Let's get to it:
SCOTT RANDALL FROM CONWAY, PA: With the positions playing themselves into a clearer outlook, do you think with the team having a quarterback who can move around more than Ben Roethlisberger, will the play-calling be more in favor of quarterback keepers and option plays?
ANSWER: Anything I would say either in the affirmative or the negative in terms of trying to answer your question would be a guess, so I won't waste your time or my time with that. As I have written in the past, there is a significant difference between a mobile quarterback and a running quarterback, and an offense featuring a running quarterback has never won a Super Bowl. There are ways to take advantage of a quarterback's mobility without using him on read-options, such as having him pass from a moving pocket. And based on the offensive line's performance in Jacksonville, that's the way I would like to see the quarterbacks' mobility utilized.
BILL SPANEL FROM NEW PALESTINE, IN: Near the end of the first half, a Steelers touchdown was taken off the scoreboard when an offside on the defense and a holding penalty on the offense resulted in offsetting penalties and a replay of the down. This seems like an odd way to resolve it since the holding looked like a direct result of the offside. Why wouldn't the offside penalty be enforced with no time off the clock being used?
ANSWER: Because the defender (Josh Allen) didn't contact any offensive player in jumping offside, and there also wasn't a situation where the defensive player was unabated to the quarterback because of the offside. As a result, the officials allowed the play to continue – those situations often are referred to as "free plays" for the offense because no matter what happens during the play the offense would be able to accept the penalty and move on. But when Dan Moore held Allen, that drew a second flag and created the offsetting penalty situation and the replay of the down. Had Moore not held Allen on the play, the offense would've been given the choice of accepting a 5-yard penalty for offside or taking the outcome of the play, which would've been a Steelers touchdown, on the pass from Kenny Pickett to Diontae Johnson.
LARRY HALL FROM AUSTIN, TX: Would you agree that outside linebacker is the defense's thinnest position? I haven't heard much in the way of reserves outside Derek Tuszka. Is there anyone on the roster who has flashed? And do you see this as a wait and see who's available after the final cut-down, or is it going to be an in-house replacement?
ANSWER: I agree that the outside linebacker position right now looks painfully thin behind starters T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. As for candidates currently on the roster, besides Derrek Tuszka, who you already mentioned, the others who may be considered are Delontae Scott and Genard Avery. Of the two, Avery has the more extensive NFL resume as a former fifth-round pick of the Browns in 2018. Avery has played 1,168 defensive snaps with the Browns and then the Eagles, and he has 7.5 sacks, five passes defensed, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery on his stats sheet. I have no way of predicting who might come available after teams make their final roster cuts on Aug. 30, but I have a suspicion Steelers fans are going to have to do a lot of praying that nothing bad happens to Watt or Highsmith this season.
STEVE HOUSEHOLDER FROM WESTERNPORT, MD: While at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, are players allowed to leave campus in their personal vehicles and go into town? Also, is there a bed check?
ANSWER: Players are not confined to campus, and so when they have free time – which isn't often during a typical day – they are permitted to do whatever with that free time. Unless there is something specific a player needs that can be purchased at the local Walmart or Giant Eagle grocery store, I believe they would rather use what little time they have doing something other than sitting in traffic in a car. Yes, there is a bed check.
BRUCE BOSTJANICK FROM SALISBURY, NC: It seems like everyone is avoiding the quarterback discussion, and yet we all watched it unfold over the past year when Mitch Trubisky was acquired and Kenny Pickett was drafted. In your opinion, did Mason Rudolph ever have a shot at remaining in Pittsburgh and how has Mason handled working with Mitch and Kenny when he is the odd man out?
ANSWER: Everyone is avoiding the quarterback discussion? To quote John McEnroe, "You cannot be serious." I did a weekly podcast all offseason and then a 1-hour show on Steelers Nation Radio every day the Steelers held an open practice at Saint Vincent College, and the first topic every time dealt with some aspect of the quarterback situation. Anyway, the Steelers clearly had formed an opinion of Mason Rudolph that had them first sign Mitch Trubisky as an unrestricted free agent and then use a No. 1 pick on Kenny Pickett. I don't necessarily believe it was a premeditated plan to go that way, but when each of those opportunities presented themselves, the Steelers took advantage. Once the Steelers signed Trubisky and drafted Pickett – and then neither one of them sustained an injury that would remove him from the mix – Rudolph's fate seemed to be sealed. Is it fair? No, but it also wasn't fair that Rudolph's progress was slowed by that cheap shot Earl Thomas delivered when the Ravens visited the Steelers early in the 2019 season just when he seemed to be gaining momentum.
Here is what Coach Mike Tomlin said when asked what he learned about the three quarterbacks throughout the competition: "Just how solid of guys they are. When you're competing the way that they're competing, it's challenging. But I just love how all three have handled it, how they've supported one another and been stand-up dudes, been good teammates throughout the process. And you can't say enough about that. I don't take that for granted, I value that. That spirit has aided the process and probably helped all of them from a performance standpoint."
DAVID PICKLE FROM SPRING LAKE, NC: I have been reading stories that Mason Rudolph is possibly a candidate to be traded before the season starts. Have you heard anything about this at all? It seems to me he is the odd man out of the quarterback competition this year. I know that a lot of fans do not like him, but I believe he still needs to be given a fair shot.
ANSWER: I have heard what you have heard – unsubstantiated rumors based on the supposition that some team will inquire about Mason Rudolph's availability in a trade. I disagree about your point that Rudolph hasn't been given a fair shot, because he got a lot of repetitions in practice at training camp, and in the two preseason games he has played 55 offensive snaps to 42 for Kenny Pickett and 28 for Mitch Trubisky. Rudolph has played well, but I believe that both Pickett and Trubisky have been a little bit better. Here's something else I believe: had Rudolph shown the same decisive decision-making and pinpoint accuracy he exhibited against the Jaguars – particularly during the game-winning drive and especially on the 1-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Snead that capped that drive – in the tie game against the winless Lions during the 2021 regular season, I'm not absolutely sure the Steelers sign a veteran quarterback during free agency and follow that up by drafting another quarterback in the first round of the 2022 draft to compete for the job this summer.
CRAIG PENNEY FROM PLOVER, WI: When a player is released with an injury, how does the organization work out compensation for the athlete with the salary cap implications? Can the athlete sign with another team?
ANSWER: In the case of a team waiving an injured player, the injury settlement is reached in a negotiation with the player's agent in conjunction with a medical examination that can be conducted by a doctor of the player's choosing. Once a settlement is agreed upon, the player would be able to sign with another team as soon as he is cleared medically and can pass a physical examination.
BOB WERLEY FROM TOKYO, JAPAN: I seem to remember that it was usually in the third preseason game that a lot of the starters, or expected starters, would start and play an extended period of time. But I noticed in this first week of the 2022 preseason, a lot of starters were playing. Is this a new trend, or does it really just depend on the team/coach?
ANSWER: Things have changed in some significant ways since then. Teams used the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal when a preseason consisted of four games, and now it consists of only three. That also was typical when the start of the NFL regular season was the weekend following Preseason Week 4 on the schedule, which was why so many teams scheduled their preseason finale on Thursday night – in order to squeeze a few days extra rest for the players. But now, in addition to the shortening of the preseason schedule, the regular season doesn't start until two weekends after Preseason Week 4. For example, the Steelers will play their preseason finale on Sunday, Aug. 28, and their regular season opener isn't until Sunday, Sept. 11.
RICK CHUCKREE FROM WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA: Do you think Ben Roethlisberger will ever return to the Steelers in an advisory/coaching role? Or maybe even a front office position?
ANSWER: I do not. I believe Ben Roethlisberger is happy to be spending time with his family, shuttling his children to school and activities and watching them play sports.