Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 17

Let's get to it:

JULIAN HARRIS FROM LOS ANGELES, CA: With the trade for Joe Schobert, it is my understanding that the Steelers don't have a fourth, fifth or a sixth-round pick next year and although the hope is we get some compensatory picks I was wondering what was the fewest number of picks the Steelers have had for a particular draft? Second question: with the trade for Schobert, does this mean he automatically makes the 53-man roster (barring injury)?
ANSWER: During the Buddy Parker era – 1957-64 – the Steelers got into the habit of trading away draft picks in bunches, because Parker had little use for rookies. And so in 1959, as just one example, the Steelers traded their first seven picks in the draft and had no picks until the eighth round. But in those days, an NFL Draft lasted 30 rounds, and the Steelers still ended up making 23 picks. The Collective Bargaining Agreement that went into effect for the 1993 season cut the draft to seven rounds, and in 2003 they had only five picks. But one of those selections was Troy Polamalu, and in order to move up from No. 27 overall to No. 16 overall to pick him, the Steelers swapped first-round picks with Kansas City and also included their third-round pick and their sixth-round pick to complete the deal. That five-pick draft class in 2003 represents the fewest number of picks the Steelers have had in a single draft. And yes, Schobert is a lock to make the 53-man roster. In fact he was working with the first-team defense on his first day at practice in a Steelers uniform.

JD AKERS FROM NIXA, MO: If it's too good to be true, then it is. Or is it? Joe Schobert is solid, and watching our inside linebackers cover tight ends has been painful for years. So why so cheap? Can he stuff the run like Robert Spillane clocked Tennessee's Derrick Henry last year on the goal line? A sixth-round pick seems way too light, and it cannot simply be unloading salary for the cap.
ANSWER: Don't be overly impressed with what you think you know. In 1996, the Steelers acquired Jerome Bettis from the St. Louis Rams, and along with Bettis the Steelers also acquired the 79th overall pick in exchange for the 59th overall pick plus a No. 4 selection. Bettis is in the Hall of Fame. In addition to requiring only a sixth-round pick in return for Joe Schobert, the Jaguars, according to Pro Football Talk, agreed to pay half of his guaranteed 2021 salary, which obviously was a move by the Jaguars to make the deal more acceptable to the Steelers. And Joe Schobert's production in the NFL – in 65 NFL starts he has nine interceptions, 24 passes defensed, 11 sacks, and nine forced fumbles, while averaging over 100 tackles a season over his five-year professional career – labels him as more than "solid." If you're trying to imply Schobert is a player of questionable character, that's what the Rams tried to sell when they gave away Bettis in that 1996 trade, and then five years later Bettis was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year, an award that is presented annually by the National Football League honoring a player's volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field.

SCOTT RANDALL FROM CONWAY, PA: The preseason games have begun, and the addition of new linebackers was and has been very interesting. Why did the Steelers just make a trade for Joe Schobert? Are they not close to getting a deal done with T.J. Watt? Is Devin Bush not healthy enough yet to fully return?
ANSWER: You reference that the preseason games have begun, and so I will refer to the preseason game against the Eagles in Philadelphia. The Eagles received the opening kickoff and deployed their offense in a two-tight-end personnel alignment. On the first two snaps of their opening possession, Jalen Hurts completed a pass for 7 yards to Zach Ertz and then a 34-yard catch-and-run to Dallas Goedert, both of whom are listed by the Eagles as starting tight ends. Before the possession ended, Hurts attempted two more passes to those tight ends and then the Eagles settled for a field goal and a 3-0 lead. On defense, the Steelers had both Devin Bush and Robert Spillane on the field together. Clearly, adding another coverage inside linebacker was not a mistake, because teams such as the Eagles and the Chiefs and the Ravens all use multiple tight ends at a time and aren't shy about throwing the football to them early and often, and from anywhere on the field. Schobert is a clear upgrade over Robert Spillane, and his presence will allow the Steelers to handle the coverage of multiple tight end sets in a way where they won't have to fill the field with defensive backs and expose themselves to the opponent using those tight ends as blockers to run the football – a la the Ravens or the Cleveland Browns. And I don't understand your reference to T.J. Watt, because Schobert plays a different position and according to Pro Football Talk, the Jaguars are paying half of Schobert's 2021 salary, and then the decision to convert some other monies into a signing bonus overall has lowered his cap number to $1.3 million for 2021. That will leave space for an extension to get done with Watt.

MIKE VELLUCCI FROM ATCO, NJ: I know it's only the preseason, and forgive me for venting my frustrations about the officials already, but how in the world did they miss the holding on Cam Sutton during that 79-yard touchdown when everyone in the stadium was watching that play develop?
ANSWER: I'm sorry, but I have no answers for the caliber of NFL officiating. Try not to let it bother you, and I just hope you're more successful at pulling that off than I am.

STEVE LINDSEY FROM MATTESON, IL: I recall in the distant past reading about "knocks on the door" regarding players getting cut, especially on the 80-to-53 roster cut-down day. How exactly does the organization handle cuts, but especially when multiple players are notified of not making the final 53? It would seem to be a not so easy day for the players or the coaches.
ANSWER: The typical procedure for cut-down day when the roster is reduced to 53 players at the end of the summer is that some members of the personnel department will be at the team hotel and begin the process of notifying the players who are being waived. Those players then usually speak with General Manager Kevin Colbert and then Coach Mike Tomlin, who usually are in their respective offices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. A couple of summers ago, I had an opportunity to ask Tomlin a couple of questions about the process. The following is a transcript of that:

Q. What is cut-down day like for you?
MT. It's not a good day. It's the worst day of the year, quite frankly. But in another way, it's an exciting day because you have great clarity in terms of who the initial 53 are going to be and you're starting to work with a smaller number of men and really focusing on the challenges that lie ahead.

But at the same time, you're informing some men that they didn't do what they desired to do, what you watched them work for over the course of a number of months. This is not like a lot of jobs. What's required from an effort standpoint, from a commitment standpoint, even to have an opportunity be at the doorstep is special. It's a tough day when you have to inform somebody his journey is over.

Q. How do you handle your end of that conversation?
MT. Usually what I do is I give them black-and-white information as I see it, what I believe led to the decision. Then I get a feel from them what direction we go. If they need further information to determine what their next step in football or in life is, I'm there to answer that. If there's some disagreement in terms of my decision-making to a degree, I'm there to discuss and talk about that. If they want to get out of the room and move on, I'm open to that. After I say what it is I feel needs to be said, get them the information I believe they deserve, I really get my feel from them in terms of where we go from there.

AUSTIN DAVIS FROM SIOUX CITY, IA: What is the likelihood of "Agree to Disagree" returning for the 2021 season?
ANSWER: Plans currently are in the works to turn Agree to Disagree into a podcast and have it return to the menu for the 2021 regular season. Once everything is finalized, there will be an announcement via the Steelers platforms as to how Agree to Disagree can be found by its legions of fans. And even though the format may end up changing from a video to audio, one thing won't change: I'm still right, and he's still wrong.

BOB McCREARY FROM SPRINGFIELD OR: After watching the first week of preseason football, it is interesting to get to see which hyped players are impressive or not, especially the new quarterbacks. The thing is, being a Steelers fan, I know that we are not susceptible to quarterback controversy nonsense because Steelers fans are smarter than that.
ANSWER: Hahahahahahahaha. Good one.

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