Let's get to it:
ZACH SHUDER FROM CHANDLER, AZ: I was surprised to hear about Jaylen Samuels possibly being on the roster bubble after the Steelers spent a draft pick on him. In your opinion, do you see him being an odd man out in possibly the best depth at running back the team has had in a while? Does Samuels possibly clear waivers and make it on the practice squad with maybe Jarvion Franklin? I'm assuming the guys who make the initial 53-man roster are Le'Veon Bell, James Conner, Fitz Toussaint, and Stevan Ridley.
ANSWER: You begin by expressing some surprise about "hearing" that Jaylen Samuels might be on the roster bubble. One of the things to understand is that during the training camp process, most of what you're "hearing" is media speculation, and that also can change frequently. Another point worth making is that not all fifth-round draft choices make the roster as rookies, and Samuels was a fifth-round pick, the Steelers' second pick in the fifth round to be precise, the 165th overall selection. Because while Jesse James was a fifth-round pick, so were Travis Feeney and Shaquille Richardson and Terry Hawthorne and Chris Scott and Joe Burnett.
Even with all that, this doesn't mean Samuels cannot or will not make the 53-man roster, because a lot can happen in the final two preseason games, including injuries. What is going to be a significant issue in figuring out the bottom spots on the depth chart at each position is value on special teams. As an example, Fitz Toussaint is valuable on special teams and has an NFL resume to attest to that. And if Samuels isn't on the 53-man roster, I believe he would be a strong candidate for the practice squad, based on his versatility alone. One final point: in calculating the players on the roster at this position, don't forget Rosie Nix. He may be listed as a fullback, but he counts as a body in the backfield when the Steelers cut from 90 players to 53.
MICHAEL ROBERTS FROM CECILIA, KY: About how many players at each position do the Steelers typically keep on roster?
ANSWER: With the understanding that this is a GUESS, here is how I think the numbers could work out: three quarterbacks; four or five running backs; five or six wide receivers; three tight ends; nine offensive linemen; six defensive linemen; eight or nine linebackers; eight or nine defensive backs; and three specialists. The variances in the numbers account for the possibility of injuries between now and the final cut-down, because more players may need to be kept at a position that includes some walking wounded.
NEIL GLASSER FROM MANALAPAN, FL: Why is Landry Jones referred to as a "career backup?" He threw for over 16,000 yards and 123 touchdowns at Oklahoma and has appeared to be quite competent in the limited opportunities he has received in the NFL. Is it inconceivable that he could be a productive starter in the NFL?
ANSWER: No, it's not inconceivable that Landry Jones could be a productive starter, but when he hit unrestricted free agency a couple of years ago there weren't any NFL teams willing to sign him to compete for a starting job.
JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: There was a report Ben Roethlisberger left practice early on the last Tuesday of training camp in Latrobe after taking a hit. You mentioned before that Ben doesn't wear a red jersey because players are smart enough not to hit the franchise quarterback during practice. So what happened, and why would a player take a shot at Ben?
ANSWER: Ben Roethlisberger did leave practice early on the team's final day in Latrobe, and he was placed in the concussion protocol as a precaution. But hours before kickoff of the preseason game vs. the Packers he already had cleared the protocol. What happened in practice was that during a rep of "seven shots," Roethlisberger threw a ball off his back foot into the corner of the end zone to JuJu Smith-Schuster (who made the catch for the touchdown, by the way). Keion Adams was engaged with Marcus Gilbert, and feet got tangled and Roethlisberger went to the ground and hit his head on the grass. Nobody hit Roethlisberger.
CALEB JOHNSON FROM WILMINGTON, NC: Any chance James Harrison becomes a defensive coach for the Steelers?
ANSWER: I believe there could have been a position for James Harrison in the Steelers strength and conditioning operation after he retired from the team, but I also believe Harrison blew that to smithereens by signing with the New England Patriots and then taking some shots at Coach Mike Tomlin.
JOEY SIVERD FROM RICHMOND, VA: Thank you so much for shutting down my dad's DeAngelo Williams question on Aug. 7. He has plagued me with his DeAngelo Williams opinions for the past two years now, and I've been telling him exactly what you said the whole time, so it gave me great joy to see you drop the knowledge. Though I will say I did like Williams on the team, as a general player, and wish he could have gotten a championship. Having said that, can I keep you on retainer for the future and give you a call to weigh in on an as-needed basis for the rest of his hot-take tomfoolery?
ANSWER: DeAngelo Williams was a great pickup at the time, but he got old and his body broke down. That happens in the NFL, and it's just that some fans want to cling to the past and cannot or will not accept the inevitable reality. As for your request of me, I looked up "retainer" in the dictionary, and when I saw that it typically involves a payment for services to be rendered in the future, I accept.
BRIAN BOYCE FROM SPRINGBORO, PA: I do not believe the new process of all the cuts occurring at one time is beneficial to the team. If the bottom third of players on the 90-man roster are eliminated in an early cut, it would give more reps (game/practice) to the remaining 60 players on the roster. This then allows increased evaluation time to make that final cut. With this new system, will the bottom tier players still get equal reps in practice and preseason games? Or will their time standing and watching from the sidelines increase? Also, could a team opt to use the old cut-down system, or is this mandated?
ANSWER: I don't disagree with your premise, but my personal opinion on why the cut-down rule was changed was to give teams more bodies with which to navigate the fourth preseason game without having to play their front-line guys and risk injury to them. So actually, at least when it comes to playing time in the final preseason game, the bottom guys on the depth chart will see much more playing time as a result of this change in the cut-down dates. And there would be nothing to prevent a team from trimming its roster days or even weeks before the mandatory deadline, if it chose to do so.