Strackbein Mailbag: Will Hines Ward Ever Get into the Hall of Fame? Is Dez Bryant an Option, and More

Noah Strackbein

It's mailbag time! The Steelers have continued to make noise this offseason with two Hall of Fame hopefuls and a possible Defensive Player of the Year headed their way this weekend. 

Pittsburgh continues to try and patiently wait for answers on their quarterback, evaluate draft options and wait to re-sign a number of their players before free agency. 

We had plenty of great questions and narrowed them down to six that seem to cover everything from the Hall of Fame to, yes, Dez Bryant. 

So, let's get started...

QUESTION: What are Ben's odds of playing this season?

Noah - Until his February check up we really don't have any idea what's going to happen with Ben this season. Optimistic, he's had a year to heal me says there's a chance he's good to at least try to play once the season starts. Then, there's a gut feeling he's going to be tasked with too big of a challenge to get football ready before the year begins. 

Art Rooney says he's optimistic about his return, Mike Tomlin said his check up should give us an idea of the timeline for his next steps in rehab but until he's on the field seeing what his body can do we have no idea what to expect. 

Right now, it's about keeping an open mind and for the Steelers to solve the offensive issues around him just in case. They need a more reliable running back rotation and someone needs to become a clear number one receiver. 

The focus on the offensive line will change and chances are there's a new starting tight end. So, for now, pay attention to that.

QUESTION: Is T.J. Watt a lock for DPOY? If not, who's going to beat him?

He's certainly not a lock but if he or Stephen Gilmore don't win this award there's going to be questions. These two are the clear front-runners for the award but it's troubling to see Watt not walk away with it. 

There isn't a stat Watt wasn't able to impress in this season and if that's how this award is being judged than he's the easy pick. Even outside of his 14.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions and 8 pass deflections, Watt was a player that you watched change games throughout the season. 

There wasn't another defensive star this season that changed the game for his team as much as this edge rusher. Pittsburgh's 8-8 season looked a lot more like a top 10 draft pick before he led this defensive to their best season in years. 

Again, is he a lock? No. But he should be. 

QUESTION: Will Hines Ward ever get into the Hall of Fame?

This is the ultimate question for Steelers fans in their 20's. Like myself, you probably grew up watching Hines Ward become the meanest and happiest wide receiver in football and it just felt like there was or ever will be another like him. 

Unfortunately, being the hardest-hitting 6-foot receiver in football doesn't guarantee you a spot in Canton. His four Pro Bowls, two Second Team All-Pros and Super Bowl MVP probably should, but really, it probably should've already. 

I would like to say that at some point Ward finds himself in the Hall where he belongs but wide receivers are the biggest guessing game when it comes to who's getting elected. 

He deserves to be and in time hopefully will. It might be a little longer of a wait than he and many fans are hoping for, though.

QUESTION: Right now who's the Steelers best bet with their first pick?

While everyone out there seems to believe the Steelers are destined to sign a tight end, it just doesn't seem logical to me. Nick Vannett is a cheaper option than Vance McDonald with plenty of potential and a proven skill set to handle the starting role.

Pittsburgh's needs are much bigger than figuring out a tight end, especially since you can't judge the lack of success from the position in 2019 because of the constant change of quarterback. 

If I was in the draft room, which I'm not, the position I'd be looking at is running back. The 49th pick sits perfectly with plenty of options remaining and until James Conner plays a whole season they're not sold on anyone in their current rotation handling a full workload throughout a season. 

There's never a bad time to boost the running game and if your quarterback situation is as up in limbo as theirs is, the best thing to do is to have as talented of a backfield as possible. 

QUESTION: Is Dez Bryant an option for the Steelers?

No. I shouldn't have to continue talking about this but here we are. Dez Bryant isn't an option for the Steelers and even if he named them as a possible wish-list team he's still not joining the team in 2020. 

First, no one has any idea what type of pay he's looking for but you don't pay a player who's virtually sat out the last two years when you're in a tight spot with cap space as it is.

Second, he doesn't fit in the needs of this team at all. You can't imagine he's still a deep threat and Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster handle slot duties. 

Third, the Steelers don't want to bring in more high-risk players when they're finally building a young and tight-knit team on both sides of the ball. Draft a wide receiver, sign a younger veteran or give Dion Cane another chance but Dez Bryant is not on their radar. 

QUESTION: Do the Steelers need a tight end in the NFL Draft?

Judging off the Steelers long history of giving players that extra shot before cutting them loose, no. Nick Vannett makes more financial sense, and we talked about that earlier. Zach Gentry is only a second-year guy and Pittsburgh likely isn't getting rid of him. 

This offseason it's hard to imagine a new tight end being brought in during free agency or through the early portion of the draft. Maybe with one of their four fourth and fifth round picks but nothing before then. 

Pittsburgh's past gives us a sense that it'll be a Vannett-Gentry year and if it doesn't work moves will be made. And if it doesn't work early, a trade could be made. 

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