Let's get to it:
SCOTT COLLINS FROM GAMBRILLS, MD: Legend has it that NBA executives stopped trading players with Danny Ainge because they got tired of looking bad in retrospect. Do you think that Kevin Colbert is on his way to a gaining a similar reputation with NFL executives?
ANSWER: No, only because I don't necessarily believe team executives with the Dolphins (Minkah Fitzpatrick for a future No. 1 pick) and the Jaguars (Joe Schobert for a sixth-round pick) believe they made bad deals. In both instances, I think both teams – under new head coaches, by the way – saw the moves as ridding the team of either a malcontent (in the case of Fitzpatrick, who was chafing at the role new Dolphins Coach Brian Flores had in mind for him) or an overpaid player who didn't fit the new system (in the case of Schobert and new coach Urban Meyer). Ego is the most dangerous three-letter word in professional sports management, and luckily for the Steelers, General Manager Kevin Colbert has none.
WILLIAM PALAICH FROM CLERMONT, FL: In the previous installment of Asked and Answered, you listed the Steelers 19 unrestricted free agents for the 2021 offseason and where they signed. There were four players among those 19 listed as still unsigned – Jordan Dangerfield, Jayrone Elliot, Jerald Hawkins, and Avery Williamson. Do you see any of those four the Steelers could have interest in bringing back?
ANSWER: If the Steelers were interested in those players, they would have re-signed them long before now. Jordan Dangerfield essentially was replaced by Tre Norwood. At outside linebacker, the Steelers have T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Jamir Jones, and Cassius Marsh, and they might not even keep five outside linebackers on the 53-man roster. At offensive tackle, beyond the two starters, the Steelers really like rookie Dan Moore and they also signed veteran Joe Haeg, who would be considered an upgrade over Jerald Hawkins. And the trade for Joe Schobert closes the book on looking to add anyone at inside linebacker.
NICK MITCHELL FROM GLEN-LYON, PA: Can you give me an update on Rico Bussey's chances of making the 53-man roster, and how it's going for him so far?
ANSWER: Rico Bussey has had some moments during training camp practices at Heinz Field, and through the first two preseason games he has five catches for 49 yards, with four of those for 45 yards coming last week in Philadelphia. But the Steelers are stacked at wide receiver, and right now I would put Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud, and Cody White ahead of Bussey on the depth chart. And I would put the chances of the Steelers keeping six receivers on the 53-man roster as not very good. There are still two preseason games left, though. Plenty of time for a player to make a move up, or a player or two to make a move down.
RICHARD TOLBERT FROM STEVENS POINT, WI: I know the Steelers had high hopes when they made a rare intra-division trade prior to the 2020 season for Chris Wormley and then resigned him in the 2021 offseason. Can you provide some insight to his progress?
ANSWER: My impression all along was that the Steelers acquired Chris Wormley in a trade with the Ravens to be what he has been for the team – a veteran backup who could provide some quality snaps at all three positions along the defensive line. So far this preseason, Wormley has two tackles and one pressure, and when Stephon Tuitt returns to the lineup Wormley will go back to being the first defensive lineman off the bench.
TERRY RUSSELL FROM HICKORY, NC: How do you think James Washington will pan out this year with newcomers stepping in front of him like Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson when he has not been given a fair chance to show his full talent at the wide receiver position?
ANSWER: I'm not interested in disparaging James Washington, because I happen to like him as a player, but to contend he hasn't been given a fair opportunity isn't true. Both Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson are better receivers than Washington, and since both were added to the team after he already was here it's fair to say both of them passed him on the depth chart. That said, if I were in charge of setting the 53-man roster, which I most certainly am not, James Washington would be on it.
MICHAEL ROBERTS FROM CECILIA, KY: Who in your mind has really shown out this preseason/offseason? Offense and defense.
ANSWER: Offense: Najee Harris. Defense: Alex Highsmith.
GLENN JONES FROM UPPER MARLBORO, MD: I'm still trying to fathom the concepts of supplemental picks and how they're formulated. Any read on how many we may accrue for next year's draft?
ANSWER: They're referred to as compensatory picks, and I'm right there with you on being unable to figure out (accurately) in advance when it comes to how many picks and in which round those picks will land in a particular draft for a particular team. And so, I'm going to offer you the same advice I have offered everyone who has asked this question in the past: Wait for the announcement, which typically comes 4-6 weeks before the draft each year, because there are still too many variables in play now to make an accurate determination.
ANDREAS HEIDE FROM LANGENFELD, GERMANY: Does Ryan Shazier still have contact with the team? During recent seasons I saw on television that he was with the defense in the pregame huddle and on the sideline during some games. Does he give any motivational support to the team and share his knowledge with the linebackers during training camp or this season? I think many players would grow if Ryan was with the team.
ANSWER: Ryan Shazier currently is pursuing a life outside of football. In November 2020, he established the Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation, which will provide grants, stipends, and support to patients of spinal injuries as well as their families and caregivers. As of early 2021, the fund had raised about $500,000 and had set an initial fundraising goal of $2.5 million. "The first part is being able to build up proper reserves … and have assurance the money is there to fulfill a promise," Kate Dewey, a nonprofit expert and senior adviser at law firm Dentons Cohen & Grigsby who is serving as secretary of the fund's board of directors, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Shazier Fund has assembled a group of spinal cord injury experts to help brainstorm on how best to distribute its funds and criteria for applications. The first round of grants to spinal cord injury patients could be allocated later in 2021, with grants for caregivers likely made in 2022.
GUILLERMO DIAZ FROM CERRO AZUL, VERACRUZ: Can you describe Mike Wallace's stay with the Steelers, and whether he is still tied to the organization? Why did he leave? I recently watched videos that included Ben Roethlisberger's great connections with Wallace, and it reminded me of the kind of duo they were.
ANSWER: Mike Wallace was a productive receiver during his four seasons with the Steelers, largely because his difference-making speed was a perfect complement to Ben Roethlisberger's arm strength and accuracy on deep passes. During his time in Pittsburgh, Wallace caught 235 passes for 4,042 yards (17.2 average) and 32 touchdowns. But when Wallace repeatedly turned down the Steelers' offers on a new contract, the team decided to spend the money instead on Antonio Brown, and Wallace left as an unrestricted free agent. After leaving the Steelers, Wallace would play for six more years for four different NFL teams, and during that phase of his career he caught 32 fewer passes and scored seven fewer touchdowns. Those numbers indicate the duo's success had more to do with the quarterback than the receiver.
BEN RASEY FROM ANGOLA, IN: Is watching the failed Tim Tebow experiment a "teaching moment" for those suggesting these positional shifts, or just appropriate punishment for those who do so?
ANSWER: My inclination is that anyone who believes that those who advocate for position switches at the NFL level will learn anything from the failed Tim Tebow experiment is just as delusional as those doing the suggesting in the first place.
MARK TERNES FROM FARGO, ND: Serious question here: The biggest Super Bowl halftime show snub of all time? Hands down it's gotta be Van Halen, don't you think?
ANSWER: Serious question here: Who cares? And how on earth could someone make that determination?