Let's get to it:
BRIAN BOYCE FROM SPRINGBORO, PA: Where is Charlie Batch? Where is Byron Leftwich? By that I mean, where is the next Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich? We once had quality, veteran players as backups for Ben Roethlisberger. Is there a quality veteran backup available for Mason Rudolph, or does that player simply not exist?
ANSWER: For the 2012 NFL season, the Steelers had BOTH Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch under contract for a combined $1.75 million. Today, players such as those – Batch, who signed with the Steelers as a 27-year-old with 46 games of starting NFL experience, and Leftwich, a 28-year-old who signed with the Steelers as a former seventh overall pick in the draft who had 46 games of starting NFL experience – could cost a team 10 times as much in terms of salary cap space. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of an NFL team today having that kind of depth at quarterback. Maybe one backup in his 20s with that level of NFL starting experience, but not two. I do believe the Steelers will be looking to add a veteran quarterback to the mix at some point this offseason, but it won't be the kind of bargain the team had in Leftwich and Batch.
LLOYD WESTBROOK FROM ROANOKE, VA: What's your opinion of Pittsburgh signing veteran offensive lineman Richie Incognito in free agency?
ANSWER: My opinion of signing a 39-year-old guard who since 2020 has had an Achilles injury, had season-ending foot surgery, and then was placed on injured reserve two games into the 2021 season with a calf injury is that I would have no interest.
TIM BATES FROM WESTERVILLE, OH: Knowing full well that trading for Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, or Jimmy Garoppolo is fantasy-land thinking, and given the recent circumstances facing the New Orleans Saints, do you think unrestricted free agent Jameis Winston has become the Steelers top veteran quarterback target for the 2022 season, over other unrestricted free agents who have been talked about, i.e., Mitchell Trubisky, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, and Tyrod Taylor?
ANSWER: I sure hope not. Jameis Winston will be 29 years old – not bad from an age standpoint – but in the eighth game of the 2021 season, Winston was the victim of a horse-collar tackle by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White during which he sustained a torn ACL in addition to MCL damage. Such an injury typically requires 12 months of rehabilitation.
BOB CHESHIER FROM MIDDLETON, ID: With the Steelers needing to replace Ben Roethlisberger and the 2022 quarterback draft class being weak, what are your thoughts about picking up an experienced free agent like Ryan Fitzpatrick? Fitzpatrick could mentor Mason Rudolph and the Steelers can look to draft a franchise quarterback in 2023 if that doesn't work out.
ANSWER: Ryan Fitzpatrick will be 40 years old in November, and I believe bringing in a 39-year-old quarterback who has no experience with the Steelers or their offense would be a waste of a roster spot. Mike Sullivan is the Steelers quarterback coach, and it is his job to work with Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins, etc.
JOHN MEYER FROM CHICAGO, IL: Because Pittsburgh is conservative, do you think a trade upgrade for a top-flight quarterback already playing in the NFL, like Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, or Kirk Cousins is just a pipe dream?
ANSWER: I do believe it's a pipe dream. I also believe that of the three names you list, one does not belong in the same category as the other two.
JASON NORTON FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA: Do yinz guys from the Steelers media, get "choked up" when someone retires? I'm sure all of Steelers Nation had a tear in their eye watching Ben Roethlisberger announce his retirement. I was just wondering what it's like for yinz covering that type of stuff.
ANSWER: Speaking only for myself, the only time something I was covering brought a tear to my eye was when NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue handed the Lombardi Trophy to Dan Rooney on the podium at Ford Field after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL.
JERRY WEST FROM SOUTHPORT, NC: Can you explain why Kevin Colbert is staying on through the 2022 NFL Draft when a new GM will be taking over? Has he been that exceptional in his draft picks lately? Is his input invaluable? Does it mean a new GM will not be named until after the draft?
ANSWER: If you can't or won't recognize Kevin Colbert's contributions to a couple of decades of incredible success during his career with the Steelers, then I have neither the time nor the patience to educate you. Besides, this is really not that complicated. Kevin Colbert's contract runs through the 2022 NFL Draft, and his boss, Steelers President Art Rooney II, wants his input until his contract expires. "We will be conducting a search for a new GM starting immediately and probably won't make a hire until after the draft, but we will be interviewing people," said Rooney last Friday. "Kevin will fill his normal role through this year's draft. I don't see it as something critical that we have somebody on board before the draft, even though we'll be doing some interviews prior to the draft. But more than likely we'll fill the position after the draft." And I don't care who ends up getting hired to replace Colbert, that individual will not be an upgrade.
FRANK PUNDZAK FROM DENVER, CO: Why would an outgoing general manager stay until after the 2022 NFL Draft, and not let the new GM help pick his own players?
ANSWER: Your first mistake here can be found in your question when you refer to the players the Steelers end up selecting in the 2022 NFL Draft as the "new" GM's players. They aren't the new GM's players, and they aren't the "old" GM's players. They're the Pittsburgh Steelers' players, and the boss of the Pittsburgh Steelers – Art Rooney II – wants Kevin Colbert to perform his typical role in the 2022 NFL Draft before his contract expires, which is after the 2022 NFL Draft. Maybe other NFL franchises assign complete power over the draft to a general manager, but the Steelers don't. Never have, and I doubt very seriously that they ever will.
CASEY KOPCHINSKI FROM PHILADELPHIA, PA: Why don't the Steelers even mention Joshua Dobbs as a potential for the starting quarterback job in 2022? Seems like he'd be a great fit with the new offense.
ANSWER: Joshua Dobbs will be an unrestricted free agent in March and is not under contract to the Steelers for the 2022 NFL season. That likely is part of the reason.
BRADLEY CANFIELD FROM HARRISBURG, PA: What are you hearing about Stephon Tuitt? I heard that he put his Pittsburgh home up for sale, which if true, doesn't give me confidence he is playing for the Steelers again.
ANSWER: During his season-ending media availability last Friday, Steelers President Art Rooney II was asked, "Do you anticipate (Stephon Tuitt) playing in 2022?" His answer: "I wish I had an answer for you there. All I can say is we'll be evaluating that situation and having a discussion with Stephon here in the next few weeks and hopefully be able to say something more definitively in the near future."
ED MORIARTY FROM VAIHINGEN, DE, GERMANY: Please help us understand something. We were recently exchanging thoughts (OK, arguing) regarding the Chiefs' talented roster, their free agent signings, and their salary cap, and comparing it to Steelers'. How is it that their quarterback gets mega millions per year, as do numerous others on their roster, yet they have no problems getting top tier free agents while staying in tune with the salary cap? In comparison, it seems Steelers just can't seem to keep their house in order. My group argues that the Steelers are too honest and that teams like the Chiefs have "under the table deals" with their players (which is illegal).
ANSWER: This is actually quite simple: Even though many media outlets have been reporting the details of Patrick Mahomes' 10-year, $450 million contract, because that was signed while Mahomes still was playing under the terms of the contract he signed as a rookie in 2017, the salary cap ramifications of the mega-deal don't kick in until the 2022 league year, which begins on March 16. As examples, in 2020, Mahomes counted $5.3 million on the Chiefs' salary cap; in 2021, that figure was $7.4 million. But it's in 2022 when his cap hit skyrockets to $35.8 million; in 2023 it rises to $46.8 million; and it hits a high-water mark of $60 million in 2027. You'll see the Chiefs having their own difficulty "keeping their house in order" soon enough. And the Chiefs are not cheating on their salary cap.
ROY GOLDSMITH FROM LONDON, UK: Am I right to cheer for the Bengals – just on the hope that they get the lowest draft choice possible?
ANSWER: I was rooting for the Bengals to win the AFC Championship Game, and I will be rooting for them to win Super Bowl LVI primarily because I have known Bengals.com Senior Writer Geoff Hobson for many years, and I have a lot of respect for him both as a professional and as a person. I would love to see him experience a Super Bowl-winning season and reap all of the benefits that come with that. Looking at it from the perspective of a Steelers fan, rooting for the Bengals eventually will put Joe Burrow in the same salary bracket as Patrick Mahomes (see above answer), and there is going to come a time when Cincinnati's salary cap will have to bear the stress of paying Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, Evan McPherson, et.al.
GRANT MAESHIRO FROM HONOLULU, HI: Who would you like to see win the Super Bowl? I'm rooting for the Bengals to earn their first Super Bowl win. Then they will draft No. 32 overall in each round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and they will pay a premium for the next contracts for Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, Joe Mixon, and Tee Higgins. It's hard to keep the band together after a Super Bowl win. Joe Flacco never did earn his big contract after winning his Super Bowl.
ANSWER: As I explained in the previous answer, I will be rooting for the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, primarily because of my friendship/respect for Bengals.com Senior Writer Geoff Hobson, but the points you make about draft position and potentially running out of salary cap space in the future are valid. But allow me to clue you in on Joe Burrow – he is no Joe Flacco, he will earn his mega-contract whenever he signs one, and if he hadn't sustained a knee injury late in the 2020 season that required surgery on his ACL and MCL, I would take him over Patrick Mahomes in a heartbeat. That's no shot at Mahomes, who is a great player, but more of an indication of how highly I think of Burrow.