Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Dec. 1

Let's get to it:

MO PECORAM FROM HAMILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA:
Do you think they will sign Le'Veon Bell to a contract extension next year or will the Steelers wait and see how his knee holds up? I just hope that Bell has a complete recovery, and with the way he works out I'm sure he will. I put him up there with Adrian Peterson as a freak of nature.

In 2016, Le'Veon Bell will enter into the final year of the four-year, $4.12 million contract he signed as a second-round draft pick in 2013. His base salary for the 2016 season has been reported as $966,900. The Steelers see Bell as one of the cornerstones of their future, and like you, they are aware of his work habits and dedication to same. I'm certain the Steelers have been getting medical updates all along regarding Bell's knee injury, some of which never have been made public. One of the things Coach Mike Tomlin said was that Bell's ACL was intact, which was a very good sign. My guess would be that the Steelers will want to work toward an extension for Bell next year during the window for such things, and that in doing so they already will have satisfied themselves to some degree about the long-term prognosis of his knee.

RICH LEONARD FROM THOMASTON, ME:
With Le'Veon Bell's injury, I have seen reports saying it's possible to heal within two months, which would put us around the end of the regular season. With his workout routine and great physical condition, is it possible for a playoff return from Le'Veon?

Le'Veon Bell was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list on Nov. 2, which ended his season. He cannot play again until 2016. I would question the veracity of the "reports" you claim to have seen, because if there was a chance for Bell to come back and play this season without risking further/additional damage to his knee, I believe he's a significant enough player that the Steelers would have pursued that option.

BRUCE HAMILTON FROM MANSFIELD, MA:
The Seahawks shredded a secondary that does not seem to be able to cover anyone and misses a lot of tackles. We traded a draft pick to get Brandon Boykin, so why not give him a chance to see what he can do? He can't be any worse than what we have out there now. If you are not going to play him, why did we waste a draft pick to get him?

OK, boys and girls, one more time with this one. So pay attention for a change. You say Boykin "can't be any worse than what we have out there now," and "why not give him a chance to see what he can do?" Brandon Boykin, and every other player on the 53-man roster and the practice squad, gets a chance to show what he can do every week in practice. They all get a chance to impress the coaching staff every week with their preparation, work habits, all of the things that go into being a successful NFL player. The NFL is not a place where coaches of teams contending for a playoff spot spend a lot of time and energy on giving somebody a chance to see what he can do. Playing time has to be earned. I believe the Steelers see Will Gay as their top slot cornerback, and the team also wants its outside cornerbacks to be physical. I'm not going to use this forum to rip Boykin, because I don't believe he deserves that, but I also believe if Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler, and Carnell Lake all thought Boykin was better than somebody currently getting playing time, they would replace him with Boykin. There is no conspiracy here.

You write, "If you are not going to play him, why did we waste a draft pick to get him?" At the time of the trade, which was early in training camp, the Steelers were looking to add as much potential talent to the mix in the secondary to give themselves the best chance of putting together a winning unit come the end of the preseason. Boykin was worth adding to that mix for the price of a fifth-round draft pick. There are only so many ways and a limited number of opportunities for an NFL team to try to re-make its roster at a particular position, and the Steelers took advantage of whatever avenues were available to them during the early-August window. And there's still a lot of football to be played, which means there still is time for Boykin to make his mark with the Steelers. Remember, back in 2005 Bryant McFadden made one significant play during his entire rookie season, but since it came in an AFC Divisional Round game against the Colts in Indianapolis, it was worth the wait.

MICHAEL KEPPEN FROM CLEVELAND, OH:
Is are there ever any real punishments for officials, outside of paid leave for a week (vacation) who make an absolute debacle of a game? Obviously, I'm talking about the complete and utterly biased calls during the Seahawks game (notably the lack of pass interference call on the Richard Sherman interception, and the call on Lawrence Timmons for pushing Russell Wilson out of bounds).

You are frustrated with the officiating in the NFL, a condition I'm sure is shared by many fans of many teams. I believe the problem, however, is more about incompetence than bias, because bias, to me, borders on trying to help one team win at the expense of another, and I don't ever believe that's at the root of these officiating gaffes. At the end of every year, there are "changes" made to the roster of officials, with some not being invited back, or they retire, or whatever code you'd like to use for getting canned. At the root of the whole problem, in my view, is that officials and those who supervise them at the league office never have gotten it through their thick skulls that the average paying customer would prefer a game that's under-officiated, a.k.a., letting them play, as opposed to a game that's over-officiated, a.k.a., any game in which Ed Hochuli is involved.

MATTHEW BOWYER FROM OAK HILL, W.VA:
My question is about Brett Keisel. I noticed he traveled to the Seahawks game with the team and my brother-in-law mentioned he saw Keisel on the sidelines at another game, and I am wondering if he was consulting in some way either officially or unofficially? I stay glued to the Steelers home page several times a day and read most everything on there as well as watch most every video and have found nothing there on the subject.

**

Brett Keisel joined the team on the trip and was part of a fan event in Seattle with Steelers Nation Unite, which is the team's official loyalty program. Steelers Nation Unite officially recognizes fans as members of Steelers Nation and is totally free to join. Once a member, fans everywhere get to connect with Steelers players, coaches, front office and alumni, as well as other fans around the world. Members also get rewarded with badges and benefits for much of what they already do, including attending games or events (such as training camp), shopping online at The Steelers Pro Shop – World Headquarters, interacting on social media and listening to games. Just for signing up, all members also receive exclusive opportunities to interact directly with the Steelers through a feature called the Weekly Huddle. Members have participated in live conference calls with President Art Rooney II, Coach Mike Tomlin and Hall of Fame player Jerome Bettis, in addition to live online and video chats with current players. When it comes to being part of the action, it's hard to find better opportunities than the ones available to Steelers Nation Unite members. Keisel's role/involvement has nothing to do with football.  Become a member of Steelers Nation Unite here.**

JACOB COCAIN FROM ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.:
With so many injuries, do you think it would be more beneficial to the players to have more practices with full pads and full contact? I have always thought that practicing more in full pads would be better for the players' bodies to adjust to the physicality of the NFL. I would think building muscle memory by taking hits in full pads would benefit the body in the long run rather than more rest and letting your body ease up during the week. Especially since it seems like every year more injuries occur. I know injuries will always be a part of the game, but I also notice through the years more injuries happen, and fewer practices are allowed. I love reading Asked and Answered by the way.

**

It doesn't matter a whit what I think, because what you suggest is not allowed by the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Under the rules ratified by both the players and ownership, padded practices are limited starting with training camp and then lasting throughout the 17 weeks of the regular season. The Steelers use the maximum number of padded practices as allowed by the CBA. I don't see this genie ever being stuffed back into the bottle, because the players prefer fewer padded practices, and it's really not enough of a significant issue with the owners to have them make an issue of it the next time it comes to negotiate a CBA.**

AIDAN MACDONNELL FROM KINGSTON, ONTARIO, CANADA:
Thanks for doing these. Which players become unrestricted, and restricted free agents at the end of this year? Also, do you think any members of the team will retire at the end of this season? If so, who?

This is like the question, "If the season ended now, which teams would make the playoffs?" It's something that has no real meaning until the season ends. Same for restricted and unrestricted free agents before the start of the offseason. Get back to me then.

JAMES CHURCHWELL FROM RICHMOND, VA:
The question I have: are there any bad feelings between the Steelers organization and Alan Faneca? There have been rumors that the genesis of this was back in 2007-08 when Faneca wanted a new contract and didn't get it, and so he left for the New York Jets.

The first-round pick of the Steelers in 1998, Alan Faneca became the best guard in franchise history and won a Super Bowl with the team in 2005. It's true that Faneca and the Steelers couldn't come to a contract agreement in 2007 to keep him with the team, and he would go on to play with both the Jets and Arizona Cardinals before retiring after the 2010 season. Faneca was voted to nine Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro six times, and he is a semifinalist this year for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2016. It's also true there were some hard feelings when contract negotiations failed and Faneca's time with the Steelers came to an end, but that was a long time ago. Faneca has been back a few times since then, and in fact once sat down with me for an in-depth interview that appeared on Steelers.com. It was a very cordial chat.

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