Let's get to it:
SHANNON PHILLIPS FROM AMHERST, OH: I'm sure you have been asked this question before, but I have somehow missed your answer. In your opinion, why isn't Hines Ward in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? He seems to make it as a semifinalist every year he has been eligible then gets cut from the final vote.
ANSWER: You're asking me to get inside the minds of the members of the Board of Selectors and explain why they haven't voted Hines Ward into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I truly have no insight into why those people have stopped voting for Ward following the semifinal round, nor whether they will continue to do so moving forward. I long have believed – and I have included this belief in just about every answer on this topic: An election is inherently a popularity contest (since the people with the most votes win) and I maintain elections tell us more about the voters than they tell us about the candidates.
MICHAEL ANGELO FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: To your recollection has there been any instances of a player being sent to the practice squad from the 53-man roster for poor play or disciplinary reasons and would the CBA even allow that?
ANSWER: You make it sound as though the practice squad is similar to a baseball team's minor league affiliate, and that's not the case in the NFL. One other thing: Before an NFL team can move a player from the active roster to the practice squad, the player must be waived/released. If the player has more than four years of experience in the NFL, once he is released he is free to sign with any other team in the league; and if he's waived, he can be claimed by any other team in the league. An NFL team isn't going to risk losing a star player over a disciplinary infraction.
RON WILLIAMS FROM ASTORIA, OR: You have said on many occasions that the revenue for Thursday night games is shared between the owners and the players. Is that form of payment included in a player's weekly game check or does this all come at the end of a season like a bonus check?
ANSWER: That's not how it works. Each team's salary cap is determined through a sharing of what is referred to as "designated gross revenue," and among the things included in designated gross revenue are ticket sales and broadcast revenue. The Thursday night football package is part of the broadcast revenue, and so it is included in the "designated gross revenue" that is shared by the players and owners and is factored into the determination of the amount of the salary cap each year. There is no direct payment as you describe.
JC CHUTA FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: From what you've seen of Mason Rudolph, are you confident in his status as Ben Roethlisberger's backup? From the last few segments of Asked and Answered, I get the impression many fans just aren't comfortable with Rudolph as the No. 2 quarterback and are willing to gamble with Dwayne Haskins filling that role.
ANSWER: I can't believe I still have to explain this, but what the fans think of roster moves, of how the depth chart is arranged, of the roles players have within the team, etc., has no impact. None. And it absolutely, positively doesn't matter whether I am comfortable with any of that, because my opinion is meaningless. As of right now, all I can tell you is that Mason Rudolph is seen as the backup quarterback by the coaching staff and is being treated as the backup quarterback every day in practice. When Ben Roethlisberger didn't play in the Hall of Fame Game vs. the Cowboys, Rudolph started, and with Roethlisberger not expected to play tonight against the Eagles, Rudolph again will get the starting assignment.
MARK O'MALLEY FROM MANTUA. NJ: I am a Florida Gators fan on the college side of football and a lifelong Steelers fan. Is there a reason Gators players always wore knee braces in college then stopped wearing them in the NFL even though there are weekly career/season ending knee injuries?
ANSWER: College programs can mandate that players wear knee braces, but once those players become professionals the NFL does not and could not mandate the wearing of knee braces. The NFLPA would not allow it.
SCOTT ROGERS FROM DAYTON, OH: Any insight or feel on how Jaylen Samuels is viewed in terms of earning a roster spot? As an observer, I've always been a fan of his versatility, and will versatility help his case in a crowded running back room? Or assuming injuries don't happen to the current running backs going into Week 1 of the regular season, is it probably set in stone that the order of running backs on the depth chart will be: Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland, and Kalen Ballage?
ANSWER: Let's begin with a couple of things: Injuries always happen to teams in the NFL, and running backs are especially susceptible by the nature of their position; and at this stage of the training camp/preseason process nothing is set in stone. Jaylen Samuels still is very much in the mix for a roster spot at running back, and the next three preseason games plus his availability for practice between now and the final cut-down date of Aug. 31 will be very important for him.
EDWARD SLONIGER FROM PUNXSUTAWNEY, PA: Why is Kevin Dotson in Coach Mike Tomlin's doghouse? Is it truly conditioning or are other players just better?
ANSWER: I don't know about being in the "doghouse," but Kevin Dotson is a second-year player who missed a lot of practice, and then once he was able to return there was an assumption he should have been reinstated as the first-team left guard. Dotson started four games as a rookie, and it should be noted that while he performed well enough in those games in which he started, he was in the starting lineup for those games because of injury. I don't believe Dotson is in any danger of not making the 53-man roster, but he's going to have to prove to Coach Mike Tomlin that he deserves to be a starter, not only with his play in preseason games but also with his availability for practice.
GUY COURTNEY FROM FREDERICKSBURG, VA: Every year Ben Roethlisberger is absent from a majority of the preseason, whereas Tom Brady and other top-level quarterbacks seem to make short appearances in multiple preseason games and seem to be sharper at the start of the season. I know the injury concerns, but wouldn't it be beneficial for Ben to get a few snaps leading up to the regular season so he can adjust to game speed?
ANSWER: You have a lot of generalities in your submission and no hard facts or statistics, and while I'm not really interested in being sent to perform a research project, here are a couple of truths: The last time the NFL held a preseason, which was 2019, Tom Brady played three series in one preseason game and didn't play at all in the other three. In the 2020 regular season opener, Ben Roethlisberger completed 21-of-32 for 229 yards, with three touchdowns, no interceptions, and a rating of 117.8. Do not discount the "injury concerns," including those minor things that may not prevent a player from being in the starting lineup but still could impact performance, possibly for multiple weeks.
BURTON HARRIS FROM GREENSBURG, PA: After watching the Hall of Fame Game and looking at the inside linebackers, do you think the Steelers would reconsider and bring back Avery Williamson?
ANSWER: I would put an Avery Williamson return in the category of "only in response to an injury" at this point. There wasn't any serious interest shown by the Steelers in re-signing Williamson at any point during the offseason, and no other team has scooped him up, either. There has to be some reason for that. Also, I just believe the Steelers are not going to commit any salary cap money to adding a veteran player until the T.J. Watt situation is resolved. The inside linebacker play hasn't been as dire as you seem to believe, either. How many inside linebackers do you imagine will be on the 53-man roster? Four? Five at the most? Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Ulysees Gilbert and Marcus Allen make five. As of today, I don't see Williamson being better than those players.
JAMES MacPHERSON FROM BEACHWOOD, NJ: I'm still confused about how injured reserve affects the salary cap.
ANSWER: For the sake of simplicity, I only included the first sentence of your submission, because all of the rest dealt with contingencies of what monies count on the salary cap and what doesn't. I will tell you this: Whenever a team places a player on the injured reserve list, that player's entire salary counts on the salary cap, and the player receives every penny of it.
ANTHONY PELLONI FROM PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: I keep seeing things about Dwayne Haskins vs. Mason Rudolph for the backup spot behind Ben Roethlisberger, but I've always been pretty keen on Joshua Dobbs. In the Hall of Fame Game last week, he came in towards the end and threw for a touchdown with a defender right in his face. In your opinion, does Dobbs have a chance to stay on the roster once it's cut to 53 players?
ANSWER: My prediction is that this recent surge of COVID cases related to the Delta variant is going to result in some of the same rules and protocols from the 2020 NFL season ending up being in effect for the 2021 season, specifically with regard to the practice squad and movement between the practice squad and the active roster. We already know that all players, regardless of experience level, will be eligible for the practice squad, and so I believe the Steelers will keep a fourth quarterback on the practice squad as a hedge against an emergency. Since players first have to be waived/released before they can be added to a practice squad, the safest course would be to put Joshua Dobbs there because he has been exposed to waivers in the past and has gone unclaimed.