Here are some questions about the Steelers’ defense:

*Would you play Shamarko Thomas at S ahead of Mike Mitchell?

*If LB Jarvis Jones continues to be invisible, what are the alternatives?

*Who are your starting front three?

My answers:

*I’d give Mitchell 2-3 games to get right. He’s a veteran. The preseason doesn’t matter that much. But Mitchell’s foot speed looks inadequate. That’s worrisome. Despite his minute role, the coaches reportedly like Thomas a lot and would probably go to him as a starter instead of Will Allen.

*None. It’s ride or die with Jones. No, James Harrison is not an option. Call Andy Russell first. No, moving Lawrence Timmons outside is not an option. Timmons is too valuable inside. Jones producing is absolutely crucial.

*I’d go with Cam Heyward, Steve McLendon and Brett Keisel to open the season. The Steelers had some reason for bringing back Keisel. Cam Thomas would be my top sub across the line, and I’d keep working with Stephon Tuitt. Here’s hoping Heyward is versatile enough to flip back and forth between left and right. That might be needed.

I didn’t ask any questions about cornerbacks because the Steelers got what they got, and those guys are what they are: NOT VERY GOOD.

The opener against Cleveland seems MUST-WIN. Memories of last year’s season-opening loss to Tennessee linger. This may be a reach, but I don’t see the Steelers losing the opener, at home, to the Browns, and then making the playoffs. The margin for error will be very small.

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