LATROBE, Pa. – Let's get to it:
LESHA BARBUS FROM ROBINSON, PA: What exactly is Ryan Shazier's position with the Steelers?
ANSWER: The Steelers already have said that Ryan Shazier will not play in 2018, and the team converted the bulk of his 2018 salary into a signing bonus so that he would have access to the money immediately rather than having it paid in 17 installments during the regular season. Shazier currently is listed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. While Shazier does not have an officially titled position with the team – after all, he still is classified as a player, albeit an injured one – he is around the team regularly and is given the opportunity to help out in a variety of ways. His mere presence is an inspiration to players, coaches, staff, and fans alike. I know his courage and dedication and grace and class inspire me.
MICHAEL WOLOZYN FROM OIL CITY, PA: Could you lay out how and when the sequential cuts toward the initial 53-man roster occur?
ANSWER: Starting last season, the NFL decided there would be only one roster cut before the start of the regular season. And so by 4 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Sept. 1, all NFL teams will have to cut their rosters from 90 players to 53 players. Teams then will have until noon on Sunday, Sept. 2 to make waiver claims, and players will be awarded to teams based on which team had the worst record (exactly the way the 2018 NFL Draft was conducted). Then after noon on Sunday, Sept. 2, the waiver period will expire and teams can begin signing guys to their 10-man practice squads.
DIABLO SAYAYIN FROM CDMX, MEXICO: I agree with you that Landry Jones is a good backup quarterback. I trust him. But for you, what is the difference between 2018 and 2004? At the start of 2004, our starting quarterback was Tommy Maddox, the veteran backup was Charlie Batch, and the rookie was Ben Roethlisberger. In case of Roethlisberger being injured, why would Rudolph not be the replacement?
ANSWER: Going back to the 2004 season, allow me to clear up some of your facts. The Steelers reported to training camp on July 30 that summer, and Ben Roethlisberger didn't sign his rookie contract until Aug. 3. (Just a little historical note: Roethlisberger was the last No. 1 pick by the Steelers not to be under contract for the start of training camp his rookie season.)
Shortly after camp opened and Roethlisberger signed, Charlie Batch, who was the veteran backup on the roster at the time, injured a knee and had to be placed on the injured reserve list. That elevated Roethlisberger to the No. 2 spot behind Maddox, and it also afforded him more repetitions, and more quality repetitions with the front-line players on the offense. When the regular season began, Maddox was the starter and Roethlisberger was the No. 2 quarterback based on the combination of Batch's injury and the quality work the rookie had gotten during the camp/preseason process. Therefore, when Maddox was injured, it was a foregone conclusion that Roethlisberger was the next man up.
CLINT CAROTHERS FROM VILLA RICA, GA:
I see that former players sometimes wear throwback jerseys with their name and number in the font and style of the era in which they played. They look like really high quality jerseys as well. Are these specially made just for them by the Steelers, and are they available to the general public?
ANSWER: My advice to you is to visit shop.steelers.com. Once on that site, you will see a link at the top left directing you to "Jerseys." Click on that, and you will find jerseys divided into seven different categories that include: Mens, Womens, Kids, Custom, Color Rush, Throwbacks, and Retired Players. Browse through those and I'm certain you'll find one that's perfect for you.
JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: I know you do not claim to be a scout or coach, but now that the pads are on, what is your assessment so far with T.J. Watt now playing left outside linebacker and Bud Dupree playing right outside linebacker?
ANSWER: It's going to take some games to get a real handle on whether the move is a successful one, but I will say that it makes sense to me. During his rookie season, T.J. Watt was the only linebacker in the NFL to post at least 50 tackles, five sacks, five passes defensed, and one interception, and those diverse skills have a chance to be put to good use, because most NFL offenses tend to be right-handed, which means most NFL offenses naturally attack the left side of the defense. As another example, that's one reason why NFL teams typically deploy their best cornerback on the left side.
Also, the right outside linebacker in the Steelers defense typically has been the most productive pass rusher, with two recent examples being Joey Porter and James Harrison. Granted, Bud Dupree played in space some while at the University of Kentucky, but his size and power seem to indicate he would be best utilized attacking the backfield/quarterback. Again, the move makes sense to me, but it's going to be up to the individual players to make it work on the field.
TIM SIVERD FROM SOUTH HILL, VA: Do you think the Steelers gave up too soon on DeAngelo Williams, considering how much he contributed to the team. Shouldn't he at least have been invited to training camp to see if he had anything left?
ANSWER: No and no. DeAngelo Williams' final season with the Steelers came in 2016, and during that year he missed seven full games with a knee injury and was able to play only a few snaps in a couple of others because of the same issue. To bring him back in 2017 would've meant having a 34-year-old running back with bad knees and 2,049 career NFL touches on his body. He had nothing left. Let it go.
TOM ADAME FROM BAKERSFIELD, CA: How many former Steelers are on the coaching staff?
ANSWER: It's two or three depending upon how you view Karl Dunbar. Both inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky and outside linebackers coach Joey Porter were drafted by the Steelers and played for the Steelers. Dunbar was drafted by the Steelers (eighth round in 1990), but during his only three NFL seasons, he played for New Orleans (one year) and Arizona (two years).
SCOTT BARSHINGER FROM WELLSVILLE, PA: Why does the NFL have the two teams that are featured in the Hall of Fame Game play a total of five preseason games? Wouldn't it make sense for those two teams just to have a "bye week" during one of the remaining four weeks of the preseason.
ANSWER: That makes perfect sense to me, and I have no idea why the NFL hasn't implemented that very policy.
JAMES MOONEY FROM ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL: As a 90-year old Steelers fan, I slightly remember an early-days player/coach by the name of Johnny Blood. Can you tell me more about him?
ANSWER: The story goes that Johnny "Blood" McNally never realized his Steelers were playing that day until he heard their score announced over the PA system of the Chicago-Green Bay game he was watching as a fan. McNally played 14 seasons in the NFL, including two stints with Pittsburgh. He served as both a player and coach from 1937-39, and he was considered among the best receivers in the league during his playing days. In his first play with the Steelers in 1937, he ran back a kick 92 yards for a touchdown. That same year, he led the team in receiving (168 yards) and scoring (30 points). He was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
LEN IACONO FROM YORK, PA: I keep reading about favorite unrestricted free agent signings by the Steelers. Maybe I am mistaken, but someone is being left out: Will Wolford. He was a tremendous addition for them. There has got to be a reason. Why?
ANSWER: I was asked about my top five Steelers unrestricted free agent signings. If I was asked about my top 10 Steelers unrestricted free agent signings, Will Wolford would have made the list. I was only asked for five, and so he didn't. That's why. And remember, that's only my opinion.