INDIANAPOLIS – Let's get to it:
MICHAEL CELENTANO FROM HILLSDALE, PA:
Do you think the Steelers need a proven backup quarterback, and if so who do you think they will go after?
ANSWER: Yes, for an NFL team to contend for a championship, its roster must contain a proven backup quarterback. The guy the Steelers should "go after" is one who can become an unrestricted free agent on March 9. His name is Landry Jones.
MACHELLE POWERS FROM CLINTON, PA:
Will the Steelers open the 2017 season at home?
ANSWER: That information won't be official until the NFL announces the dates and times of the entire 2017 schedule, but taking a guess right here right now, I would say, it's very likely the Steelers will open the 2017 regular season at Heinz Field.
Here's why: The opening game of the whole NFL season will be played at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 7, and while the Steelers do face the Patriots they will play the Patriots in Pittsburgh. The rest of the NFL will open the season on Sept. 10-11, which will include the Steelers. Since the Pirates are on the road that weekend – at St. Louis on Sunday, Sept. 10 and at Milwaukee on Monday, Sept. 11 – which creates a natural window for the Steelers to be at home.
Last year, the NFL announced the dates and times of the upcoming schedule on April 14. You can expect the announcement to be made at a similar stage of April this year.
SCOTT WELLS FROM HUNTSVILLE, AL:
Surely the Steelers could not have known in advance that Ben Roethlisberger would fall in their laps at pick No. 11 during the 2004 NFL Draft, and so did they even interview him at the Combine?
ANSWER: The Steelers did interview Ben Roethlisberger at the 2004 NFL Scouting Combine. They also brought Roethlisberger to Pittsburgh later on in the process for one of their allotted pre-draft visits. The Steelers endeavor to do their homework on all of the top talent in every draft class, and this is an example of them doing their due diligence.
CHRIS AYRES FROM INDIANAPOLIS, IN:
I saw on Steelers.com that you listed playmaking wide receiver as one of the team's draft needs. Is this because you don't think that Martavis Bryant will be reinstated? Don't you see the same things I see – his ability to take the top off the coverage, to turn 2-yard screens into splash plays, to force opponents to game plan for his ability? Is there something you know in regards to his lack of detail, inconsistent hands, or poor practice performances that the regular fan doesn't?
A look back at current members of the Steelers offense when they were at the NFL Scouting Combine.
ANSWER: You forgot/failed to mention the series of failed drug tests, multiple fails since 2014 in fact. Martavis Bryant could be a great NFL receiver. If he worked as hard as Antonio Brown, he'd have a chance to be better than Antonio Brown because he's bigger with comparable speed. What if he fails another test, or misses one? What if he gets injured after being away from football for a calendar year? In 2017, is Sammie Coates going to be the guy we saw in the first half-dozen regular season games in 2016, or the one we watched over the rest of the season? Is Markus Wheaton even going to be re-signed?**
Did you watch the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots? You wanna go back into a game of that magnitude with the wide receivers the Steelers had that day? I don't.
One final point on this: The draft is seven rounds, and with the NFL awarding the Steelers a No. 3 compensatory pick, they will have eight picks over the course of the draft – the sixth-round pick to Cleveland in the Justin Gilbert trade isn't until 2018. A draft need doesn't have to be filled in the first round, either. Just saying.
JOHN PUHALA FROM SPRINGFIELD, VA:
Would the Steelers consider picking Pitt running back James Connor in the third or fourth round of this draft?
ANSWER: I believe the Steelers will/should add a running back in this draft, and I also believe the fourth round is when they should start considering that. I don't know enough about James Connor to say whether he's deserving of being selected at that point, or whether he'll already have been picked.
DAVID JOHNSON FROM MANSFIELD, OH:
A couple of receivers not highly-ranked in most mock drafts – Noah Brown of Ohio State and Taywan Taylor of Western Kentucky – looked very good to me. Would the Steelers take a flier on either?
ANSWER: No idea whether the Steelers would "take a flier" on either of those guys, nor can I confirm your scouting report of them. But your question inspired me to do a bit of research on the players you cite. Noah Brown (6-foot-2, 218 pounds) will enter this draft as a redshirt sophomore who played only one full season in Columbus. In 2016, he averaged 12.6 yards per catch and scored seven touchdowns. His speed at Ohio State has been clocked at 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, and so this Combine will have an impact on where he's ultimately drafted. Taywan Taylor (6-1, 195) played for four years at Western Kentucky, and he caught 253 passes (16.7 average) and scored 41 touchdowns. His speed is a reported 4.33.
ANDREW COE FROM BERKSHIRE, UNITED KINGDOM:
Because the organization invests a huge amount of resources in compiling the players they feel are the best fit for a successful team, do they also regulate what players can do in the offseason? Would the coaching staff expect to be notified (and have the power of veto) if a key player wants to sky-dive, or any similar activity that carries a high risk of a season-threatening injury?
ANSWER: There is a provision in every standard NFL contract relating to "non-football injury." If a player is injured in a football-related activity, he either is to be paid his salary while he rehabilitates the injury, or a cash settlement is negotiated between the team and the player's representative. If a player is injured in a non-football-related activity, which is what you describe, the team does not have to pay him. At the level of current NFL salaries, that's usually a sufficient deterrent for foolish behavior.
BRYANT CHAVERS FROM RIVIERA BEACH, FL:
With Ben Roethlisberger contemplating retirement, if Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky or another top-rated quarterback is still on the board when the Steelers are on the clock, do you see them using a first-round pick on a quarterback? And do you think it would be wise to do so?
ANSWER: No. And NO!
KAREN HUNTER FROM FRUITLAND, MD:
Will Le'Veon Bell be let go to obtain Adrian Peterson?
ANSWER: Really? Just when I thought I had already been presented with every harebrained idea out there, thank you for proving to me that I hadn't.
DENNIS TAMMARO FROM CORTLAND, OH:
Different type of question: what are your three-to-five all-time favorite plays in Steelers' Super Bowl history?
ANSWER: OK, understand that these are off the top of my head, and there will be one from each of the Steelers' Super Bowl wins, in chronological order:
IX: Glen Edwards' blasting of Jon Gilliam on a pass over the middle deep in Steelers' territory to create an easy interception for Mel Blount at the goal line late in the first half to preserve their 2-0 lead.
X: Jack Lambert throwing Cliff Harris to the ground after he taunted Roy Gerela following another missed field goal.
XIII: Franco Harris responding to a cheap shot by Thomas Henderson on Terry Bradshaw by taking a handoff on the next play – a third-and-9 – and bursting up the middle for a 22-yard touchdown that gave the Steelers a 28-17 lead with 7:10 left in the fourth quarter.
XIV: The Steelers had a 24-19 lead with around four minutes left in the fourth quarter, and they were facing a third-and-7 from their own 33-yard line. Chuck Noll had told Bradshaw that the way to attack the Rams secondary was deep down the field, and so Bradshaw threw a perfect pass down the middle to John Stallworth who completed the play for a 45-yard gain to the Rams 22-yard line. Franco Harris ended the possession with a 1-yard touchdown run for the final points in the 31-19 victory.
XL: Willie Parker's 75-yard touchdown run.
XLIII: William Gay's 100-yard pick-six.