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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 2

Let's get to it:

ERIC SCHENK FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: I know the Steelers organization has until May 2 to decide on Justin Fields fifth-year option. Assuming they don't exercise the fifth-year option, are they allowed to come to different contract terms on an extension before the end of the football season and him hitting free agency?
ANSWER: Because the Steelers officially acquired Justin Fields via trade and he is on their 90-man roster they are able to negotiate with him and come to an agreement on anything not prohibited by the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. So, yes, the sides could negotiate a long-term contract extension now, or at any point during the run-up to the 2024 regular season. General Manager Omar Khan has said the Steelers still will adhere to their long-held policy of not negotiating contracts once the regular season opens, and so if nothing would happen between now and the regular season opener the team still would have Fields' exclusive rights from the end of the 2024 season and the start of the 2025 league year to get something done.

TOMMY MONAGHAN FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: In the preseason, if Justin Fields plays better then Russell Wilson, do you think Justin will start in the 2024 season?
ANSWER: Russell Wilson will begin the offseason in the "pole position" when it comes to the starting quarterback job, and my perception is that he will have to lose the job, particularly as it pertains to the opening of the 2024 regular season.

JOHN M. WASHINSKY FROM CLEMMONS, NC: With the banning of the hip-drop tackle, can you recall any Steelers who were seriously injured in past years by this tackling technique?
ANSWER: During a Nov. 1, 2015, game vs. the Bengals in Pittsburgh, Vontaze Burfict executing a hip-drop tackle that ended running back Le'Veon Bell's season. On the play, Bell injured an MCL in his knee and was placed on the injured reserve list. The Steelers finished 10-6 in 2015, defeated the Bengals in the Wild Card Round and then lost to eventual Super Bowl champion Denver in the Divisional Round.

ROY PERRIN FROM RALEIGH, NC: I don't remember who wore the green dot on defense last year, but with the additions of Patrick Queen and Donte Jackson in free agency, are they possible options for it?
ANSWER: Before he was injured, inside linebacker Cole Holcomb wore the green dot on defense in 2023, and as an all-situations, every-down inside linebacker I believe it will be Patrick Queen wearing the green dot on defense in 2024 for the Steelers.

SCOTT RANDALL FROM CONWAY, SC: With the additions the team has made to wide receiver, what does this mean for Connor Heyward? I have not seen and or heard anything regarding his name and or possible spot on this team moving forward.
ANSWER: Connor Heyward is not a wide receiver, so I don't understand why you might believe the addition of a wide receivers such as Van Jefferson and Quez Watkins would have any impact on him. Also, the Steelers have a new offensive coordinator in Arthur Smith, and there cannot be any football-like on-field activities until OTAs begin on Tuesday, May 21, and so there is no way to know what his plans might be for Connor Heyward.

JERRY STUPNICKI FROM GARFIELD HEIGHTS, OH: When will there be more information for the Steelers Draft Party at the Acrisure Stadium on April 27? And what players will be there signing autographs?
ANSWER: The Steelers Draft Party will be from noon-5 p.m. on Saturday, April 27 at Acrisure Stadium. The in-house promotion for the event lists the following attractions:
• Steelers Legends
• Meet our 2024 Draft Picks
• The chance to win giveaways
• On-Field Activities
• Locker Room Tours
• DJ and Live Music
• Girls Flag Football
• Photo Opportunities
• Select concession stands will be open for fans to purchase food and beverages.
• Watch Draft Coverage on the big screen as the Steelers make their picks in rounds 4-7
• Visit the Steelers Pro Shop and get your gear, including the 2024 Draft Collection

Tickets for the Draft Party are $15 and can be purchased via the Steelers page on

KEN WAMSLEY FROM BIDWELL, OH: With Russell Wilson and Justin Fields both having been starters, could either be traded come draft day? Why I ask is that General Manager Omar Khan has been very active this offseason.
ANSWER: If I understand this correctly, you're asking if two quarterbacks with NFL starting experience who had been acquired once free agency began on March 13 would be traded some five weeks later without even having stepped on the field during the offseason program? That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

OWEN SHREVE FROM NEW CREEK, WV: Do you think the Steelers will trade up in the draft to select a wide receiver like Malik Nabers or Marvin Harrison Jr.?

CRAIG TSCHAPPAT FROM BETHESDA, OH: Do you believe extending the draft to 9 or 10 rounds would benefit NFL teams? Would it benefit draft eligible players and what impact would it have on potential undrafted free agents?
ANSWER: The NFL Draft was cut from 12 rounds to 8 rounds in 1993, and then from 8 rounds to 7 rounds in 1994 as the league transitioned to its current model of free agency tied to a salary cap. The NFLPA was in favor of shortening the draft, because fewer rounds meant fewer players drafted. In the union's view, undrafted players became free agents and had the ability to sign with any team that wanted them. Another factor at work was that with teams being able to add fewer players via a shortened draft, it would make unrestricted free agency – the signing of veteran players who got to the open market – a more legitimate option in the area of roster-building. In my view, extending the NFL Draft isn't something that would be agreed upon by the two sides during any negotiation of an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

FRANK MANCUSO FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: I have a friend who firmly believes that Coach Mike Tomlin makes all the decisions regarding which free agents to sign and which players to draft. I told him that I believe that while Tomlin has input, the roster building and final decision on players is ultimately General Manager Omar Kahn's responsibility. Could you please shed some light on how this all works?
ANSWER: You and your friend are both wrong. The only person who has unilateral authority to make decisions is Steelers President Art Rooney II.

MARK O'MALLEY FROM MANTUA, NJ: Is there any attempt to have the NFL Draft land in Pittsburgh?
ANSWER: In late February, the Steelers and the City of Pittsburgh officially applied to host the NFL Draft in either 2026 or 2027 with a social media post in which the team tagged Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, Allegheny County Exec Sara Innamorato and with a short video. With the NFL Owners Meeting now completed, the next gathering will be in May. At that point, the league likely will give approval to the site chosen to host the draft in 2026. At the recently completed NFL Owners Meeting In Orlando, Steelers President Art Rooney II was asked about the status of that application. "Nothing really new to report other than we can continue to be optimistic about it," said Rooney.

MICHAEL BRADLEY FROM CHELTENHAM, UK: I've been a Steelers fan since I visited in 1989, but as I live in Gloucestershire I'm well aware of Luis Rees Zammit's abilities. Are the Steelers interested in signing him?
ANSWER: The Kansas City Chiefs previously agreed to contract terms with European rugby star Louis Rees-Zammit. According to sources surrounding the agreement on those contract terms, the Chiefs will look at Rees-Zammit at running back and perhaps wide receiver. His biggest immediate impact could come on special teams and particularly as a return specialist under the NFL's new kickoff format. Rees-Zammit, 23, announced in January that he would attempt to play in the NFL. He participated in the NFL's International Player Pathway pro day and ran a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash. Rees-Zammit, who is from Wales, then made visits to a handful of teams before agreeing to contract terms with the Chiefs.

LARRY MITCHELL FROM FAYETTEVILLE, GA: Now that the offense has been solidified, do you believe the emphasis of the 2024 draft will be the defensive secondary?
ANSWER: I don't see how you can look at an offense in need of a starting-caliber center, an offensive tackle as a potential bookend with Broderick Jones, and a weapon at wide receiver to offset the trade of Diontae Johnson to Carolina as a unit that "has been solidified."

KHARI CLEMMONS FROM McALPIN, FL: I was watching the Rich Eisen show and during it he talked, somewhat cryptically, about "Hard Knocks" and that Steelers aren't "eligible" to be forced into doing it. He intimated that there are NFL guidelines that mandate teams to participate in Hard Knocks. I was wondering if you can shed some light on what the "mandates" are for a team to participate in the show and why the Steelers would be exempt from that mandate?
ANSWER: When it comes to the preseason version of "Hard Knocks," teams get a pass if they have a new head coach, or if they've appeared on the show within the past 10 years, or if they've qualified for the playoffs in either of the prior two seasons. It's possible those were the mandates to which Rich Eisen was referring. "Hard Knocks" debuted an in-season version of the series in 2023, during which the Miami Dolphins were selected to participate. There has been some social media speculation that the upcoming in-season version of "Hard Knocks" would focus on an entire division and not just a single team. Stay tuned.