Let’s get to it:
EDITOR’S NOTE 1: In the April 19 installment of Asked and Answered, in a response to a question pertaining to the compensatory draft pick formula, I incorrectly included Mark Barron among those unrestricted free agents signed by the Steelers who would impact what the team might be awarded in compensation for unrestricted free agents lost. Barron was not an unrestricted free agent when the Steelers signed him; he had been released by the Rams. Barron does not count in the compensatory draft pick formula for the Steelers in 2020. I regret the error.
EDITOR’S NOTE 2: There have been a few questions submitted about the issuing of jersey numbers for the players the Steelers have added to their roster since the end of the 2018 season. The following is a partial list of jersey numbers for new players, and there will be more once the draft is over and players begin reporting for the various on-field offseason sessions (it should be noted that there are instances were numbers have been issued to two players – one on offense and one on defense – for the time the team has a 90-man roster limit):
No. 6 QB Brogan Roback; No. 11 WR Donte Moncrief; No. 22 CB Steven Nelson; No. 33 CB Jack Tocho; No. 35 CB Herb Waters; No. 38 DB Kameron Kelly; No. 39 RB Marcelis Branch; No. 40 LB J.T. Jones; No. 40 RB Ralph Webb; No. 46 LB Tegray Scales; No. 49 LB Robert Spillane; No. 60 C J.T. Hassenauer; No. 74 DL Casey Scales; No. 80 WR Ka’Ruan White; No. 30 WR Diontae Spencer; No. 87 TE Kevin Rader.
CREE ICKES FROM AVENEL, NJ: Can the Steelers justify not re-signing Jesse James since he was the No. 2 tight end? I realize it comes to money, but it seems like they let a solid tight end go.
ANSWER: Jesse James signed a four-year, $22.6 million contract with the Detroit Lions, including a $7.145 million signing bonus, and $10.5 million in total guaranteed money. Starting in 2020, his base salaries will be $3.8 million, $4.95 million, $5.7 million, and then there’s a club option for $5.9 million in 2023. There is no way the Steelers could justify paying that kind of money to a No. 2 tight end, and there is no way Jesse James could justify not taking advantage of free agency and accepting that amount of money. Free agency means the players are free to seek more lucrative options, just as the teams are able to look for better players.
DON DOWEY FROM PUYALLUP, WA: Now that the 2019 schedule is released, what do you see as the toughest three-to-four week span of the Steelers schedule? Any part of the schedule that could make or break the Steelers season?
ANSWER: In terms of immediate reaction to a team’s schedule, I have to agree with Vic Fangio. A defensive coordinator in San Francisco and Chicago from 2011-18, Fangio was hired this offseason by the Denver Broncos to be their head coach. When he was asked for his reaction to his team’s newly-released schedule, Fangio said, “I had no reaction, really. I’m only interested to see who we play the first two weeks because that’s who you’ll start planning on in the offseason. Other than that, the schedule at this point in the season is really kind of irrelevant. Where the schedule does matter sometimes is during the season you may play teams that might be missing players. That helps you. Or, you might be missing your own players. That hurts you. Or, you get a team that’s on a hot streak and you get them right in the middle of their hot streak, or you get them when they’re playing down a little bit. There’s no way to predict what’s a good schedule.”
ROBERT HENLEY FROM NEW CASTLE, PA: I know people are saying the Steelers need a linebacker or linebackers, but with Pittsburgh having so few interceptions wouldn’t it be a smart move to go and get a defensive back?
ANSWER: My contention is that the Steelers need both, which is why selling out to trade up in the first round for one guy won’t solve all of their issues on defense.
TYLER WENRICH FROM DENVER, PA: Do the Steelers have any interest in extending the contracts of JuJu Smith-Schuster or James Conner?
ANSWER: Not this year. The team’s policy is that it’s willing to talk contract extensions with non-quarterbacks who are going into the final year of their existing deals. Both JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner have two years remaining on their existing contracts. Next year at this time is when there becomes a possibility of those kinds of talks with those two players.
PAT CORSON FROM SHIRLEYSBURG, PA: Mark Barron hopefully fills the void of what Morgan Burnett did not wish to do. Was there no other value to having an experienced player like Burnett on the roster as well, or was the salary too much for the benefit of the added depth?
ANSWER: The contract Morgan Burnett signed with the Steelers contained a salary commensurate with being a starter. Since he lost the starting strong safety job to Terrell Edmunds and wasn’t interested in the starting job as a dime linebacker, he became too expensive to keep on the roster. Burnett was a bad signing any way you care to look at it.
DAVID HAYES FROM HARTSELLE, AL; The Steelers have had quite a list of pre-draft visitors, and thanks for posting those visits on your Twitter account. Are there any recent drafts where the Steelers have selected players who did not visit?
ANSWER: Yes. And most of the players the Steelers draft are guys who didn’t make pre-draft visits. In 2015, only three of their eight picks made pre-draft visits; in 2016 it was three of their seven picks who made pre-draft visits; in 2017 it was three of their eight picks who made pre-draft visits; and in 2018 it was one of their seven picks who made a pre-draft visit.
CRAIG MAYLE FROM PROVO, UT: I’ve seen a few questions about the Steelers’ coldest games. Well, what are a couple of the hottest games the Steelers played in?
ANSWER: The Steelers have played in seven games during which the recorded temperature at kickoff was at least 90 degrees. Those games include: a 31-14 loss to the Cardinals in Phoenix on Oct. 9, 1988 where the kickoff temperature was 94-degrees; a 24-20 win over the Chargers in San Diego on Oct. 12, 2015 where the temperature was 93-degrees; a 23-6 victory over the Chargers in San Diego on Sept. 20, 1992 where the temperature was 92-degrees; a 20-13 victory over the Ravens in Baltimore on Sept 6, 1998 where the temperature was 91-degrees; a 23-10 loss to the Dolphins in Miami on Sept. 18, 1995 where the temperature was 91-degrees; a 27-7 win over the Texans in Houston on Sept. 18, 2005 where the temperature was 90-degrees; and a 38-13 victory over the Buccaneers in Tampa on Sept. 26, 2010 where the temperature was 90-degrees.