Let's get to it:
DANNY WRAY CRYTSER FROM TAMUNING, GUAM:
What's the inside story as to why James Harrison was banished to Cincinnati for a season?
I don't know how "inside" this story is, but it's the truth, and I would dispute your choice of the term "banished." After the 2012 season, the Steelers asked James Harrison to take a pay cut, and they made him an offer on a reduced salary. As is his right, Harrison declined the offer. As is their right, the Steelers cut him. As a free agent, Harrison signed with the Cincinnati Bengals for the 2013 season. After all of the pertinent numbers were reported, what the Steelers were offering in a reduced salary turned out to be more than Harrison got from the Bengals, but each side made a decision and then had to live with the consequences. At the time, I believed the sides were better off staying together than cutting ties and moving on to other players/teams, and based on how things turned out in 2014-15, I believe the Steelers are better with Harrison, and Harrison is better off playing for the Steelers.**
CARLOS POWELL FROM RESTON, VA:
Alejandro Villanueva is turning out to be an effective offensive lineman. Since he is a lot cheaper, do you see the Steelers letting Kelvin Beachum go and keeping Villanueva as the starter at left tackle? How will Beachum's injury affect the decision?
One thing that fans often do not understand is that just because a team has one of something – a starting-caliber left tackle, in this case – doesn't mean that's necessarily enough. Having one player on the roster who is capable of starting at left tackle on a team with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback isn't what I would consider an optimum situation. The other part of this is that it's difficult to accumulate depth of talent on an NFL roster – especially along the offensive line – and so the idea of letting a starter go because a cheaper option is in place isn't sound thinking. If it's me, I'm trying to keep both Kelvin Beachum and Alejandro Villanueva, and there is the possibility that Beachum's injury could impact his ability to cash in on the free agent market, which begins in early March. Having Villanueva is a nice hedge against losing Beachum, but losing a player/teammate the caliber of Kelvin Beachum should not be kissed off as insignificant.
Photos from the last matchup vs the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 13th, 2015.
RYAN FOX FROM DANVILLE, PA:
I've seen a lot of merchandise this year from Nike for "It's not just Friday it's Steelers Friday." I did a little research and found they started doing practices under the lights at night on Fridays. Is this idea based on that, or is there more to it?
What I know for sure is this: the Steelers have only one practice on a Friday night, and that happens on the first Friday of training camp each summer. That practice is held at Latrobe Stadium, and it has come to be known among the players as the "Friday night lights" practice, because the team rides the short distance from the Saint Vincent College campus to Latrobe Stadium on the same kind of yellow school buses they likely rode as high school football players. My understanding of the merchandise angle is that it has more to do with the concept of casual Fridays in the workplace and what Steelers fans should be wearing on those occasions than it pertains to that one Friday night practice during training camp, because that is the only Friday night practice on the Steelers schedule.
MARC JOHNSON FROM DURHAM, N.C.:
Love your work. Very informative and very entertaining. Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton all are super fun to watch right now, but can we realistically pay these guys to keep them together?
There is no question the Steelers are going to be facing some interesting salary cap decisions in the near future as some of their top young players approach the stage of their careers where they're due a second NFL contract. Of the four players you mention, I would believe Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell would be given priority over the other two, because both Brown and Bell have been voted first-team All-Pro. The most interesting situation could come with Bryant, who has two more years beyond this one left on the contract he signed as a rookie in 2014. Possessing a difference-making combination of size and speed, will Bryant improve enough to become something more than a receiver who can just run go-patterns, and will he be able to avoid the situations and people that led to him being suspended for the first four games of this season because of positive drug tests? One thing the Steelers will have in their favor is going to be some significant increases in the salary cap over the next couple of years. There is no answer to your question at this stage, but it's going to be a challenge for the Steelers, for sure.
JIM SATERFIELD FROM BEAUMONT, CA:
Do you know if the coaching staff ever revisits old game films from previous years as far as a year or two on opponents where they completely dominated that game, to try and see what worked so well and then go with the same game plan? I know that every year is different but it drives me crazy when they dominate one game and lose another.
Game plans are fashioned based on what a team believes its personnel can execute against the opponent's personnel. With the amount of turnover on a team-by-team basis from one year to the next, a lot of what you suggest really doesn't apply. Because of injuries, let alone the changes brought on by free agency and the draft, there can be situations where a team faces a division opponent in September only to find itself preparing for a different version of the same opponent for the rematch in November of the same season.**
BRIAN GAST FROM QUARRYVILLE, PA:
Love this section of the website. You crack me up. I was/am one of the old-school fans who pine for fullbacks and pounding the ball. But I have come around, and this football team is flat out fun. My question has to do with special teams. Is Jacoby Jones finished in Pittsburgh in your opinion? If so, will Dri Archer come back from the practice squad? In your opinion has Boswell done enough to be our kicker next year? Keep up the good work. Quarryville loves it.
After being benched by Mike Tomlin after two fumbles in the game against the Colts, I see it as doubtful Jacoby Jones will be given another chance to return kicks for the Steelers this season. Dri Archer is not on the Steelers practice squad, or any NFL practice squad for that matter. He has turned down every offer he got after being waived by the Steelers, and he currently is out of football. If Chris Boswell continues as he has, and maybe contributes some in the playoffs should the Steelers qualify, the team could have an interesting decision to make with respect to its kicker in 2016. There were questions earlier in this installment about being able to keep Kelvin Beachum, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, and Martavis Bryant under the salary cap, and kicker could be an area the Steelers evaluate in terms of it helping them fit some players at other positions under the salary cap.
MATT MERKEL FROM CHARLOTTE, N.C.:
I was raised in Pittsburgh during the 1970s and early 1980s and now live in Charlotte. My question is how many more times during away games do we need to hear the network announcers say that Steelers fans travel well? As someone who has lived in many cities outside of Pittsburgh, the situation is that there are Steelers Nation outposts everywhere in the world. The away games are not filled with Steeler fans who travelled to the game, because the fans already live there. I'm sure there is a component of Steeler fans who do travel, but the vast majority are local and wait years and years to see their beloved Steelers visit their (new) home cities.
To some degree you are correct, but just because there are Steelers outposts all over the world doesn't preclude the fans from traveling. For example, when the team visits Atlanta, it's a game that draws Steelers fans from all over the South. Steelers fans do travel. Your assumption is that when someone makes that statement he means the fans are traveling from Pittsburgh. If we're setting the record straight, you're wrong, too.
WILL CRAWFORD FROM ANNANDALE, VA:
There is a video played at Heinz Field before the Steelers are announced (the one where a roar is dubbed over a Lambert snarl). It is totally inspirational and gets the crowd fired up. Is there anywhere to see it other than at the stadium? I've searched everywhere and can't find it. If I could watch it every morning before work I'd be CEO by now, running out the door to take on the world.
Thomas Tull is a member of the Steelers ownership group, and he is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Legendary Pictures. His firm has produced and/or financed several major motion pictures, including the The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Hangover and its sequels, 300, and Man of Steel. A self-described Steelers fan since the age of 4, Tull offered the creative services of Legendary Pictures to create that video. As might be expected from a company that has been responsible for some of the highest-grossing films in Hollywood history, the video is extremely well done and its impact on the crowd at Heinz Field cannot be denied. Unfortunately for fans without tickets to Steelers games at Heinz Field, the video is not available for viewing anywhere else.