LATROBE, Pa. – Let’s get to it:
CARLOS ARVIZU FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: If you watch the "Practice Report: Team pass rush" video on Steelers.com, Tunch Ilkin speaks about Ola Adeniyi having some pass rush moves and how he has been able to get the edge on offensive linemen like tackle Jerald Hawkins. With a young player like Adeniyi, is this the time coaches will try him at different linebacker spots to determine his position flexibility?
ANSWER: If Ola Adeniyi is going to continue to ascend as a player and puts himself in position to win a spot on the 53-man roster and then to become a regular part of the game day roster, he’s going to have to show the ability to line up at both outside linebacker spots and be a contributor on special teams. As things look right now, the starting outside linebackers once the season opens will be T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, barring injury of course, and that means the backups on game day will have to be able to line up on either side just in case. And any linebacker who gets a helmet on game day and isn’t a starter better be able to contribute on special teams. That would be the extent of the position flexibility the Steelers will be looking for from Adeniyi.
DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: Does Ben Roethlisberger's ability to spread the ball to multiple targets ease some of the burden of losing a top tier receiver?
ANSWER: It could contribute to the solution provided those guys can get open consistently and make plays when the ball is thrown to them.
JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: It was reported that the Steelers restructured Stephon Tuitt's contract to free up some cap space. Was this done so the Steelers could negotiate a contract extension for Mike Hilton or Joe Haden? Or was this done in case they need some room in the event of injury that would require the signing of another available free agent?
ANSWER: It was a move made because the team needed to create some salary cap space, and I believe it will have to create more before the start of the regular season. General Manager Kevin Colbert has said the team likes to go into a regular season with something close to a $5 million cushion on its cap, because it has been averaging about 10 guys on injured reserve over the previous several seasons. That estimate comes from replacing each of those 10 guys with players earning the NFL minimum, approximately $505,000 in 2019, which is how the rough total of $5 million is reached. The Steelers needed salary cap space as part of getting themselves prepared for the start of the 2019 regular season. How they end up using it will become clear over time. It’s not always a case of creating cap space to spend it immediately.
RAYMOND CHASON FROM CONNEAUTVILLE, PA: When it comes to the drill referred to as seven-on-seven, how does it work because I'm lost reading about it?
ANSWER: There are seven offensive players competing against seven defensive players, and it’s primarily a passing drill. The seven offensive players are the quarterback, five eligible receivers, and a center to snap the ball. On defense, there is a group of seven linebackers and defensive backs. There is no tackling. There is no rushing the passer, per se, even though the defense sometimes will show the offense a linebacker coming off an edge or maybe up the middle, but since there are no offensive players to block him all it does is give the quarterback a particular read. Then the ball is thrown, and the receiver tries to catch it, while the defensive backs try to defend it. That’s all there is to it.
DONALD ADAMS FROM RICHMOND, TX: When it comes to the Hall of Honor, are you limited to the number of people you can induct each year?
ANSWER: Generally speaking, there will be four members inducted into the Hall of Honor each year. There can be exceptions, but mostly the number going in will be four.
MATTHEW POWNALL FROM FORT MYERS, FL: I know Zach Gentry is a newer tight end since transitioning from quarterback in college, but his size could really be an advantage if he develops his skills. What does he need to work on more, his pass catching or run blocking?
ANSWER: Both, and that’s not a criticism as much as it’s a reality for rookies looking to create a career for themselves in the NFL. There is nothing about Zach Gentry’s game at this point that could be considered a finished product, and I’m sure he would agree with such an assessment.
TIM SIVERD FROM SOUTH HILL, VA: You have stated previously that you think Joe Greene is the best player in Steelers history. Who do you think is the best offensive player in team history?
ANSWER: In selecting Joe Greene, I did so based not only on his playing ability but also on his impact on the franchise. Using that same criteria to pick an offensive player, I would go with Franco Harris, but I really could not and would not argue against someone who chose Terry Bradshaw.
GLAUCIO CAFALCHIO FROM TAUBATÉ, BRAZIL: Can you provide some information about who is winning the spot to be the backup quarterback? Has Devlin Hodges shown some NFL skills to make the roster as the third quarterback?
ANSWER: In my opinion, the winner of the job to be Ben Roethlisberger’s backup in 2019 will be waged primarily during the preseason games. Sure, what is being done daily on the practice fields will factor into the competition as well, but performing under game-like situations will be weighted more into the final decision. As for Devlin Hodges, on this particular Steelers team, he is a clear No. 4, and since neither Joshua Dobbs nor Mason Rudolph will be a strain on the team’s salary cap, I believe both of them will make the 53-man roster.
JEFF THOMAS FROM FRIENDSVILLE, MD: Can the defense benefit from the new pass interference penalty for 2019? I haven't reviewed the entire rule, but I would think it should be used both ways. Can you elaborate?
ANSWER: Simply put, if there is a play that either results in a pass interference penalty being called or not called, either coach is able to throw his challenge flag – assuming he is not out of challenges and the game is not in the final two minutes of either half, which is when replays must be initiated by the booth official or NFL headquarters in New York – and challenge the call on the field. The resulting review can then assess either offensive pass interference, defensive pass interference, or allow the call on the field to stand.
ANDREW WILBAR FROM ADRIAN, MI: Am I crazy for wanting the Steelers to sign Tre Boston? Would signing him give us a top five secondary?
ANSWER: Yes. No. Now I have a question for you and the rest of the Tre Boston fan club: If Tre Boston is so good and so valuable and such a difference-maker, why is he unemployed when 32 NFL teams have rosters of 90 players each?
UPDATE: Late last night, it was announced that Tre Boston had signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers reportedly worth up to $3 million. Boston had previously played in Carolina.