LATROBE, Pa. – Let's get to it:
JUSTIN McCOY FROM VIRGINIA BEACH, VA:
I heard quite a few good things at the beginning of training camp about Anthony Chickillo. Is this merely camp hype or is there a good chance he makes the 53 man roster? How many outside linebackers do the Steelers usually keep on the final roster?
Photos of the Steelers Outside Linebackers during the 2014 season.
This doesn't apply only to Anthony Chickillo, but to all young players at the start of a training camp: it's all hype at that point. Training camp is a long process, and the waiver wire every year is jam-packed with the names of guys who had a few good days at the beginning. There are peaks and valleys, and the players who end up on the roster are those who find a way to establish a base of above-the-line performance and then improve upon that in the days ahead. As for Chickillo in particular, he hasn't done anything so far to clinch a spot on the roster, but more importantly for his chances he has not ever looked as though he doesn't belong. And that's a good start. On last year's roster, the Steelers opened with eight linebackers, including three outside linebackers – Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds, and Arthur Moats. James Harrison was signed in response to Jones' wrist injury that sent him to IR-designated-to-return. When Jones came off that list the Steelers then had four outside linebackers through the end of the season.**
DENNY CLEARY FROM LOUISVILLE, KY:
I was watching one of the sports TV channels that showed a film clip from Steelers training camp that had Ben Roethlisberger eating something and looking kind of chunky. Even the commentators noticed and were saying things like, "Biiiiig Ben," and, "Look at those cheeks." This isn't going to be another one of those LaMarr Woodley deals, is it?
As far Ben Roethlisberger's weight, I don't know what the number is, but in watching him every day on the practice field, whatever the number is it is not inhibiting him from doing his job at a high level. Roethlisberger still moves very well – remember he's a 33-year-old who is going into his 12th NFL season as part of a career that has had him sacked 419 times and hit another 500 times at a minimum – even though the only race he could win would be one against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. His arm is still powerful, and he's not easy to get on the ground. I believe Roethlisberger is in good shape for the position he plays and the way he plays it. And Roethlisberger always looks bigger around the middle than he actually is because he wears pads to protect his ribs during games and wears them during practices so he stays used to having them on.
NATHAN RYAN FROM AIKEN, SC:
What is going on with Tajh Boyd? I haven't been hearing much about him lately with Landry Jones getting most of the snaps lately. Is this meaning he could simply be a camp arm to put some pressure on Jones or do you think he has a legitimate shot at making the roster as the No. 3 quarterback? If Boyd loses the No. 3 job to Jones, what are your thoughts about keeping him around on the practice squad?
I believe if the Steelers went into the preseason opener believing there was a close competition between Landry Jones and Tajh Boyd, they would have used both in the preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings. The team has yet to assemble for a practice session since that defeat, and so there is the possibility that some things have changed as the result of that game. At the end of it all, my guess is that if the Steelers decide to keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster, the No. 3 guy will be Landry Jones. If the Steelers keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, I don't see any realistic chance they keep another, a fourth quarterback, on the practice squad.
RASMUS PETERSEN FROM COPENHAGEN, DENMARK:
I understand the conditional part of the Brandon Boykin deal, but doesn't this mean that Boykin will be taken out of games where Steelers get a good-sized lead? No need to inflate those snap counts and hand a No. 4 pick instead of a No. 5 to the Eagles? Also what would your pick be for that toughest stretch of three games in the up coming season? Mine is weeks 12-14, three very good opponents and two on the road.
If Brandon Boykin is going to eclipse the 60 percent level in terms of defensive snaps, that will mean he is playing well enough for the Steelers to keep sending him out on the field. In that event, he's worth the No. 4 pick. And it's precisely when the Steelers have a lead later in a game when they're going to need Boykin, because NFL quarterbacks can make leads vanish into thin air. As for picking the toughest three-game stretch of the season, NFL teams can change significantly from month-to-month because of injuries and the like, and so looking at an entire 17-week schedule that doesn't even begin for another calendar month is a guessing game. But I'll play along this time. The games you picked – at Seattle, vs. Indianapolis at Heinz Field, and then at Cincinnati – certainly would be in the argument. To be different, I'll pick weeks 14-16. That stretch is at Cincinnati, then home against Denver and Peyton Manning; and then in Baltimore against the Ravens. I'd rather the Steelers go 3-0 in the games I chose than in the ones you chose.
Photographs of Coach Mike Tomlin
FRED ZANG FROM BINGHAMTON, NY:
Thanks for answering some of my questions in the past, and for the insight you give in "Asked and Answered." I was hoping you might be able to tell me where is the best opportunity to get Mike Tomlin's autograph at training camp? Heading down for our second camp visit, 2011 was our first, to catch the last few days of camp. I realize there are no guarantees, but Coach Tomlin is the one guy I'd love to meet.
Mike Tomlin signs autographs after each afternoon practice that's open to the public. There is an area on campus reserved for this. The best way for me to describe it is that there is a baseball diamond adjacent to the practice fields, directly opposite the locker room where the players come out for practice. Behind the backstop of that baseball field is the area where fans can line up for Tomlin's autograph.