Let's get to it:
MEMET SRATT FROM NEW YORK, NY: The excitement around how well the 2021 Steelers draft picks have played in the preseason has resulted in proclamations that it was a great draft. This reminds me of the knee-jerk reactions of Mel Kiper and other "experts" who previously had rated the Steelers 2021 draft as terrible. It seems like these conclusions are different sides of the same coin. What benchmarks do you look to before praising or condemning a draft?
ANSWER: The first criteria is time. I remember not all that long ago, there was a decent amount of initial excitement surrounding the 2016 draft following a regular season in which No. 1 pick Artie Burns finished with three interceptions and 13 passes defensed in nine starts, and No. 2 pick Sean Davis played 71 percent of the defensive snaps and had an interception, and No. 3 pick Javon Hargrave was the starting nose tackle between Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. It's now five years later, and none of those players are even with the team anymore. A draft class also should add some star power to the roster, and that can be measured by Pro Bowl appearances and All-Pro recognition. And finally, you can count how many of the players drafted in a particular year prove to be good enough and durable enough to earn second contracts with the team.
TOM KULPA FROM WHEELING, WV: Do you think a player's vaccination status would be a factor in earning a roster spot, in the case of two players of equal ability where one was vaccinated and the other was not?
ANSWER: I definitely believe that could end up being a factor considered in the overall decision, and where vaccination status might be more of a factor is with players who are released during the summer and find themselves looking for a job once all rosters are cut to 53 players.
PAUL BUREK FROM SAVANNAH, GA: What are the pros and cons of our new offensive coordinator calling plays from up in the box? I'm a little nervous that he is not calling plays from down on the field. Do NFL teams prefer calling plays from the box or from the field?
ANSWER: I don't see what the cons could be from offensive coordinator Matt Canada calling plays from the coaches' booth. From up there, he has a better view of the field to see how the opposing defense reacts to formations and motions, he has a direct view of the opposing sideline to see the defensive personnel packages coming onto the field without having to be told by someone who might make a mistake, and he is not impacted by weather because it's dry and climate controlled. Plus, I believe that the field level view from the sideline is the absolute worst seat in the house when it comes to watching football.
KEN WALDROP FROM ONTONAGON, MI: If the Steelers showcase Dwayne Haskins against Carolina and he plays well, could you see a scenario in which we trade him for a first-round pick and then combine our now two first-round picks to trade up for a top pick in next year's draft? Haskins has obvious talent, but maturity is something you can't teach.
ANSWER: If Dwayne Haskins plays well against Carolina tonight, he possibly could take Mason Rudolph's job as the backup to Ben Roethlisberger in 2021 and then put himself in a competition for the starting job once Roethlisberger retires. And if maturity cannot be taught, it certainly can be learned.
JON COYNE FROM WILMINGTON, NC: One thing I've noticed over the years that's very frustrating is not getting off the field on third down. I clearly don't have the stats, but it seems like when it's third-and-10, we give up 11. When it's third-and-forever, we rough the passer. In your opinion, what can be done as an organization to tighten up this wizard's sleeve of a gap? Is it a question of discipline?
ANSWER: You are absolutely correct – you clearly don't have the stats. But I do. In 2020, the Steelers defense ranked fifth in the NFL in third down conversion percentage; in 2019, the defense was sixth in the NFL, and in 2018, the defense was 10th in the NFL. I don't know what a wizard's sleeve is, but if it's making claims that aren't backed up by facts, that's something you should tighten up.
FRED McGUIGAN FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: I was disappointed that you rated Rico Bussey behind five players on the wide receiver depth chart. Is it an official chart? Are all the receivers considered as a group? Are some considered to be slot receivers?
ANSWER: Someone submitted a question, and I provided an answer. Since it wasn't a factual question, all I could provide was some insight based on what I had seen to that point in the training camp/preseason process. I get that you like Rico Bussey as a player, but you cannot tell me that you know for a fact he's higher on the depth chart than Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud, because the rotation at the wide receiver position during the preseason so far has indicated he is not.
CHRISTOPHER WELBURN FROM GLASTONBURY, CT: What are the requirements for a team when it wants to claim a player from another team after that player is cut? I understand some go through waivers and others don't, but is there any minimal requirement – such as being added to the 53-man roster?
ANSWER: If a player is waived and claimed by another team, the team claiming him has to add him to its 53-man roster. The claiming team could not, as an example, put in a claim for a player and then put him on its practice squad. If a vested veteran is released, he is free to sign with any team and able to cut whatever deal the sides agree upon.
STEFAN PISOCKI FROM WILMINGTON, DE: I think no town embraces a great running back like Pittsburgh. Perhaps Le'Veon Bell wasn't loved because he didn't play with the over-the-top joy of Jerome Bettis, and he never came up big at the biggest moments like Franco Harris. How do you envision Najee Harris coming across to the fans?
ANSWER: Perhaps Le'Veon Bell wasn't loved because he skipped an entire season because he didn't want to play for the "pittance" the franchise tag would have paid him. Anyway, what it boils down to is that fans love players who produce and help the team win games and compete for championships. I'm not going to "envision" how Najee Harris will come across to Steelers fans, because the fair thing to do is allow that relationship to grow organically.
MICHAEL MOSGROVE FROM ORLANDO, FL: Do you think Jordan Dangerfield's time in the NFL is over? He has been a free agent for months, and it seems like the writing is on the wall, but he was always a solid special teamer for us.
ANSWER: Jordan Dangerfield was a run-stuffing in-the-box safety in a league where passing is more prevalent now, and a special teams player who made tackles and was smart but delivered no splash. I have a feeling his age and experience may have priced him out of the league, in that teams need guys who provide those things, but those teams usually believe they can find those things in a younger, cheaper player.
TIMOTHY RICHARD FROM SULPHUR, LA: With all the apprehension (not from me because I say let him play) around starting an undersized unproven rookie at center vs. using J.C. Hassenauer who has a propensity for occasional wild snaps as Maurkice Pouncey did; What is your take on comparing Green to Mike Webster, an even smaller yet stronger center but more experienced player.
ANSWER: My take is that comparing a young man who is trying to make a career for himself in the NFL to one of the greatest, most decorated centers in the history of the league is cruel, to say nothing of premature.
NICK GUEGUEN FROM HASTINGS, PA: In your own assessment, what does Terrell Edmunds need to do to make more progress in his career this year?
ANSWER: What Coach Mike Tomlin refers to as "splash plays." Interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, tackles for loss, sacks, hits on the quarterback, passes defensed. Be noticed for doing something dramatic that helps your team win.
STEVEN HOWELL FROM HAINES CITY, FL: If you could pick your all-time greatest Steelers secondary, which players would you choose?
ANSWER: How about we make it simple and just go with four guys elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Mel Blount, Jack Butler, Troy Polamalu, and Rod Woodson. Combined they had 174 interceptions during their careers with the Steelers.
JOHN MARTIN FROM GETTYSBURG, PA: Are teams allowed to share information (video) of other teams? If so, do you know if the Steelers ever share information (tape) on other teams to influence and aid other teams to defeat our division rivals?
ANSWER: That's not necessary, because all teams must send copies of their game videos to NFL Films, and then all NFL teams are able to access any video in the NFL Films library simply by requesting it.
JIM NEAL FROM FAYETTEVILLE, TN: From Thursday's installment of Asked and Answered:
His question: KEVIN DOYLE FROM SALINAS, CA: Sometimes your replies to questions are brutal and often personally degrading. I'm not sure that asking a dumb question deserves such a public humiliation. Why not just ignore the question and choose another one to put up on the site? I have to believe there are enough insightful Steelers fans with valid and interesting questions for you to choose from.
YOUR ANSWER: Don't be so sure about that high number of valid and interesting questions. And instead of scolding me for being a meanie, why didn't you take a shot at posing a valid and interesting question?
My response: LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL!
CARLOS ATENCIO FROM ALBUQUERQUE, NM: BWAHAHAHAHAHAH, that last one was great. I love when you blast people back to the stone age. You do a great job in all aspects of what you do. Don't ever let anyone tell you any different. "Meanie." Hahahahahaha.
ANSWER: I always have endeavored to have Asked and Answered not only be informative but also entertaining.
TONY SOBRASKY FROM COCONUT CREEK, FL: Since Zach Gentry is not the best at tight end, do you think the Steelers should try to convert him to a tackle position (if he would be open to the transition)? He would need to gain about 30 pounds, but his height, arm length, and testing as an athlete would put him in the top percentile. I think there would be nothing to lose. What are your thoughts?
ANSWER: To summarize, your idea is to take a guy who started as a quarterback in college before transitioning to tight end now be asked to gain 30 more pounds to become an offensive tackle. And this is because of your assessment that he's no good as a tight end, even though Kevin Colbert saw him as a good enough prospect to draft in the fifth round and Mike Tomlin thinks enough of him as a player to have complimented him on more than one occasion since training camp opened. If I gave you my thoughts on your idea, and was truthful about it, you might call me a meanie, too.