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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 20

Let's get to it:

NELSON GILBERT FROM WEST LIBERTY, WV: With the way Jaylen Warren has been playing in camp and in the preseason opener, do you think he has jumped Benny Snell on the depth chart?
ANSWER: While I agree that Jaylen Warren has been doing some good things in practices, there are a couple of areas of his game that he must address before he can expect to be making any moves up the depth chart. Those areas are special teams and fumbling. Benny Snell has been an asset on special teams throughout his time with the Steelers, and as recently as 2021 he was tied-for-sixth on the team with seven special teams tackles; and while you cite his performance in the preseason opener vs. Seattle as a plus on his resume, I can tell you that Coach Mike Tomlin was not the least bit happy with Warren's fumble in that game. My suggestion to Warren would be that his path to a spot on the 53-man roster will need to include him finding a role on special teams and not fumbling any more in preseason games.

CHRIS PETRO FROM VALPARAISO, IN: I'm watching the game against the Seahawks. I know why the established veterans like Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt and others aren't dressing, but why is Pressley Harvin III not punting? No mention of injury by the television announcers. Considering he was inconsistent last year, and the backup did very well when he was hurt late in the season last year, it seems like he still has something to prove and needs to work on his craft. Should he really be considered a "lock" given his shaky start to his career?
ANSWER: First of all, Pressley Harvin III didn't miss games last year because he was injured; he missed a couple of games because his father died and he went home to be with his family. That clarified, the first thing is that most NFL teams bring two punters and two placekickers to training camp, not necessarily for competition but as a way to prevent their first-team punter and placekicker from wearing out their kicking legs because of the amount of work during a training camp with teams doing multiple special teams drills every day. Despite your assessment, the Steelers do not share your opinion of Pressley Harvin III because they were pleased with his progress over the offseason and believe he is in a better place mentally than he was in 2021 while dealing with personal issues that included the deaths of his father and grandmother. And I saw Harvin put on some displays at training camp. R-E-L-A-X.

LEE PINGREE FROM MOON TOWNSHIP, PA: Pressley Harvin III seemed to have a rough time last year in terms of consistency. Have you seen anything during training camp that would suggest he's on his way to having a much better 2022 season?
ANSWER: I refer you to this item that was included in the daily practice report posted on dated Aug. 23: "On the same day the Steelers waived free agent punter Cameron Nizialek, Pressley Harvin III was bombing the ball. It was a special teams period, and Harvin had at least six punts of 60-or-more yards, including one from out of his end zone that traveled 70 yards."

JEFF HUBBELL FROM DOHA, QATAR: What is the status of Joe Haden?
ANSWER: As of this writing, Joe Haden remains an unrestricted free agent and able to sign with any team that wants him and offers him a contract he finds acceptable. There have been reports linking him to the Miami Dolphins following the injury to second-year cornerback Trill Williams, but so far nothing concrete has materialized.

TODD CHRISTOPHER FROM SANTA FE, NM: Why did the Steelers waive Tuzar Skipper and Master Teague? Both players looked good in the preseason opener against Seattle with Skipper recovering the key fumble created by Mark Robinson and Teague looking like a good candidate for at least a practice squad spot. Why not waive one of the many wide receivers on the roster instead?
ANSWER: The Steelers didn't waive Tuzar Skipper and Master Teague because of poor performance; they waived them injured because both had sustained injuries that were going to prevent them from practicing for a length of time that would preclude them from earning a spot on the 53-man roster, while also leaving the team shorthanded at a couple of key positions during this next portion of the preseason process.

WALTER HARDY FROM SAN LUIS POTOSÍ, MÉXICO: I know the Steelers don´t negotiate contracts during the season, but do they negotiate contracts during the preseason? When is the deadline for such negotiations?
ANSWER: The Steelers signed both Diontae Johnson and Chris Boswell to contract extensions after the players reported to Saint Vincent College on July 26 for training camp. The deadline for such negotiations is the start of the regular season, which in 2022 falls on Sept. 11.

SCOTT SWEENEY FROM HICKORY, NC: Wide receiver Steven Sims looked good in the return game and on offense against Seattle and has some time in the league. Anthony Miller and/or Miles Boykin generally seem to be mentioned as the sixth receiver on the 53-man roster. What are your thoughts on Sims as a receiver (vs. just a returner) and his chance of "overtaking" the other two and staying on the 53-man roster?
ANSWER: Anthony Miller was removed from the competition for a spot on the initial 53-man roster when the Steelers placed him on the injured reserve list on Aug. 16. If the Steelers decide to keep six wide receivers, here is the list of what I believe is the top five: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, Calvin Austin III, and Gunner Olszewski (who also is a returner). To crack the initial 53-man roster, I believe Sims will have to continue to stay healthy so he doesn't miss any practice time, be consistently good on a day-to-day basis, and then sprinkle in a bit of the spectacular during the final two preseason games – tonight in Jacksonville, and then on Sunday, Aug. 28 vs. the Detroit Lions at Acrisure Stadium. As a receiver vs. the Seahawks, Sims caught one pass for 2 yards. He'll have to do way better than that in the final two preseason games.

ROY ADAMS FROM RALEIGH, NC: What are your thoughts on wide receiver Tyler Snead, with the showing in practice so far?
ANSWER: I would put Tyler Snead in the same category as Steven Sims (see above). It's time for him to sprinkle in some spectacular plays in preseason games. As for his stat line vs. the Seahawks, Snead caught two passes for 10 yards.

RODGER SHAFFER FROM PLUM, PA: Who do you see winning the inside linebacker competition? Have Devin Bush's abilities diminished from his injury?
ANSWER: When it comes to whether Devin Bush or Robert Spillane ends up starting at inside linebacker Coach Mike Tomlin said, "I'm for letting it sort itself out in terms of quality of play, but it's not only happening at that position, it's happening at the cornerback position. We've got Ahkello Witherspoon and Cam Sutton and Levi Wallace. We've got two guys working at left guard in Kendrick Green and Kevin Dotson, and so there are some of those things going on. And I've just learned over the years you keep snapping the football, and the play provides the clarity. And that's what I mean when I say we've got two additional weeks in front of us, and I'm committed to allowing the play to do the sorting."

As for the issue raised in the second part of your question, Tomlin said, "I think he could be described as 100 percent healthy, and so the things that are the challenges for him are that confidence, that rhythm that comes when you're on top of your game, and he's working to find that."

CASEY McDONALD FROM MONTGOMERY, AL: If you were in Coach Tomlin's shoes, what would have more weight when evaluating the quarterbacks – training camp or preseason games? My initial thought was the actual preseason games, but if a quarterback is doing really well against our first-team defense in training camp that might be a better barometer than a quarterback who plays well against a team's second-string or third-string defense.
ANSWER: A quarterback could be practicing against a reincarnation of the Steelers defense from the 1970s, and it wouldn't mean as much as what happens during a preseason game, because in practice, THERE IS NO HITTING THE QUARTERBACK ALLOWED. That threat of bodily harm is a critical component of the evaluation process of a quarterback. Here is what Coach Mike Tomlin said on this very topic in advance of the preseason opener vs. Seattle:

"I think stepping into a stadium and putting these guys in a live pocket is a significant component of evaluating them individually and collectively and sorting out this battle. You practice in drill-like settings and it's football-like, but it's not football. We're going to be prudent and smart in terms of the protection of the quarterback and keeping a clean pocket in a practice setting. The live pocket component of preseason football is significant. Their ability to make timely decisions under those circumstances is critical. Their ability to protect the football and themselves, their ability to move their units under those circumstances is really telling, and I'm excited about watching those guys display their skills and talent within the confines of a stadium."

WAYNE PHILLIPS FROM JONESBOROUGH, TN: Do you recall Jack Lambert throwing a player to the ground after he taunted Roy Gerela after missing a field goal? Who was it if you can recall. Also was Lambert the fiercest Steelers player ever in your opinion?
ANSWER: The incident to which you refer happened in the third quarter of Super Bowl X. With under 10 minutes remaining in the period and the Steelers trailing, 10-7, Roy Gerela missed a 33-yard field goal attempt, wide left, after which Harris began taunting Gerela and patting him on the helmet. Jack Lambert, on the field goal unit, grabbed Harris by the shoulder pads and flung him to the turf. And while I am not going to dispute Lambert's fierce nature on the football field, or the aggression and passion with which he played, I am reluctant to label him "the fiercest Steelers player ever," because Joe Greene played for the Steelers, too.

CHARLES WAGNER FROM LANCASTER, PA: Does everyone at Acrisure Stadium still get to enjoy Heinz brand condiments on their food?
ANSWER: If you're referring to Heinz ketchup, which the company manufactures now at two plants – one in Fremont, Ohio, and another in Muscatine, Iowa, the answer is, yes. Heinz closed the plant in Leamington, Ontario, where it also manufactured its ketchup, in 2014.

WENDY FAUST FROM DELMONT, PA: My son and I went to training camp at Saint Vincent College five times this year. As you wait in line and sit near other fans, you hear a lot of things. Some insightful. Some, well, are just utter (garbage). But by far the most interesting thing I heard this year was someone saying that he met Bob Labriola at camp once, and that he is not as crotchety and grumpy as you would think from his columns.
ANSWER: That's probably because that fan wasn't torturing me with inane questions about position switches, such as Derek Watt to inside linebacker.