Let's get to it:
DARRYL BAXTER FROM NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ: I remember a great young player for the Steelers from years ago named Roy Jefferson. Why did his time with the Steelers come to an end, and did he have any great years after leaving Pittsburgh?
ANSWER: Wide receiver Roy Jefferson came to the Steelers as their second-round pick in the 1965 NFL Draft (18th overall selection) from Utah. In his five seasons with the Steelers, he played in 65 games and caught 199 passes for 3,671 yards (18.4 average) and 29 touchdowns. He was voted to two Pro Bowls during his time with the Steelers, and his best season with the team came in 1969 when he was voted first-team All-Pro. That 1969 season also was the inaugural one for Chuck Noll as the Steelers head coach, and Jefferson began testing Noll's discipline almost immediately. On the final weekend of the 1969 preseason, the Steelers had a game scheduled against the New York Giants in Montreal, but Noll sent Jefferson back to Pittsburgh before the game for missing curfew. In his only All-Pro season, Jefferson had 67 catches for 1,079 yards (16.1 average) and nine touchdowns for a team that finished 1-13 and was quarterbacked by Dick Shiner. When the Steelers reported to training camp in 1970, Jefferson didn't change his ways and continued to push Noll. He would show up for practice without a helmet, and he also continually parked his car in an area on the Saint Vincent College campus that was restricted to players. So on Aug. 21, Noll traded Jefferson to Baltimore for wide receiver Willie Richardson and a fourth-round pick in the 1971 NFL Draft that Noll then used to pick defensive end Dwight White from East Texas State, which now is known as Texas A&M-Commerce. Jefferson won a Super Bowl with the 1970 Colts, and he played in a Super Bowl with Washington, which lost, 14-7, to the Miami Dolphins.
ROBERT SINICKI FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: If it happens again, and Ben Roethlisberger is injured, how much confidence do you have in Mason Rudolph after last season?
ANSWER: I would have more confidence in Mason Rudolph than in any of the realistic options the Steelers had for a different backup quarterback in 2020. I liked what I saw from Rudolph in 2019 in terms of his individual development as a player and the way he matured as a teammate over the course of the season. And in addition to that, I'm a believer in the success of a backup quarterback hinging on a mutual confidence that develops between the player and his teammates – him in them and them in him – and that happens only through shared experiences and time spent together on the field. Changing backup quarterbacks as often as one might change socks is not a recipe for success, in my opinion.
ROY PERRIN FROM FUQUAY VARINA, NC: Who would be your vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2021 besides the obvious Alan Faneca?
ANSWER: Bill Nunn. Bill Nunn. Bill Nunn.
LOGAN TONKOVICH FROM ADENA, OH: Is it possible the Steelers add another free agent to the team with having a little over $5 million in cap room available? Maybe a Darron Lee to give a veteran presence at linebacker who can play the inside and outside? I'd assume he's affordable.
ANSWER: I would assume that if Darren Lee were affordable, he would be on an NFL roster already. Since he is not on an NFL roster, I would assume he either is not affordable, or there are some other issues of the non-football variety involved. Either way, I believe the Steelers will keep a close eye on the waiver wire but that they're otherwise finished with free agency this year. Oh, and $5 million is not enough cap room for a shopping spree, and it could be considered not even a sufficient amount to get them through this certain-to-be-unusual season.
ERICK WAKEFIELD FROM WEST PALM BEACH, FL: Do you think Mike Hilton ever will get his fair dollar amount for playing the game as well as he does?
ANSWER: Mike Hilton is due to earn $3.26 million in 2020, which I believe is a representative salary for a slot cornerback who's 5-foot-9 and has four interceptions in his 47 games over three seasons with the Steelers. Hilton has value, no question about that, and recently defensive coordinator Keith Butler said about him, "We know Mike Hilton and what he does. He is a tough little dude. He has been doing it for a while. We feel like he can blitz, I think he can be a threat as a blitzer. He does a good job of what we ask him to do." I'm not saying that $3.26 million is necessarily Hilton's top end in terms of salary, but I also don't believe he's in the same cap neighborhood as Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, and Minkah Fitzpatrick, just to name three other Steelers defensive backs.
TODD WYNN FROM MANSFIELD, OH: I have been looking into the 1980s Steelers, because I just missed out on that era. It seems to me that Louis Lipps is underrated. Where do you think he would rank in franchise history if the Steelers had drafted Dan Marino, or if he got to play with Terry Bradshaw or Ben Roethlisberger?
ANSWER: I agree with your belief that Louis Lipps, the Steelers' first-round draft choice in 1984, is an underrated receiver in terms of franchise history. The quarterbacks throwing to Lipps during his time with the Steelers included Mark Malone, David Woodley, Todd Blackledge, and Bubby Brister, with Brister by far the best of that group. It's a no-brainer that Lipps' career numbers would've been higher had he played with Terry Bradshaw or Ben Roethlisberger, and I also believe those numbers would've been higher had Chuck Noll hired someone other than Joe Walton to follow Tom Moore as the offensive coordinator following the 1989 season.
CHRIS HANN SR. FROM SARASOTA, FL: I read where ESPN's Mike Tannenbaum said Ben Roethlisberger could be the third or fourth best quarterback in his own division. No other starting quarterback in the AFC North has one Super Bowl ring let alone two. And only one quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy ever has gone on to win a Super Bowl. What does Roethlisberger have to do to receive the respect he deserves?
ANSWER: I have given this advice many times to many readers, and I'll offer it to you as well: Don't read/listen to garbage spewed by people who don't know what they're talking about or simply are blathering into a microphone to get attention. As for Mike Tannenbaum in particular, maybe he's someone who does know a bad quarterback when he sees one, because as the General Manager of the New York Jets in 2009, he drafted Mark Sanchez with the fifth overall pick in the first round.
NORM BRENNAN FROM CHACHAGUI, COLOMBIA: What can you tell me about a former Steelers player named Tom Madole? I believe he only played a few games before a career ending injury.
ANSWER: The Steelers have no record of having a player named Tom Madole on their roster during any of their 87 NFL seasons, and neither does profootballreference.com. Maybe he attended a training camp or a tryout and was cut, but there is no record of him ever being on their regular season roster. Not even for a few games.
JOHN BRAGG FROM FAIRMONT, WV: I've been reading some 1970s baseball books and have seen references to players being "voted a ¼-World Series share," or "voted a $250 World Series share." Do NFL teams do a similar thing (voting shares) with their Super Bowl winnings?
ANSWER: No. What players receive for being on a team that wins the Super Bowl is determined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. There are no "¼ shares," as an example, in the NFL.
GIO CALABRO FROM EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, NJ: Like many other fans, I'm concerned about depth at the inside linebacker position. Is there much difference between the inside linebacker positions in a 3-4 defense and the middle linebacker position in a 4-3 alignment? If a 4-3 middle linebacker is cut by some team during camp, would the Steelers be interested in signing him, or is the position/skill-set so different that it wouldn't make sense?
ANSWER: The positions are sufficiently different that if the player had no experience in a 3-4 and had no time to learn/adapt to the team's scheme it would be unlikely the individual would be able to step in and play competently that season.
ANGEL MONTES FROM LOMPOC, CA: With all this talk about the position battles along the offensive line, we don't really hear anything about Kevin Dotson. Do you think he has a chance to crack the starting rotation during his first season?
ANSWER: Barring injuries, no. He's a rookie who is entering the NFL with no offseason program, no preseason games, and only 14 padded practices during training camp. In addition, the Steelers have two proven veteran starters ahead of him at left guard – Matt Feiler and Stefen Wisniewski. I believe Dotson can have a nice future with the Steelers, but his future in 2020 is to watch, learn, and work on his craft.
LARRY MORRISON FROM PENSACOLA, FL: With Ben Roethlisberger coming back there seems to be a lot of talk about a possible run to the Super Bowl this year. Defensively they seem to be talented enough, but the offense seems average at best. Do you believe there is enough talent on that side of the ball to really make a run at it?
ANSWER: This is the time on the NFL calendar when fans' optimism about their favorite team's chances are at their highest, because nobody has seen anything happen on the field to provide concrete evidence to the contrary. With Ben Roethlisberger taking snaps from Maurkice Pouncey, I believe the Steelers offense is talented enough to be part of a contending team. There's a long way to go, and a lot of things have to fall into place, but not being talented enough won't be a legitimate reason as long as Roethlisberger stays healthy.