INDIANAPOLIS – Let's get to it:
Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown and WR Martavis Bryant began their careers at the combine.
RICKY CAMPBELL FROM CHARLOTTE, NC:
Do you think Le'Veon Bell will get a long term deal, or will he get another franchise tag? And will they sign Chris Boswell?
ANSWER: Both Steelers President Art Rooney II and General Manager Kevin Colbert have made public the team's intention to sign Le'Veon Bell to a long-term contract, and then in an interview done in Orlando in late January during Pro Bowl week, Bell said about a long-term contract, "That's the goal. That's what I want to do. Both sides are still working and trying to make things work. They may have to give a little. I might have to give a little. But the biggest thing is I want to be a Steeler going into next season. That's what I want to do. That's what Steelers Nation wants, that's what the coaching staff wants, that's what my teammates want. So we have to get it done."
As for what I think, my experience is that when both sides want to get a deal done, a deal is more likely to get done. But Colbert also has said the team never would eliminate the prospect of using the collectively bargained option of applying the franchise tag. Add all of this together, and I see something getting done with Bell, even if it first requires the application of the franchise tag to allow negotiations on the long-term deal to progress to completion without interference from another team(s).
As for Chris Boswell, I would put him as the second-most significant Steelers player who can become some kind of a free agent this offseason, with Bell being No. 1. Boswell is a restricted free agent, however, which means the Steelers can offer him a one-year tender tied to draft pick compensation from any team trying to sign him away. The amount of those tenders for 2018 have yet to be announced, but in 2017, the first-round tender amount was $3.91 million on a one-year deal; it was $2.746 million for the second-round tender; and the original-round and low level tender was for $1.797 million.
I would expect the Steelers to tender Boswell at $2.746 million, which would bring them a second-round pick as compensation if another team would sign him to an offer sheet the Steelers chose not to match. And even as good as Boswell is, second-round picks usually are way too rich for a team to surrender for a kicker. That said, I believe the Steelers' preference would be to sign Boswell to a longer term contract, which would present the dual benefit of offering the player a measure of security by getting him some money up front in a signing bonus while possibly lowering his cap number for 2018.
MARIO ZINNA FROM PALM BAY, PA:
Who is responsible for deciding when players should be substituted – the position coach, the coordinator, the head coach? I can't help but think that Joey Porter had some kind of rift with James Harrison, and that was one of the reasons he was not playing.
ANSWER: Please, just stop it. When James Harrison was inactive for six games and didn't play in four others for which he was in uniform, that wasn't Joey Porter's decision. The determination that Harrison, at age 39, no longer could play the outside linebacker position the way the Steelers wanted it to be played in 2017 happened over time, and that time dated back to 2016. My purpose is not to disparage Harrison's career with the Steelers, nor his standing among the franchise's best players, but fans should stop viewing his play in 2016-17 through rose-colored glasses as well.
In Super Bowl LII, Harrison played 68 of the 75 defensive snaps for the Patriots, and he finished with one solo tackle and one assisted tackle against an Eagles running attack that rolled up 164 yards and averaged 6.1 per attempt, and he had no sacks and two pressures during a game in which Nick Foles attempted 43 passes and finished with 373 yards and three touchdowns.
If you want to know who kept James Harrison off the field for the Steelers in 2017, it wasn't Porter. It was Father Time.
JAMES ZIELINSKI FROM BLAKESLEE, PA:
Are the Steelers players issued new uniforms for each game?
ANSWER: They are not.
RICK ANDERSON FROM BETHLEHEM, PA:
I recently saw you listed an address for Ryan Shazier to send him good wishes and encouragement. Would you please repeat it for me? Thank you.
ANSWER: The address is: 3400 S. Water Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15203.
TREVOR WILLINGHAM FROM LAS VEGAS, NV:
I am 12 years old, and I was wondering if I can send something like fan mail to Antonio Brown or any player? Also, is Ryan Shazier going to stick with Steelers and be a coach or something?
ANSWER: Fans can send mail to any current Steelers player to the same address listed in the above answer: 3400 S. Water Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15203. As for Ryan Shazier's future with the Steelers, it's too early in the process to set any limitations on it, but Art Rooney II has said, "I expect Ryan [Shazier] is going to be here one way or the other and have a role with the team one way or the other in 2018 for sure."
PETER HAMMERER FROM BALTIMORE, MD:
When will compensatory draft picks be announced, and how many potential ones will the Steelers get?
ANSWER: In between the time I received your question and the date of this installment of Asked and Answered, the NFL announced the compensatory picks, and the Steelers didn't get any. Compensatory picks are awarded based on some formula that takes into account free agents lost vs. free agents signed, and last offseason the Steelers lost Lawrence Timmons (Miami), Jarvis Jones (Arizona), and Markus Wheaton (Tennessee), while signing Tyson Alualu, Coty Sensabaugh, Knile Davis, and Justin Hunter.
MATHEW TORRES FROM PANORAMA CITY, CA:
If the Steelers lose Le'Veon Bell in free agency, do you see them drafting someone like Derrius Guice in the first round and having him and James Conner share snaps like Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara do in New Orleans? Or would they just stick to making James Conner the No. 1 running back?
ANSWER: I do not see the Steelers using their first-round pick in the upcoming draft on a running back, regardless of what else may have happened.
DENNY TAMMARO FROM CORTLAND, OH:
What does Saint Vincent College receive in compensation from the Steelers for the use of their facilities during training camp?
PAUL REICKART FROM RUCKERSVILLE, VA:
Does the team keep Sean Spence as a component even if the Steelers add a free agent inside linebacker and maybe draft one as well? Or does that put us over the limit on inside linebackers?
ANSWER: My guess would be that the Steelers would have no more than five inside linebackers on their 53-man roster for the 2018 season, and maybe only four. I believe Vince Williams and Tyler Matakevich are locks to be in that group.
DANIEL MOON FROM PLANO, TX:
Why do the Steelers' outside linebackers drop into coverage so much? Shouldn't they just rush the passer as they are supposed to?
ANSWER: "As they are supposed to?" Who made that rule? As offenses have evolved, predictability by the defense has become a weakness. Let me ask you this: Since the Steelers set a franchise record, and also led the NFL in 2017, with 56 sacks, what difference does it make who recorded them? Some fans are ripping Bud Dupree for his production last season, but if he had 12 sacks and Cam Heyward had six – which is a flip-flop of their actual totals – and the team's total was still 56, would that make you feel better? Dupree is going to have to be more productive moving forward that he has been to this point in his young career, but that productivity expectation is going to include more than just sacks.
ROBERT HUTZENBILER FROM WILTON, CT:
Where can I find some receiver gloves that have the Steelers logo when you put your hands together? I have not had any luck.
ANSWER: As with so many of these kinds of questions, Google is your friend, especially since shop.Steelers.com happens to be out of stock. Go to Google, and type in "Nike NFL football gloves." Hit enter. When the page loads, go to the top and click on the "shopping" icon. Good luck.
KEITH ROZSI FROM UNIONTOWN, OH:
Do you have a good explanation why so many Steelers fans want to get rid of Landry Jones? I can't seem to come up with a reason.
ANSWER: Me neither.