Let's get to it:
TIMOTHY RICHARD FROM SULPHUR, LA: Just out of curiosity, can you tell us what franchise in league history has the most people enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
ANSWER: According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Bears, who entered the NFL as the Decatur Staleys in 1920 lead with 28 players/coaches/contributors who "made the major part of their primary contribution" to qualifying for the Hall of Fame with that franchise. Next is the Green Bay Packers with 25, and then it's the Steelers with 21. The New York Football Giants, and the Washington Redskins, also known as the Boston Braves and the Boston Redskins, are tied with 20. These numbers do not include any of the early announcements made over the weekend for the Class of 2020.
DIABLO SAYAYIN FROM CDMX, MEXICO: Which players will we inevitably lose during the free agency period? Is it true that Javon Hargrave is sure to receive better deals and leave the team?
ANSWER: The Steelers have eight players who will become eligible for unrestricted free agency in March, and they are: Artie Burns, Sean Davis, Bud Dupree, B.J. Finney, Javon Hargrave, Tyler Matakevich, Nick Vannett, and L.T. Walton. I believe the Steelers will find a way to tag Dupree to keep him; that Burns and Davis will choose to leave in search of an opportunity to start with a different team; that Finney would be first in line to start at left guard if the Steelers decide to cut ties with Ramon Foster, which might be an incentive for him to want to stay; that Matakevich might choose to leave for an opportunity to get more playing time on defense; that Hargrave may find other teams can offer more money to leave than the Steelers could offer him to stay; and that neither Vannett nor Walton will be hot commodities on the open market.
WADE AGES FROM DALLAS, TX: In your Jan. 9 edition of Asked and Answered, you said you expected the Steelers to bring in four quarterbacks to training camp, and that you expected those four to be Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges, and Paxton Lynch. The Steelers recently signed J.T. Barrett to a reserve/futures contract as a quarterback. Is there a scenario where he is one of the four?
ANSWER: Normally, the Steelers bring four quarterbacks to training camp, and so normally, with five quarterbacks under contract, one would likely be waived before the start of training camp based on performance/potential during the offseason program. But this is shaping up to be something other than a normal offseason in that with Bill Cowher already announced as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2020 and with Donnie Shell and Troy Polamalu and Alan Faneca maybe joining him, the Steelers are looking more and more and more likely to be one of the teams selected to play in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 6 in Canton as part of Hall of Fame Weekend. With an extra preseason game and the extra week-to-10 days of training camp that come along with it, and with Roethlisberger likely to be monitored closely as he works himself back from the surgery on his right elbow, there is a possibility, maybe a strong one, that the Steelers would bring five quarterbacks to Saint Vincent College. If that happens, I would predict when the Steelers need roster spots to add camp bodies once injuries set in, the fifth quarterback, whomever that is at the time, would be one of the first waived to open up a spot.
DAVID PICKEL FROM SPRING LAKE, NC: With the offense struggling so mightily this year, what do you think the Steelers can do to help avoid such a thing from happening next year? I know about the injuries, but it seemed some of the players who needed to step up didn't, or just seemed to be unable to answer the call. How do you think that the Steelers will address this?
ANSWER: I would contend that by your question you actually don't understand the ramifications of the injuries. Losing Ben Roethlisberger meant more to the offense than just being without the franchise quarterback. No Roethlisberger meant opponents could load up to stop the running game; no Roethlisberger exacerbated the youth and inexperience of the wide receivers; no Roethlisberger highlighted the thinness of the depth chart at tight end. What can the Steelers do to avoid the issues they had on offense throughout 2019? Keep the franchise quarterback healthy would be an excellent place to start.
IVAN CATAROCHE FROM PORTSMOUTH, UK : Thanks for the info from the other side of the pond. Who is responsible for coaching/running the practice squad?
ANSWER: The players on the practice squad are not separated from the guys on the 53-man roster in the way your question suggests. The running backs on the practice squad attend meetings with the running backs on the 53-man roster and are coached by the same assistant who works with the running backs on the 53-man roster. And that's the way it goes with all of the guys on the practice squad. It's handled on a position-by-position basis.
MICHAEL FILAK FROM PLANO, TX: Noticing in the schedule for the Divisional Round that the No. 1 seeds both play on Saturday and the No. 2 seeds both play on Sunday. Is this a minor perk where the No. 1 seeds gets a potential extra day before the Conference Championship Game? Or was this just the way it played out this year?
ANSWER: I would tend to believe it has more to do with the matchups for television, in terms of which network gets which game in the Divisional Round. It really cannot be a perk for the No. 1 seeds, because what about in a case where the No. 1 seed loses its Divisional Round Game, as the Ravens did last Saturday?
JOE KILBURG FROM CLARK, NJ: If I remember correctly, Hines Ward expressed interest in being the Steelers' wide receivers coach. Do you believe Hines would make a good receivers coach? And do you think the Steelers would be interested? That's if he's even available.
ANSWER: I'm going to answer this hypothetically. As for Hines Ward's availability, the New York Jets continue to list him as an offensive assistant, so my feeling is that Ward is not available to be hired by another team. But if he were available, I tend to believe Ward killed his chances by publicly questioning Ben Roethlisberger's leadership last offseason when many national media and several ex-players decided to weigh in on Roethlisberger by criticizing him after Antonio Brown went off the rails. The Steelers clearly cast their lot with Roethlisberger by making a significant commitment to him with that lucrative contract extension, and so when Ward came out publicly with his criticism I would believe he eliminated himself from consideration for a job on the coaching staff.
MATTHEW RICHARDSON FROM MOODY, AL: How do you feel about the Steelers drafting quarterback Jalen Hurts if he falls to the second round?
ANSWER: Ah, a question from Alabama about a player who used to play for the Crimson Tide before transferring to Oklahoma. There are a bunch of players from the University of Alabama I would love the Steelers to draft in late April, but a quarterback isn't one of them. Now, if one of those Alabama receivers, or that running back, were available, you might be onto something.
MICHAEL McDONALD FROM MOBILE, AL: Can the Steelers sign Sutton Smith now that the Seahawks have lost in the playoffs and their season is over? I just hate to waste draft picks, and I believe he would have made the 53 man roster if not for an injury.
ANSWER: Sutton Smith spent the final portion of the season on Seattle's practice squad, and he was on the Seahawks' sideline during the Divisional Round loss to the Packers in Green Bay. I highly doubt he would be interested in coming back to a Steelers team that waived him at the end of training camp and then cut him from the practice squad some time after that. I expect Smith to sign a futures contract with Seattle and then spend the offseason getting ready to take a shot at making the Seahawks team/practice squad in 2020.