On Friday, July 11, I held our next online chat session on gridironchatter.com and Facebook to answer continuing questions about positional battles, training camp and even one about Denver Broncos wide receivers (which was a little odd, but was still responded to). Here is the transcript:
Jonathan F: Other than Returner, how do you think the Steelers will use Archer in his rookie season? I was thinking he may be used in the slot and a rare use in the backfield. What do you think?
Rivers: According to receivers coach Richard Mann, Archer is a “weapon” for the offense without giving specifics. However, mention that there are other guys that could play the slot were mentioned in his recent interview as well. Jerricho Cotchery was a threat there and now Lance Moore is likely to be the go-to guy. Archer will undoubtedly be used in the no-huddle. They practiced it during OTAs and mandatory camp. With no other viable option at running back right now as the #3 guy, you may be surprised if Archer doesn’t give Blount a run for his money. We all know Blount came in to be Le’Veon Bell’s backup, but he has moved slowly into learning the offense and will need to step up. That means he’ll have to show in camp that he is better prepared than Archer. Do I see Archer as the main backup at RB? No. Archer won’t be the only one utilized on the return team either. It looks like the Steelers will not be asking Antonio Brown to give them all up. We’ll have to see where Archer lines up more in camp. Great question.
Rene D: Outside of the obvious differences, what is it that makes Shazier supposedly able to start and be real good as a rookie and not Jarvis Jones? I just don’t find a way to really reasure myself that Shazier will be great after watching JJ last year.
Rivers: I wouldn’t say that Jarvis Jones played ‘terrible’, he just didn’t seem to have a strong grasp of the complexities of the Steelers defense last season. That being said, he appears to have improved in leaps and bounds since that time. Game experience and another offseason to learn helps. As for Ryan Shazier, I think most insiders believe that Shazier came into the NFL (to the Steelers) already with a head start. Playing for the Buckeyes, Shazier was playing in an NFL-like defensive system. Shazier has quicker acceleration off the line, an uncanny ability to time the snap and speed to close when he needs to corral an opposing player that gets out of the backfield – especially laterally. Jones struggled with all three of those things in 2013. I think Shazier is going to have some growing pains just as Jones did, but perhaps not as big of a learning curve. These two guys should give a good show at training camp. Expect things to get physical with the O-linemen.
Facebook submitted question: How can ESPN base their quarterback tier ranking poll on the fact that they think that Ben Roethlisberger is not doing well enough to be a top tier player, but then Neil Coolong says that one of the things ESPN considered in ranking the Steelers higher in their fantasy outlook poll over the next three seasons is Roethlisberger’s play?
Rivers: This is an excellent question. I can’t say what motivates ESPN to put out these types of polls. It does seem counter-intuitive to cite Roethlisberger in both situations (down and then up), but that is one of the reasons I do not put too much credence into polls, including fan polls – although, they are interesting. Especially to see how fans see certain players over a season, for example. Trends seem to go up and down (or vice-versa) but some players always stay pretty high on the expectation polls. Not sure if it is just because they are “fan favorites” or they just continually play at a high level. You decide.
Rivers: By the way, I believe Neil writes for Behind the Steel Curtain, not ESPN.
BigDaddyCool: What player winds up as the #2 WR with Sanders in Denver?
Rivers: I don’t care….just kidding.
I am guessing Thomas with Decker in the slot. Would love to see what rookie Cody Latimer can do in camp.
Facebook submitted question: Biggest positional battle in training camp?
Rivers: I would say DE and DT.
Facebook submitted question: Will Shamarko Thomas be the next in line behind Troy Polamalu?
Rivers: That is what the Steelers are planning on. Thomas will need to work hard in camp to prove that point, but I think the kid is aching to get out there at training camp and prove that he is, indeed, the player to take that role. Mike Mitchell won’t be their long-term plan at the other safety position, so the Steelers need Thomas to develop and they’ll be looking for at least one more person to step up, even if that isn’t this year.
Facebook submitted question: Who do you think will take the starting spots on the defensive line and nose tackle positions? Is Cam Heyward the long-term answer? What about Lawrence Timmons and Jason Worilds at linebacker?
Rivers: Right now, the defensive line is being led by Cameron Heyward, a 2011 first-round selection. He tied for second on the team in 2013 with five sacks. Cam Thomas will also battle in training camp to make a statement for a starting position. As for inside linebacker, I think Lawrence Timmons has that spot pretty much taken. Jason Worilds let the Steelers with eight sacks in 2013 and I don’t see him being replaced as the starter unless Jordan Zumwalt comes along a little quicker or Worilds gets injured. Don’t count out defensive tackle Daniel McCullers or Stephon Tuitt as players that will push for starts. Jarvis Jones will have to live up to his potential as a pass-rushing outside linebacker by upping the number of tackles and sacks he can produce. Guys that I will be watching in camp include Steve McLendon who is reported to have added 20 pounds in the offseason to play nose tackle. With McCullers, the Steelers brought in Al Lapuaho – both sixth-round picks. McCullers will battle with Hebron Fangupo as well, and he stood out in offseason practices.
Facebook submitted question: I keep hearing that because the Steelers got younger on defense, they will be more dominant. Do you think that is factual for 2014, or just hype?
Rivers: I believe that it is factual. The main thing will be if the outside linebackers give appropriate pass rushing. The Steelers will absolutely pose a legitimate threat and the fact that Pittsburgh brought in Joey Porter and Carnell Lake says how serious they are at getting better and more dominant on defense. A re-tooled offense will help as well. Keeping the defense off the field more will help Pittsburgh contend week-to-week. I think the hype about the defense is mainly a condition of people getting excited about all the new faces, but the Steelers are not going to let the past two seasons define them on offense or defense. The Steelers will be faster on the field and should build off of the momentum they developed late in the second half of the 2013 regular season.
Facebook submitted question: If Maurkice Pouncey falls short, will the Steelers bring back Fernando Velasco?
Rivers: Velasco suffered an Achilles tear that has him still rehabbing. That is why he has yet to be signed by another team. It could take time. That means that the Steelers won’t be looking at bringing him back to the team, most likely. Cody Wallace will be Pouncey’s backup unless David Snow (Texas) can show in training camp that he is better suited to do so. As for Pouncey, Mike Munchak is completely sold on him coming back in 2014 in Pro-Bowl shape.
Facebook submitted question: But isn’t Cody Wallace really a guard?
Rivers: Technically, yes. But he did come in and take snaps from Ben Roethlisberger at the end of the 2013 season after Velasco was injured.
Facebook submitted question: Who do you see as the starters at the guard position and on the offensive line heading into training camp?
Rivers: David DeCastro and Ramon Foster will play guard. The Steelers brought in Wesley Johnson, Will Sutton and Chris Elkins to push for backup roles on the offensive line. Mike Adams and Kelvin Beachum will play up front as well. There appears to be much better depth on the o-line heading into the 2014 season and it should be interesting to see that line improve even more under Mike Munchak.
Rivers: Thanks for all the great questions.
SteelersGab will continue to host chat sessions throughout training camp, preseason and the regular season on GridironChatter.com. If you use Facebook, you can sign in using your Facebook account and join the forum for more Steelers discussion. Feel free to post questions for the next chat session that will take place when training camp begins on July 24. Click here to get signed up now and start taking in the forums.
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