INDIANAPOLIS – Let's get to it:
JOE CURRY FROM MANASSAS PARK, VA:
College players are invited to the Combine. Who invites them, and what determines which players get an invitation?
A look back at current members of the Steelers offense when they were at the NFL Scouting Combine.
ANSWER: According to NFLCombine.net, "Participants are determined annually by a Selection Committee. The Directors of both National and BLESTO scouting services, which combined represent twenty-five NFL teams, are joined by members of various NFL player personnel departments to form the committee. The participating NFL executives can rotate on a yearly basis, and remain anonymous. ALL eligible players are reviewed and voted on by the committee members. Each athlete receiving the necessary number of votes, by position, is then extended an invitation. While it is not a perfect science, the goal of the committee is to invite every player that will be drafted in the ensuing NFL Draft."**
REDD MAHONEY FROM ROOSEVELT, NY:
I fully believe that in the last two seasons, the Steelers would have made it to the AFC Championship Game, if not the Super Bowl, if Le'Veon Bell would have been healthy for the start of playoffs. Do you view him as injury-prone, or just unfortunate? Also, would you offer him a contract extension? Do you think the Steelers will?
ANSWER: Le'Veon Bell is not injury-prone. I view the injuries Bell has sustained are the cost of doing business in the NFL, because the man is a running back. Injury-prone is a label typically hung on guys who sustain a lot of soft-tissue issues possibly linked to being over-weight or under-conditioned. And Bell is neither. I would offer Bell a contract extension, and Steelers President Art Rooney II already has said, "I don't think we're sitting here waiting to see something from Le'Veon. I think we've seen enough. So, it really is going to come down to kind of how his contract situation fits in with all the others. I always say it's kind of a jigsaw puzzle you have to put together every year. And so how will these pieces fit together this year versus next. Unfortunately, you have to make choices. You can't always get everybody done at once, and so that's the process we'll go through over the next couple of months."
R. SEAN DIXON-DONAHUE FROM CANANDAIGUA, NY:
An accomplished nose tackle seems to me to be a key element in a successful 3-4 defense. Considering how deep this year's draft class is in terms of defensive linemen, can you see the Steelers maybe spending a third-round pick on a true nose tackle?
We thought Lucas Oil Stadium needed more black & gold, so we added some.
ANSWER: I hope they don't spend a No. 3 pick on "a true nose tackle," because I disagree with your basic premise. The Steelers utilize their base 3-4 alignment less than one-third of the time, and so "a true nose tackle" no longer plays very many snaps per game. As soon as an opponent brings a third wide receiver onto the field, the Steelers go into sub-package football, and the majority of the sub-packages do not contain a nose tackle. Spending a third-round pick on a defensive lineman is something to be considered, but I believe the player should be more like Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt than "a true nose tackle."**
JOHNNY JOHNSON FROM STAFFORD, TX:
Just how difficult is the position of long-snapper? Seems like it should be a spot where a guy can snap and play another position as well.
ANSWER: Long-snapping is easy, until the game-winning field goal attempt sails wide because the snap was either slow or off-line. Long-snapping, which typically refers to punts, and short-snapping, which refers to placement kicks, are timed to one-hundredths of a second, and one tenth-of-a-second can be the difference between making an NFL roster and being out of football. Also, NFL snappers are expected to put the ball on the spot designated by the holder every time. EVERY TIME. Rain, cold, windy. EVERY TIME. And the best ones also shoot the ball back there right on the spot but also with the proper spin so that when the holder puts the ball on the ground the laces already are facing the way the kicker wants them. Did I mention that all of this is expected EVERY TIME? Saving a roster spot is a nice idea, but in those situations when a game is going to be decided by a kick, I want Greg Warren standing over the football, not a backup guard, or a No. 3 tight end, or whatever position that extra guy on the roster is actually playing.
BRIAN PILE FROM GOLETA, CA:
Why do the Steelers not put the player's uniform numbers on the front of the helmets in preseason games when they are there for the regular season games?
ANSWER: It's a long-time tradition of the franchise dating back to the 1960s. Supposedly it's to signify that all players have to re-earn their spots on the team every summer during training camp, and those who do that successfully are "rewarded" with their number on the front of their helmet.
CHRIS RICHARDS FROM AUSTIN, TX:
When a player retires, how does his salary count against the cap?
ANSWER: His actual salary is wiped off the cap. Whatever remains of his prorated signing bonus gets charged that year as "dead money."
BOB GREINER FROM BRACKENRIDGE, PA:
It's rumored that Ben Roethlisberger is going to be the Steelers tight end coach.
ANSWER: Wow, and all along I thought he was getting moved to safety to compete with Ryan Shazier.