and gets only 11 inches of rain a year. The Canadian Rockies are drop dead gorgeous as advertised and Jasper looks like it came out of a Swiss picture book. Left Jasper at dusk, so we missed the downslope of the Rockies. Saskatchewan wasn’t much. Stopped in Saskatoon, in the rail yard where Rowdy Roddy Piper’s dad once worked as a railroad cop. Totally unimpressive, flat, and boring beyond belief this time of year – when the crops have been harvested. The first big shock was Winnipeg. Wow! At the forks of the Red River and the Assinboine, with a combination of great early 20th Century architecture and some new 30 story office buildings and hotels. Winnipeg has almost 700,000 people, it’s the Chicago of Canada, minus all the violence. I wanna go back and check it out. Slept through Edmonton (late at night), but spent a lot of time in Western Ontario and the Shield area north of Toronto. Knew absolutely nothing about it….if you look at a map of the area, the lakes seem to outnumber the people. There are thousands of glacial lakes up there, and everybody and his brother from Toronto and Buffalo and Windsor and Detroit has a cabin at some secluded place. I can see why. Perfect getaway.

        The other surprise was that the trackbed is all beat to hell. Two passenger trains a week in each direction, and countless fright trains hauling oil, sulfur, wheat, and heaven knows what else. That, and the terrible winter weather, and you find yourself rockin’ and rollin’ from Saskatoon to Washago. There were times over dinner when the lights went out and the waiters and waitresses barely were able to keep from falling down because we rocked so hard. The food was GREAT and the bed was comfy.

        All the Canadians were talking politics, because they’re under new management, with Justin Trudeau taking over. They’ve known him since before he was born, because his Dad was Prime Minister when he was still in his Mom’s belly. Sort of like if JFK Jr had lived and become President. His campaign promised “real change,” and he responded to charges that he’s soft of terrorism by saying, “we must defeat fear with hope.” So, the day after the election, the CBC and National Post both had feature stories about Trudeau having to deal with “that hopey-changey thing.” Sarah Palin probably had a good laugh. Homer sure did.

        The other thing that stuck with Homer was when the VIA Rail attendant told me she used to work the line to Churchill, in the far north. It’s a one car train, and she said you can start out empty, and get a call that some people will get on at – say – mile marker 88. The train will stop at the mile marker in the middle of nowhere, and one person may get on or perhaps an entire First Nation village going to a funeral in Churchill or somewhere along the way. There are no virtually roads in that area, and the railroad is the only way in and out for many folks.

        Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Toronto: what’s not to love? (Et Montreal, aussi.) It was a great trip. Knock that one off the bucket list. Cuban baseball is next.

        Like

        • Easy as pie to get to Cuba now. Wife and I did it this past summer. Do it sooner than later, though, before the place gets inundated and ruined by American McDonaldification.

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  • 1. It depends on the run game. I am not worried about BB but opposing teams must be forced to respect the run. If we can have some balance on offense and the D continues it’s points per game awesomeness we could win out or only lose 1 game. It’s fun to guess so I will say we get in to the playoffs and then CRUSH the Bungals in their house in horrifying fashion. After that everything else is gravy.
    2. I pick A. Jones is not the future starting QB. They most likely keep him around as long as necessary as a third and that’s all.
    3.I don’t want to have to choose today. Can I choose next AUG:(……Go with the hot hand(leg) baby!
    4. See Question #1
    5. Blogs are filled with fickle bloggers and a few other unmentionable f words. The Steelers will play the QB who can most reliably execute the original game plan. Jones has outperformed Vick in this respect so I vote Jones.

    Bonus; Depends on your expectations I guess. He is part of a unit and last game that unit was not good. He needs some creases to operate in. He got one in the Chiefs game(I think) and had a chance to take it to the house but did not. Given kickoff’s these days he will not get a ton more chances to prove his worth.

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  • 1. Honestly, I have not been looking at how any of the division races stand up. Some of that is because of my singular focus on the Steelers, and some of that is going into week two we heard commentators already ruling “X” team out of the playoffs. (OK, maybe it wasn’t that soon, but you get my point.)

    I see the Steelers as an 8-8ish or 9-7ish team, barring no more serious injuries.

    2. I’d wait on Gradkowski first and foremost. As for Jones by all accounts he made progress between years 2 and 3. I would certainly bring him to camp. With that said, I’d keep a very close eye on viable veteran backup quarterback options when free agency opens.

    3. If I had to choose TODAY, I’d go with Boswell simply because he has a hot leg. But fortunately, we don’t have to make the choice now. The kid is off to a great start, but let’s see how he performs at Heinz Field in November and December.

    4. Yes, the Steelers need Ben Roethlisberger at 100%

    5. I’m somewhat at a disadvantage here, as I only saw Jones play vs. Pittsburgh West whereas I saw Vick struggle for four quarters against the Ravens, 3 against the Chargers, and two against the Cardinals. At this point I’d go with Jones.

    6. As I told Ivan on Sunday, for all the heat he’s taken, Dri Archer hasn’t been bad on kickoff returns. No, he’s not the second coming of Mel Grey, but he’s been solid. Of course you don’t spend a third round pick on a guy just to return kickoffs (of course he was supposed to return punts too.)

    I certainly would not think of cutting him now, mid season.

    Like

  • Cliff Harris Is Still A Punk!

    Just found out about the site from a mention by Fever on BTSC. Not much going on over there in terms of dialogue so I was happy to see many familiar and well-respected names over here. Just wanted to say hello to all and I’m looking forward to seeing what you’re working on. At a first glance I’m impressed with the writing and the content. It feels like BTSC in its prime.

    Hope everyone is well. Go Steelers!

    Liked by 1 person

  • 1.) 10-6 with the final wild card spot just out of reach.

    2.) It’s a tough call. On one hand, Gradkowski is getting up there in age, but I still don’t trust Landry that much. I’d say wait and see how Gradkowski does.

    3.) As much as I love Sushi, I’d go with Boswell. He seems to have a more powerful leg, and I’m concerned about lingering effects even after Suisham has fully healed.

    4.) It’ll take 100% from the offensive line. Bell could break ankles with his cuts, but DeAngelo seems to be more of a power runner, so creating gaps will be the key to success.

    5.) Although it may contradict my response for #2, I’d give a slight edge to Jones.

    6.) Comedic value? Haha. In all seriousness, I just don’t see what he adds. Yes, he’s had some decent returns, but it always seems like he’s running on banana peels.

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  • When you have a substitute teacher, aren’t you supposed to trick them into announcing names like I.P. Freely? No one at my school could ever figure out how that was done.

    1. Steelers squeak into the playoffs and then onward. Despite all the undefeated teams right now, almost no one seems unbeatable.

    2. If I could do anything? I’d ditch them both and aim at Kaep. He needs a lot of work but there’s also a lot of talent there. And I think the Steelers could deal with his attitude problems if they really exist.

    3. Sadly, Boswell. But I’ll always feel guilty about it.

    4. There’s always hope. Ben’s an odd duck, one of the things that makes Steeler fandom fun.

    5. Ugh. I guess Jones. Then I’d turn off the tv. Or if I were Tomlin, I’d pull my sweatshirt over my head for the rest of the game/season and just wait it out.

    6.He’s got the rest of the season to bloom.

    Earthling, I mean Freely, I.P. Darn, still can’t figure it out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Suggestion in No. 5 makes sense to me… Alas. I thought the point of subs was to trick them into thinking that the class is supposed to do stuff it doesn’t actually do. It doesn’t even have to be more fun than the usual – just different, so as to confuse the hapless teacher…

      Like

  • 1. Ideally it’s gonna take 10-6 or 11-5 to get in the playoffs. I don’t see Cincinnati dropping 5 of 8, so I’m looking Wildcard. Beyond that, I’m not sure yet. ..

    2. Resign Gradkowski for 2. Landry plays out the contract. And look and see if a Franchise QB is in the draft in the next 2 years.

    3. Boswell. Younger, stronger, cheaper for now. Sushi is on the wrong side of age and coming off injury….

    4. Ben has to remember- I’m not the team. I have people who can win games with me. It’s gonna be a ream effort to go to the playoffs, not just 1 man.

    5. Jones. There has to be so much change when Vick is in there. Wasn’t a good fit in the first place…

    Bonus- Momma can be happy to know that Dri will be staying. He’s capable as a KR and I think we may see a little more on offense with no Bell…

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  • Bonus Answer Modification: Steelers will cut Dri Archer and sign Jacoby Jones..

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    • Are you on crack?! Oh, wait, that really just happened…

      Like

      • I hope Dri is picked up by another NFL team (outside of the AFCN, obviously) and returns the first KO back for a TD. But really, I hope he is picked up by a team that will utilize his talents. IMO, Dri had to many talented players ahead of him to get any playing time. The Steelers are loaded at the skill positions.

        Liked by 3 people

  • 1) 10 -6 if they win sunday, and make the playoffs. Probably lose in the first round.
    2), 5) I think Landry Jones looked okay even in the loss. First NFL start. I would stick with him for now, even better then Gradkowsky. A scarecow is better then Vick in my opinion so that’s number 5.
    3)This is a good one. I don’t know, his strength makes me feel like its worth the risk with Boswell. But luckily its theoretical, if he’s solid the rest of the year its a now brainer. If he falls off the wagon its also a no brainer.
    4The defense has been really solid and we still have a ton of weapons. We don’t need 6 td Ben from last year. we do need at least 3 TDs without turnovers.

    Like

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