Let's get to it:
RASMUS PETERSEN FROM VANLOSE, DENMARK: Will there be a kicking competition this summer during training camp, or will Chris Boswell and Pressley Harvin III assume those tasks again?
ANSWER: The only placekicker in the whole NFL in the same stratosphere as Chris Boswell in my opinion is Baltimore's Justin Tucker, and so there's no one who is available who's capable of offering legitimate competition for that job. As for Pressley Harvin III, my sense is the Steelers really want it to work with him, and so it would have to be a situation where Harvin clearly loses the job before the Steelers would go in a different direction at punter in 2022. My belief is that if the Steelers were interested in a down-to-the-wire competition for the punting job, they would have kept Corliss Waitman.
AMOS MEYERS FROM ORO VALLEY, AZ: Regarding the incentives in Mitch Trubisky's contract – since incentives may or may not be earned, how do they figure into the salary cap amount?
ANSWER: Incentives in a player's contract typically fall into one of two categories – likely to be earned, and unlikely to be earned. "Unlikely to be earned" describes incentives tied to accomplishments the player never has reached during a previous season, such as NFL MVP, or Super Bowl MVP, or a certain statistical level not previously reached by that individual. In those cases, the amount of the incentive doesn't count on the cap until it is reached. If the incentives are deemed "likely to be earned," which describes things the player has done previously in his career, then the amount of the incentive counts on the cap immediately, and if the player does not reach the incentive, then the money is credited to the team's salary cap.
CATHERINE CONLEY FROM ARLINGTON, VA: Do you have any insight into why there are so many short-term free agent contract this year? It seems like two years is the norm.
ANSWER: My sense is that a contract length of two years often serves both the team and the player. It's short enough that neither side is married to the other for an uncomfortable length of time, which is good for the team if the statistical return or the scheme fit in the first year is marginal, and it can be good for the player if the original salary agreed upon turns out to be ridiculously low and deserves to be adjusted. Two-year contracts don't stress the salary cap and can be guaranteed fully or in large part by the team without that becoming an onerous situation. Basically, it gives both sides a chance to get to know and understand each other instead of diving into a long-term relationship right off the bat.
CHUCK MARTIN FROM FLORENCE, SC: You've compared the addition of Brian Flores to the coaching staff to the addition of Mike Munchak to the coaching staff in 2014. Do you think the Myles Jack signing will have the same impact on the Steelers that the James Farrior signing had in the 2002 offseason?
ANSWER: Whoa, whoa, whoa. What I wrote was that the addition of Brian Flores to the defensive coaching staff COULD end up having a similar impact to the addition of Mike Munchak to the offensive staff, and so let's not disrespect Munchak's impact or place premature expectations on Flores' impact without watching a couple of practices at least. James Farrior was a significant component – on the field and as a leader – to two Super Bowl championship teams and was inducted into the Steelers Hall of Honor in 2020. Same thing here: don't disrespect Farrior's impact or place premature expectations on Myles Jack. Performance will answer these questions. Give that time to happen.
SCOTT GRANNAS FROM DUNCANSVILLE, PA: At this point I presume all teams need to be salary cap compliant. Do the teams need to allow cap space to sign their new draft picks? Or may we see the Steelers, or other teams, release more players after the draft to gain cap space to sign their new draft picks?
ANSWER: At this time of the year, all NFL teams must be salary cap compliant, but only the top 51 salaries count towards the cap because teams can have up to 90 players on their offseason rosters. The process of signing draft picks is not allowed to put a team over the cap, but teams are permitted to create space as those signings occur. So, it is possible for teams to have to make moves as draft picks are signed to remain under the cap, but I wouldn't expect a rash of cap-related moves to result from that. Maybe some, but not a lot.
JOHN SUSKO FROM NAPLES, FL: What is the status of Derek Watt? Are the Steelers going to re-sign him?
ANSWER: Derek Watt is under contract to the Steelers through the 2022 season. According to Spotrac.com, he is scheduled to earn $2.75 million and to count $4.7 million on the salary cap.
KEITH MILLER FROM WAYNESVILLE, NC: Rather than count on the salary cap, would it be legal for a team to compensate a player with non-salary benefits such as a small percentage of ownership or buying his house or making his car payments or free donuts for life?
ANSWER: It would not be legal. For the purposes of this discussion, consider the NFL salary cap and the IRS to be similar. If your boss would compensate you for work done by buying you a house, do you believe the IRS would consider the value of the house not taxable? Me neither. Same with the salary cap. Anything given to an NFL player as compensation for work performed would be given a value and then that value would be applied to the team's salary cap.
JOHN KOSTOS FROM TOWNSEND, GA: If a team pays a partial salary for a player they trade, do they still get a salary cap hit?
ANSWER: I'm not 100 percent sure I understand the scenario you describe, but I'm going to take a stab at it. If I am trading a player to you, and I agree to pay $1 million of his salary for the upcoming season, then I would have that $1 million charged to my salary cap.
BEN TARIK FROM ALTOONA, PA: You seem to be in denial about the Steelers wanting a quarterback, yet they've been to all of the top prospects' Pro Days and are bringing all of the quarterbacks in for predraft visits. What are you not seeing?
ANSWER: My way of looking at this is that the Steelers are doing their due diligence on the top quarterback prospects in the event they are faced with a scenario during the upcoming draft where picking one of those quarterbacks represents the best value for them at that point in the three-day proceedings. Should that scenario present itself, they want to be prepared to make the correct selection. Coach Mike Tomlin never has been in a situation where the team was looking to replace a Hall of Fame quarterback, and picking one and missing on that pick sets a team back more than missing on a player at any other position, in my opinion. Fans have the idea, and you seem to fall into this category as well, that the Steelers are going into the draft with the specific idea of needing to pick a quarterback in an early round. That flies in the face of the franchise's long-held draft philosophy of not picking solely for need, and I believe the signing of Mitch Trubisky supports my viewpoint. Going to the quarterbacks' Pro Days, bringing them in for predraft visits shows a realization that picking a potential franchise quarterback is a different, more involved, more complicated process than picking a player at another position, and the Steelers' procedure during this offseason (gathering as much information and getting as much facetime with each candidate as possible) shows they realize that.
PAUL BRUNO FROM SHERMAN, CT: I've been following the Steelers since the 1970s when I was in elementary school, and one of their greatest strengths in my lifetime has been the run of only three head coaches, all with long, successful tenures. And yes, the defense over the past five decades has been part of the personality of the team. But I don't think any other team has had a tradition at center that matches the Steelers. Are you aware of any group that can compare?
ANSWER: The only group that can compare to the Steelers' centers might be the Steelers' linebackers. Allow me to attempt to explain: In franchise history, the Steelers have had six different centers voted first-team All-Pro at least once – Mike Basrak, Bill Walsh, Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, Jeff Hartings, and Maurkice Pouncey. That list doesn't include Ray Mansfield, who never was voted to a Pro Bowl or to an All-Pro team, but he played in 182 straight games and was a starter on two Super Bowl championship teams. Also, Webster and Dawson are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As for the Steelers' legacy of linebackers, I offer this set of facts: Starting with the 1951 Pro Bowl, there have been 71 of those games played, and the Steelers have had at least one linebacker voted to play in 53 of them (74.6 percent). Sticking with linebackers – since 1936, there have been 85 first-team All-Pro teams compiled, and the Steelers have had at least one linebacker voted first-team All-Pro 31 times (36.5 percent). And of course, Jack Ham and Jack Lambert both were voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in their first years of eligibility.
KELLY J. RASMUSSEN FROM SPRINGVILLE, UT: Why is overtime so complicated in the NFL? I'm with you on being sick of the league placating whiners, as you wrote in the April 5 installment of Asked and Answered. I believe it's time for a change to something simple. Would you agree?
ANSWER: Absolutely. And my idea of simple is that if a regular season game is tied after 60 minutes, then it's a tie. If a playoff game is tied after 60 minutes, then play defense or lose.
LARRY LAWHEAD FROM GLEN CARBON, IL: You wrote in a recent Asked and Answered: "My belief on tie games and overtime rules would not be popular with anyone these days." I disagree with you; in that I agree with you. Overtime is a necessary evil in playoffs, but it should go away otherwise. I'd explain my reasoning, but yours was perfect. Then again, I'm a Luddite. I'm still angry about the DH, even as they expand it to the National League. Thanks for your column, it is one of the few "must read" things on the internet.
ANSWER: Ah, to be able to bring back regular season ties in the NFL and eliminate instant replay as an officiating tool in all sports. Heaven.