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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 28

Let's get to it:

PAT HUTCHISON FROM VERO BEACH, FL: Defensive ends in a 4-3 alignment rush on just about every pass play, whereas the 3-4 the Steelers play offers more versatility because you never know which outside linebacker will rush or if both of them will. That said, how important are pass coverage skills for outside linebackers in the Steelers' system? Is it a major consideration when considering who to draft at the position?
ANSWER: I don't know whether I would categorize coverage skills as a major consideration for the Steelers when scouting/evaluating outside linebackers, and if an outside linebacker is good enough in the other facets of the position, I don't know that the Steelers would eliminate him from consideration simply because he wasn't an asset in coverage. But the indecision with respect to the "is he rushing or is he covering" aspect of 3-4 outside linebackers can end up being a critical factor in the pass defense, because it can cause the quarterback to hold the ball just a bit longer and allow a different pass rusher to break through and make the sack, or it can create a takeaway when the quarterback mis-reads the defense and throws the ball in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Dick LeBeau once told me that sometimes it can be better to create the illusion of pressure on a quarterback because making a quarterback "feel" pressure that isn't actually there is what causes bad throws that result in turnovers. Without a doubt, the most famous example of that happened late in the first half of Super Bowl XLIII when Kurt Warner believed James Harrison would be blitzing and after throwing the ball where Harrison wasn't supposed to be, what resulted was a 100-yard pick-six that's now recognized as the greatest defensive play in Super Bowl history.

RITA BYRD FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: I am sorry to appear insensitive, but with the death of Dwayne Haskins and the signing of Joshua Dobbs by the Browns the Steelers need a third quarterback at some point. I understood making an undrafted rookie the fourth quarterback on the depth chart, but not the third one. This does not mean they need to take one in the first round, or even on Day 2 of the draft, but they either need to draft another good one or sign a free agent. Do you see this as a need that now must be addressed, or am I mistaken?
ANSWER: During the team's pre-draft news conference on Monday, this was one of the questions posed to Coach Mike Tomlin: "When you're looking at the quarterback position now, obviously with the tragedy that happened with Dwayne Haskins, does that affect your decision, you and Kevin (Colbert) going in, whether you're going to pick a quarterback maybe a little bit higher in the draft?"

Tomlin answered, "You know, in regards to Dwayne, our energies have been on paying proper respect and supporting his family. We have not approached it from a business decision or a business decision-making standpoint. We feel like that's the appropriate mindset for us to have as we sit here today."

I believe that was an appropriate public response to the question, but I also think the Steelers will have to come up with a plan to deal with the unexpected hole in the depth chart resulting from the tragedy involving Dwayne Haskins. My personal opinion would be to look to add a quarterback at some point during the draft and then sign another to be the fourth man on the 90-man roster that will report to training camp in late July.

BRIAN MORELLA FROM POLAND, OH: After signing Terrell Edmunds to a one-year contract, it appears that each defensive starting position appears to be set at this time. But with Stephon Tuitt's situation still uncertain, do you think the Steelers will draft a player early, say in the first two rounds, who could play significant minutes in case Tuitt isn't available?
ANSWER: During the team's predraft news conference on Monday at Heinz Field, General Manager Kevin Colbert clarified the situation you reference in your submission. Colbert said that while the Steelers may have players with starting NFL experience at each position following the re-signing of Edmunds, that doesn't mean that those positions have been locked up, or that the team perceives the players currently at those spots to be good enough. With that explanation out of the way, my opinion is the Steelers need to spend a premium pick on a defensive lineman for the simple reason that the top of their depth chart there is aging. Cam Heyward will be 33 in early May; Tyson Alualu will be 35 in early May; and Stephon Tuitt will turn 29 later in May. It's time to re-stock what is an important area on the Steelers defense.

TODD HALL FROM HAMPTON, VA: Do you think Mason Rudolph has a chance to be the starting quarterback this season? Will it be a real competition, or is that the party line being used and it's actually Mitch Trubisky's job?
ANSWER: The starting quarterback job is an important one, and Coach Mike Tomlin never has come across as a coach who believes in anointing someone as opposed to having that player earn his spot through a competition. I could see Tomlin maybe making Mitch Trubisky No. 1 early in the training camp process, but even if that would happen, I believe it would be done with the idea of seeing how Trubisky reacts to that designation and how it impacts his approach/performance, while also seeing how Mason Rudolph reacts to a bit of adversity right off the bat. There might be some head games played to varying degrees, but even if that happens it would be part of the competition.

JERRY SLONE FROM MILTON, WV: Do you believe Mason Rudolph will be given a fair chance to win the starting job?
ANSWER: I don't know how you might determine what constitutes a "fair shot," but I believe that over the course of the upcoming summer, both Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph – plus whomever might end up on the quarterback depth chart following the draft and the immediate aftermath – will be given an opportunity to win or lose the job based on merit.

KRIS PISCZEK FROM CONNELLSVILLE, PA: Looking at the stats you posted on the college careers of the quarterbacks currently on the team and the ones in the upcoming draft, it's apparent Mason Rudolph has done as well as if not better than the others on the list. What do you see as being what has held Rudolph back from progressing to a higher-level quarterback, because he obviously was very talented while at Oklahoma State?
ANSWER: I don't know the answer to your question, but what I do believe after compiling those statistics and comparing them is that it can be misleading to come to definitive conclusions based on a list of numbers appearing on a sheet of paper or on a computer screen. The issue you pose with respect to Rudolph's numbers is valid and, in my opinion, should serve as a warning for fans who trumpet Kenny Pickett as a certain NFL franchise quarterback because his college stats were "better than Dan Marino's."

WAYNE WALTER FROM BLAKELY, PA: Terrell Edmonds reportedly re-signed with the Steelers for one year and is to be paid $2.5 million. How does that amount compare to what he would have made if the Steelers had exercised his fifth-year option instead?
ANSWER: The fifth-year option on Terrell Edmonds' rookie contract would have cost the Steelers $6.753 million for the 2022 season.

NICK MITCHELL FROM GLEN-LYON, PA: What are the chances that the Steelers use their first-round pick on a wide-receiver?
ANSWER: It's possible, and maybe even likely depending upon how the first 19 picks of the draft turn out. The Steelers do need to strengthen themselves at wide receiver, and the pool of prospects in this draft should offer players who deserve to be No. 1 picks.

TRAVIS THOMAS FROM SHOW LOW, AZ: Pittsburgh transplant here. What is the deal with these "experts" calling for the Steelers to get a "true lockdown corner?" As far as I can remember, the Steelers have always played their secondary locked in position, instead of following the opponents' best wide receiver around, or is my memory finally shot?
ANSWER: I cannot speak for others in the media, but in this particular instance I believe the issue is you misunderstanding what is meant by a lockdown cornerback. A player referred to as a lockdown cornerback isn't one who necessarily moves from one side of the field to the other but is one whose skills are such that he's capable of neutralizing whichever receiver he is assigned to cover without help from teammates to such an extent that the quarterback doesn't even attempt to get the ball to him.

CASEY MCDONALD FROM MONTGOMERY, AL: I know personally I thought Limas Sweed would be the next Plaxico Burress, but I was way off. Who was a player you were super high on, who then ended up not living up to the hype?
ANSWER: I've been involved in covering NFL Drafts long enough to know what I don't know, which when it comes to projecting college players into the NFL is a lot. But I also will admit to thinking that Jarvis Jones, who led the Southeastern Conference in sacks during each of his final two seasons at Georgia, was a solid choice in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. After a freshman season during which Jones was a backup, he led the SEC with 13.5 sacks in 2011 and then followed that up with an SEC-lading 14.5 sacks in 2012. In 26 games over his final two seasons at a top program against the best competition in college football, Jones had 28 sacks, two passes defensed, and an interception. That he would turn out to be such a disappointment in the NFL never crossed my mind.

JOE KALDON FROM ALIQUIPPA, PA: Do you know if the Steelers have a policy about drafting players who skipped their bowl games? I feel like players who opt out of their bowl games have quit on their college teams and might not be the best option for an organization looking for the right players who can help a team win a championship.
ANSWER: The way General Manager Kevin Colbert has explained this on a couple of occasions, if every other part of the evaluation of two players is equal, the Steelers would give the edge to the player who did not opt out of his team's bowl game.

BOB GAYDOS FROM SPRINGDALE, PA: I was checking the Steelers roster and noticed Stephon Tuitt is still listed on it. I haven't read or heard whether he is participating in the voluntary workouts. Any news about him regarding whether he intends to play in 2022, and when does his current contract expire?
ANSWER: Last Monday, Coach Mike Tomlin was asked by the media, "Any further clarity on Stephon Tuitt?" Tomlin responded, "No. No updates, but he's doing well." As for his contract, Stephon Tuitt is signed through the 2022 season.