Let’s get to it:
TYLER WENRICH FROM DENVER, CO: I been hearing rumors that Joe Haden could possibly be cut. I personally thought he was a bright spot in the secondary. If cutting him is a possibility, would there be any real benefits to cut him? Or would it really make any sense to cut him?
ANSWER: The Steelers need more defensive backs like Joe Haden, not fewer. In the short time he has been with the Steelers, Haden has been what the secondary has been lacking at the cornerback position for some time. He is the team’s best cover cornerback, and that was illustrated late last season when the Steelers moved him around to matchup up against the opposing team’s best receiver. While Haden will turn 30 in mid-April, he doesn’t seem to have lost much from his array of physical skills, and it would be no surprise if the Steelers looked to extend his current contract, which is due to pay him $10 million in 2019 and is set to expire following that season.
LANCE BOOMHOWER FROM ANGLETON, TX: You stated in a recent Asked and Answered that it would be against the CBA for Antonio Brown, or any player, to financially help with his cap hit if traded to help facilitate the trade. Can you explain the difference between that scenario and Eagles quarterback Nick Foles “buying back his freedom” for $2 million.
ANSWER: The difference is a simple one. In Nick Foles’ case, he was permitted to buy back his unrestricted free agency after the Eagles exercised an option to keep him for the 2019 season, because that buy-back was a clause inserted into the original contact. If a buy-back clause, or a give-back to help facilitate a trade is a negotiated item inserted into a specific contract, then that would be allowable. But it’s not something that can be agreed upon after the fact.
JEFF RUSSEL FROM SAULT STE. MARIE, MI: Is there any bonus or gift attached to being named Steelers MVP?
DAVID SPRIDGEON FROM REDLANDS, CA: What happened with Alan Faneca making it into the Hall of Fame this year? I didn’t get to see the award ceremony.
ANSWER: Alan Faneca made the list of 15 finalists for election for the fourth straight year, but because the list contained four offensive linemen the concern was that they would split the vote. Besides Faneca, the other offensive linemen among the 15 finalists were Tony Boselli, Steve Hutchinson, and Kevin Mawae. In the final analysis, the eight-man Class of 2019 included three first-time-eligible players – Champ Bailey, Tony Gonzalez and Ed Reed – along with Ty Law and Mawae, contributors Pat Bowlen and Gil Brandt, and Seniors candidate Johnny Robinson.
CHRIS GALLOWAY FROM FATE, TX: I never hear Jack Ham mentioned as being one of the best players in Steelers history. I believe he is the best linebacker in Steelers history.
ANSWER: I suggest you start paying closer attention to Steelers.com, because I have cited Ham’s greatness often both in installments of Asked and Answered as well as in “Labriola on.” I also have brought to light the fact Ham was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 50th Anniversary Team as one of two outside linebackers, with the other being Lawrence Taylor. In explaining Ham’s selection, the Hall of Fame wrote, “Smart, instinctive, great football IQ. Ham was a sure tackler who could diagnose plays very quickly, and he was also able to handle the quickest of backs in coverage. The 1970s was the decade when running backs really started to get involved in the passing game, eventually giving rise to the third-down back. Ham could handle them all. It is said that, from zero to 10 yards, Ham was faster than any other Steelers player. There were those within the organization who felt that he was the club's best player. Ham certainly belonged in that conversation with Joe Greene, as he also played an integral role on the four Super Bowl-winning teams of the 1970s. Ham's 53 career takeaways remain the highest figure ever by a non-defensive back.”
BOB PURAT FROM NEWTOWN, CT: How much of a salary cap hit would the Steelers take if they release Morgan Burnett?
ANSWER: The dead money hit to the salary cap if the Steelers were to release Morgan Burnett would be $2.83 million, but the team would not have to pay the $5 million in salary Burnett is set to earn in 2019.
WILLIAM DOWDELL FROM COCOA BEACH, FL: In some of the “stuff” I have read, the thinking was that the pick the Steelers would get for Antonio Brown if they trade him, would likely be in the 2020 draft. Is that the case and if so why?
ANSWER: I believe the most likely scenario is that any trade of Antonio Brown involving a draft pick(s), it would be in the 2019 draft.
BRIAN BOYCE FROM SPRINGBORO, PA: What happens to salary cap and the dead money issue if the Steelers are not able to negotiate an acceptable trade for Antonio Brown, and then Brown decides to sit out next season rather than play for the Steelers? However unlikely, what happens if Brown sits?
ANSWER: The difference between the Antonio Brown situation and the Le’Veon Bell situation is that Brown is under contract and Bell was not. If Brown simply decides not to show up, he would be subject to significant fines and the Steelers also could seek a repayment of some of the signing bonus he received when he signed his current contract back in February 2017.
ANDREW KIRKBRIDE FROM HAMILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA: If there's a good quarterback available in the first few rounds do you think the Steelers would draft another one? Or do you think the young quarterbacks the team has now are the future?
ANSWER: Draft a quarterback for the third straight year? When Steelers President Art Rooney II already has talked about wanting to extend Ben Roethlisberger’s contract this offseason? C’mon. You’re better than this. Remember these two words: defensive playmakers.
DOUG COPPELER FROM FAYETTEVILLE, NC: You get to be General Manager for one day, Draft Day. How would you prioritize the Steelers needs, taking into consideration who you think the Steelers will lose to trades, free agency, retirement? I hear and read a lot about how the Steelers should go after a receiver if/when they lose Antonio Brown. I would think the focus should begin with the defense and kicking game.
ANSWER: Let’s dispense with this first: no draft picks spent on a punter or placekicker. Also, I would not use a No. 1 pick on a wide receiver unless I had more than one pick in the first round. Basically, my personal draft day philosophy would be to adhere to the two magic words – defensive playmakers – until Friday night.
JAYDEN DUNN FROM BOISE, ID: Do you believe the Steelers should re-sign Eli Rodgers?
ANSWER: Operating under the assumption that Antonio Brown won’t be playing for the Steelers in 2019, making an effort to re-sign Eli Rogers only makes sense, but not to re-sign him at any cost.