Let's get to it:
TJ RACINE FROM BARRIE, ONTARIO, CANADA: I understand that we have beat the Mike Munchak return to Pittsburgh like a dead horse. Do you think that there are any really good jobs that would make his family want to move to Pittsburgh instead? Maybe we have been looking at this wrong the whole time.
ANSWER: Full disclosure: I am a big fan of Mike Munchak, both as a coach and as a man, and I completely respect the decision he made to accept an NFL job so that he and his wife could be closer to their daughter and her young family. But this narrative that Munchak was the savior of the Steelers running game is a myth. During his five seasons as a Steelers assistant, the Steelers running game ranked No. 16 in the NFL in 2014; No. 16 in 2015; No. 14 in 2016; No. 20 in 2017; and No. 31 in 2018. Munchak is gone. He made a decision that improved the quality of his family life and undoubtedly made his wife very happy. Get over it. The horse indeed has been beaten to death. Allow it to rest in peace.
JOE HICKS FROM MONTICELLO, KY: In your opinion, what should be the priority need the team addresses this offseason?
ANSWER: The offensive line has to get younger and more physical.
BOB RUBIN FROM LOS ANGELES, CA: What are the records of the Steelers' five worst seasons since 1972, and who was their top draft pick after each of those seasons?
ANSWER: Listed chronologically, the Steelers were 7-9 in 1985 and picked guard John Rienstra ninth overall in the 1986 NFL Draft; they were 6-10 in 1986 and picked cornerback Rod Woodson 10th overall in the 1987 NFL Draft; they were 5-11 in 1988, and they picked running back Tim Worley seventh overall in the 1989 NFL Draft; they were 6-10 in 1999, and they picked wide receiver Plaxico Burress eighth overall in the 2000 NFL Draft; and they were 6-10 in 2003, and they picked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger 11th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft.
TIMOTHY WHEELER FROM GRANTHAM, UK: I note your recent answers to salary cap questions. I also note that the salary cap is not yet set for the 2021 season. Is that the case?
ANSWER: The first day of the new league year is set for March 17, 2021, which also is the first day of free agency and the day when all teams must be in compliance with the salary cap. The amount of the 2021 cap per team has yet to be announced.
MIKE CAMPBELL FROM DANVILLE, PA: Is there a cap or dollar limit for the coaching staff?
ANSWER: There is no cap on NFL coaching staffs, scouting departments, training staffs, or any other part of an NFL organization, except for players.
CHARLES MOSS FROM CORTLAND, NY: With all the salary cap issues that not only the Steelers and other organizations are going to have for the foreseeable future, do you see the contracts of elite players being negotiated like the one the New York Mets gave to Bobby Bonilla?
ANSWER: The New York Mets originally signed Bobby Bonilla to a five-year, $29 million contract in December 1991, and after he was traded a few times he ended up back with the Mets in 1999. When the Mets wanted to unload Bonilla a final time in 1999, they still owed him almost $6 million. Instead of just writing a check, the Mets "negotiated" a deferred payment plan that was to run from 2011 through 2035, and this genius idea has the Mets writing Bonilla a check for $1,193,248 every July 1. Bonilla has been getting those checks every July 1 since 2011, and he will get those checks every July 1 through 2035. Do you actually believe that's a business model worth following? Instead of paying Bonilla $6 million, they'll end up paying hm close to $30 million.
DREW KACZMAREK FROM LAS CRUCES, NM: Do you believe Avery Williamson has a future with the Steelers?
ANSWER: I believe some team will offer Avery Williamson a contract as an unrestricted free agent that will pay him more than the Steelers will be able to match.
MARKUS BACHE FROM MANNHEIM, GERMANY: Do you think that there is any possibility that the Steelers pick a quarterback in the first round of the draft despite the signing of Dwayne Haskins? Maybe if, for example, Kyle Trask is available?
ANSWER: If Ben Roethlisberger returns for 2021, there is no chance, in my opinion. If Roethlisberger isn't back, it's still highly unlikely the Steelers would use their first-round pick on a quarterback. If at the time of the draft, the Steelers' only two quarterbacks under contract are Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins, they could pick one but even then it wouldn't be on the first round.
JIM ONAITIS FROM MT. AIRY, MD: What has Ben Roethlisberger been paid over the length of his contract?
ANSWER: According to overthecap.com, Ben Roethlisberger's career earnings are $252.7 million.
LOGAN TONKOVICH FROM ADENA, OH: I've heard a rumor about Bud Dupree potentially returning to the Steelers on a team friendly one-year deal because he doesn't believe this is the year to cash in on a big deal and wants to contend with the Steelers for another season. Do you believe that may be true?
ANSWER: My policy is not to believe rumors, especially when they come off as wishful thinking, which is how I would describe that one.
NICHOLAS ROGERS FROM SCRANTON, PA: Out of Tyson Alualu and Chris Wormley, both unrestricted free-agent-to-be defensive linemen, who stands a better chance of getting re-signed by the Steelers?
ANSWER: I would say Tyson Alualu has more value to the Steelers because of his ability to play all three positions on the defensive line.
WAYNE REEP FROM LINCOLNTON, NC: What would happen if the Steelers decided to take the hit and just stay over the salary cap?
ANSWER: The NFL would come down hard on any team that chose such open defiance of a financial pillar of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. There would be a significant fine – millions (plural) of dollars – and forfeiture of draft picks. And if the situation wasn't remedied almost immediately, the penalties would grow in more millions (plural) of dollars in fines and the forfeiture of more draft picks. It would be ugly and get uglier by the day.
AVERY CLARK FROM BRENTWOOD, PA: Would you be at all surprised if the Steelers picked offensive linemen in each of the first two rounds?
ANSWER: Not really, although if I had to make a prediction today, I would go with an offensive lineman on the first round and a running back in the second round.
TONY LIPINSKI FROM CLARKSVILLE, TN: I keep hearing that some Steelers fans are boo-hooing the promotion of Matt Canada to offensive coordinator and Adrian Klemm to offensive line coach. I say give these guys a chance before downplaying the promotion. What is your take on these promotions?
ANSWER: It's understandable that some fans were hoping for something different when Randy Fichtner and Shaun Sarrett didn't have their contracts renewed, but I have come to realize I don't know much about the abilities of various coaching candidates, and my experience has taught me not to overestimate my knowledge of who would be a good candidate. I remember specifically being very disappointed when Bill Cowher hired a guy to be the secondary coach on his first staff who had been fired by the Cincinnati Bengals. Why would anybody think hiring a guy who had been fired by the Bengals was a good idea? But Dick LeBeau turned out to know what he was doing.
STEVEN LINDSEY FROM MATTESON, IL: Recalling the trade for Jerome Bettis: the St. Louis Rams had a big back, supposedly with "attitude problems." Still, the Steelers traded for him and now he has a bust in Canton and helped lead the Steelers to a Lombardi Trophy. I see the same scenario in Dallas. In 2020, Ezekiel Elliot was underused and unhappy. I'd love to see him in a Steelers uniform for next year. Are the Steelers considering any trade to get a true power runner?
ANSWER: I am on record as being in favor of the Steelers upgrading themselves at running back during this offseason, but when a team is cap-strapped and in need of all of its draft picks to fortify different areas of its roster, a trade would be a foolish and wasteful expenditure of cap space and draft capital.
JUSTIN BAKER FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: What do you see the Steelers doing with the running back position? After finishing last in the NFL in rushing, do we go and get a Najee Harris, or do we re-tool the offensive line and re-sign James Conner?
ANSWER: Use the draft to fortify both the offensive line and the depth chart at running back. And what I'm certainly not doing is trading for Ezekiel Elliott.
DAVE HENEFELT FROM HUDSON, FL: If Bud Dupree and JuJu Smith-Schuster leave, and Maurkice Pouncey retires, how much cap relief is that?
ANSWER: Both Bud Dupree and JuJu Smith-Schuster are unrestricted free agents, which means their contracts expire on the first day of the new league year. There is no salary cap relief for a team losing unrestricted free agents, because their contracts expire on the same day as the 2021 salary cap goes into effect. If Maurkice Pouncey retires, he would count $6.475 million in dead money on the 2021 salary cap. If he returns for the 2021 season, his cap number would be $14.475 million.