Let's get to it:
TED STICE FROM COLUMBUS, OH:
Thank you for this column – I find myself laughing out loud at times. I have read so many fans' comments about needing to select a cornerback with our No. 1 pick in this year's draft. Have they heard something I haven't? We drafted two cornerbacks – Doran Grant and Senquez Golson – last year who unfortunately were injured. I would think they would have a great opportunity to get on the field next year having at least some experience under their belts. How do you feel those guys' potential to make the team will affect our selection?
ANSWER: To clarify, Senquez Golson injured his shoulder, opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list, had surgery, and then ended up on injured reserve; Doran Grant had no health issues during his rookie season. Yes, the Steelers will expect significant contributions from both Golson and Grant in 2016, because both will be considered second-year pros by Coach Mike Tomlin. In fact, Golson was kept around through the initial phase of training camp before he had his surgery, because Tomlin wanted to expose him to the day-to-day process the Steelers go through in the team-building phase of the year, and Golson also was around the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex throughout the 2015 season as well. Grant was a cornerback in college, but the Steelers drafted him as a defensive backfield prospect with an open mind about the fact his best position in the NFL could turn out to be safety.
But even with all of that, the draft is held at the end of April. Training camp doesn't open until the end of July. There is no way for the Steelers to have a lot of information on Golson and Grant as second-year pros before the team has to make its draft picks. In other words, the Steelers won't bypass a top defensive back talent in the draft because they have Golson and/or Grant, because the Steelers really cannot know what they actually have in Golson/Grant.
DERIC HERBERT FROM INDIANAPOLIS, IN:
I keep seeing that the Steelers are signing players to reserve/futures contracts. Is there a maximum number of players that a team can sign for the futures contracts?
ANSWER: Once the season ends, which it has for 2015, teams are bound only by the roster limit of 90 players. The other thing to keep in mind when it comes to this 90-man roster limit is that the players who can become unrestricted free agents on March 9 still count on the roster until March 9. So the maximum number of players a particular team can sign now to reserve/futures contracts varies depending upon how close they are, or want to get, to their offseason roster limit of 90.
CHUCK LIPTZ FROM BALTIMORE, MD:
Can you explain why the Steelers sign so many potential players to reserve/futures contacts from small colleges? Are they trying to find a diamond in the rough? What is the purpose behind signing these folks during the offseason? It isn't like the Steelers need them for practice.
ANSWER: I haven't inventoried the colleges attended by the players the Steelers have signed to reserve/futures contracts, but the fact a portion attended small colleges makes sense because it would be those kinds of players who might have fallen through the cracks. Small college players, players who could be candidates for a position switch, players who were in a bad system for their skill-sets. Teams right now are just trying to put together a group of players who may have some potential to contribute in some way. Just remember this one thing: on Jan. 5, 2015 the Steelers signed a guy to a futures contract, a guy they planned to try at offensive tackle. His name? Alejandro Villanueva.
JARRETT FIELDS FROM HARTFORD, WV:
According to some members of the media, the Mount Rushmore of NFL quarterbacks always includes Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Joe Montana. How many of them called there own plays like Terry Bradshaw?
ANSWER: None of them.
ANTHONY BELLAMY FROM CHICAGO IL:
How often do NFL teams look into other football leagues for talent, and if so would that affect the draft? If an NFL team sees five guys from Arena Football or the Canadian Football League who would make a great fit for the team, can that NFL team skip the draft and go with these already proven talents?
ANSWER: You are way, way, way, way overvaluing the "talent" in the Arena League and the Canadian Football League. Remember Shawn Lemon? The Steelers signed him after a 2014 season in which Lemon played 18 games for the CFL's Calgary Stampeders and posted 13 sacks and eight forced fumbles. Once he got to Pittsburgh, it became obvious quickly that Lemon lacked the athleticism necessary even to make an NFL roster, and the Steelers cut him. The San Francisco 49ers then gave Lemon a shot, and they cut him, too. Then Lemon went back to the CFL and played half-a-season with the Ottawa Redblacks and posted seven sacks in nine games. And the Arena League level of competition is below the CFL. But even with that, the Steelers still assign scouts to comb through the rosters of teams in those leagues and watch video to see if they can find something everyone else missed. It's kind of like hitting the lottery – it happens, but rarely is it that you are the winner.
ROBERT WEEDA FROM CINCINNATI OH:
In the Denver game this past year Coach Mike Tomlin opted not to kick a 51-yard field goal but rather punt the ball. It seems like he chooses the option to punt or go for it in the 48-to-53 yard range consistently. Although consistency is a good thing, points are a better thing. What are your thoughts?
ANSWER: You talk about these field goal ATTEMPTS as if they were sure things. Are you positive the kick is going to be made? Don't forget, on a missed field goal ATTEMPT, the opposing team gets the ball at the spot of the ATTEMPT, which in the case of a 51-yard field goal ATTEMPT would be the 41-yard line. Pretty good field position to hand the opponent. You do understand that NFL placekickers typically are 50-50 from the distance you're talking about, and so don't count your field goals before they hatch.
PAUL SENUITA FROM LONDON, ONTARIO, CANADA:
There seem to be a lot of people wandering around the sidelines near the team bench during the game who don't appear to be doing anything other than spectating. What are their roles and who are they?
ANSWER: They're the clock management police.
GEMETRIUS MCNEIL FROM INDIAN TRAIL, N.C.:
What are the chances that the team keeps Cody Wallace at center and moves Maurkice Pouncey to left guard? And is there any chance of moving Robert Golden to safety?
ANSWER: Only if you agree to move from North Carolina to Wyoming.
JAMES SMITH FROM UNIONTOWN, PA
Now that Robert Golden is getting older, will next year be the year that Ryan Shazier finally makes the move to safety?
ANSWER: I looked it up, and Will Allen – who can be an unrestricted free agent on March 9, by the way – will be 34 in June. If Allen was going to be 35 in June, then that would be old enough for Ryan Shazier to move to safety. Thirty-four isn't old enough. Sorry. NFL rules.