LATROBE, Pa. – Let's get to it:
ROCK MORRIS FROM OXON HILL, MD:
I attended the Friday Night Lights practice, and I noticed star players such as Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell hardly took any snaps and rarely participated in drills. Is that common for Steelers to limit their star players in practice?
ANSWER: Coach Mike Tomlin has said all along that he was going to manage some guys throughout this camp/preseason process, and the players you mention fall under that category. So do Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey, as examples, and there are many more whose bodies are given an occasional break from the physical demands of this time of the year. These are guys who are proven players, proven contributors to this team, and Tomlin and his staff are trying to juggle having a competitive camp and getting guys to the start of the regular season as close to 100 percent healthy as is possible in this business.**
GERALD ABBOTT FROM CHESTER, VA:
This is more of an observation than a question. I visited training camp last week. I noticed for both the Thursday and the Saturday practice, Antonio Brown was the last one on the field. Tardy. He also was playing to the crowd. I believe he is sending a silent message to management, even though he has made public comments about no holdout. I think he should set example for the younger players.
ANSWER: I couldn't disagree more with your "observation." First of all, I cannot confirm your assertion that Antonio Brown was the last player to come onto the field for those two days of practice. And even if your characterization is accurate, Brown wasn't late, or tardy, to use your word, and you failed to mention he's always one of the last to leave the field because he does a lot of extra work after the official session is over. This is what Coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday about him: "I think all of us benefit from guys like Antonio. They're standard-setters. You see young offensive running backs and receivers finishing in an Antonio Brown type of way, for instance. I think the presence of unique guys like him, with a unique approach to training, is beneficial to everybody around him."
As for the "playing to the crowd" allegation, what Brown does is engage the fans by pitting different portions of the stands/hillside against another to see which can make the most noise, and he also elicits loud cheers daily with the number of plays he makes during practice. Based on what I see up here every day, and what Tomlin believes, I'm just going to say: you're wrong.
MATT YORK FROM CLARKSTON, MI:
Will the practices with the Lions include pads, full contact/tackling or do the CBA limitations apply?
ANSWER: The joint practices with the Detroit Lions were padded practices, and the rules of the CBA did apply, which is why there was just one workout each day. But the teams didn't have any live drills, no seven-shots, because the Lions don't do those things in their training camp.
KANE KYLE FROM YOUNGSTOWN, OH:
I was hoping you could give me your humble opinion on the upcoming schedule. Who do you think is the biggest threat in the division? And which stretch of games do you see as the most difficult or most important?
ANSWER: I believe the Baltimore Ravens will improve from their 5-11 record of a year ago, but because the Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North last year and did it with a 12-4 record, I would have to identify the Bengals as the team to beat in the division. As for the schedule, trying to predict the strength of it is guesswork because teams that look to be contenders at one stage of this process could be rendered mediocre by injuries or just because they're playing poorly by the time the Steelers have to face them. As for the most important games, it's not exactly like I'm going out on a limb here, but the home-and-home series against the Ravens and Bengals, plus the game against New England at Heinz Field and the one in Indianapolis on Thanksgiving night figure to have a lot to say about the AFC playoff picture.
CASEY MCDONALD FROM HOUSTON, TX:
I always thought Jason Gildon was pretty underrated, and now with Kevin Greene making the Hall of Fame, it seems kind of magnified. Am I alone in thinking Gildon doesn't get the respect he deserves?
Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 10th training camp practice and first joint practice with the Detroit Lions.
ANSWER: I have no way to gauge whether Jason Gildon gets the "respect he deserves." Gildon was a very good player for the Steelers and he remains the franchise's all-time leader in sacks with 77, which he accumulated in 158 games, including 126 starts. He added 11 fumble recoveries, and he scored three touchdowns on those. Gildon never was a coverage outside linebacker, but during the four seasons from 1998-2001 he posted 45 sacks. He played in three Pro Bowls and was voted first-team All-Pro at linebacker in 2001. Whether those numbers and credentials are enough to impress people, I cannot say, but I respect them.**
MIKE VANTASSEL FROM HUNTSVILLE, AL:
Have the Steelers ever had a league MVP? And do you think Ben Roethlisberger has a legitimate chance this year with all his offensive weapons?
ANSWER: According to the 2016 Official NFL Record & Fact Book, since the Associated Press began bestowing its NFL Most Outstanding Player Award in 1957, Terry Bradshaw is the only member of the Steelers to be selected. He won it in 1978.
MARK FARESSA FROM WATERTOWN, CT:
Would Antonio Brown have been available the following week had the Steelers beaten the Broncos in the playoffs?
ANSWER: I don't believe so.
RYAN CATLEY FROM ALIQUIPPA, PA:
Regarding the "team policy" of refraining from entering contract negotiations with a non-quarterback who has more than one year left on his contract: Am I taking crazy pills or wasn't Antonio Brown's current contract given to him after only two years into his entry-level contract? Did his restricted free agent status make him eligible for a new deal going into year three?
ANSWER: As a sixth-round draft choice in 2010, which was before the current CBA was negotiated and ratified, players chosen at that point in the draft were signed to three-year contracts as rookies. When their rookie contracts expired – again, after three seasons – they would be restricted free agents. So when the Steelers signed Antonio Brown to an extension after his second NFL season, he was in fact going into the final year of his existing contract.**
LARRY KRAUS FROM FARMERSVILLE, IL:
I've been through three neck surgeries in the last seven months, two since July 14. I don't have a question but want to thank you for helping me get through this.
ANSWER: Glad to help in this small way. I've been called a pain in the neck many times, but this is the first time I've ever been thanked for helping someone deal with the pain in their neck.