Let's get to it:
CARL HASSENPLUG FROM NILES, OH: Do you think that Coach Mike Tomlin might make up a special package for Kenny Pickett to get him on the field?
ANSWER: My sense is that Kenny Pickett will get onto the field during the 2022 regular season one of three ways: If Coach Mike Tomlin believes Pickett will give the team the best chance to win games; if the quarterback(s) above him on the depth chart are playing poorly to the degree where Tomlin believes they are the reason why the team is losing; or if the quarterback(s) above Pickett on the depth chart are injured and unable to play. Pickett is not "Slash."
JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: I'm trying to keep up with training camp as best as possible, but which players are taking first and second team snaps at center with Kendrick Green and Kevin Dotson rotating at left guard? Looking at the current roster, only three centers are listed with one being Green.
ANSWER: When the first unit is on the field, Mason Cole is at center. When the No. 2 unit comes in, it's J.C. Hassenauer.
BILL SPANEL FROM NEW PALESTINE, IN: Why not broadcast Friday Night Lights via Steelers.com for those of us who can't attend?
ANSWER: Because that would be tantamount to providing every other team in the league with video of a practice, complete with formations, personnel groupings, etc. There's no coach in the NFL who would agree to that.
BRIAN BRAATEN FROM TUCSON, AZ: Firstly, I just want to thank you for Asked and Answered. I really enjoy reading all your responses. My question is about practice squads. Has the League set the number of practice squad members? I know the practice squad size had changed a bit during the past couple of seasons because of COVID.
ANSWER: General Manager Omar Khan was asked about that when he met with the media Tuesday on campus. His answer: "Those are fluid conversations, in my understanding, at the league level. We are proceeding as if the rules are going to be as they were written in that last CBA. That last CBA was signed and ratified, and then we had COVID. We are proceeding as it is written in the CBA. If we get the extra practice squad spots, great. But we'll adjust (either way) as we have to."
CHRIS HANN SR. FROM SARASOTA, FL: There are now 11 wide receivers who signed for $20 million per year in the offseason after DK Metcalf signed. George Pickens and Calvin Austin III were drafted this year and have looked good early in camp. Do you think Diontae Johnson is worth $20 million per year?
ANSWER: It doesn't matter what I think, because I'm not in a position to pay that kind of money, and in my mind the reality of a player's market value strictly comes down to what someone is willing to pay that player for his services. What an individual player believes he is worth, what fans believe a player is worth, none of that matters. Market value is determined by the buyer(s) – what someone is willing to pay for goods or services. All of that other stuff is just lip service.
JOHN VINCENT FROM CONNEAUT, OH: I know it's early, but what is your assessment of the offensive line thus far.
ANSWER: You're absolutely correct. It's early. Two padded practices into training camp is way too early. The first preseason game is still 10 days away.
GLAUCIO CAFALCHIO FROM TAUBATÉ, BRAZIL: Could you shed some lights on the quarterback competition so far? Has Kenny Pickett already shown any glimpse of the outstanding talent that made him the first quarterback drafted, or are they still too early in the process?
ANSWER: I understand the intense level of interest in the Steelers, and this particular summer so much of that interest is focused on the quarterback competition. But let's compare the quarterback competition, or the development of the offensive line, etc., to the baking of a cake. If you get too anxious about the cake and taste it before it's ready, you'll ruin everything and potentially make yourself sick by eating uncooked food. Making pronouncements too soon about issues regarding the Steelers isn't hazardous to anyone's health, but it's a meaningless exercise. I really believe that most of these issues cannot and will not be resolved until the Steelers have played a couple of preseason games, because – using the quarterbacks as an example – how can a complete and accurate evaluation of a quarterback be made when the candidates are playing without the fear of getting hit? In order to evaluate players, it's best to evaluate them after seeing them do what you're going to expect them to do when the games count. Granted, preseason games don't count in the standings, but they represent the closest thing to games that do. And personally, I wouldn't want to have to make a decision on a quarterback until I had some chance to see him handle the physical duress provided by an opponent.
GARY TOPLAK FROM LITTLE RIVER, SC: As someone who grew up and played sports in the Pittsburgh area in the 1960s and 1970s, I believe some of today's athletes are as tough as any generation's. But please explain to this old man why the NFL has players wearing padded helmets during what appear to be non-contact, non-padded practices. Helmets of the future?
ANSWER: To explain it as simply as I can, the NFL's decision to mandate the use of the Guardian Cap helmet covers starting with training camp practices and continuing through the second of three preseason games is to make an effort to eliminate all avoidable head contact. Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer said, "Even if there are no changes to the concussion numbers with this intervention, we would still consider this worthwhile if it reduces the force that each player receives. We know that some head contact inevitably occurs in sports of all types," he said, "but we want to focus on the part that we think is avoidable."
According to a story on ESPN.com that was written by Kevin Seifert, "The NFL has brought down its concussion numbers since Sills issued a call to action in 2018. There were 187 reported concussions in 2021 between the start of training camp and the end of the regular season, down from an average of 266.3 between 2015 and 2017. Sills said in February that the league had begun work to drive down the effects of all head contact, whether or not it leads to a concussion."
KEN MAULDIN FROM CLYDE, TX: As you review the early stages of training camp, is there one lower draft pick or free agent that has caught your eye early on?
ANSWER: I would point to undrafted rookie running back Jaylen Warren, and I'm not the only one who would.
SEAN DELANEY FROM UPTON, MA: The Steelers seem to have a knack for drafting quality wide receivers. Can you pinpoint a reason for this? Do they have scouts who specialize in position groups?
ANSWER: The Steelers do not deploy their scouts to work specific positions, but rather to canvas certain areas of the country. I have no idea how they have managed such a run of success in drafting wide receivers, and trying to find out would be like asking Colonel Sanders for a list of his "11 herbs and spices."
MICHAEL KOLB FROM JOHNS CREEK, GA: As a long-time Steelers fan my early memories were of Bobby Lane and Ed Brown as the team's quarterbacks. Unfortunately, there were many very forgettable quarterbacks between Ed Brown and Terry Bradshaw. As we come off 18 years of Ben Roethlisberger, could you provide a list of those quarterbacks between Brown and Terry Bradshaw?
ANSWER: Terry Bradshaw was the first overall pick of the 1970 NFL Draft, and Ed Brown's final season as a starter with the Steelers was in 1964. Here is a list of the names of some of the quarterbacks who started for the team in between 1965 and 1970: Bill Nelsen, Ron Smith, George Izo, Kent Nix, Dick Shiner, and Terry Hanratty.
THOMAS VOGAN FROM LAKE ZURICH, IL: I am a long-time Steelers fan and a retired U.S. Army officer. How does one get invited to participate in the Salute to Service held by the Steelers organization each year in November?
ANSWER: Salute to Service actually is a league-wide initiative, and is not restricted to the Ateelers. According to NFL.com, "Salute to Service is a year-round effort to Honor, Empower, and Connect our nation's service members, veterans, and their families. It is grounded in deep partnership with nonprofits and organizations that support the military community in the United States and across the world. The NFL extends its appreciation of the military community through special moments of recognition at games and events and visits to military bases both domestically and internationally throughout the year. Since 2011, more than $58 million has been raised for the league's military nonprofit partners."
Like all NFL teams, the Steelers participate in this initiative in November, and they generally work through local VA offices and recognize veterans and active duty service members from the community.
TOM McCORMICK FROM FINDLAY, OH: I recently watched "Draft Day" starring Kevin Costner and am curious about your take on how much of that is Hollywood manufacturing a story and how much of that reflects the actual conversations taking place between GMs during the draft?
ANSWER: I'm no film critic, but I thought that movie was awful. I saw it so long ago that I truly cannot recall the type of conversations between GMs of rival teams that were depicted in the movie, and you couldn't get me to watch it again to critique those conversations without a court order.