Let’s get to it:
GERRY MANDER FROM SCALP LEVEL, PA:
Wasn’t the Immaculate Reception the first NFL play ever video reviewed by game officials, even though it occurred in 1972, years before the rule allowing instant replay review?
ANSWER: No. There was no on-site instant replay review of the Immaculate Reception. There was discussion among the on-field officials, and then that discussion expanded to include the head of the officials, Art McNally, who was watching the game from the press box. But no video review.
MARK WAKELEY FROM DENTON, TX
Could you give us a rundown of the Steelers who will become free agents?
ANSWER: The players who can become unrestricted free agents are Le’Veon Bell, Arthur Moats, Chris Hubbard, Justin Hunter, Stevan Ridley, Sean Spence, and Dan McCullers. Those who can become restricted free agents are Fitz Toussaint, Greg Ducre, Anthony Chickillo, Chris Boswell, and Eli Rogers. Rosie Nix and Jordan Berry, potential restricted free agents as well, already have signed new contracts.
MIKE HALUS FROM ONTARIO, CANADA:
Any idea what pick we are getting in return for Ross Cockrell.
JEFF BANKOVICH FROM ELIZABETH, PA:
If a player makes the Pro Bowl and decides not to play, does he still receive a player’s game check?
ANSWER: He does not.
ANDREW SPADE FROM LITITZ, PA:
In the position-by-position article on quarterbacks, you wrote that since picking Ben Roethlisberger, four of the Steelers 115 draft picks have been quarterbacks. Roethlisberger, Landry Jones and Joshua Dobbs are three of them. Who was the fourth?
ANSWER: Actually, since I wrote that the Steelers picked four quarterbacks “since” drafting Ben Roethlisberger, he doesn’t count among the four. So, Landry Jones and Joshua Dobbs count as two. The other two quarterbacks drafted by the Steelers were Omar Jacobs from Bowling Green (No. 5a in 2006) and Dennis Dixon from Oregon (No. 5 in 2008). Both of those picks were made in the search for a homegrown backup.
MIKE HENRY FROM HAGERSTOWN, MD:
With exit interviews already conducted, when do teams let players know they won’t be brought back? Can their agents start the search for a new team before the new league year starts on March 14? Lastly, in the case of Kirk Cousins from Washington, can he start looking or does the tampering rule apply?
ANSWER: Until contracts expire, or at least until the legal tampering period opens two days before the start of the new league year, players still are the property of their previous team, and any contact with other teams or their representatives could be considered tampering. Even though the Washington Redskins acquired Alex Smith in a trade, Kirk Cousins is still the property of that team. There will be plenty of time for Cousins to figure out what he wants to do once March 12 rolls around, but it also would be naïve to assume there will be no contact with his agent before that date.
JOHN HARTLEY FROM NAPLES, FL:
Wouldn’t a truly gargantuan and effective nose tackle like Vita Vea greatly help our run defense and maybe diminish the need for another all-world inside linebacker?
ANSWER: Offenses have become too sophisticated to have a single player who always is deployed in the middle of the line of scrimmage scuttle an entire running attack. And the other thing people often forget, or choose to ignore, is that the offense is under no obligation to keep the defense informed as to when it will run the ball and when it will attempt to throw it, and teams now are very capable of throwing it from a personnel grouping that would indicate it’s going to be running it. Sure, Ryan Shazier’s value to the run defense cannot be understated, but what made him truly unique was that he was able to drop into coverage and be an asset against the pass. Vita Vea might turn out to be quite the asset against the run, but that doesn’t mean he should be considered a replacement for a player like Ryan Shazier.
RALPH SCANGA FROM FT. LAUDERDALE, FL
I am a life-long Steelers fan who had a spinal injury similar to Ryan Shazier's last year, and I am on the road to recovery. Is there an address where I can send him a note just to send him some words of hope through this mess?
ANSWER: Mail to Ryan Shazier can be sent to him at this address: 3400 S. Water Street, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15203.
ANDREW NGUYEN FROM HONOLULU, HI:
With Carnell Lake stepping away from coaching the defensive backs, do you think our pass defense will improve under a new coach or should we continue to look for new players in the draft or free agency?
ANSWER: If this pervasive opinion among fans that every player’s failing can, and should, be corrected by the coach was actually true, don’t you think that by now NFL teams would be spending a whole lot less money and energy scouting and drafting players and instead funnel those resources into interviewing coaches? Dan Rooney once laughed out loud – literally laughed out loud – at the media’s suggestion that Bill Cowher could actually prevail in a “me or him” ultimatum situation with rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, which Cowher never attempted, by the way.
Sometimes the development of players takes time, as the individual acquires more playing experience and learns more about the sport as it’s played on the professional level. I believe Tom Bradley can be an asset to the continued development of the players in the defensive backfield, but that doesn’t mean Carnell Lake was a hindrance.
MARK DIXON FROM LEWISBERRY, PA:
In the case of Ryan Shazier, should he not be able to play again, is he out the value of the contract? Or, is there an insurance policy that would pay him the value of his contract?
ANSWER: Ryan Shazier is under contract to the Steelers only through the 2018 season. He reportedly will be paid $8.718 million next season, and based on the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, that money is guaranteed for injury, which means Shazier will be paid every dollar.
CARLOS ARVIZU FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO:
In the Feb. 13 Asked and Answered, Ruben Flores asked, "Will the Steelers be looking at any proven veteran quarterbacks available through free agency?" And, in my opinion, your answer was unnecessarily rude and obtuse. He didn't suggest the Steelers cut anybody or that he knows better than the staff. He simply asked a question in a segment meant exactly for that. Yes, I realize you wrote an article on quarterbacks few days ago, but he might not have read it and you could just point him toward it. And besides, can you really say the pro scouts aren't doing their due diligence looking at proven veteran quarterbacks?
ANSWER: My exact answer to Ruben Flores’ question was, “For what?” And I don’t think it’s within your expertise to tell me what he meant by the question. I, in fact, was asking him what he meant by his question, because I believe it was another attempt by a fan to get a dig in at Landry Jones. And yes, that’s a passive-aggressive way of suggesting “that he knows better than the staff,” because it should be clear to all who are paying attention that the Steelers see Jones as a competent NFL backup quarterback.
At this time of the year, the pro scouts’ due diligence is directed at players the team might believe could be signed during free agency, based on needs, available cap space, and whether those players actually hit free agency before being tagged or re-signed by their current teams. They’re not researching and studying every player at every position at this stage, because the focus is much more narrow, based on the NFL calendar.
There will come a time, once the 90-man rosters are settled all over the league, where the pro scouts will prepare what is called a “ready list.” That list is made up of unsigned players at each position, and it’s consulted in the event of injury. The need for a “ready list” typically isn’t until after the draft and then once OTAs start, because again, the list is typically consulted only in the event of injury.
So spare me your righteous indignation.
CODY HERDMAN FROM AURORA, CO:
Any news about what the Steelers throwbacks will be next year?
ANSWER: There will be throwbacks, but other than that, it’s a secret. A secret that I do not know at the present time.
DARRELL GRANT FROM NORTH CHESTERFIELD, VA:
Do you think Derrick Johnson would be a good free agent signing?
ANSWER: Derrick Johnson's contract is set to void on March 14, and the Chiefs reportedly have said they will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent. But he’s 35 years old now, to turn 36 in late November.