Let’s get to it:
BURTON HARRIS FROM GREENSBURG, PA: When it is time for the Steelers to make their pick in the draft, do Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin make the final decision or does Art Rooney II get involved as well.
ANSWER: General Manager Kevin Colbert and Coach Mike Tomlin are involved in the entire draft process, and then once the Steelers advance to the part where they’re putting their grades on the individual prospects and arranging their draft board accordingly, Team President Art Rooney II is in the room for those meetings/discussions. The Steelers also go through something similar to a mock draft on the day before the actual picking, and the purpose of that is to have a definite pecking order for the first round all the way down to their scheduled pick, which this year is No. 20 overall. Then once the night of the draft arrives and the actual picking begins, there is very little left to do except take the names off the board as teams above the Steelers select them and then they typically pick the highest-remaining name once their turn comes.
CALVIN HERB FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Would the Steelers be defined as in a rebuilding stage during this offseason, or more of a re-load in an attempt to get more playmakers?
ANSWER: Any team still employing a future Hall of Fame quarterback, a guy who passed for over 5,000 yards in just the previous season, never would be defined as being in a rebuilding mode.
ERNEST GUTIERREZ FROM SAN JOSE, CA: When the Steelers bring in college players for pre-draft visits, does this mean the player physically works out for the team or do they only talk to assess football IQ and personality, or both?
ANSWER: Pre-draft visits have more to do with spending time with the player, getting to know him a little bit more, and sometimes there might be more medical information relayed from the player to the team. Sometimes a guy who wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine might get a physical while he’s in Pittsburgh, but workouts typically are done at the Combine, at the player’s college Pro Day, or both.
DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: Do the free agent signings from the AAF have any impact on the 2020 compensatory draft picks?
COREY COYNE FROM BRISTOW, VA: I just saw that Shane Ray is still available. Do you think he could be a good fit as a third edge rusher behind T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree if the Steelers could get him for a good price? I’ll admit I don’t know what his market is looking like, but if he’s still available now, I can’t imagine it’s that much.
ANSWER: Shane Ray injured a wrist that has required multiple surgical procedures, according to ESPN.com. Ray originally suffered his injury in the first week of training camp in 2017 and missed the first six games of the regular season while on injured reserve. He played in the last eight games, but he admitted he struggled at times physically after his return to the lineup. Ray finished the 2018 season on injured reserve, placed there in December, shortly after a third surgery on his wrist, that one to remove screws that had been put into place to aid in healing. He finished the season with just one sack. Because of his injury, he could not weight train as he has in the past and said he had played last season at about 220 pounds rather than his usual 240 to 242 pounds. A wrist injury can be a serious one for a player who needs to use his hands to get around NFL offensive linemen, and there’s no way of knowing whether Ray even could pass a physical at this point.
MICHAEL REYNOLDS FROM MONROE, LA: Should we be fortunate enough to have a choice at No. 20 or after we trade up and have a chance to choose from among inside linebacker Devin White, inside linebacker Devin Bush, or cornerback Byron Murphy, who are you picking?
ANSWER: I would be picking Devin White.
WALTER HARDY FROM SAN LUIS POTOSÍ, MÉXICO: Has someone in the Steelers organization told you they are going for a defensive playmaker in the draft, or is that your thought?
ANSWER: After every season, Steelers President Art Rooney II meets with select members of the media and gives his thoughts on the team’s performance and then answers questions: When he began this year’s version on Jan. 16, he cited two things as primary reasons why the team missed the playoffs: “a lack of even an average kicking game,” and “our minus turnover ratio … on defense we just have to be aggressive in taking the ball away and finding players who can do that.”
As for the statistics supporting that contention, with eight interceptions in 2018, the Steelers tied their all-time franchise low in that department, and the record they tied was set in 1940 when teams played an 11-game schedule and opposing offenses just didn’t pass the ball that much. So, the defensive playmaker mantra I have been repeating through this pre-draft process is my own, but I would consider it an obvious conclusion.
JASON MULFORD FROM DAYTON, OH: What do you think those inside the Steelers organization think of Artie Burns? Is he getting to the end of the line, or is there still a belief that he has some high upside?
ANSWER: I believe this will be a do-or-die camp/preseason for Artie Burns. He either gets himself together and becomes the kind of player he indicated he could be during his rookie season, or his time with the Steelers will come to an end.
JOHNATHAN WARDER FROM RANDLEMAN, NC: When Ben Roethlisberger decides to retire, who do you think will be the new starting quarterback between the other two currently on the roster? Asking this because a friend thinks Joshua Dobbs will be the choice over Mason Rudolph due to more experience.
ANSWER: The Steelers currently are working on a contract extension for Ben Roethlisberger, so my belief is that by the time it comes for him to announce his retirement, it’ll be far enough into the future where experience won’t be an issue with either Joshua Dobbs or Mason Rudolph.
LOGAN LAZARICK FROM ALBERTA, CANADA: Do you think T.J. Watt is the best defensive player the Steelers have drafted in the last five years?
ANSWER: By my arithmetic, the last five years would include the drafts held between 2014-18. Using those parameters, I would say the best defensive player the Steelers have drafted in that period is Ryan Shazier.
REESE MCDOWELL FROM PHILADELPHIA, PA: Do you believe that if either T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant is available at No. 20 overall that the Steelers will draft one of them?
ANSWER: I hope not, for two reasons: tight end is not that significant a position where a team has to spend a mid-first-round pick on one, and of the best players at that position currently in the NFL, none were No. 1 picks. The two tight ends who were voted to the 2018 Associated Press All-Pro team were Kansas City’s Travis Kelce (first-team) and San Francisco’s George Kittle (second team), and the acknowledged best tight end of this generation is Rob Gronkowski. Kelce was a third-round pick, Kittle was a fifth-round pick, and Gronkowski was a second-round pick. Repeat after me: defensive playmakers.
KENNETH HAGGERTY FROM WAVERLY, OH: With the defensive personnel the Steelers have right now, who do you think would be the starting safeties, without adding one via a draft choice?
ANSWER: The same guys who were the starting safeties the last time the Steelers took the field for a game: Terrell Edmunds and Sean Davis.
MATT BUTLER FROM HUNTSVILLE, TX: I noticed that the Steelers signed some players from the AAF, but I didn't see anything about who they released to make room for the new players. Did the Steelers have open spots on their 90-man roster (unlikely) or were there players released?
ANSWER: Before any signings of AAF players, the Steelers had about 70 players on their 90-man roster.
DONIE GRINNELL FROM MEADVILLE, PA: I don't know much about Mason Rudolph. Do you think he is Pittsburgh's future at quarterback after Ben Roethlisberger? Does he have what it takes to be our next franchise quarterback?
ANSWER: I can assure you of one thing: There is not a single person who could provide you with an accurate answer to that question. And if you’re looking for a guess, yours is as good as Kevin Colbert’s.
LYNDEN OLIVER FROM FORT WAYNE, IN: What do you think about the Twitter feud between Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster?
ANSWER: There is nothing in the history of this planet about which I have cared less.