Ask Ed: Should Steelers Pursue Houston?

By Ed Bouchette
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 7 years ago

Good morning,

Mike Tomlin will hold his final press conference of the season today at noon, when he takes questions from the media. Before that, I take questions from you in Ask Ed right after this item:

--- Le’Veon Bell is a finalist for the 8th annual VIZIO Top Value Performer trophy, an award given to the NFL player whose on-field performance most-exceeds the value of his contract. Russell Wilson has had a monopoly on the award the past two years, but this year’s field is wide open, according to a spokesman.

The nominees:

 CJ Anderson – Broncos

 Le’Veon Bell – Steelers

 Justin Forsett – Ravens

 Mo Sanu – Bengals

 Kenny Stills – Saints

The Top Value Performer is decided by fan votes at, where they can also check out NFL analyst Charley Casserly’s take on each player. Voting is open now, until Jan. 19 at 11:59 PM PT.

--- Chat today at 1:30 p.m., and now your questions:

--- YOU: Any truth that you've seen to the rumor that Shazier is the Steelers own Gilbert/Manziel, i.e., he doesn't work that hard?

ED: Some believe Ryan Shazier was given a starting job too soon, that he should have had to work for it. Perhaps that is part of the theory that he did not work hard enough. They started Shazier and bumped Vince Williams, who started 11 games at inside linebacker as a rookie in 2013.

It reminds me of what happened after the Steelers drafted wide receiver Plaxico Burress in the first round in 2000. Bill Cowher put him right into the first team along with Troy Edwards, their first-round draft pick in 1999. Hines Ward, who had tied for the team lead with Edwards in ’99, each with 61 receptions, complained to me about it during that training camp and I wrote it. Soon, Ward was back as a starter.

Williams did not complain about being bumped, but he continued to talk confidently of his ability to be a starter. When Shazier was hurt, he and Sean Spence virtually split the position alongside Lawrence Timmons, even after Shazier came back.

--- YOU: Do you see any possibility of the Steelers pursuing Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs, assuming the Chiefs let him get to free agency?

ED: The Steelers will have enough time pursuing some of their own players and staying under the salary cap, such as Ben Roethlisberger. My immediate reaction would be to say no, but perhaps they need to look inside the box (the front seven), veer from their normal routine and look at chasing someone like Houston, who could boost their anemic pass rush. He was Kansas City’s 2011 third-round draft pick, a round that brought the Steelers Dri Archer in their last draft.

--- YOU: There are many issues facing the Steelers going forward. But I think three players currently on the team must develop into “above the line” players. They are Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier and Shamarko Thomas. If these three fail then so will the Steelers defense – for years to come. Do you agree, or is this an overreaction?

ED: I would say you are right on top of it. Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier are their two most recent first-round draft picks, both linebackers and both given starting jobs right away as rookies. Neither was able to hold them – Jones for performance reasons in his first year and injuries in his second. Jones will enter his third season and Shazier his second. If they do not perform at much higher levels, the Steelers will be sorely disappointed.

This will be the third season for Shamarko Thomas and he has had virtually no impact at safety, even though an opening presented itself when Troy Polamalu was injured this year. The Steelers, remember, traded a third-round draft pick to Cleveland in 2013 in order to draft Thomas in the fourth round and were delighted to do so at the time. The 2014 season, his third, should be his time. If not, there will be more disappointment.

--- YOU: Have you heard anything about whether the Steelers are high on, or have any hope, for either Zumwalt or Howard Jones at OLB? I assume Worilds will sign elsewhere and Harrison is probably less than 50% to return. If they draft another OLB in the first few rounds they likely won't be able to help all that much next season.

ED: While Jordan Zumwalt has played inside and out in college, he’s more of an inside linebacker. Jones, on the practice squad all season, will get his chance in 2015 but they certainly are not looking at him as a starter. OLB remains a position of concern.

--- YOU: why are the fans so quick to label draft choices a bust/ the fact the Jarvis Jones has been injured never seems to come into play here. A nice reminder that James Harrison was cut how many times before he became the player he was. Only after Joey Porter was left go did he rise to stardom.

ED: You are correct about the injury to Jones, who had surgery on his wrist after the third game. More expectations are placed on first-round draft picks than they are a young player such as Harrison, who went undrafted. I once had this debate with Tom Donahoe, who complained about all the expectations that were being put on one of his first-round draft picks as opposed to any other draft pick.

My opinion then, as it is now, is that’s just the way it is with first-rounders. It does not mean it’s not right. You should know, however, by the player’s third season at the least. Some thought Troy Polamalu was a bust after he did not start a game as a rookie. Cam Heyward and Lawrence Timmons did not become starters until their third seasons. Donahoe would later utter the famous line that they did not draft another first-rounder “to lead the band at halftime.’’

--- As we head into the offseason, send your questions to