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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 1

LATROBE, Pa. – Let's get to it:

I'm 16 years old, and I talk with my Dad a lot about the Steelers. I think Vince Williams will be more dominant than Lawrence Timmons was last year for the Steelers defense. My Dad is not so sure. I'm wondering how they physically compare to each other, in terms of height, weight, speed, strength, etc.


ANSWER: Strictly from the standpoint of measurables, there wasn't much difference between Vince Williams and Lawrence Timmons. Williams was measured at 6-foot-1, 250 pounds at his Pro Day, but now he's 6-1, 233 pounds. Williams ran a 4.7 at his Pro Day, did 22 repetitions on the bench press, had a 32.5-inch vertical jump and a 9-3 in the broad jump. Timmons has deviated very little from 6-1, 234. He ran a 4.6 at the Combine, where he also did 25 reps on the bench press, had a 35-inch vertical, and a 10-3 in the broad jump. The biggest difference is that Timmons is 31 years old, and Williams is 27.**

What happened to Daimion Stafford? Did he let the team know he wasn't going to report to training camp?

ANSWER: The belief within the Steelers organization is that Daimion Stafford is contemplating retirement. He has been placed on the reserve/did not report list, and his spot on the roster has been filled by safety Malik Golden, 6-foot, 205 pounds, who enters the NFL as an undrafted rookie from Penn State.

With players one hit away from missing games due to injury, my question is about quarterbacks. During practice do the backups get many reps with the starters? Every week there is a different game plan. Do the backups spend much time working on that plan?

ANSWER: During the training camp/preseason period, there is plenty of work to go around for everyone, and players rotate through the lines at the different positions during many of the drills. During certain competition periods, the personnel groupings will be organized specifically by the coaching staff in order to get certain guys work with certain teammates. For example, when the Steelers end a practice session with a two-minute drill, Mike Tomlin might script things to have Landry Jones working with the No. 1 offense, as an example, or Joshua Dobbs working with the No. 2 offense, and there also could be times when a second-teamer or a third-teamer at a different position is given a chance to show what he can do against the first-team after he has shown he can handle the competition at the lower levels of the depth chart.

During the regular season, not so much. Specifically with the quarterbacks, the starter takes as many of the reps as he believes he needs to get ready for the game, while the No. 2 guy gets what is left. As for the rest of the positions, the personnel groupings generally dictate who is on the field. NFL teams don't have enough time during the week to prepare for injuries that might happen, because if those injuries don't happen then it was time taken away from the guys who actually ended up doing the playing in the game.

Who do you think is going to be the "camp darling" this year?

ANSWER: I'm guessing that "camp darling" refers to a player with whom the fans fall in love, as opposed to a "camp phenom," which is a term for a player who starts camp as a nobody from nowhere and attracts attention for some on-field successes early in the process. So based on that clarification, I have two predictions for "camp darling:" James Conner and Joshua Dobbs. Conner, because of the combination of his incredible story in beating cancer and doing so with a selfless humility, plus the fact he's a Western Pennsylvania product, plus the fact he's a big, physical running back, and Steelers fans long have loved those. Dobbs, because the extremely vocal anti-Landry Jones faction sees him as an alternative as the backup quarterback.

Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steelers 4th day of training camp.

I'm curious about the backs-on-backers drill, which I assume also entails linebackers covering backs in passing drills. Have you seen Ryan Shazier cover Le'Veon Bell in this drill? Which player usually wins this battle?

ANSWER: There are two versions of backs-on-backers, and each version is heavily weighted in favor of one of the two position groups. Backs-on-backs (pass protection) puts the linebackers at a tremendous advantage, because they get a 7-yard running start at a guy who isn't allowed to cut-block them. Backs-on-backers (pass coverage) puts the running backs at a tremendous advantage because there is no rush on the quarterback and the linebacker is in man-to-man coverage all over the field. In fact, Ryan Shazier usually covers Le'Veon Bell every time in backs-on-backers (pass coverage), and with an entire field to work with and no pressure on the quarterback, Bell wins most of those repetitions.

Do all players stay in the dormitory at Saint Vincent College for the month, or do some go home after the day finishes.

ANSWER: There is no commuting by players during training camp. All of them live in Rooney Hall, and there is curfew every night.

If the Steelers play a Thursday night game on the road and the home team wears its color rush uniforms, will Pittsburgh wear their all black color rush uniforms, or will they wear all white for the first time since 1971?

ANSWER: Most likely, the Steelers would wear their regular away uniforms – white jersey with gold pants. If you recall, the Ravens wore their regular away uniforms for the game in Heinz Field on Christmas Day 2016 when the Steelers debuted their color rush uniforms.

Do you think the Steelers will make an exception and continue to negotiate Le'Veon Bell's contract through the preseason? Like many fans, I'm torn as to whether we extend for big bucks (heightens the chance of ultimate team glory for a seventh Super Bowl championship for years to come) or let him play under the tag, because of injuries and suspensions. But I think I'd rather avoid the drama of playing this year with the uncertainty.

ANSWER: The NFL's deadline for teams to sign players under the franchise tag was July 17. That's an NFL rule. No exceptions. Bell has to play 2017 under the franchise tender of $12.1 million.

Is it possible to be traded while playing under the franchise tag?

ANSWER: It is not against the rules for a team to trade a player who has signed his franchise tender.

If Le'Veon Bell decided not to sign his franchise tender, would he automatically become an unrestricted free agent?

ANSWER: No. To use him as an example, if Le'Veon Bell doesn't sign his franchise tender by 4 p.m. on Nov. 14, he cannot play in the NFL in 2017. At the end of the season, Bell would not become an unrestricted free agent. He would still owe the Steelers a season.

Is there a charge to watch Steelers practices at Saint Vincent College? I plan on attending Aug. 14.

ANSWER: Admission is free, and parking is free. Practice is scheduled to begin at 2:55 p.m. that day.

Just read an edition of Asked & Answered. So good to have you back after the post-minicamp hiatus. It's very annoying to find only poorly-written, opinion-based, and speculation-based articles on most sites during the doldrums of summer between minicamp and training camp, and beyond. I so love your work and the sensibilities you possess. Your experience with the Steelers organization shines through and provides what I believe is the most accurate assessment of the goings-on for our beloved team. I put great stock in your insight and appreciate your lack of the knee-jerk reactions that many of the Steelers fans are so inclined to. Thank you.

ANSWER: You're very welcome. I try my best.

If a fan wanted to write a letter to a player or someone who works for the Steelers, what's the address?

ANSWER: The address is: 3400 S. Water St., Pittsburgh, Pa., 15203.

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