Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 6

Let's get to it:

JUSTICE HAYS-BAER FROM ATLANTA, GA: Considering his injured status last season, do the Steelers plan to remain with James Conner as their primary running back or sign a more reliable experienced one within reason?
ANSWER: One thing I believe fans should understand about this 2020 offseason: the Steelers' participation in free agency is going to be minimal when compared to their participation last year when they added Donte Moncrief, Mark Barron, and Steven Nelson. There isn't the room under the salary cap that there was last year – which primarily was due to Le'Veon Bell sitting out a season's worth of franchise tag paychecks – and what room there will be under the cap, I believe, is going to be earmarked for Bud Dupree (a likely franchise tag recipient) and possible extensions for T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward. Conner is still playing on his rookie contract, which makes him very affordable, and he had a productive season in 2018, so I see the Steelers sticking with him in 2020.

As Steelers President Art Rooney II said on Jan. 15 when asked about Conner, "James unfortunately had bad luck this year in terms of injuries, but when he has been healthy, he has been a very productive player for us. So we'd love to see him come back and be a healthy player over the course of a (full) season."

That doesn't mean there will be no additions at running back, but my guess is any addition would be more likely to happen in the draft than via free agency.

MARK DIGIOVANNA FROM SAN JOSE, CA: What are the chances we could see Greg Olsen in a Steelers uniform next year? Would this make any kind of sense in your opinion?
ANSWER: First of all, read the answer to the previous question about my opinion on the Steelers' level of involvement in free agency this offseason. Secondly, you're asking about a player who will be 35 years old on March 11 and has 188 NFL games over 13 seasons on his body right now.

DOMINICK BELLEZZA FROM WANTAGH, NY: I was curious as to when we'd find out if the Steelers are playing in the Hall of Fame Game? Troy Polamalu getting elected makes it extra enticing to visit this year.
ANSWER: I can tell you two things: Last year, the NFL made the announcement of the teams to participate in the Hall of Fame Game on March 12, and so I would expect this year's announcement to be made at around the same time this year. The other thing is that when Steelers President Art Rooney II was asked on about the possibility of the team playing in Canton this summer, he said, "We're guessing that we'll be in Canton in August, yes."

ZEKE ZUCCO FROM GARDEN GROVE, CA: Hines Ward the new wide receivers coach in 2020?

MARTY WARD FROM SAN JOSE, CA: I know Steve Hutchinson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020, but Alan Faneca wasn't. How do they compare?
ANSWER: Alan Faneca played in 206 games over his 13 NFL seasons, with 201 of those being starts. He was flagged for holding four times in a career that had him voted to nine Pro Bowls and to the Associated Press first-team All-Pro team six times. He also was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's first-team All-2000s team.

Steve Hutchinson played in 169 games over his 11 NFL seasons, with all of those being starts. He was flagged for holding nine times in a career that had him voted to seven Pro Bowls and to the Associated Press first-team All-Pro team five times. He also was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's first-team All-2000s team.

MICHAEL FILAK FROM PLANO, TX: Of the Steelers' Hall of Famers, who all was elected in their first years of eligibility?
ANSWER: Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Chuck Noll, Rod Woodson, and Troy Polamalu all were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in their first years of eligibility.

JEFF MUROSKI FROM POWHATAN, VA: Is there a specific formula that goes into determining an NFL team's schedule? It would seem to be a more fair mix to have equal numbers of home and away games in each half of the NFL season. During the 2019 season, the Steelers played the majority of their road games in the second half of the season.
ANSWER: I don't know that it would be possible to balance things between home games and road games across both halves of a schedule when you have 32 teams to consider. Especially because facilities are unavailable at certain times of the season, with just one example being Jacksonville's stadium being unavailable for the weekend of the annual Florida-Georgia game. And there are a bunch of other factors for the schedule-makers to consider. The best I think teams can expect from the schedule-makers is that everybody in the league gets some misery/unfairness to deal with every year in terms of the schedule. If that happens, then in a perverse way, it is fair.

JOHN SAKALA from MYRTLE BEACH, SC: How much dead cap space money do the Steelers have for 2020? If they brought back a player who was the cause can that dead money be converted to salary or does the obligation remain?
ANSWER: As of now, the Steelers won't be carrying any dead money on their 2020 salary cap, but that could change based on roster moves they could choose to make between now and the first day of the new league year, which is March 18. And, no, re-signing a player who had been cut to create dead money does not remove that dead money from a team's salary cap.

KEVIN WALTERMIRE FROM HAMPTON, VA: The Steelers always have been credited as being great at identifying talented wide receivers in the draft. How much of that should be credited to Darryl Drake?
ANSWER: I admit to being a big Darryl Drake fan, and I believe his untimely death reverberated throughout the entire organization in 2019, not just inside the wide receivers meeting room. But Drake was only with the Steelers for one full season. I do know he was a big proponent of drafting Diontae Johnson, and he could end up being Drake's legacy in terms of what you are referencing.

RAY GREHOFSKY FROM BLACKSBURG, VA: Public Service Announcement request. As we approach the draft and all the experts' mock drafts rain down upon us, would you re-post the famous Pittsburgh Post-Gazette media report from the day after the 1974 draft?
ANSWER: It's unanimously accepted that the best draft in NFL history was the Steelers' in 1974, in which they picked four Hall of Fame players – Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster – on the first five rounds, and then they added another Hall of Famer when they signed their batch of undrafted rookies. Back in those days, the draft included 17 rounds, with the first five being conducted on one day with the final 12 rounds the next day.

The following was written by a sports columnist to appear in the Jan. 30, 1974 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette following the first five rounds of the 1974 NFL Draft, after the Steelers had picked Swann, Lambert, Stallworth, cornerback Jimmy Allen, and Webster:

"The Steelers seem to have come out of the first five rounds of the draft appreciably strengthened at wide receiver but nowhere else. They didn't get a tight end, and the ones remaining are more suspect than prospect. They didn't get a punter, although none of the nation's best collegiate punters went in the first five rounds. They didn't get an offensive tackle who might've shored up what could well become a weakness. What they did get was Swann, who seems to be a sure-pop to help; Lambert, who figures to be the No. 5 linebacker if he pans out; and three question marks."