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Monday, June 16, 2014
Steelers' mail: Interest in veteran CBs?

By Scott Brown

I pushed back the mailbag from Saturday due to coverage of the passing of legendary coach Chuck Noll on Friday night.

A lot of great questions, and I got enough that the second half of the Pittsburgh Steelers' mailbag will run Tuesday. Please keep the questions coming and send to ScottBrown_ESPN with #steelersmail.

And away we go...

@fans_Pittsburgh, @ScottBrown_ESPN #SteelerNation Any rumblings about the #Steelers having any interest in the CBs KC & Det just cut?

— TDF (@TDF4LIFE70) June 13, 2014
@ScottBrown_ESPN I can't imagine the Steelers having any interest in Chris Houston, who was released by the Detroit Lions on Friday. Houston turns 30 in October, and the Lions cut ties with one of their top free-agent signees in 2013 even though he still had four years left on his contract and plays a position where Detroit is already lacking. If those don't produce enough of a red flag, Houston underwent offseason toe surgery and the Lions designated him a failed physical release. No thanks there if I am the Steelers. Brandon Flowers is an intriguing player because he is only 28 and is still considered a good cornerback. He just wasn't a good fit in Kansas City following a coaching change last year. The problem with Flowers is he is likely to be in demand and will command more than what the Steelers are willing to pay if they indeed have any interest in the seventh-year veteran.

@ScottBrown_ESPN What do you believe Ben's new deal could end up looking like? Maybe $14-$15 million/yr for 4 or 5 more years #steelersmail

— Scott Cromer (@wolfpac4ever) June 8, 2014
@ScottBrown_ESPN I think that is a little optimistic in regards to the Steelers. Consider that Drew Brees was 33-years-old when he signed a five-year, $100 million contract that included $55 million in guaranteed money. Ben Roethlisberger will turn 33 next March, and that is around the time when I expect the Steelers to really get serious about signing him to a long-term contract. I know fans are hoping the Steelers get a deal done with Roethlisberger before the start of this season. But the Steelers can wait even though they have traditionally signed their starting quarterback to a new contract when he has two years left on his deal. It's a little different with Roethlisberger since his next contract will be the second mega-deal that the Steelers sign him to, and it might make more sense to do it next year when the salary cap is expected to receive another significant increase. I could see the Steelers signing Roethlisberger to a five-year deal that is worth between $80-90 million and I do ultimately think something will get done. Both sides want Roethlisberger to play his entire career for the Steelers, and they will find the common ground that makes it happen.

@ScottBrown_ESPN with the moves the steelers have made on defense, do you think they will run some 4-3 packages? #steelersmail

— Dylan Thomas (@Dduck21) June 8, 2014
@ScottBrown_ESPN Not necessarily but I think they will use a 4-2-5 alignment a lot this season, which is their nickel package. Teams are playing their bases defenses less and less with opposing offenses spreading teams out and throwing the ball more than ever. The biggest question when the Steelers will go to their nickel package is who comes off the field for cornerback William Gay. The defensive ends have traditionally moved inside when the Steelers play the nickel but I'm wondering if nose tackle Steve McLendon will stay on the field more during passing downs this season and provide an inside rush with Cameron Heyward. McLendon has shown a knack for getting to the quarterback, and if he hasn't gotten too big -- the fourth-year veteran has bulked up to 330 pounds after playing at 310 last season -- I think he will at least play in a rotation when the Steelers go to the nickel. Rookie Stephon Tuitt is also one to watch in the nickel. He ranks among Notre Dame's all-time sacks leaders, and the second-round is the long-term answer opposite Heyward at defensive end. He is also expected to help the Steelers this season and may do so on passing downs.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Do you think @RyanShazier's running w/ #Steelers 1st team in #OTAs is as important as everyone else does? #Steelersmail

— Steel Curtain Rising (@SteelCurtainRis) June 13, 2014
@ScottBrown_ESPN I do. I've been covering the team since 2006 and can't remember a rookie opening offseason practices atop the depth chart as Ryan Shazier did. The Steelers are cautious with rookies, sometimes maddeningly so, and for Shazier to run with the first-team defense since the first practice is telling of his physical skills and aptitude -- as well as how badly the Steelers need playmakers on defense. Shazier has looked anything but overwhelmed and I can't stress enough how breathtaking the leaping interception he made last week during practice was. Shazier has been widely praised by the veteran Steelers players and even Roethlisberger got into the act. He told WDVE 102.5 in Pittsburgh on Friday that Shazier's football smarts are as impressive as his physical skills.

@ScottBrown_ESPN will the steelers use same formula that was successful last eight games last year on offense?

— Dane (@Urunderarrest) June 13, 2014
@ScottBrown_ESPN I am guessing you are talking about using the no-huddle extensively, something that loomed large in the Steelers' 6-2 finish last season. I can't imagine why they would get away from that considering how Roethlisberger thrives in the no-huddle offense. The key is the new wide receivers -- and experienced ones like Markus Wheaton -- knowing the nuances of it well enough for Roethlisberger to develop the kind of trust in them that he had in Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders. That won't be an issue with Lance Moore, who I think could turn out to be a really nice signing by the Steelers, and Wheaton should be fine in the no-huddle as well. Expect to see it a lot from the outset of the 2014 season.

@ScottBrown_ESPN @Urunderarrest Did we really almost get forced into doing Hard Knocks? #Steelersmail

— Christ Puncher (@LordPinicus) June 13, 2014
@ScottBrown_ESPN That is a great way of framing it since there is no way that the Steelers, and particularly coach Mike Tomlin, wanted the HBO cameras at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. The Atlanta Falcons bailed the Steelers -- and others who were on a short list of teams eligible for "Hard Knocks" -- out by agreeing to be the subject of the critically acclaimed show. Interestingly enough, team president Art Rooney II said last week that it is probably inevitable that the Steelers appear on "Hard Knocks" at some point, but I have to think Tomlin is relieved it isn't this year. He has enough to worry about following consecutive 8-8 seasons. Now he won't have to deal with any extra distractions that come with a filming crew that has all kind of access during training camp though coaches tend to overblow that kind of thing.