Category Archives: 5 Smoldering Questions

5 Smoldering Questions on Steelers Free Agency

Photo via Steelers.com

By Hombre de Acero

The 2018 off season has already brought change to the Steelers with the next month promising to bring more, even if the Steelers remain quiet in free agency. But before any of that can happen, this corner of Steelers Nation must first resolve these 5 Smoldering Question on Steelers Free Agency.

1. In his post-season pow-wow with reporters, Steelers President Art Rooney II declared that “Its hard to play defense in today’s NFL.” While many will readily accept Rooney’s assertion, it was only 2 years ago that the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl on the strength of their defense.

Do you think the erstwhile Steelers President might be a little too quick to let Keith Butler and company off the hook?

2. At first word was there’d be no changes to Mike Tomlin’s defensive staff, yet Carnell Lake resigned and Johnny Mitchell got kicked upstairs. Once praised for “The Lake Effect” Lake has been a lightening rod for criticism of late.

Even if you accept at face value his explanation that his resignation was a choice, do you think the Steelers secondary will be better or worse off under Tom Bradley?

3. The day one free agency signings of Mike Mitchell and Ladarius Green were out of character for the Steelers. The latter move was a complete failure, even if you accept that Green played well in the 6 games of the four year contract he signed. Mike Mitchell’s offers more of a mixed bag, but he still was not the impact player the Steelers needed him to be.

The Steelers of course have obtained the services of future Hall of Famers like Kevin Greene through free agency, as well as perennial Pro Bowlers like Ryan Clark and James Farrior.

But none of these were first-choice options of the Steelers.

Could it be that the Steelers simply aren’t suited for Splash Free Agency?

4. William Gay fell to free agency as a salary cap casualty. When the history of Steelers cornerbacks is written, the top five will read: Mel Blount, Rod Woodson, Jack Butler, Ike Taylor and Dwayne Woodruff.

Where would you rank William Gay?

Feel free to offer a range as opposed to a specific rank but be ready to defend your choice.

5. The Steelers have offered tenders to Anthony Chickillo and Chris Boswell, franchised Le’Veon Bell and if reports are correct, Chris Hubbard will have signed with the Browns by the time you read this.

Pittsburgh’s remaining unrestricted free agents are Arthur Moats, Justin Hunter, Daniel McCullers, Sean Spence and Stevan Ridley. Restricted free agents Eli Rogers, Fitzgerald Toussiant and Greg Ducre (who????) also have gotten no offers and are unrestricted free agents.

You are Kevin Colbert: Which of these players do you bring back for 2018?

Bonus Question:

6. It does not take a football genius or a Steelers news junkie to know that Pittsburgh’s most urgent needs in 2018 are inside linebacker and safety.

Which position would you target for the draft and which would you target via free agency? Offer examples and defend your choice.

5 Smoldering Questions, For Real (or, Getting Real)

photo via Steelers.com

By Hombre de Acero

While the Steelers 2018 off-season has reached its second week, much of the discussion in Steelers Nation is still on looking back as opposed to focusing on how the franchise can pick upself up off the slag heap that is 2017.

With that in mind, we give you our 5 Smoldering Should Be in the Super Bowl But Not Questions on the Steelers.

1. Mike Tomlin led the AFC to a last minute 24-23 come back over the NFC in the Pro Bowl, and by doing so he improved the modern era Steelers head coaches Pro Bowl record to a perfect 8-0, as streak which includes wins over 4 Super Bowl winning coaches (Buddy Parker was the lone loser in 1957, for those who MUST know.)

Does this factoid:
a) Validate the legacy of coaching excellence the Steelers have enjoyed, given the size of the sample, time span considered, the quality of the opposing coaches and the relative equality of talent between the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl rosters?

Or:
b) Or is it something that will only prove useful should you make it to Final Jeopardy and the category is “Steelers in the Pro Bowl”?

Make a choice and defend it as if it were one of Johnny Mitchell’s lineman tasked with defense of one of Mike Tomlin’s proverbial blades of grass.

2. Irrespective of your answer to question number one, the Pro Bowl gave Steelers Nation its first glimpse of a Randy Fichtner-coordinated offense, NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman observed:

It was especially sad to watch Randy Fichtner ring in his first game as Steelers offensive coordinator in the Pro Bowl, calling double reverses for Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown and simple routes for Ben Roethlisberger to underthrow.

It’s fair to wonder how much will change next season in the Steel City. Will Bell leave in free agency? Will Roethlisberger hint at retirement again? Will Fichtner force Big Ben to run a sneak? On Sunday, we got an answer to at least one of these quandaries. On third-and-1 from the NFC 39 with Roethlisberger under center, Fichtner called … a dive to Roosevelt Nix. Some things don’t change.

Do you agree with Jeremy Bergman’s observation and is it a legitimate cause for concern?

3. In diagnosing the post-Shazier decline of the Steelers’ 2017 defense, a number of commentators pointed to the fact that his back up, Tyler Matakevich, also got injured against Cincinnati. Do you think a healthy Tyler Matakevich would have made a difference down the stretch?

4. By the time we get to our free agency edition of the 5 Smoldering Questions, the Le’Veon Bell situation will likely have clarified itself. So let’s jump the gun and cut right to the chase. Should the Steelers:

a. Try to sign Bell before the Franchise tag is due?
b. Use the franchise tag if signing him is not possible?
c. Let him test the market but be ready to make a competitive offer?
d. Simply let him walk and attempt to reload via the draft or going with the current backs on the roster.

There are arguments for and against all four options, and each choice carries significant risk as well as opportunity costs for the Steelers. What should they do?

5. The loss to the Jaguars was devastating to fans, as no one saw it coming. Yet, Jim Wexell insisted a few days after that the arrow on the Steelers was still pointing up. That prompted me to observe that, for as bad as the loss was, it didn’t have type of “era ending” feel that say the Tebowing in Denver did a few years ago….

…But on second thought, the 1997 AFC Championship loss to Denver didn’t seem to signal the end of the Cowher-Donahoe Steelers status as contenders, but it did.

The reasons for that of course were tied to decisions made after that fateful AFC Championship loss, and not the game itself.

With that in mind, knowing that Ben Roethlisberger is coming back, what other decisions must the Steelers make to keep their Super Bowl window open for 2018?

This will be the final 5 Smoldering’s edition for the Steelers 2017 season. As in past season we’ll have future edition for the draft and free agency and/or as events warrant.

Until then thanks go out to everyone who took time to contribute to the conversations, and a big Thank You to Rebecca and everyone else who helped construct questions during times when travel prevented me from coming up with my own. Thank You.

5 Nearly-Extinguished Questions, In Honor of the Pro Bowl

img_2278Photo via Steelers.com  Tomlin is, apparently, not impressed by my questions…

I am going to be stealing questions from wherever I can find them this week, because it doesn’t seem  appropriate to try very hard, the week of the Pro Bowl. Feel free to leave equally lame answers…

1. Jim Wexell’s latest column for Steel City Insider has the following subtitle: “Do the Steelers need a disciplinarian? Not as much as they need an inside linebacker.” He makes the point that it isn’t unusual for star players to get special treatment. He makes many other interesting points, too, so read it if you can get past the paywall. In the meantime, agree or disagree?

2. Wexell also noted this tweet by one of the writers of Football Outsiders, as follows:

 

Wexell doesn’t buy into a conspiracy theory, more that there is an unconscious bias on the part of the refs, assuming that the Pats are doing things correctly. Your take?

Cold Old Steelers Fan helpfully wrote most of the rest of this column. So thanks, COSF, and here goes:

3. This is a great one – really more appropriate for Full Smoulder: “How will the Ben/Fitchner era look? Will Ben be calling all the plays or will Fitchner? Will there be conflict?”

4. And next: “Will Tomlin continue with the role of defensive play calling? Is that a good idea?” Interesting question, especially in light of the Haley hire in Cleveland apparently signalling the end of the Hue Jackson offensive play-calling era there.

Of course, it assumes a level of involvement in the defense that I’m not sure is quite correct. So bonus sub-question—how much do you think Tomlin was involved in the actual defensive play-calling this past season?

And finally, I’ll contribute:

5. If you could change one coaching decision (can be an in-game decision, or an overall philosophy decision), what would it be, and how would you expect it to affect the final outcome?

5 Smoldering Questions on the 2017 Playoff Ruins

A132FC3E-BC23-42BC-BBE5-C4A2C17488A2.jpegPhoto via Steelers.com

By Hombre de Acero

If ever there was a week when circumstances would match the title of this column, it is this week. The Jacksonville Jaguars came into Heinz Field and embarrassed the Steelers to the tune of a 45-42, eliminating them from the playoffs and rendering their 2017 season a smoking ruin.

With that introduction, here are this week’s 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers 2017 Division Playoff loss.

1. A year ago the Steelers were without Cam Heyward, had Eli Rogers and DeMarcus Ayers as their number 2 and 3 receivers, played Ross Cockrell and William Gay as their number 2 and number 3 corners, yet made it to the AFC Championship. This year, save for Ryan Shazier, they were at full strength, with a 1st round bye, yet gave up 45 points to an offense that only managed 10 the week before, against the Buffalo Bills. 

What the hell happened?

2. Heads are already rolling on the South Side, with Todd Haley sent packing. Haley, in the tradition of Steelers offensive coordinators was a lightening rod for criticsm during his tenure and if social media is any guide, the vast majority of Steelers Nation is happy to see him go.

Yet, Haley was brought into save Ben from himself, and numbers don’t lie.

FFEEA694-C419-4988-9FCA-1858EFF85E74.png

Do you agree with the decision to part ways with Haley? Defend your choice.

3. Meanwhile, if Gerry Dulac’s reporting is correct, the entire defensive staff that oversaw and effort that tied the franchise record for most points given up in a playoff game will remain intact….

However, Mike Mularkey has been relieved of his duties in Tennessee which could make things interesting.

Assuming the new head coach doesn’t retain the assistants, and assuming Dick LeBeau would even listen to an offer—perhaps neither assumption is correct—but were he to become available, should the Steelers consider bringing back LeBeau in some sort of Assistant Head Coach Defense capacity?

4. It’s been reported on two occasions this season that the Steelers have prohibited Ben Roethlsiberger from making quarterback sneaks for fear of him being “Ear holed.” Do you agree or disagree?

5. You are Art Rooney II. Realistically, what do you say, or perhaps ask, Mike Tomlin in your year-end meeting?

That’s all for now. Depending on which stories develop, we may have another 5 Smoldering’s in the next week or so, if not we’ll certainly be back for free agency and the draft.

Until then, use your number 2 pencils, be sure to look at your neighbors paper, and by all means show your work.

I would like to express my thanks to Hombre for the great questions he comes up with for us, a task which he has to somehow fit into a very busy life with work, family, his own website, and travel. We will look forward to the next set of questions, whenever they hit my inbox : )

5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Divisional Round Edition

BA639515-8ED8-47B6-B863-059E31BA4F1F.jpegPhoto via Steelers.com

The long, long bye week is over. Things are getting real. And that’s just for us, the faithful of Steeler Nation. I can’t imagine how real they’re getting down at the Southside, at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. And just like the Steelers, we have to keep our noses to the grindstone and our eyes on the prize, which at the moment is the prize of winning the Divisional Round. So buckle down, folks, and answer these 5 Smoldering Questions. Remember, how much work you put into it determines what you get out of it : )

1. Leonard Fournette, he whose running total back in Week 5 shall Not Be Named, has been said to have hit the rookie wall. Does this encourage you at all? Why or why not?

2. The Steelers also have a couple of rookies who are pretty important—notably T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Do you see any signs of flagging in them, and if they aren’t (and Fournette is) what do you think is the difference?

3. The Ben Roethlisberger who threw five interceptions in the previous match looked nothing like the Ben Roethlisberger we saw the remainder of the season. To what do you attribute the difference?

4. And related to the previous question, by Week 5 Jacksonville had the No. 1 rated defense by any number of metrics, including the DVOA of Football Outsiders. They still do. How confident are you that the previous result was as much about the failings of the Pittsburgh offense as it was about the awesomeness of the Jacksonville defense?

5. If you were able to watch last week’s game between the Bills and the Jaguars (I, alas, was not*) what was the difference between the way the Bills’ defense and the Pittsburgh defense handled Jacksonville? Is the Buffalo defense’s approach something you think the Steelers’ defense can, to some extent, reproduce? Or do you think it doesn’t matter?

Bonus: If you’re a total masochist head on over to Steelers.com and watch Tunch Ilkin’s “Chalk Talk” episode in which he draws up all five interceptions and the 80-yard touchdown run (or perhaps it was 90—my doctor wouldn’t allow me to check). Not recommended if you have a weak heart, but interesting nonetheless.

*Although from what I hear I was spared…

5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers, Post-Browns Edition

C5D75550-BBF9-46E1-B804-4BA163A435BD.jpegPhoto via Steelers.com

Although I’m sure you are all busily engaged in planning your play-off watching menus and such, don’t forget that there is still work to be done before we even get to that point. [Cue Mike Ditka…] Part of that is answering these 5 Smoldering Questions:

1. The end-around is a staple of the Todd Haley playbook that many of us anticipate with great dread. Yet in the last few weeks we have seen the Steelers have some success with this, including a touchdown by Darrius Heyward-Bey, although said success  came at the expense of teams who have already cleaned out their lockers. To what do you attribute this success—better placement in the game plan, better execution, or just incompetence on the part of the opposing teams?

2. Last Sunday’s match against the woeful Browns was, as many have stated, their Super Bowl, as no team wishes to share in the infamy of the 2008 Lions. But the chances didn’t look good for the Browns. The average number of points the Browns’ offense have managed to muster during the season is 14.6.

And yet they had their best game of the season against the Steelers last Sunday, and even looked like they were going to pull out the upset, it not for Corey Coleman dropping a beautifully-placed pass. And yet, despite the large number of yards the Steelers gave up, and the 24 points, they also had six sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble recovered by the Steelers. Is that a reasonable tradeoff to you, or would you have preferred a more workman-like and less exciting game?

3. And speaking of the Browns, the owner has stated he is keeping Hue Jackson as head coach despite the fact he has won one game in the past two seasons—a new low for the beleaguered franchise. Do you think the owner is right to do so, and do you think it will pay dividends next season?

4. Which team would you most like to see of the possible teams the Steelers could play in the Divisional Round? Or you can answer which team you would least like to see, according to taste. Please explain in either case.

5. Last but definitely not least—Mike Munchak has been given permission by the Steelers to interview for more than one head coaching job—the first name out there is the Cardinals. Do you think that losing Munchak would be an unmitigated disaster should he be hired away, or do you think he has created a solid foundation that will continue in the coming year(s)? And does anybody have any suggestions for things that might keep him in Pittsburgh? Weekly deliveries of Primanti’s, free Incline rides for life, etc.? Because I’ll contribute…

5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Season Finale Edition

Photo via USAToday.com

The Steelers have an opportunity to sweep the AFC North for the first time since 2008. There is a possible fringe benefit to winning next Sunday’s game against the woeful Browns as well. But just as the Steelers can’t be scoreboard watching during that game, we need to focus on these Smoldering Questions. And given the news about James Harrison, they are pretty smolder-y…

1. My original first question was about James Harrison, but current updates have rendered it pointless. So here was my second question about Harrison:

Does it worry you unduly that Harrison has signed with New England? Do you think the Steelers made a major miscalculation?

2. In recent seasons (and even not-so-recent ones) we have seen the Steelers struggle to put away what appear to be far inferior opponents, even losing to them at a much higher-than-expected clip. So ‘fess up—did you a) view the Houston game as a so-called “trap” game, or b) did you expect the afternoon to unfold much as it did?

3. If your answer to the above was a) please explain what you think the Steelers did differently in this game to avoid the trap. If it was b), what gave you that confidence?

4. Let’s revisit the “catch rule” one more time, since Al Riveron appears determined to keep it in the news. Mike Tomlin has said the Competition Committee will revisit this during the off-season. If you were able to give him a suggestion for how it might be fixed to take to that meeting, what would it be?

5. And finally we get to look ahead to Sunday’s game. For the moment, put on Mike Tomlin’s puffy jacket and decide which, if any, starters you will sit for the game, or for some portion of it. Do you have any criteria other than the score to determine when you pull people? And will part of that criteria involve checking the Pats/Jets score? Remember that, unlike a preseason game, you can only dress 46 players.

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