Ask Ed: How Does Cortez Look?

By Ed Bouchette
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3 years ago

Good morning,

The Steelers return to practice today at Saint Vincent College. They just announced a transaction: They waived wide receiver Danny Coale and signed wide receiver James Shaw. Coale is Tunch Ilkin’s son-in-law.

The rest of this morning is devoted to your questions in Ask Ed. You can send me your questions here:

--- YOU: How does Cortez Allen look in camp? Assuming he's doing well, I'm concerned that the team isn't going to lock him up now while he's motivated to do so and will wind up losing him ala Keenan Lewis. Thoughts?

ED: I have seen nothing exceptional from Allen, but then I missed several practices to attend to the Hall of Fame ceremony in Canton last weekend. I inquired of someone if the Steelers might try to sign him to an extension, and the answer was a probably not. Allen made early strides in his career, but not so many over the past year. They do risk losing him, but at this point it looks as though they do not want to risk keeping him.

--- YOU: I read your blog today with your possible question of Ike with all the young corners pushing to play... it seems the same could be said about Troy and the young guys pushing to start like Sharmarko do you think they will rotate them. I haven't heard or read anything on Troy's camp is it good? Does he look as fast as ever or is the end near.

ED: Unfortunately for him and the Steelers, Shamarko Thomas is not pushing Troy Polamalu. He will get his opportunities, though, especially in these preseason games. Mike Tomlin is taking a light touch toward Polamalu, holding him out of all the live drills, so I would imagine we won’t see much of him in the preseason either.

It’s tough to judge right now if he’s lost any speed or quickness. He looks no different to me.

--- YOU: Do you think pedigree may work against Justin Brown as he works to become the number 2 wide receiver opposite Antonio? I felt that way with Beachum last year. I know we aren’t at practice and don’t have access to the films or even have 1/100th of the knowledge the coaches do, but I’ve been hearing repeatedly how great a camp Justin Brown is having and how much Ben really wants a tall wide receiver. My perception seems to be that that people are hoping Wheaton or even Martavis Bryant develop into a quality number 2, and I wonder if Justin Brown may already be their best option.

ED: While they have Brown practicing all the wide receiver positions, they would like to see him in the slot, where Jerricho Cotchery played the past two years. As I wrote the other day, Brown is competing with veteran free agent pickup Lance Moore for that No. 1 slot position. Moore is only 5-9 and Brown is 6-3. Yes, Brown is having a good camp but I do not see him starting ahead of Wheaton at the moment.

--- YOU: Tony Gwynn's death has renewed the debate about smokeless tobacco in baseball.

Do you notice a lot of Steelers using tobacco in the locker room or coaches using it? How about in the "old days?"

ED: There is none I see in the locker room, where there is a no-smoking policy. I don’t see guys chewing either. In the old days, they’d light up right in the locker room and on their charter jet. It’s a very different world and a good one in that sense.

--- YOU: I just watched the Paul George injury. What's the nastiest sports injury you've ever seen covering football or any sport?

ED: There have been too many for me to recall, but Sean Spence’s was not pretty. Anytime the foot points where it should not is ugly. The Joe Theisman injury on Monday Night Football is often cited as among the worst because a national audience saw it before the days of instant video. Pirates fans will recall the ugly ankle injury to catcher Jason Kendall in 1999, which made a top 10 list by one person of sports injuries via Youtube.

--- YOU: Welcome back! When did the specialized position of "Long Snapper" come into play in the NFL, or at least for the Steelers? I don't remember such a position existing back in the day of "Iron" Mike Webster. Did the centers back then just learn how to do it as part of their job description? If so, when did that go away? If the centers of today could learn how to "long snap," that would save a position on the team and make the center position that much more valuable.

ED: It long has been a mystery to me why centers cannot snap for punts and place kicks any more. The Steelers first pure long-snapper was Kendall Gammon, who was their 11th-round draft choice in 1992 from Pittsburgh State. Gammon played four seasons with the Steelers, four more with the New Orleans Saints and then seven more with the Kansas City Chiefs, a 15-year career that ended after the 2006 season. During that span, Gammon missed only six games, all in the 2005 season. He is now part of the Chiefs broadcast crew. The Steelers were late to the party for having a pure long-snapper, probably because Chuck Noll did not believe in “wasting” a roster spot on one. He paid dearly when Mike Webster fired two snaps over the head of his punter in Cleveland one game. The long-snapper came into vogue sometime in the 1980s. It may have as much to do with the higher success rate of field goal attempts as has the improvement of the kickers.

--- YOU: Last year I had the distinct impression that the Steelers spent all 4 pre-season games as tryouts for the team, instead of getting ready for the regular season. Surely you do not want to see the 1st Teamers injured in preseason, but with their 0-4 start it was apparent to me that the team was just not ready. What did you think about that?

ED: Sometimes, that’s what you do with a younger team. You might see the first teams play longer in these preseason games because many of those younger players are now starters and they need the reps. I would expect, for example, to see the offensive line play a little longer as well as the defensive line and some linebackers. Surely, Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller and Troy Polamalu won’t play much Saturday night in New York. More than getting teams ready for the season via exhibition games, coaches now want to get through them with the fewest injuries possible, especially to their stars.

--- YOU: I have a question about Ben and his relationship with Art Rooney.

We all know that Ben's contract is being postponed to next year and I'm not a conspiracy theorist like may, so not only do I believe Art Rooney for his reasoning but it also makes sense. My question, though, has to do with the relationship between Art and Ben. It isn't that far ago that Art was so angry with Ben that he wanted him traded - Of course cooler heads prevailed, Ben made amends and the rest is history, but has the Rooney family completely moved on from the Milledgeville, GA debacle? Has the relationship been completely repaired? and is there mutual trust again between Ben and Art?

ED: I would say, yes, that not only has the Rooney family moved on from the infamous incident of four years ago, but so has most everyone else. Roethlisberger promised to walk the straight and narrow after that and he has. He paid a price both in dollars and reputation and I believe it shocked him into not just changing his lifestyle but his attitude.