Steelers' mail: Nothing to 4-3 rumors

Here is the second part of the latest Steelers' mailbag. If you have a question please send to ScottBrown_ESPN with #steelersmail.

And away we go...

@ScottBrown_ESPN Breathe easy because there is nothing to them. I have no idea why those rumors haven’t been put to rest by now but they won’t seem to go away even though there is little or no basis to them. Yes, Mike Tomlin comes from the Tony Dungy coaching tree but he hasn’t coached a 4-3 defense since 2006. And last I checked Dick LeBeau is still the defensive coordinator with linebackers coach Keith Butler his likely successor. It just doesn’t make sense from a personnel standpoint either. Jarvis Jones, as an example, isn’t big enough to play with his hand in the ground and I’m not sure he plays well enough in space to be an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense. The Steelers, assuming there were right about Jones when they drafted him 17th overall in 2013, should try to build around the 6-2, 245-pounder, not transition to a defense that could phase him out. The whole 3-4, 4-3 debate is becoming moot anyway with teams playing their bases defenses with less and less frequency. The Steelers will play a lot of 4-2-5 this season, as they did in 2013, with offenses spreading defenses out more than ever.

@ScottBrown_ESPN I think Markus Wheaton will emerge as a significant contributor this season but he has some work to do to win the starting job opposite Antonio Brown. Justin Brown, who spent last season on the practice squad, looked really good during offseason practices, and he will be among those who push Wheaton in training camp. I also think that Lance Moore and Brown could be the primary wideouts when the Steelers go with just two wide receivers. That is not a knock on Wheaton as much as it is a nod to how good Moore looked during offseason practices – and how valuable I think the seasoned veteran will be in the passing game this season. Wheaton will get plenty of playing time if he establishes himself as one of the top three wide receivers, and I think he will do that in camp. All he needs, in my opinion, is an opportunity and good health, to show what he can do.

@ScottBrown_ESPN It better if the Steelers want to return to the playoffs following a two-year hiatus. Consider that in the Steelers’ eight losses last season they threw the ball 42.3 times per game. In their eight wins, they threw the ball an average of 30.8 times. Ben Roethlisberger, as much as he likes to run the no-huddle attack, has always been a staunch advocate of offensive balance. And the no-huddle offense and a commitment to the ground game are not mutually exclusive concepts if the player running the former is cognizant of the importance of the latter. The Steelers’ running game should me much better this season due to the additions of LeGarrette Blount and Dri Archer and the improvement starter Le’Veon Bell is expected to make in his second season. That should translate into the kind of balance that will bode well for the Steelers.

@ScottBrown_ESPN The Steelers added that mentor when they hired Joey Porter as a defensive assistant. Porter has already been a terrific addition to the coaching staff, especially for Jones, who plays the position where Porter made his indelible mark in Pittsburgh. Harrison is a terrific leader by example given his work ethic and preparation but I’m not sure it’s in his DNA to throw an arm around a younger player and give him pointers. If the Steelers bring back Harrison – and I think the odds are slim barring an injury – it is because they need help at outside linebacker, not because they want him to mentor the youngers players.

@ScottBrown_ESPN My guess is Cortez Allen though I’m not sure the Steelers do anything with any of the candidates for long-term deals before training camp. Allen, to me, became the Steelers’ top priority after they signed center Maurkice Pouncey to a five-year contract extension. I think he is ready to really come into his own, and the Steelers can’t risk losing another rising young cornerback, something that happened last year with Keenan Lewis. It wouldn’t surprise me if Allen is the next and last player the Steelers sign to a long-term contract this year. I think they will take a wait-and-see approach with outside linebacker Jason Worilds and right tackle Marcus Gilbert. And they still have plenty of time to get a deal done with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who still has two years left on his contract.