Let's get to it:
GENE GREY FROM MORENO VALLEY, CA: What was the predraft buzz in 2003 about Troy Polamalu? I had never heard of him until the Steelers traded up to pick him in the first round.
ANSWER: To answer a question having to do with the modern history of the NFL Draft and the evaluation of prospects for it, the best source is Rick Gosselin. During 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft, Gosselin wasn't one of those who "studied" video and cast himself as a scout, but he was a writer who talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts, and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin then built his own draft board and did mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. The following is Gosselin's 2003 scouting report on Troy Polamalu:
GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: "Polamalu rushed for 1,040 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior at Winston (Oregon) Douglas High School but played only four games as a senior because of injuries – a bruised kidney, sprained shoulder, and torn back muscles. He spent his freshman season at Southern Cal as a backup linebacker and safety, then started for three seasons at strong safety. He was a two-year captain, two-time All-Pac 12, two-time All-America and a Thorpe Award finalist. Polamalu intercepted only six career passes for the Trojans but returned three of them for touchdowns. He also blocked four punts in 2001. He was slowed by a sprained ankle in the second half of his senior season but still finished the year with 98 tackles. A knee injury forced Polamalu to miss both the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine. He measured a shade over 5-10 and 206 pounds at Southern Cal's pro day and turned in a blistering 4.33 in the 40-yard dash. He also charted a vertical jump of 43 ½ inches and threw up the bench press (225 pounds) 25 times." Gosselin placed Polamalu at No. 19 on his Top 100 board, and the Steelers selected him with the 16th overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft in a rare franchise trade up with Kansas City."
Here are comments on Polamalu given to Gosselin from 19 talent evaluators leading up to his draft:
"Scout: Sudden, like Darren Woodson. Blows you up but lacks the coverage skills of Woodson.
"Scout II: Great acceleration but an inconsistent tackler. Takes some bad angles. Late (first-round pick) but could go higher. Quality kid who loves the game. He warmed up against Iowa (Orange Bowl, his final college game) but then didn't play because of a knee injury. He also had some ankle issues during the season. I question his durability because he's so physically tight. Not real flexible.
"Scout III: Smart. Tough box safety that lacks the range of (Ohio State's Michael) Doss.
"Defensive backfield coach: Better than Doss – bigger, sturdier and knows how to get to the ball. The biggest difference between the two is their motors.
"Defensive backfield coach II: Plays hard and will break his little body up. A little guy playing in a big man's league. I question his change of direction. No fluidity.
"Defensive coordinator III: I like him, but he faces a learning curve. Quicker than (Adam) Archuleta (Arizona State safety who went 20th overall in the 2001 draft).
"Personnel director: Quality kid.
"Personnel director II: Our No. 1 safety without a doubt.
"Personnel director III: Has the speed and athleticism to play the deep part of the field, but he can't play the deep part of the field. He's exciting to watch, though.
"Personnel director IV: Our No. 1 safety.
"General manager: Unguided missile. Misses a lot.
"General manager II: Perfect safety for the 46-defense. A Blaine Bishop type – runs fast and plays tough and hard.
"General manager III: Medical concerns – and as reckless as he plays, he's going to get hurt.
"General manager IV: Our No. 1 safety.
"General manager V: He knows what it takes to play at this level.
"General manager VI: He's getting killed on the medicals with his concussions. If he drops severely (in this draft), that's why.
"General manager VII: His height scares me. He's (Adam) Archuleta … but when he gets stuck in pass coverage, he's not that good. Short-armed guy who misses too many tackles. But I'd love to have him on our special teams.
"Head coach: I like him, but he's going to kill himself. He's going to be a physical wreck in this league.
"Head coach II: Can he stay healthy at this level?
"Some of the scouts were right – there was a learning curve. Polamalu didn't start a single game in his rookie season, playing primarily on special teams. But when Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau arrived as defensive coordinator in 2004, Polamalu's career took off. He went to the first of his eight Pro Bowls that season on the strength of his 96 tackles and five interceptions. He was voted to the 2000s NFL all-decade team and also was the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 when he collected 63 tackles and seven interceptions for the AFC champions. Polamalu helped the Steelers win NFL championships in 2005 and 2008, setting his career high with seven interceptions in that 2008 season. But scouts who questioned his ability to stay healthy also were right. Polamalu managed to play all 16 games in only five of his 12 seasons, missing 34 games total because of injuries. He retired following the 2014 season with 738 career tackles, 32 interceptions, 12 sacks, seven fumble recoveries, and five career touchdowns on takeaways. He was named to the Steelers All-Time Team in 2007 and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2020. Polamalu chose LeBeau, by the way, to be his presenter at his Hall of Fame induction." – By Rick Gosselin
STÉPHANE PRÉMONT FROM QUÉBEC, CANADA: I loved your answer on the question about Hines Ward's Hall of Fame credentials and how you used Coach Mike Tomlin's words. Although I will not criticize any of GM Kevin Colbert's picks, I am hoping for some speed at wide receiver, a defensive lineman who can contribute pressure to the pass rush and add to the run-stopping, an edge to rotate with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, and a quality cover cornerback on Day 1 or Day 3. On a personal level, which of these, or other choices, would satisfy you the most?
ANSWER: I like your list a lot, and I would imagine Kevin Colbert would be tickled to come out of the upcoming draft having checked off everything on it.
JACK LEWIS FROM BRIDGEVILLE , PA: Any word on whether or not the Steelers will return to Saint Vincent College for training camp this year?
ANSWER: I refer you to Steelers.com, where a story written by Teresa Varley addressed the Steelers' plan to return to Saint Vincent College. The story first appeared on the website on Wednesday, April 20, and it included this quote from Steelers President Art Rooney II: "We are very excited to return to Saint Vincent College for our Training Camp later this summer. We always appreciate the support from Saint Vincent as well as the Latrobe community. We look forward to having fans back on campus as we will be preparing for the 2022 season. We thank Father Paul Taylor and the tremendous staff on campus for their continued support for our return to our summer home."
RICK SCAGLIONE FROM FREDERICKSBURG, VA: With the Steelers re-signing Marcus Allen, considering the crowd at inside linebacker, what are the possibilities that they move him back to safety alongside Minkah Fitzpatrick?
ANSWER: My sense is that if the Steelers believed Marcus Allen was a starting-caliber strong safety, he never would have been moved to inside linebacker in the first place.
NORM BRENNAN FROM CHACHAGUI, COLOMBIA: What are the chances Terrell Edmunds re-signs with the Steelers. Doesn't seem to be much interest out there otherwise for him.
ANSWER: Regarding the interest in Terrell Edmunds and players around the league in the same category as him, it seems as though teams traditionally use this time of the year to concentrate on the draft. The initial wave of free agency has passed, and a lot of teams either do their shopping for UFAs early or wait until they see what they end up getting out of the draft. Once the teams have a chance to make an initial assessment of their brand-new draft classes, then there should be a bit more action on the free agent market league wide. With the draft scheduled to start one week from today, I don't expect the Steelers to be spending much time on free agency until after that.
RON WILLIAMS FROM ASTORIA, OR: Have there been more interviews for the General Manager position, or has that been decided but not yet released?
ANSWER: The Steelers stopped the interviews for that job at the March 1 deadline. I would expect another round of interviews will be conducted shortly after the draft, and then Steelers President Art Rooney II will make the decision. Once the decision is made, the announcement would come shortly after, because something like that isn't going to be able to be kept a secret. In fact, I expect everyone will know the name of the Steelers next general manager before a news conference can be convened to announce it. That's just the reality in the social media age when it comes to a high-profile personnel decision in an industry like the National Football League.
DAVID BOGNAR FROM GERMANTOWN, WI: This year marks the Steelers 90th Season, and it's also the 50th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception. Do you have any information on plans the Steelers have to celebrate these milestones?
ANSWER: All I can tell you right now is that there definitely are plans to commemorate both. Stay tuned, and when more information is made available
DAN MCKAIN FROM ZELIENOPLE, PA: Does the front office ask the opinion of players when signing free agents? Were Cam Heyward or T.J. Watt asked for their opinions of the offensive linemen who were signed? I seem to recall that Kimo van Oelhoffen was signed partly due to Dermontti Dawson advocating for him.
ANSWER: Input from players generally is valued on a weighted system, and to use your example a Dermontti Dawson would have more influence than most in a locker room. But with free agency now a fact of life in the NFL, players are moving from team-to-team much more freely and frequently, and so coaches often have had a good bit of exposure to these unrestricted free agents starting with the pre-draft process when those guys were about to enter the league. And then the critical issue in terms of a team being able to add that player to its roster always is whether a deal can get negotiated.