Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 27

INDIANAPOLIS – Let's get to it:

CESAR GALDAMEZ FROM SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR: I read somewhere that based on the fact that Minkah Fitzpatrick will be the starting free safety, the Steelers should try to keep Sean Davis and have him compete with Terrell Edmunds to be the starting strong safety. The same article projected that Davis would beat out Edmunds for the job and end up starting alongside Fitzpatrick. What are your thoughts on that?
ANSWER: Sean Davis can become an unrestricted free agent on March 18, and with the Steelers very likely to use the franchise tag on Bud Dupree, there is little they could do to prevent Davis from leaving for a better opportunity with another team. Not only that, but the Steelers are not about to give up on Terrell Edmunds, who will be entering his third NFL season after being a first-round draft pick in 2018. Edmunds has played a lot of football, with 31 starts in 32 appearances so far, and he has 183 tackles during that time. Certainly there are areas in which he can and must improve, but the same could be said when Dupree was going into his third NFL season and look what kind of player he has become. I believe Davis will pursue an opportunity with another team where he will have a chance to start, because the starting safeties in Pittsburgh are Edmunds and Fitzpatrick.

ROBERT TUCKER FROM NEW BERN, NC: With regard to your story on safeties as part of the Steelers-By-Position series, I agree that we have to find competent players with potential ball-hawking skills who can play in sub-packages for depth behind starters Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds. Is it possible that Sean Davis (with a resume of a former rookie standout who showed some promise during his first three seasons before his injury) could be that guy?
ANSWER: If Sean Davis was going to be under contract to the Steelers in 2020 and beyond, he would be a prime candidate for the role you just described. But as mentioned in the above submission, Davis can become an unrestricted free agent on March 18, and I would be shocked if another team didn't lure him away with a contract offer that included a significant raise and the opportunity to start. Remember, last year at this time, Jesse James signed a contract with the Detroit Lions for $22.6 million over four years, and he finished the season with 14 catches for 142 yards and no touchdowns. Some team will do something similar for Davis during this free agency period, I believe.

MIKE FOSTER FROM EWA BEACH, HI: What's the difference in cap savings for trading a player vs. releasing him? Is the dead money cap hit the same?
ANSWER: It is. There could be some massaging of when the cap hit goes into effect when cutting a guy based on slapping a post-June 1 designation on it, but the total of the dead money hit doesn't change. It's only spread out over two seasons.

DAREN JOHNSON FROM NEWBERG, OR: When the XFL season is over in a month or so, will that impact the upcoming NFL Draft? What I mean is, are there any contingencies in place to possibly add a player or two as long as teams stay under the 90-man roster?
ANSWER: My understanding is that all XFL player contracts expire the day after the XFL Championship Game, which is to be played on Sunday, April 26. So by April 28 all XFL players will be free agents and able to sign with any interested NFL team.

JOHN MAIR FROM RIDGE, NY: I don't get the constant quarterback urgency from Steelers fans. Ben Roethlisberger is a Hall of Famer and is already throwing ahead of schedule from elbow surgery. And shouldn't the backups' main job be to win games and not play bad enough to lose them for your team? Because that is exactly what Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph did. Mason went 5-3, and Hodges went 3-3. Usually when a team has to start a backup, they can expect to lose, but both didn't play bad enough for the team to finish with a losing record.
ANSWER: What I have learned during the years of doing Asked and Answered is that a segment of the fan base often wants what its favorite team doesn't have, as opposed to being content/optimistic about what it does. As examples: Barely a couple of seasons ago, there was complaining about the Steelers not going "all-in" to try to win a Super Bowl because they were wasting Ben Roethlisberger's career, and now the complaining is about not utilizing resources now on a quarterback(s) to plan for when he retires; and then there are those who complained constantly about "team turmoil," but now want to know whether the Steelers will re-sign Antonio Brown and/or make a trade to re-acquire Le'Veon Bell. And my latest favorite comes from the submissions complaining about all of the quarterback questions, instead of asking a non-quarterback question.

KRIS PISCZEK FROM CONNELLSVILLE, PA: How many more questions are we going to see regarding the drafting or signing of free agent quarterbacks? I sense your frustration with these questions, so why continue to put them in Asked and Answered?
ANSWER: There you go, John. Right on cue.

MATTHEW RICHARDSON FROM MOODY, AL: Could you see the Steelers bringing back Le'Veon Bell?
ANSWER: Bringing him back, as in sending premium draft picks to the New York Jets (since he's currently under contract) and then picking up a contract that's due to pay him around $38 million over the next three years? Is that what you mean by "bringing him back?" I couldn't see that happen even with the Hubble Space Telescope.

TERRANCE WALKER FROM PENN HILLS, PA: Does Christian Scotland-Williamson have a chance to make the team? If so, why doesn't anyone mention him? If not, why do the Steelers keep him?
ANSWER: It's important to remember that Christian Scotland-Williamson is trying to go from a rugby player who never so much as lined up for a snap of American football in his life to a guy trying to make a career in the sport at the highest level of competition in the world. If you're asking me whether he will be good enough in just his third year of practicing the sport to make the Steelers 53-man roster, I would say, no. The games are just way, way, way too different. Where rugby is a sport that requires endurance running, just as one example, professional football requires explosive bursts of speed. The hitting is also completely different, and while rugby is a free-flowing game, football is scripted both for the offense and defense. Scotland-Williamson, I am told, showed impressive progress from his first year on the Steelers practice squad to the second, but whether he'll be able to make another, far more significant jump is something that will reveal itself over the course of the offseason and maybe into training camp. Why do the Steelers keep him? With rosters at 90 players right now, it's not as though they need the spot for someone else. Maybe that changes as we get into the summer, but right now he's got a spot.

JOHN HADDOW FROM ST. GEORGE, UT: With all the comments about James Conner being an adequate back but not a star, do you think the Steelers will look at someone like Zack Moss from Utah? I would love to get Jonathan Taylor from Wisconsin, but I doubt he will be available in the second round.
ANSWER: I really have no idea which of the running backs in the upcoming draft class have piqued the Steelers' interest, but allow me to offer an opinion on each of the ones you mention based on the team's track record. Johnathan Taylor just turned 21 in January, and the Steelers like to pick young guys with some experience, but both his 926 carries and 15 fumbles at Wisconsin are a bit on the high side if the decision was mine, which it is not. Zack Moss is a little older (23 in December) but has fewer college carries (712), and needed season-ending meniscus surgery in November 2018. What's going to be important is that in what round will the Steelers decide there is value in the running back position, because that will play a big part in who is available to them.

GRAHAM ANDERSON FROM PLYMOUTH, UK: Last year your mantra prior to the draft and free agency was "defensive playmakers," which was delivered in spades. What's your take this year?
ANSWER: Spackle and paste. Meaning, fill in the necessary holes when the opportunity arises.