Let's get to it:
SCOTT RANDALL FROM CONWAY, SC: In looking at the draft picks the team has this year, I know people want that amazing wide receiver, but what I want is maybe that non-sexy pick like maybe a giant guard or an offensive tackle, or a much-needed cornerback or edge rusher? What pick of ours do you think is the best to look for that guard and/or cornerback?
ANSWER: The primary consideration when making draft picks is getting the best player rather than simply focusing on a particular position. But in the cases where players at different positions of "need" are ranked in close proximity to each other on the team's board, one of the other factors I believe is worth considering is where those players rank overall among the prospects at their positions. In 2012 when the Steelers selected David DeCastro with the 24th overall pick in the first round, they knew they were getting the individual they had determined was the No. 1 guard prospect that particular year. The same thing with Najee Harris, because the Steelers graded him as the No. 1 running back prospect in the 2021 draft class. If a team has a choice between getting the top player at a position of need vs. the No. 4 player at a different position of need, I would tend to go with picking the guy who was the higher-graded prospect at his particular position. So, hypothetically speaking, if the Steelers go on the clock at No. 17 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, and their choices are the No. 1 guard vs. the No. 5 cornerback with both of those individuals occupying the same neighborhood on their draft board, I would lean toward picking the guy who was higher-ranked among the prospects at his position.
JIM HOWE FROM DAUFUSKIE ISLAND, SC: When Antonio Brown went from the Steelers to the Raiders, I believe that we received a draft pick in return. Who did that pick turn out to be?
ANSWER: In 2019, the Steelers traded Antonio Brown to the Raiders, and received No. 3 and No. 5 picks in that year's draft. The Steelers used the third-round pick to select wide receiver Diontae Johnson, and they used the No. 5 pick to select tight end Zach Gentry.
KEVIN SUNDE FROM MOREHEAD, KY: If a team advances to the playoffs, is the money the players are paid for each game the same for each player ? Does the team pay that money or does the league pay that money. Does it count against the teams salary cap?
ANSWER: Here is a breakdown of playoff payouts per player: Wild Card Round division winners: $46,500; other Wild Card Round games: $41,500; Wild Card Round byes: $41,500; Divisional Round: $46,500; Conference Championship Round: $69,000; Super Bowl winner: $157,000; Super Bowl loser: $82,000. The maximum amount a player could have made in the 2022 playoffs from his current team was $319,000. But to earn that sum, the Super Bowl winner would have had to be a division winner that participated in the Wild Card Round. The most that can be made from being a member on other playoff participants was $314,000. The league pays all playoff shares, and those sums do not count on a team's salary cap.
T.L CORNWELL FROM OAKTON, VA: Has anyone asked Joe Greene specifically about the time in his rookie season when he stopped a game in Philadelphia by throwing the ball into the upper deck out of frustration of being held every play? I had the chance to personally quiz the late Steve Sabol about it and if NFL Films captured that moment. He had not heard about the incident nor seen footage. Is this one of those Steelers myths?
ANSWER: In the episode of "A Football Life: Joe Greene" Dan Rooney told the story about Joe Greene throwing the football into the stands after the Eagles got a first down late in the fourth quarter that clinched a loss for the Steelers. Dan Rooney said as he watched it happen, he told his father that a player with that level of commitment to winning was just what the Steelers needed to turn things around.
GEORGE WALKER FROM LITHONIA, GA: With Brian Flores set to leave the Steelers, how do you think this will affect the run game and overall defensive scheme?
ANSWER: Not to take anything away from the contributions Brian Flores made to the Steelers throughout his time on the coaching staff, his departure won't cripple the defense from a strategic standpoint. Both Coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin were very involved in the improvement and the success the defense showed during the course of the 2022 season, and an up-and-coming coach on the staff is secondary coach Grady Brown.
REED OVERAND FROM UNIONTOWN, PA: Has an NFL team ever won the Super Bowl and then picked No. 1 overall in the following draft by way of trade?
ANSWER: No. That never has happened.
VAUGHN DAVIS FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Whatever happened to wide receiver Jim Smith from the 1978 and 1979 Steelers teams that won back-to-back Super Bowls?
ANSWER: Jim Smith came to the Steelers via the Michigan Wolverines as a No. 3 pick in the 1977 NFL Draft (75th overall). Over six seasons, he played in 73 games, with 17 of those being starts, and he had 110 catches for 2,075 yards (18.9 average) and 24 touchdowns. Smith was a good player, but he wasn't better than Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, and Franco Harris was going to get his touches, which meant there wasn't a lot of playing time or opportunity for Smith. So, when the USFL came calling and dangled better money and a starting job, Smith signed a three-year contract with Birmingham in April 1983. After the USFL folded, Smith finished out his football career with six games in 1985 with the Raiders.
PHIL EDINGER FROM APEX, NC: With the recent election of Joe Klecko to the NFL Hall of Fame, I was wondering how his career stats stack up against those of L.C. Greenwood?
ANSWER: I'll give you the statistics, but you should know that Joe Klecko played a different position in a different era than L.C. Greenwood. Klecko had one great year as a defensive end, but the bulk of his career and the production within that career came as an interior defensive lineman, both as a 4-3 tackle and a 3-4 nose. L.C. Greenwood was a defensive end in a 4-3 alignment. Klecko played in 155 regular season games, with 145 of those being starts. He finished with 78 sacks, plus 1 more in 5 playoff games. He was voted first-team All-Pro twice and made the Pro Bowl 4 times. Greenwood played in 170 games, with 135 of those being starts. The Steelers have him with 73.5 sacks, plus 12.5 more in 18 playoff games. He was voted first-team All-Pro twice and made the Pro Bowl 6 times.
GARY CAMPBELL FROM ATLANTA, GA: How can I print the Feb. 9 installment of Asked and Answered for my Grandson?
ANSWER: As my wife can attest, tech support is not my forte.
SEAN FRIEDMAN FROM SAN DIEGO, CA: JuJu Smith-Shuster had a pretty good game in the Super Bowl. Remind me, why didn't the Steelers make much of an effort to keep him?
ANSWER: JuJu Smith-Schuster wanted to leave as an unrestricted free agent when his rookie contract expired after the 2020 season, but when he couldn't get the big-money deal he was seeking he was left with coming back to the Steelers on a one-year contract for 2021 and then giving it another try in the 2022 offseason. But in 2021, Smith-Schuster played only 5 regular season games because of injury, and he found himself in the same situation when he tried to generate free agent interest in the 2022 offseason. He settled on a one-year contract with Kansas City, and he is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the third straight year on March 15. As is his right, Smith-Schuster is using free agency in search of the biggest-money deal he can get, and his play and production does not warrant the kind of contract NFL teams have been giving to players who are No. 1 wide receivers.
KELVIN FONG FROM AIRDRIE, ALBERTA, CANADA: We used a future draft pick to take defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk, and entering his third NFL season does he have a legitimate chance to be a starter? I'd like to see him get a chance.
ANSWER: To be technically accurate, the Steelers traded a pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to select Isaiahh Loudermilk in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. After a promising rookie season, Loudermilk was injured and missed time during the training camp/preseason period in 2022, and that slowed his development, and then the signing of Larry Ogunjobi ended his chances of becoming a full-time starter. Going into his third season, Loudermilk will need to have a good spring and then follow that up with a training camp and preseason where he is available to practice regularly to work on his craft and show the kind of improvement that will earn him consistent playing time. If the Steelers re-sign Ogunjobi, if the Steelers spend a high draft pick on a defensive lineman, that could complicate things for Loudermilk, because DeMarvin Leal turned in an impressive rookie season in 2022 and will be looked upon to make a significant jump going into his second NFL season.
RAYMOND CHASON FROM CONNEAUTVILLE, PA: When can the Steelers start negotiating with the players who can become free agents in March?
ANSWER: If you're referring to their own players who can become unrestricted free agent on March 15, the Steelers can negotiate with them at any time, but they would have to be careful that any contract agreement would not put them in danger of going over the salary cap. If you're referring to other teams' players who can become unrestricted free agents on March 15, the NFL's legal tampering period begins at noon on March 13.
SHAWN BITTNER FROM JACKSONVILLE, NC: Cam Sutton is supposed to be an unrestricted free agent come March 15, but Overthecap.com shows him due a prorated bonus of $700,000 and that he will count $2.1 million in dead cap money for 2023. How does something like that happen?
ANSWER: That happens when a team does a contract with a player that contains voidable years, which is a tactic used to get salary cap relief during the term of the contract. But as with all things related to the NFL salary cap, the bill eventually comes due and must be paid, and so the voidable years the Steelers included in the contract ($2.1 million worth) that Cam Sutton signed during the 2021 offseason came due 5 days after Super Bowl XVII, which was Feb. 11. One final point: Sutton will not be receiving any of the prorated bonus money associated with those voidable years. That is just for bookkeeping purposes.
KEVIN EDEN FROM LEXINGTON, KY: Since Calvin Austin III was on injured reserve the whole season, will he maintain his rookie status into 2023?
ANSWER: Players on the injured reserve list receive the salary outlined in their contracts, and so Calvin Austin III was paid the full amount for the 2022 season as stipulated in the contract he signed as a rookie. His contract does not toll because he was on injured reserve for the whole season, and so entering 2023, he will be in the second year of the four-year contract he signed as a rookie.