Let's get to it:
MICHAEL ORENCHUK FROM COLUMBUS, OH: I read somewhere that Hines Ward dropped to the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft because he didn't have an ACL in one of his knees. I believe the Colts and Buccaneers both were interested in taking him earlier. Is this true? Did we luck into getting a future Super Bowl MVP because he was missing an ACL?
ANSWER: In a story about the NFL Scouting Combine written by Teresa Varley that appeared on Steelers.com, Ward told the story of not having an ACL in his left knee and how that was discovered: "Ironically for me, going (to the Combine) and being tugged on (by NFL doctors) was the first time I found out I didn't have an ACL in my left knee. It was shocking news to me. Here I am, I played sports my entire life, and I got to the Combine and I don't have an ACL. I was like good, I can't tear it. They told me it wasn't good. I was a high risk draft choice." According to a Yahoo! Sports story, Ward broke his kneecap in the fourth grade and the doctors never accounted for the ligament.
Because all medical information gleaned at the Combine is shared among all NFL teams, such a discovery would have caused some teams to flag Ward as a medical risk. Whether the Colts and Buccaneers were definitely among those teams isn't known.
MARK TANKOSICH FROM HIROSHIMA, JAPAN: In your opinion, does Hines Ward belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
ANSWER: In my opinion, it doesn't matter whether a player belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it only matters if he can get elected. As an example, John Madden doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame, but he got elected because of his time as television's top color analyst first on CBS and then on FOX, and then also for the video game bearing his name, even though he should've been judged only on his accomplishments as a coach. The critical issue regarding Ward's candidacy at this point is how receivers' statistics have been diluted by the rules of the game and how those rules are enforced. Ward retired with 1,000 catches, and there are 13 players with more career receptions, and six of those have not been elected to the Hall of Fame yet (although to be fair two of those six are active players and therefore not yet eligible). Included in the group with 900-plus career receptions are Brandon Marshall, Antonio Gates, Derrick Mason, Torry Holt, and Wes Welker. None of them scream Hall of Fame player to me. So while a case definitely can be made for Ward's candidacy, I believe the road to Canton is going to be a tough one for him, and really, for all receivers.
JOHN MATTHEWS FROM GLEN ALLEN, VA: How about a "what-if" question: What if the Steelers had the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft, who do you think they would select?
ANSWER: I don't know who the Steelers would pick, but if it was up to me to make the pick for them, I would take Chase Young.
PHIL JACOBY FROM TRESCKOW, PA: I believe Coach Mike Tomlin has said that Mason Rudolph will be Ben Roethlisberger's backup this upcoming season. Would you say he is pretty much a lock at No. 2, or could a strong showing of one of the other three quarterbacks currently on the roster bump him down the depth chart?
ANSWER: What Coach Mike Tomlin said, as did Steelers President Art Rooney II and General Manager Kevin Colbert, was that they were "comfortable" with Mason Rudolph being the backup quarterback in 2020. In my opinion, for Rudolph not to be the backup in 2020 he would have to lose the job. That's typically the way such things happen in the NFL – the more established player, Rudolph in this case, has to play himself out of the job/role and then the coach looks for an alternative.
STEVEN LINDSEY FROM MATTESON, IL: Being as "real" as we can be, are we certain that Ben Roethlisberger's elbow will be 100 percent when the season begins?
ANSWER: You want to be real? OK, here's real in today's world: are we certain there's going to be an NFL season in 2020?
KEN MAULDIN FROM CLYDE, TX: I would love to see the Steelers start rebuilding the offensive line now. Do you have someone in mind in the second round who could be that guy?
ANSWER: The Steelers are not going to use their second-round pick in the upcoming draft on an offensive lineman. Besides, any offensive lineman the Steelers would draft this year would have a difficult time getting a helmet on game day, even with the expanded roster. That wouldn't be good use of their only pick in the top 50.
SCOTTE MARTIN FROM LAKESIDE, CA: I am a little worried about inside linebacker alongside Devin Bush. Are we going with Bush and Vince Williams, or possibly give Ulysees Gilbert a good look?
ANSWER: You're looking for an answer to a question that only can be answered by what happens on the practice field, and there might not be anything happening on the practice field for months. Here is what General Manager Kevin Colbert said recently about the team's situation at inside linebacker: "We are real comfortable with Vince Williams, we are real comfortable with Devin Bush. Could we add some more? Sure. Ulysees Gilbert was someone we drafted last year and was coming along as a special teams contributor while he learned but, unfortunately, he suffered a back injury that ended his season. He was showing good promise to be a contributor at some point, and we will see where he stands. We will look at adding where it is appropriate depending on who is available when."
JAMES DUFFY FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: I've been watching Steelers games from previous seasons, and I noticed what a solid receiver Emmanuel Sanders was. I'm wondering why Steelers let him walk? Was there a crowded corps of receivers at the time? Or was Sanders not considered to be that good?
ANSWER: Once again, allow me to explain the concept of unrestricted free agency. Once a player reaches unrestricted free agency, there is nothing a team can do – short of applying the franchise tag – to prevent a player from leaving for a better offer/opportunity. The Steelers had made the determination that Antonio Brown was the best receiver on their roster and they were paying him as such, which enticed Sanders to seek greener pastures. As a restricted free agent in 2013, Sanders signed an offer sheet with New England for a one-year contract worth $2.5 million, but the Steelers matched that and retained his services. The next offseason as an unrestricted free agent, Sanders signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Denver Broncos. Because the Steelers had signed Brown to a five-year, $42.5 million deal in 2012, Sanders had to leave to get his payday.
CHRIS HANN SR. FROM SARASOTA, FL: I read where General Manager Kevin Colbert suggested to add more rounds to the upcoming NFL Draft due to teams having a lack of access to players for evaluation. With how well the Steelers draft and in fairness in general, I think it's a great idea. What is your feeling on adding more rounds to the upcoming draft?
ANSWER: Whether it's a good idea or not really doesn't matter, because that will never happen. The length of the NFL Draft is a collectively bargained issue.
SCOTT BURDEN FROM LOUISVILLE, KY: What was the Steelers' highest-ranked season, as in overall offense and overall defense? What were the rankings, and how did they fare that year?
ANSWER: Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, the Steelers never have finished a season in which they were ranked No. 1 in the NFL in both offense and defense. In 1979, the season that ended with the Steelers winning Super Bowl XIV, they were ranked No. 1 in offense and No. 2 in defense.
GIO CALABRO FROM EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, NJ: You recently answered a question regarding two-way players, and although it's not exactly the same situation it made me recall that backup quarterbacks used to be the holder for the placekicker, but that job seems to have gone to the punter. Why/when did this change?
ANSWER: Why it changed has to do with efficiency at practice. Coaches want all of the quarterbacks either working with the offense or watching the offense work throughout the entire practice, and at the same time specialists also are working on their technique off to the side. Since the backup quarterback couldn't be doing two things at once, and the coaches decided it was more important having a player in that role concentrating on the offense, punters became the preferred holders for the placekickers.
RAY CVETIC FROM LOS RANCHOS, NM: Given James Conner's frequent injuries, is it most likely that the Steelers select a running back with their second-round pick in the upcoming draft?
ANSWER: In my mind, what's most likely is the Steelers pick an offensive playmaker with their first pick in the upcoming draft, which is in the second round. Maybe that ends up being a running back, or maybe that ends up being a wide receiver. Most likely? A wide receiver.
ROBERT LONG FROM CLEARFIELD, PA: Given the constraints teams now have to deal with due to COVID-19 as it pertains to the scouting and evaluation of a potential draft pick , if a drafted player would be disqualified due to reasons the team would have otherwise been able to identify but couldn't due to current restrictions, can the team seek some type of relief, compensation, or exemption and not completely lose the full value of that draft pick?
ANSWER: Nope. Or as they say in legal circles, caveat emptor, which translated from Latin is: let the buyer beware.
CJ SHORT FROM ROCK HILL, SC: How much would it cost to make Terrell Edmonds a hybrid linebacker and make a trade with the New York Jets to acquire safety Jamal Adams?
ANSWER: My preference is to live in the real world, which you're obviously not doing with this.
BENJAMIN SMITH FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: In your last installment, a questioner mentioned that players don't play both offense and defense anymore. Didn't New England tight end Rob Gronkowski play safety in the Miami Miracle? Also, should the Steelers sign Jadaveon Clowney?
ANSWER: Having an offensive player line up for one snap on defense in an effort to neutralize a last-gasp gadget play is hardly an example of playing both offense and defense based on the context of the question. Sign Jadeveon Clowney? With what salary cap space?
MARK PRICE FROM ARLINGTON, VA: No question, just a thank you. I appreciate the break that Asked and Answered offers.
ANSWER: You're welcome. Being completely honest, writing it a couple of times a week provides me with a nice break from world events. Even dealing with the absurd questions.