Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 18

Let's get to it:

ALEJANDRO DE LA CRUZ FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: What is your opinion of Eric Ebron? While he has shown his abilities I don't feel they outweigh his number of drops plus his inability to block. Heath Miller was great at both receiving and blocking. Could you see Ebron being a cap casualty? And do you see the Steelers selecting a tight end in this upcoming draft?
ANSWER: To borrow a catchphrase of Mike Tomlin's, Eric Ebron is a one-trick pony, and unfortunately for the Steelers in 2020 he didn't always perform his one trick with consistency. After his first six NFL seasons, the book on Ebron was that he was a good-receiving, bad-blocking tight end who also was prone to dropping some not-necessarily-difficult-to-catch passes. And that's what he turned out to be in 2020, with 56 catches for 558 yards and five touchdowns. He also was charged with seven drops. With Ebron set to count $8.5 million on the team's 2021 salary cap, that might appear to make him a candidate to fall victim to some cost-cutting, but after Vance McDonald retired, the Steelers depth chart is very thin at tight end. Because of that, drafting a tight end is something the Steelers might find is necessary, especially if they're unable to shake any money loose to try to add one during free agency.

MICHAEL PRESSMAN FROM BARBERTON, OH: Why is it a forgone conclusion that Al Villanueva won't be on the team next year? I've seen the stories in the media, saying he's not coming back, that he wasn't as good as in years past. Does money have something to do with it as well?
ANSWER: I believe money is the biggest reason it's most likely Alejandro Villanueva will be playing for a different team in 2021 – money that the Steelers don't have under their salary cap and money another team will be able to offer him. Even at 33 years old, there are projections that Villanueva could claim a contract worth in the neighborhood of $15 million a year, and that number would represent a 300 percent increase over his base salary in 2020. There are a lot of teams searching for offensive line help, and Villanueva plays the premium position of left tackle. I would be shocked if Villanueva doesn't receive a Vito Corleone offer during free agency, i.e., one he cannot refuse.

KELVIN MADINA FROM ALBUQUERQUE, NM: I'm excited that Dwayne Haskins is our quarterback of the future and can't wait for him to take over the starting job and lead us to our seventh Super Bowl win. Do you feel the same way about Haskins?
ANSWER: I absolutely do not. As of right now, Dwayne Haskins is much closer to not making the 53-man roster than he is to becoming the Steelers' starting quarterback.

TYLER WENRICH FROM DENVER, PA: What is T.J. Watt due to get paid this season on his fifth-year option? Could the Steelers sign him to a long term deal and decrease his 2021 cap hit?
ANSWER: T.J. Watt is due $10.089 million for the 2021 season. And, yes T.J. Watt can be signed to a long-term deal to lessen his 2021 cap hit.

JEFF MCCLURE FROM LONG BEACH, CA: I know a lot of people like to speculate about the salary cap issues, but math is simple and numbers aren't interpretative. Do you think all this fiasco would calm down if players' salaries were undisclosed except to the salary cap compliance personnel?
ANSWER: And how would you suggest that level of secrecy be enforced? Players have agents who negotiate these contracts, those agents are interested in building their client base, and the best way to build their client base is to get the word out about the spectacular contracts they have gotten previous clients. Also, the NFLPA keeps records of all contracts negotiated and signed, because it is interested in making sure players are getting as much as possible under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. See where I'm going here? Too many people know the details of negotiated contracts for there to be any shot of keeping it as quiet as a private company can.

CHRIS SAQQAL FROM ALLENTOWN, PA: With James Pierre being the only undrafted rookie on the Steelers roster in 2020, what is his contract for the next couple of years, and do the Steelers need to sign him back this offseason?
ANSWER: James Pierre is under contract to the Steelers through the 2022 season. He is to earn $780,000 in 2021 and $895,000 in 2022. Under the terms of this contact, Pierre could become a restricted free agent in March 2023.

TROY ROWELL FROM CUMMING, GA: Any chance you see the Steelers looking to trade someone like Stephon Tuitt, because I can't believe his trade value ever gets higher than it is currently?
ANSWER: Excellent plan. Trade Stephon Tuitt for what? A draft pick? And then use that pick to try to get a defensive lineman who's as good as Tuitt is now? Making moves to make moves.

ANTHONY SMITH FROM EDINBORO, PA: What are your three favorite memories of Steelers games you have attended in person?
ANSWER: Bill Cowher handing the Lombardi Trophy to Dan Rooney on the podium inside Ford Field following Super Bowl XL. James Harrison's pick-six of Kurt Warner at the end of the first half of Super Bowl XLIII. Ben Roethlisberger's throw and Santonio Holmes' catch in the end zone in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIII.

TED STICE FROM WESTERVILLE, OH: Do you believe Maurkice Pouncey will be elected to the HOF?
ANSWER: Yes, eventually. Maurkice Pouncey was one of the two centers chosen by the Hall of Fame to be a part of the All-Decade Team of the 2010s, and historically, players so honored eventually are elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

JOSEPH WEEKLY MASON, TN: I know it's not likely given the cap situation, but is there any chance the Steelers place the franchise tag on an impending free agent this offseason?
ANSWER: No. None.

JENNY GROVE FROM SEATTLE, WA: What are the chances the Steelers will resort to players playing on both sides of the ball due to their 2021 salary cap? Back in the day, dual purpose players were quite common.
ANSWER: What it is with these "what are the chances" questions? The answer to this one is the same as the answer to the previous one: None.

DOMINIQUE WALTON FROM GARNER, NC: Will we ever see the Steelers wearing any new modern jerseys, or maybe a return of an old uniform, like the all-white color scheme, any time soon?
ANSWER: The Steelers uniform is one of the classics in all of professional sports, and fans were complaining when the team allowed Nike to change the numerals on the jerseys from block-numbers to a more rounded style. Imagine the uproar if the team decided to go with "modern jerseys," whatever that means. The NFL does allow teams to pick a throwback jersey and wear it a time or two during a season – mainly to generate merchandise sales – but the issue with the all-white color scheme is that throwbacks generally are worn by the home team and the Steelers wear black at home.

ANDRE BUNCH FROM POWELLSVILLE, NC: If we were to sign J.J. Watt, how do you see him fitting with the other defensive linemen, knowing we have Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Tyson Alualu?
ANSWER: If signed, J.J. Watt would be part of a rotation along the defensive line, and based on his recent history of injuries and production on the field, he would be a backup to Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. That's why I envision the idea of the Steelers signing J.J. Watt, and maybe more significantly the idea of J.J. Watt wanting to sign with the Steelers, as more of a feel-good pipedream than reality.

KEN WALDROP FROM ONTONAGON, MI: Because of the rare situation of the salary cap being lowered, is it possible that an extension may be given for all NFL teams to get their rosters right financially?
ANSWER: No. Teams have had since the end of the 2020 season to get their rosters in the vicinity of compliance with the salary cap. As General Manager Kevin Colbert says about getting into compliance with an unknown salary cap: "We're going to hope for the best, but plan for the worst."

LOGAN TONKOVICH FROM ADENA, OH: With the Steelers being strapped for cap space, would you be in favor of Steven Nelson and/or Joe Haden being cut or traded?
ANSWER: Undoubtedly, the accountants would love it because Steven Nelson ($14.4 million cap charge) and Joe Haden ($15.6 million cap charge) are due to count $30 million against the Steelers' 2021 salary cap, but the football department might be less enthusiastic because such a move would beg the follow-up question: Who will be the starting cornerbacks?

CARLOS ARVIZU FROM CDMX, MÉXICO: To this day it irks me that Mike Vrabel didn't stay with the Steelers and went on to have a good career with the Patriots and the Chiefs. Did the team make him an offer?
ANSWER: It had less to do with money – although money always is a factor during free agency – and more to do with a role on the defense and an opportunity to play. During Vrabel's four seasons with the Steelers (1997-2000) the starting outside linebackers were Jason Gildon on the left side, and Greg Lloyd (1997), Carlos Emmons (1998-99) and Joey Porter (2000) on the right side. Gildon would end his career in Pittsburgh as the franchise's all-time sack leader, but it wouldn't be difficult to make a case that Vrabel would've been a better option than Emmons on the right side. But then having Vrabel there might've precluded the Steelers from using a third-round pick on Porter in 1999, and Porter went on to develop into a significant piece of the team that won Super Bowl XL.

C.J. MCDONALD FROM MIAMI, FL: What would be your take be if the Steelers traded for Russell Wilson?
ANSWER: Not worth considering because it's NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.

KEVIN STAATS FROM FREDERICKSBURG, VA: I play Madden 2021 in-season mode with the Steelers. After the year ends, you sign your own players as well as free agents. I was able to re-sign Bud Dupree, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Zach Banner, Cam Sutton and Matt Feiler. Why can't Kevin Colbert figure this out? I could also find a way to fit in J.J. Watt.
ANSWER: It frightens me that I have to point out to you that Madden 2021, even in the "in-season mode" is only A VIDEO GAME AND THEREFORE NOT THE REAL WORLD.

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