Let's get to it:
BRANDON LATTANZI FROM STRATFORD, CT:
In the #UltimateDraft, fourth round edition, I went with Aaron Smith as the best No. 4 pick in franchise history. I realize I skipped Hall Of Fame receiver John Stallworth, as well as a member of the vaunted Steel Curtain in Dwight White, but Smith was the cornerstone (in my opinion) of an insanely talented defense. Cam Heyward certainly seems to be the next great Steelers defensive lineman, and Stephon Tuitt seems to have all the tools, but their stories are still being written. In all your years covering the Steelers and aside from Joe Greene, where would you rank Smith among the Steelers greatest defensive lineman?
Who is your top draft pick in Steelers history from Round 2? Make your #UltimateDraft pick now!
ANSWER: The Steelers have two defensive linemen in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Along with Joe Greene, acknowledged as the greatest player in Steelers history, there is Ernie Stautner, and Greene and Stautner are the only two players in franchise history to have their jerseys retired. Also deserving of Hall of Fame induction, in my opinion, is L.C. Greenwood, who still ranks second in franchise history in sacks.**
Dwight White still ranks ninth in franchise history with 46 sacks, and let's not forget him getting out of a hospital bed on the morning of Super Bowl IX to start and play the whole game in a victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Going old school, Ben McGee played nine seasons for the Steelers between 1964-72, was voted to two Pro Bowls, and survived the roster purge when Chuck Noll was hired in 1969. Casey Hampton played in multiple Pro Bowls, and Gary Dunn was the team's first full-time nose tackle when Noll switched to a 3-4 defense in the early 1980s. Dick LeBeau referred to Aaron Smith as the best 3-4 defensive end of all time, but a case can be made for Keith Willis as the best 3-4 defensive end in Steelers history. In 126 games, including 87 starts, Willis racked up 59 sacks, still the sixth-highest total in franchise history, with the high marks being 14 sacks in 1983 and 12 sacks in 1986. By comparison, Smith had 44 sacks in 160 games, including 152 starts, with his high mark being eight sacks in 2004.
Smith contributed much more to the Steelers than just sacks, and for all of those things he contributed he deserves to be considered among the franchise's best at the position. But Keith Willis deserves to be remembered fondly as well.
DON GIBSON FROM BRIDGEVILLE, DE:
When do individual home game tickets for the 2016 season go on sale?
ANSWER: The date for the ticket on-sale has not been finalized, but traditionally the on-sale has always taken place in June. For announcement information, stick with Steelers.com and/or follow the team on Twitter: @Steelers.
MARK ROSS FROM SACRAMENTO, CA:
Do you think the Steelers releasing Cortez Allen is a cap move, or had they become convinced he just was never going to live up to his potential?
ANSWER: I see this as strictly a production decision. The Steelers are in need of cornerbacks, and if Cortez Allen was capable I believe the salary cap stuff could have been worked out. If Allen was capable, he would have been worth the numbers on his contract. But he showed himself to be incapable of being a starting NFL cornerback, and so the Steelers cut ties with him.
DAVE GRUBERSTAHL FROM STERLING, VA:
What do you think is the best attribute of the new draft picks? Talent, ethics, dedication, skill, sacrifice, team-first, work ethic, or the desire to "give whatever it takes?"
ANSWER: Talent is an obvious requirement, and I'm going to assume they have talent. As for a lot of the other qualities you list, I believe a bunch of them can be combined under the heading of "coachable." Being coachable indicates a degree of selflessness, some humility, it indicates a solid work ethic, and certainly hints strongly at a team-first perspective. Players drafted into the NFL, especially so those who enter as high draft picks, have achieved a lot of success over the course of their athletic careers – dating all the way back to their pre-teens in many cases – and along with that often comes a healthy ego. The willingness to put that ego aside to listen to coaches and learn the lessons they're trying to teach often is the difference between a lucrative NFL career and being a "woulda, coulda, shoulda … didn't."
MICHAEL ROBERTS FROM CECILIA, KY:
I have been "out of the loop" for a while. Do you have any information on what happened with Stefen Wisniewski? Did he want too much money, or did he sign somewhere else?
ANSWER: Stefen Wisniewski signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, and his deal included a $500,000 signing bonus, a $250,000 roster bonus, and a 2016 salary of $760,000. He will have an opportunity to be an unrestricted free agent again in March 2017. With the Eagles, Wisniewski has a real chance to be the starting center, which will provide him with the stage to perform well to earn a bigger, maybe longer-term deal in 2017. In Pittsburgh, Wisniewski would have been a backup at center. Signing with the Eagles will keep Wisniewski in the "starter" category, while signing with the Steelers would have put him in the "backup" category. That difference, in my mind, was the significant factor in his decision.
NATE MILLER FROM COLORADO SPRINGS, CO:
If more than one team has the same regular season record and it is knocked out of the same round in the playoffs, what determines the draft order? Like this year with Pittsburgh and Seattle.
ANSWER: Strength of schedule is also a factor, and in those cases the team with the lower strength of schedule would pick before the team with the stronger strength of schedule, because of the draft's consistent goal to give the worst teams the most opportunity to better themselves.
BRIAN MARTIN FROM HAMILTON, NJ:
When teams have college players visit before the draft, who pays the expenses, and are there limits set as to how much the team can spend on each player? Are the teams allowed to "wine and dine" them?
ANSWER: Teams pay expenses for the pre-draft visits, and those expenditures are not regulated, except possibly by the accounting departments of the particular teams. You need to understand that this isn't college recruiting, or free agency, where the player has some say in where he ends up playing, and because of that, why "wine and dine?" This is the draft – you get picked, and that's where you play.
Here are photos from our last meeting with each of our 2016 opponents.
RYAN BOWSER FROM CHICAGO, IL:
With Ryan Harris being signed a while back, does that mean it is an open competition at left tackle? I thought Alejandro Villanueva played really well at left tackle last year despite his lack of experience. He can only get better from here.
ANSWER: The Steelers have indicated there will be an open competition at left tackle between Ryan Harris and Alejandro Villanueva, and I agree with your assessment of Villanueva's 2015 season and his potential for the immediate future. But the NFL is a business based on competition, and coaches believe players need it in order to move forward as individuals, which in turn allows the team to move forward as a group. While fans like to anoint, coaches prefer to be shown.
DREW RICHARDS FROM IVINS, UT:
I have been a Steelers fan since high school and that is so far away I don't remember it. No question from me here, but you need a 'like' button on Asked and Answered like Facebook. Some of your answers just need to be acknowledged by those of us who are just appreciating the wit.
ANSWER: Thanks for the sentiment, but having a "like" option also could lead to having something to allow readers to express the opposite emotion. I get called enough names as it is.
JIM REICH FROM YARDLEY, PA:
Due to the loss of players to free agency – Steve McLendon, Kelvin Beachum, Antwon Blake, Brandon Boykin and the rest – will the Steelers receive any additional draft picks? If so, how many? Will they get them for 2016, or have to wait until 2017?
ANSWER: Compensatory draft picks are awarded annually based on the number of unrestricted free agents lost vs. the number of unrestricted free agents signed. I cannot tell you how many picks, or in which rounds those picks might be, but the certainty is that those picks won't come until the 2017 draft.
ISAAC OSTROW FROM MEMPHIS, TN:
My friend always tells me that I place too high a value on Super Bowl wins. It seems to me that the goal of a team every season is to win it all, right? Do you have any advice about how to respond to this? I should mention that he is an Eagles fan.
ANSWER: So what does your friend, the Eagles fan, value from his favorite professional football team? Must be that catchy fight song, "Fly, Eagles, Fly."
PAUL PIATT FROM ESCATAWPA, MS:
Do you find it easier to write Asked and Answered first thing in the morning when you are hung-over, or right after a three-martini lunch? Seriously, now that we have the schedule, what is your season record prediction?
ANSWER: All those who would predict a team's record within hours after the schedule is released, plus all those who would give any merit to such predictions, already have had too many martinis.