LATROBE, Pa. – Let's get to it:
EDITOR'S NOTE: As promised in a previous edition of Asked and Answered, the following is a list of all players currently on the Steelers roster who are eligible to be signed to the practice squad in 2017. There are two categories of players who can be signed to the practice squad: Practice Squad Eligible, and Exempt. Four of the 10 players on a team's practice squad can be from the Exempt category. And as always, all players must clear league waivers before they can be signed to the practice squad.
EXEMPT: Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, Artie Burns, Fitz Toussaint, Jordan Dangerfield, Tyler Matakevich, Bud Dupree , L.J. Fort, Anthony Chickillo, B.J. Finney, Al Villanueva, Jesse James, Landry Jones, Xavier Grimble, L.T. Walton, and Sammie Coates.
PRACTICE SQUAD ELIGIBLE: Joshua Dobbs, Bart Houston, Canaan Severin, Demarcus Ayers, Marcus Tucker, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cameron Sutton, Senquez Golson, Brian Allen, Malik Golden, James Conner, JaCorey Shepherd, Trey Williams, Brandon Dixon, Brandon Brown-Dukes, Greg Ducre, Terrell Watson, Mike Hilton, Farrington Huguenin, Jacob Hagen, Kameron Canaday, Matt Galambos, Colin Holba, Keith Kelsey, Kyle Friend, Francis Kallon, Lucas Crowley, Ethan Cooper, Christian Brown, Jerald Hawkins, Lavon Hooks, Jake Rodgers, Brian Mihalik, Roy Philon, Keavon Milton, Jake McGee, Phazahn Odom, T.J. Watt, Johnny Maxey, and Keion Adams.
CHRIS KNAPPENBERGER FROM BROOKLYN, NY:
I've been a huge Stephon Tuitt fan since his days at Notre Dame, so needless to say I was very excited to see him on our Steelers. There is talk about the Steelers offering him an extension before the season, and so do you feel this deal has to get done with the likes of Ryan Shazier and Le'Veon Bell having to be signed to new contracts next season?
ANSWER: One really doesn't have a lot of influence on the other. The Steelers would like to negotiate an extension with Stephon Tuitt between now and the start of the regular season, but their desire to do that stems from what they think of him as a player and the fact he's going into the final year of his rookie contract. I don't disagree with your inference that it would be wise for Tuitt to get his done now, before there are more mouths to feed, so to speak, but if it doesn't happen this summer that wouldn't necessarily preclude it from happening after the 2017 season.
RALPH SORTINO FROM VICTOR, NY:
I'm concerned about this singular focus of only having to beat the Patriots. The Steelers will need to focus every week, and worry about the Patriots when they meet.
ANSWER: That focus is coming from the fans, not the players or anyone else within the Steelers organization. And I agree with you, because focusing on winning those other games likely will determine where the playoff game against the Patriots will be played – if there is to be one.
MIKE ARBAUGH FROM RANDOLPH, OH:
For the Steelers, is it more desirable to have a tight end with above average blocking skills and average receiving skills, as opposed to one with above average receiving skills and average blocking skills? I know it would be nice to be great at both, but not everyone can be Heath Miller.
ANSWER: To be a Steelers tight end, I would say the prospect has to be able to do both to some degree. He cannot be totally one-dimensional. Then it falls to the coaches to get those guys in the right spots and on the field in the right situations to allow them to succeed.
MICHAEL ROSKO FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA:
Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro are the backbone of our offensive line. How long are they under contract, and will we be able to keep them?
ANSWER: Maurkice Pouncey is signed through the 2019 season, and David DeCastro is signed through the 2021 season. Pouncey will be a few months shy of turning 30 when his current contract expires, and DeCastro will be 31 when his contract expires. The Steelers always make an effort to sign their best players, and Pouncey and DeCastro deserve to be considered in that category.
ERNIE COFFINDAFFER FROM BRIDGEPORT, WV:
All reports say James Connor's shoulder injury was not a serious one, but do you have any update on him and on the injury to Artie Burns? Do you believe there is any significant risk of their injuries keeping them from being ready once the regular season starts?
ANSWER: Not unless those injuries are aggravated, which is the idea behind being cautious with them at this early stage of the process. And understand that the players are different, in that Burns is an established starter with a year of experience, and Conner is a rookie. If Conner's injury lingers, what could happen is it could prevent him from being able to contribute in his role at the start of the season. Conner was back in pads and at least participating in the individual drills part of practice starting Tuesday, and Burns could be back practicing by the time you read this.
REED MANNING FROM LOS ANGELES, CA:
I saw Mike Hilton is listed as a cornerback on the opening depth chart, but I've seen him listed as both cornerback and safety in different places, and he was a safety in college. Given that some coaches and veteran players have talked up his ability to play with higher competition, do you know anything about how he has been used during camp?
ANSWER: The depth chart on Steelers.com is made up by Mike Tomlin, so I would humbly suggest to you that the other versions you have seen mean little. Mike Hilton is playing cornerback at training camp. The only variation is that he sometimes lines up as a slot cornerback and sometimes as an outside cornerback.
DONALD BERNK FROM ALEXANDRIA, VA:
If Senquez Golson doesn't get healthy enough to play prior to the start of the season, is this it for him? Or is he still high enough on the "potential" list to stick around another year, via the physically unable to perform list or some other non-playing roster move?
ANSWER: It's not up to me, but I would guess that if Senquez Golson cannot get onto the field to show what he can do before the time comes for roster cuts – 4 p.m. New York time on Sept. 2 – then he would be waived. Golson isn't eligible for PUP because he passed his physical at the start of camp and practiced, albeit for only a few days, and so the only other list for which he would be eligible is injured reserve. And as you can see from the list at the top of this installment, Golson is eligible for the practice squad.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to making an impressive one-handed catch.
A.J. BAUMWELL FROM EASTLAKE, OH:
Is the 53-man roster a universally accepted number that strikes the perfect balance of talent and depth? Is it possible that with the heightened sensitivity toward brain injuries, the number of players on a roster could increase?
ANSWER: Fifty-three is a collectively bargained number, and any increase or decrease would have to be negotiated by the league and the players' union. Never say never, but I don't perceive there to be any real momentum toward moving off 53 one way or the other.
DONALD GRIFFIN from Vineland, NJ:
In regards to Le'Veon Bell, is the organization getting any closer to making sure we keep this guy a member of the Steelers for life?
ANSWER: There is nothing to do now. The deadline for a long-term contract was July 17, and so for 2017, it's either play for the franchise tender of $12.1 million or don't play for any team this season. There is absolutely nothing to do on the negotiating front between now and the end of the upcoming season. You can re-start to worry about this at that time.
RON SHAW FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
Le'Veon Bell was suspended last year for missing drug tests. Since Bell hasn't signed his franchise tender, is he excluded from having to take the NFL drug tests because he is not under a contract?
ANSWER: He is not excluded. Because the Steelers offered him a tender as a franchise player, Le'Veon Bell is considered to be an NFL player and therefore he still is subjected to the rules under the league's drug policy.
JIM MCCANDLESS FROM THE VILLAGES, FL:
We are sure glad Missi Matthews picked the Steelers to work for. She brightens up all you guys on Steelers Live. Keep her. She's a winner.
ANSWER: I'll recommend applying the franchise tag if necessary.
CHRIS ZEISE FROM KNOXVILLE, TN:
With injuries mounting in the secondary, is there a chance the Steelers look to Darrelle Revis and see if he can help them?
JEFF MOORE FROM SOLDOTNA, AK:
I know you hate these questions, but wouldn't it be fun to see the looks in the eyes of a defense if Al Villanueva reported as an eligible receiver? He has experience at tight end, and I don't see many players being able to, or wanting to, cover him.
ANSWER: You are absolutely correct. I hate these questions.