Let's get to it:
DANIEL ANORVE FROM GUANAJUATO, MÉXICO: A few years ago you implied that the main issue with Duck Hodges was one that could not be fixed: he did not have an NFL arm. I love the intangibles I have seen so far in Kenny Pickett, starting with his poise and leadership. Based solely in terms of arm strength, do you think he has the arm strength to succeed in the NFL?
ANSWER: I believe I did more than imply that Devlin Hodges lacked an NFL-caliber arm. In fact, my recollection is I stated it outright, but that's neither here nor there. I'm not about to cast myself as an expert, because I am not, and when it comes to arm strength, for me it's a situation of I know it when I see it. Kenny Pickett is not in Ben Roethlisberger's class when it comes to arm strength, but I have come to accept I may never see another quarterback in his class up close on a daily basis in that category. As to the issue of Pickett's arm strength, I will point to two throws he made in the fourth quarter in Indianapolis that convinced me that he has sufficient arm strength to be successful in the NFL. The first was the throw to George Pickens on third-and-9 from the Pittsburgh 26-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter, and then the second was his throw to Pat Freiermuth five plays later on a third-and-6 from the Colts 20-yard line. In my opinion, both of those were legitimate NFL throws into NFL windows, and the ball was delivered on time and accurately.
JOHN HALLAHAN FROM BUTTE, MT: How many primetime games has Coach Mike Tomlin won in his career as an NFL head coach?
ANSWER: Since being hired by the Steelers in 2007, Coach Mike Tomlin has a 46-26 record in primetime games – Monday night, Thursday night, and Sunday night. He is 19-3 on Mondays, 19-14 on Sunday nights, and 8-9 on Thursday nights (.639).
DAVID BENDINELLI FROM WESTMINSTER, CO: When an NFL head coach gets fired midseason, another coach takes over the head coach position. Does that interim coach receive a salary increase for the remainder of the season equivalent to what a typical head coach would make?
ANSWER: The length of the contract for the interim coach, and the amount he is to be paid for his new job both would be negotiated with ownership once the move is made.
MICHAEL JOHNSON FROM HOUSTON, TX: What happens with unspent salary cap money?
ANSWER: A team is allowed to roll it over to the next year and add it to that salary cap total.
JOE CARUSONE FROM CAVE CREEK, AZ: Is it too soon to start talking about upcoming draft? We're in a great position.
ANSWER: What I know for certain is that it's too soon for me to start talking about the upcoming draft.
MIKE PAZSINT FROM NEW CASTLE, PA: How well has Bud Dupree played since he left the Steelers and signed with Tennessee as an unrestricted free agent? Bud and T.J. Watt were ruthless as edge rushers the Steelers defense, but has Bud performed well with the Titans?
ANSWER: It's important to remember, that Bud Dupree sustained a serious knee injury (torn ACL) during his final season with the Steelers that caused him to miss the final five games of the 2020 regular season. Such an injury often requires a 12-month rehab, and there are players who need even more time than that to recover fully. Since signing with the Titans during the 2021 offseason, Dupree has played in 18 of a possible 29 regular season games for Tennessee, and he has 6 sacks, 14 hits on the quarterback, a pass defensed, a forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries. In addition, Dupree has sustained three injuries since the start of the 2021 season that caused him to miss games – a knee strain in October 2021 believed to be a result of trying to compensate for the ACL injury; an abdominal muscle strain in November 2021; and an inguinal hip strain in September 2022. The last time Dupree got through an NFL season healthy enough to play in all 16 games was in 2019, when he finished with 11.5 sacks, 17 hits on the quarterback, 16 tackles for loss, 3 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery.
DOUG KEEN FROM WEAVERVILLE, NC: I'm a little confused about the potential dates mentioned for the last game against Cleveland. Your response listed the potential dates as Saturday, Jan. 8 and Sunday, Jan. 9. I've never known you to make a mistake, so I'm just questioning my calendar.
ANSWER: That was my mistake, because the applicable dates for Week 18 games are Saturday, Jan. 7 and Sunday, Jan. 8. As for never knowing me to make a mistake, my wife can confirm it's actually a regular occurrence. Sorry for the confusion.
VAL McMORRIS FROM TYLER, TX: I typically detest when fans suggest player position switches as much as you, but here's an exception and my rationale. We can all agree our left tackle is the weakest link in pass protection, struggling vs. speed with some power, but he run blocks well. Doesn't that scream guard?
ANSWER: I don't agree that Dan Moore Jr., a.k.a., "our left tackle," is so poor in pass protection that he should be moved inside to guard, and based on comments I have heard from both Max Starks and Craig Wolfley they don't believe that either. I'm not saying Moore deserves to make the Pro Bowl, but I do believe he deserves to be given a little more time to develop. I believe he could become a quality NFL starter at left tackle.
AL WARNER FROM E. SPRINGFIELD, PA: To what would you attribute the Steelers success on Monday Night Football?
ANSWER: I don't know that there's a specific answer to your question – or if there is, I don't know it – but I long have had the impression of the Steelers as a team that had the ability to respond positively to "occasions," with Monday Night Football being an example of a game I would consider an occasion. Other examples of this would be "occasions" such as the last game at Three Rivers Stadium, the inaugural game at what then was Heinz Field, Chuck Noll's final regular season game (even though it wasn't announced, there was a strong suspicion that's what the 1991 regular season finale was), Bill Cowher's first regular season home game, Mike Tomlin's first regular season home game, the Thursday night games that open the regular season and are hosted by the defending Super Bowl champions, Joe Greene's jersey retirement, the first home game after Dan Rooney died. For some reason, the Steelers have responded to those kinds of "occasions" and played winning football.
DAVID ZIPPARO FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: When a player is activated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, what does that mean? Is the player actually in uniform that game or is the player in sweats on the sidelines? And if isn't suited up for the game, what is the point of activating said player?
ANSWER: When a player is activated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, that simply means he is available to play in games for as long as he is on the roster. Whether he is active on inactive for the next game is a decision made by the head coach, and a reason why a player might be activated from the practice squad and then made inactive for the game is insurance. Here is an example: Moving a player from the practice squad to the 53-man roster has to be done by 4 p.m. on the day before the game. Let's say I'm not certain whether my starting cornerback is going to be healthy enough to play because he has been nursing an injury all week, but since I'm not certain he won't be able to play I bring up a cornerback from the practice squad just to be safe. Then on game day, the starter says he can play, and the medical staff gives him the go-ahead, and so then the guy who was elevated from the practice squad is put on the inactive list.
NICK MITCHELL FROM GLEN-LYON, PA: Is Mike Wagner in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
ANSWER: Mike Wagner is not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he was part of the Hall of Honor Class of 2020.
ERIC SCHIER FROM DOWNINGTOWN, PA: When George Janocsko asked about a game against the Giants in 1952 on the date of his birth, why would you not start your reply by wishing him a happy 70th birthday? Seems like the obvious thing to do.
ANSWER: Is someone looking for something to do a couple of days each week? If so, I can start forwarding you all of the position-switch questions.
DENNIS DERBAUM FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA: You wrote that in the modern era only Ray Seals and Carlton Haselrig did not play college ball. What is considered the modern era? I recall Eugene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb did not go to college. This would have been in the 1960s.
ANSWER: You are correct about Big Daddy Lipscomb not having played college football, and he played for the Steelers in 1961-62. While I am not aware of any official definition in terms of what constitutes the "modern era" of professional football, when I use the term I am referring to the Super Bowl era. I will be more specific in the future.
DEREK LAKE FROM WEBSTER, FL: I love Cam Heyward, but he needs some help on the defensive line. Since Larry Ogunjobi and Tyson Alualu returned from injury, we have stopped the run game. With all of them over 30, don't you think we need to get younger during the offseason?
ANSWER: I'm not certain what you mean about "with all of them over 30," because while that describes Cam Heyward and Tyson Alualu, Larry Ogunjobi will turn 29 in June 2023, Montravius Adams will turn 28 in July 2023, Chris Wormley won't be 30 until October 2023, and DeMarvin Leal will be 23 in July 2023. Fortifying the defensive line should be one of the tasks the Steelers undertake during the offseason, but if the Steelers re-sign Ogunjobi and Leal continues to build on the promise he showed before being injured there might be other areas of the team deserving of the first-round draft pick. Way too early to get too far into that now, though.