Let's see what's in the mailbag during Super Bowl weekend.
James Walker: It's really hard to tell, Dustin. This Dallas/Fort Worth area is really large and spaced out, so I’ve seen the same with the two fan bases. For example, the Steelers are staying in Fort Worth, which is where I’m stationed, and I’ve seen far more Steelers fans who want to be close to their team. But in Dallas, there may be more Packers fans than Steelers fans, because that’s a lot closer to where Green Bay is stationed. I think we will have a more accurate gauge in Cowboys Stadium on Sunday night. Both fan bases travel extremely well, so I’m guessing it’s going to be about even.
Gary Mac from Warwick, R.I., wants to know if there is any update on the expiring contract of Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
Walker: I talked to Woodley about this on Thursday and he said there have been no new negotiations. That doesn’t mean there won’t be after the season. Woodley’s contract is going to be sizable if there is a long-term deal. So I would be surprised if a deal is reached before the new collective bargaining agreement. A franchise tag seems likely for now, and Woodley said he wouldn’t be opposed to it.
EJ from Harrisonburg, Va., writes: Wouldn't the Steelers want Green Bay corner Charles Woodson to blitz A LOT?
Walker: I don't know about that, EJ. Woodson is a very good and natural blitzer. Yes, that takes Green Bay's best corner off Pittsburgh's wide receivers. But Woodson getting to the quarterback is usually a big play.
Jeff from Olmsted Falls, Ohio, wants to know about the Cleveland's running back situation next season.
Walker: Peyton Hillis is the starter. Montario Hardesty potentially is the No. 2 if he can stay healthy. Hardesty looked good in camps before his knee injury. The Browns are still high on him, but he has to stay healthy.
Ben F. from Watertown, Wis., writes: How is that T.J. Ward got no love for the Pro Bowl this year?
Walker: I thought the Browns' safety had a solid rookie year. But I don’t think Ward had a Pro Bowl season, Ben.
Mr. B from Tampa, Fla., writes: Is this a make-or-break NFL draft for either the Browns or Bengals?
Walker: I don't view it that way, Mr. B. Neither team is going to win the division and make a playoff run next season. I think 2011 is all about closing the gap with the Ravens and Steelers, which was very, very wide this season. To do that, Cleveland and Cincinnati have to hit on its draft picks, but no one’s job is at stake next year on either team.
Stephen from Norton, Ohio, writes: Since the Eagles plan to listen to offers for Kevin Kolb, what are the chances the Browns can pull him in?
Walker: That ship has sailed, Stephen. The Browns have moved on with Colt McCoy and are full go with him as the starter. The last thing Cleveland needs is another year of quarterback controversies. Frankly, I’m tired of covering them anyway.
Luke from Cincinnati writes: What are the chances the Bengals go after Cam Newton with the No. 4 pick?
Walker: I don't see it happening. The only quarterback the Bengals should look at with the No. 4 pick is Missouri's Blaine Gabbert. But even then, Cincinnati is more likely to fill other needs.
Comment and complaint department
We have a lot of complainers this week.
Bill from Washington, D.C., writes: I place little if any stock in pre-game predictions. But I beg of YOU, please don't pick the Steelers. Remember, you did pick them to finish BEHIND the Bungles in the AFCN this year. Please ride the 'Aaron Rodgers is unstoppable bandwagon,' if just for this week.
Walker: Sorry, Bill. I already picked the Steelers to win a close game this week. But I will say for all the heat I’m getting the past two weeks for picking Pittsburgh third in the division, no one has given me credit for writing this story upon Ben Roethlisberger’s return. Everyone is conveniently leaving out how quickly I corrected my preseason mistake. Oh well.
Jay from Pittsburgh writes: Seventy-six percent of "experts" on ESPN are picking the Packers to beat the Steelers. What am I missing here? The Steelers are the team with two recent SB wins, the better record from the better conference this year, and tons of more SB experience. According to ESPN experts I may as well just shovel snow this weekend. The Steelers obviously have no chance.
Alissa from Woodbridge, Va., writes: In regards to Super Bowl XLV, I'm sick and tired of hearing that Ben is not elite because the defense carries him. Really? Why didn't Pittsburgh win any championships since the Terry Bradshaw era until Ben came along? Frankly, most people don't want to see the Steelers win. We win a lot, and people like to see new champions.
Walker: Jay, the Steelers are underdogs so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise most people are picking Green Bay. Alissa, Roethlisberger hasn’t been getting a ton of credit over the years. But I think Roethlisberger has been given a fair shake after making his third Super Bowl, certainly in the AFC North blog. We wrote this week whether three Super Bowls will make him a future Hall of Famer.
CDR Brian Dulla from Sasebo, Japan, writes: As my Steelers go for the 'Stairway to Seven' I want to propose a nickname for our new rushing star - Rashard Mendenhall. After that powerful performance against the Jets’ vaunted D, I think he has more than earned the nickname "Shuttle Bus." He may be slightly smaller but packs a good punch - just like his larger predecessor Jerome Bettis. There are plenty of Steeler fans here in Sasebo on the Navy Base and we will all be celebrating the victory. Just give me credit if the nickname sticks.
Tom from Cleveland writes: James, I know the Super Bowl is this week and certainly the Steelers have earned the right to the focus of the NFL and national reporters. But I sure hope that after the game is over, you can drop the Steelers details for a few weeks and catch up on giving the other AFC North teams some attention.
Walker: Brian, thanks for the suggestion for Mendenhall. It’s up to the AFC North community, not me, to see if it sticks. Tom, we will be back to a more balanced schedule one the Steelers are finished playing. I’m guessing early next week we will be wrapping up their season and be back to normal by midweek.
Kovacs from Santa Monica, Calif., writes: In Czar we trust. In Czar we trust. In Czar we trust. This Whipple hiring as QB coach and the apparent decision to be without an OC seems another head scratcher. I can only pacify my questions at this point with an unwavering belief in Czar.
Walker: Trust in Mike Holmgren seems to be the recurring theme in Cleveland. He made some good calls last year. So let's see how things work out this year.
Brad from ATL writes: JW, following the footsteps of Palmer, I'm taking a leave of absence from NFL fandom. I'll be back as soon as Mike Brown steps down. You've been a great ambassador for the AFC North and I appreciate that. If Mike Brown doesn't step down by the beginning of the 2011 season, could you please trade me to the NFC South Blog? I've lived in Atlanta for the past five years and now it's time to invest in a successful businessman, humanitarian, community leader and, most important, a team owner that wants to win. How do you pronounce Yasinskas?
Walker: Another Bengals fan bites the dust, Brad. I’ve been pushing for Bengals fans to remain loyal to their team all season, but the e-mails keep piling in otherwise. Yasinskas is pronounced “Yaz-Cins-Skas.”
AFC North Homer of the Week
Chris Beach from Pataskala, Ohio, writes: Pittsburgh 35, Green Bay 10. Pittsburgh will shock the world on Sunday and Ben Roethlisberger will be the MVP, frustrating every Steelers hater on earth.
Walker: Although stranger things have happened, there are not many people picking a blowout in the Super Bowl, Chris. That makes you our "Homer of the Week."