Let’s get to it:
JOEY SHAFFER FROM SALTSBURG, PA: After watching a practice at training camp and the first two preseason games, I think Chris Boswell and Jordan Berry will both keep their jobs as placekicker and punter. Would you agree with that?
ANSWER: I see Chris Boswell as a lock to keep his job based on his performance throughout the offseason program, and then at training camp and through the first three preseason games. For Ian Berryman to beat out Jordan Berry, he’s going to have to convince special teams coordinator of two things: that he can deliver on the kind of directional punting Smith requires; and that he can serve as a reliable holder for Boswell.
DENNIS NEVINSKY FROM ERIE, PA: With the way that Artie Burns has stepped up his play during the preseason, would the Steelers consider trading him, if the compensation was high enough?
ANSWER: If something were to happen to Joe Haden or Steven Nelson, Artie Burns would be the Steelers’ best option at the outside cornerback position. No team is going to give much of anything in a trade for a player who can become an unrestricted free agent in March. The Steelers need to keep their good players, and Burns is looking like a good player again. This is not a team with extra cornerbacks.
GARY SCOTTON FROM MANTUA, OH: Which tackles make the 53-man roster? Do they try to keep a guy on the practice squad or do they try to keep the undrafted rookie guard from Florida? Just seems to me that after B.J. Finney and Chuks Okorafor, they still have a few guys with some potential.
ANSWER: I believe the Steelers will keep nine offensive linemen, and here is my prediction for which nine: Starters Al Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Matt Feiler are five; the two backup tackles would be Zach Banner and Chuks Okorafor; and the two interior backups would be B.J. Finney and Fred Johnson.
KEVIN PAHL FROM MT. WASHINGTON, PA: Is there a possibility that Mason Rudolph could compete for the starting position at quarterback?
ANSWER: If you’re referring to this year and this team, no. And likely not until Ben Roethlisberger decides to retire.
MICHAEL SUPER FROM BEAVER FALLS, PA: Will the Steelers keep three or four quarterbacks?
ANSWER: There is no chance the Steelers keep four quarterbacks and no chance they don’t keep three.
THOMAS HERMAN FROM WARR ACRES, OK: With Andrew Luck announcing his retirement, I've read articles stating that this helps the Steelers. How would this be of any consequence to the Steelers, since the Colts aren't in the AFC North? But I would think it may open a door for the quarterback the Steelers are likely to cut. Is there a possible trade looming here instead?
ANSWER: Andrew Luck’s sudden and unexpected retirement weakens the Indianapolis Colts, and a weakened Colts team helps the Steelers because even though the teams are not in the same division they could find themselves competing for a Wild Card spot in the AFC. And if both teams are in the playoffs, there could be some competition for seeding. As for the possibility of a trade, I don’t believe the Colts would be willing to give up anything for Devlin Hodges.
DAVID BENDINELLI FROM DENVER, CO: When Antonio Brown was being shopped around in the spring, rumor had it that he vetoed a trade to Buffalo. How can a player under contract with one team (Steelers) have the power to refuse to go to another team (Buffalo) via a trade?
ANSWER: How can a player under contract veto a trade? By refusing to show up to the team to whom he was traded. If a team trades for a player, and then that player doesn’t report to the new team, the NFL voids the trade. It may be a passive-aggressive tactic, but it will work.
JC CHUTA FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Has there ever been an instance where the Steelers opted to put in some of their starters during the fourth quarter of a preseason game (rather than the first quarter?) While it wouldn't guarantee minimizing injuries, playing against opposing team’s second-string and third-string talent might help.
ANSWER: I don’t see how that would help anything, and it would put those starters at greater risk of injury because that would mean inserting your best players into a game after they had been sitting on the bench or standing on the sideline with no warmups. The time between the start of the second half and the start of the fourth quarter can be close to an hour. That would be asking for soft tissue injuries.
SAM CLONCH FROM WOODBRIDGE, VA: I read an article the other day about how Coach Mike Tomlin likes to simulate the regular season as much as possible during the weeks leading up to preseason games. Question is, does that include players staying at hotels the night before games? Obviously they probably do for away games, but what about home games?
ANSWER: If the Steelers are still at Saint Vincent College, they would stay in the dormitory the night before a home preseason game. If they already have broken camp, they would stay in a hotel.
DAVE STEWART FROM VALRICO, FL: Since it appears the talent pool of college players is deepening, have the NFL owners ever considered increasing the size of teams’ rosters? Other than the increased cost, what would be an objection?
ANSWER: The increased cost is enough of an objection on its own. Since owners and players split the designated gross revenues on a 50:50 basis, more players on the roster means a smaller piece of the pie. Owners aren’t interested in that, and players in the league aren’t interested in that, either. And while you may be correct about more talent at the college level, that doesn’t necessarily apply to all positions, such as quarterback. Did you try watching any of the AAF? Those were guys who couldn’t make it in the NFL, and I don’t remember that brand of football being that compelling.
RUDY TAPIA FROM MANTECA, CA: Was there ever a valid explanation provided for why the offensive pass interference call on Diontae Johnson in the Kansas City was not overruled? It looked pretty clear to the entire viewing audience that they got the call wrong.
ANSWER: You do realize you’re talking about NFL officiating, right? There still hasn’t been a valid explanation of the blown call in last season’s NFC Championship Game that was the catalyst for adding pass interference to the things subject to instant replay review in the first place.
ROBERT LAVIN FROM PEORIA, AZ: With Ben Roethlisberger entering his 16th season with the Steelers, can you tell me if this will be the most seasons played by any player in franchise history?
ANSWER: Entering the 2019 season, Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Webster were tied for first in franchise history with 15 seasons of service. Once Roethlisberger completes the 2019 season to make it 16, he will be the franchise’s all-time leader in that category.