Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 3

Let's get to it:

WILLIAM KUKLAR FROM GULFPORT, MS: I remember listening to Steelers games on the radio with my father in 1949. I am 78 years old now. Could you list the top five draft picks during the time Kevin Colbert was the General Manager of the Steelers? I believe him to be one of the best draft day GMs in NFL history.
ANSWER: As long as you understand that this list I'm about to reveal is only my opinion, and not an extensively researched opinion at that, I'm willing to give it a whirl. Kevin Colbert has worked for the Steelers since 2000, and the team has enjoyed a lot of success during that time, and the Steelers long have been a team that believes in building its roster via the draft. Here's my list, in chronological order: Troy Polamalu, first round in 2003; Ben Roethlisberger, first round in 2004; Antonio Brown, sixth round in 2010; Cam Heyward, first round in 2011; Ryan Shazier, first round in 2014; and T.J. Watt, first round in 2017.

A brief explanation for my reasoning, and why there are six names: I don't care where a team is drafting, picking Hall of Fame players isn't easy, and in Polamalu (Class of 2020) and Roethlisberger (Class of 2027-to-be) the Steelers added at least two Hall of Fame players under Colbert's watch. Using a sixth-round pick acquired in a trade to select a guy who was the best receiver in the NFL from 2013-18 is what Colbert did in adding Brown. Heyward is a multiple-time first-team All-Pro defensive lineman, and usually those kinds of players are top 15 picks in a draft, but the Steelers got him with the 31st overall pick in 2011, and it's possible Heyward could end up enshrined in Canton as well. Shazier is on the list because I view him as an example of the Steelers being able to see around the corner to the next big thing in terms of how defense was going to have to be played in the NFL. But a tragic on-field injury cut Shazier's career short, and so that's the reason I added a sixth name – Watt, the presumptive 2021 Defensive Player of the Year and the co-holder of the NFL's single-season sack record in his fifth NFL season.

SCOTT ROGERS FROM CENTERVILLE, OH: I try to stay away from speculating about the quarterback situation. I trust the Steelers' judgement and the process they have. But with that being said, Steeler fans are getting on my nerves in regard to the quarterback situation. Is this going to be settled soon? By that I mean, when should we expect to find out if the Steelers will sign a big-time free agent quarterback or not? I didn't know if there was a possibility that I would have to hear Steelers fans speculate on this for the next few months, or if this situation is something teams, in general, like to settle early in the offseason so the new guy can come in and get started with preparation ASAP.
ANSWER: So, you're annoyed with fans "getting on your nerves" in regard to the quarterback situation, and you respond to that by wanting a quick resolution to a process that isn't one typically prone to quick resolutions. Free agency doesn't begin until March 16, which means there can be no signings of veterans until then, and even when March 16 rolls around I do not foresee the Steelers – or the veteran quarterbacks on the open market – jumping into an arrangement just to satisfy some artificial timetable. Patience.

STEPHEN KEISTER FROM KINNELON, NJ: Have any recent NFL players you know of acted as their own agents? And how much do agents take of players' salaries?
ANSWER: I don't pay close enough attention to that aspect of professional football to know if any recent players have chosen to represent themselves in contract negotiations with their teams, but I can tell you that the standard percentage fee that big-time agents charge their player clients is up to a 3 percent commission on the value of the contract.

RICK BURTON FROM MERIDIAN, MS: Since Ben Roethlisberger retired and now Tom Brady retired, I would like your opinion on the voting for the Hall of Fame Class of 2027. Should Aaron Rodgers and/or Rob Gronkowski decide to retire what are your thoughts of all four getting elected in their first years of eligibility?
ANSWER: Clark Judge is an award-winning writer who covered the Colts, Chargers, and 49ers before joining FoxSports.com and CBSSports.com as an NFL columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall-of-Fame voter who also serves on the Hall of Fame's nine-member contributor sub-committee. He recently wrote a story for si.com/nfl/talkoffame in which he dealt with the issue you raise in your submission. I have included some excerpts from that piece in this answer:

"Someone on Twitter recently asked what impact Brady's inclusion in the Class of 2027 would have on Roethlisberger, and the answer is: none," wrote Judge. "Both will go in on their first tries, even though they play the same position. In fact, in four of the past five modern-era classes, the Hall inducted two players at the same position … including four in 2018 when wide receivers Terrell Owens and Randy Moss and linebackers Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis were chosen."

As for Gronkowski, Judge wrote, "He holds playoff records for the most Super Bowl receptions by a tight end, as well as the most playoff catches and playoff yardage. Bottom line: There will be no wait when he calls it quits. When Hall-of-Fame voters made tight end Tony Gonzalez a first-ballot choice in 2019, they made it easier for Gronk to follow."

About Adrian Peterson being elected to the Hall of Fame's Class of 2027 if he also decides to retire this offseason, Judge wrote: "A no-brainer."

And finally, about Rodgers' possibly retiring and joining the crowded field for the Hall's Class of 2027, Judge wrote: "But that's up to A-Rod to decide, and we have all offseason for the drama to unfold. So let's concentrate on what we know, and what we know is that Brady and Roethlisberger are first-ballot cinches for the Class of 2027, while the remaining three vacancies could begin to disappear soon. And if Aaron Rodgers pulls the upset and walks away, too? Well, then, nobody outside this group of luminaries needs to apply."

NICK MOSES FROM SIMI VALLEY, CA: Is this year regarded as a "weak quarterback class" because those in the know don't think highly of Kenny Pickett and Matt Corral at the top of that class, or is it more a matter of there not being much depth behind those guys in this quarterback class?
ANSWER: My opinion is that it's a combination of both of those things, plus this class of draft eligible quarterbacks doesn't compare favorably to recent ones. For example, the 2020 NFL Draft included Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert at the top of the class; and in the 2021 NFL Draft, it was Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and Mac Jones among the quarterbacks at the top of that class. The 2022 group doesn't have any quarterback who's even being considered as the first overall pick, which speaks to the perceived lack of star power in this group. And there also is no consensus that Matt Corral is the quarterback who will get drafted after Pickett.

BILL DOWDELL FROM COCOA BEACH, FL: With all the mock drafts coming out maybe we should call this the silly season? Given the season we just had, do you see any scenario where we don't snag an offensive lineman with our first pick? Also, given Coach Mike Tomlin's comments after the playoff game against Kansas City, isn't it likely we look for a speedy wide receiver at some point?
ANSWER: I absolutely can see a scenario where the Steelers pick a defensive lineman on the first round, or maybe a playmaking defensive back, or even an inside linebacker who could be an asset to the run defense without being a liability to the pass defense, because the Steelers have more needs than along the offensive line. And yes, adding a dynamic talent to the corps of wide receivers is something that should be accomplished as well.

JOHN KELLY FROM DALTON, MA: Tyler Huntley is a restricted free agent with the Ravens. Are there any unseen compensation issues other than dollars to kick the tires on signing him to be in the mix for our new quarterback?
ANSWER: You are incorrect. Tyler Huntley is an exclusive rights free agent. An exclusive rights free agent is a player who has fewer than three seasons of NFL experience and has an expiring contract. He is not allowed to negotiate with any other team if his original team offers him a league minimum contract. I am very confident the Ravens will offer Huntley a contract for the league minimum, and so that makes him unavailable to every other team in the NFL.

JEARL HARRISON FROM TURBEVILLE, SC: Who do you think will be Pittsburgh's starting quarterback for 2022?
ANSWER: I truly have no idea, and I believe no one will know until the competition during training camp and the preseason determines who will be the Steelers starting quarterback in 2022.

BOB MORENO FROM CARMEL, IN: This is not a question, just a comment of appreciation. I love the Asked and Answered forum, especially your ability to be blunt with some of those who think they are football savvy. I appreciate your knowledge of the game and your ability to explain things those "savvy" fans don't understand. I grew up in Pittsburgh and have been a Steelers fan for over 65 years (since I was old enough to listen to the radio). Thanks again for your efforts and your ability to continually educate.
ANSWER: Thank you for the kind words, and along the way I also strive to entertain.

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