Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Jan. 14

Let's get to it:

AMY LEWIS FROM BROOKINGS, SD: Could you provide a list of the Steeler free agents this year?
ANSWER: The Steelers have 19 players who potentially could become unrestricted free agents, and two who could potentially become restricted free agents.

UNRESTRICTED: 19 (listed alphabetically): NT Tyson Alualu, T Zach Banner, P Jordan Berry, RB James Conner, SS Jordan Dangerfield, FS Sean Davis, QB Joshua Dobbs, OLB Bud Dupree, OLB Jayrone Elliott, G Matt Feiler, T Jerald Hawkins, CB Mike Hilton, G Danny Isidora, OLB Cassius Marsh, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, CB Cam Sutton, T Alejandro Villanueva, ILB Avery Williamson, and DE Chris Wormley.

RESTRICTED: 2 (listed alphabetically): OLB Ola Adeniyi, WR Ray-Ray McCloud.

PATRICK VEST FROM TORRANCE, CA: If Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey decided to retire during this offseason, how much dead money would they cost against the 2021 salary cap?
ANSWER: If Ben Roethlisberger retires this offseason, his contract would charge $22.25 million in dead money on the 2021 salary cap; for Maurkice Pouncey, that figure would be $6.475 million.

JON SWEETEN FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA: What is the cap hit if Ben Roethlisberger returns in 2021 to finish his current contract? What is the cap hit if he retires now? What is the cap hit if he is traded?
ANSWER: The hit to a team's salary cap is the same whether the player retires or is traded, and that number appears in the answer above. If Ben Roethlisberger plays the 2021 season under the terms of his current contract, he would count $41.25 million on the Steelers salary cap.

TYLER LINCOLN FROM SACRAMENTO, CA: What do think of the Steelers possibly trading for Deshaun Watson?
ANSWER: Well, we can start with this: Deshaun Watson has a no-trade clause in his contract with the Texans, and even if the Texans convince Watson to waive that no-trade clause to go to another team, he would cost Houston $67.14 million in dead money on its 2021 salary cap. I see those two things as deal breakers for any trade of Watson.

TOM McCORMICK FROM FINDLAY, OH: With the defense not recording a sack in Sunday night's game, where did that leave the sack streak of consecutive games? Is that a record that is only applicable to the season or does the postseason games factor in as well?
ANSWER: The record of consecutive games with a sack is a regular season record. So the Steelers not sacking Baker Mayfield in the Wild Card Round game didn't impact the Steelers' streak.

JOSHUA KARPER FROM DANVILLE, OH: I truly believe Sunday night's loss was the most devastating I have ever witnessed as a fan for several reasons, such as COVID-19's impact on the Browns, player chatter prior to the game, the humiliation of a divisional defeat at home, five turnovers, the possibility of the Super Bowl window closing for good, and many more. What is the most devastating loss you have witnessed?
ANSWER: Getting all the way to the Super Bowl and losing that game is very painful, which happened at the conclusion of both the 1995 and 2010 NFL seasons, but the toughest Steelers loss of my working career was the 1994 AFC Championship Game.

JON DOSSEY FROM DEL CITY, OK: If a player retires before his current contract expires, how does it affect the salary cap for that team?
ANSWER: It really depends on that player's contract. Based on the amount of the contract and how much of that was paid in a signing bonus that was spread out over the life of the contract and how far into it the player is before he decides to retire, there could be dead money assessed. There also might not be any dead money assessed. It's impossible to give you an accurate answer without knowing the player, the status of his contract, and when he is deciding to retire.

BROOKS LAVER FROM HARRISONBURG, VA: Could Joshua Dobbs be the Steelers' next quarterback?
ANSWER: It's not impossible, but there are some fairly significant hurdles in the way. First of all, Joshua Dobbs can be an unrestricted free agent in March. Also, because Mason Rudolph was the backup quarterback all season and Dobbs was No. 3 and therefore inactive for all but the regular season finale, it's apparent the Steelers believe Rudolph is better. Based on the way things stand today, I don't see it happening.

TERRY PECK FROM SPRINGFIELD, OH: Is it possible to narrow the running game issues down to one or two specific areas? Was it offensive line play, tight ends not sustaining blocks, or something else?
ANSWER: Forced to pick one shortcoming, I would point to the offense not winning enough of the one-on-one physical confrontations on a consistent basis.

DAVE NEGRYCH FROM WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA: Is it normal to not play one of your best cornerbacks during a playoff game? Where was Joe Haden?
ANSWER: Joe Haden previously had tested positive for COVID-19, and at the time of the Wild Card Round game vs. the Browns had not yet cleared the protocol to be eligible to play. Officially, Haden was on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

RON GONZALES FROM LAKEWOOD, CO: When Maurkice Pouncey snapped the ball over Ben Roethlisberger's head resulting in a touchdown for the Browns, how is that scored?
ANSWER: It was scored a fumble, and the fumble was charged to Maurkice Pouncey.

JOHN HAARBAUER FROM SPRING GREEN, WI: Mason Rudolph played a respectable game in the regular season finale against the Browns. What was his passer rating?
ANSWER: In that game, Mason Rudolph completed 22-of-39 (56.4 percent) for 315 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception, and a rating of 89.2.

RICK HAWTHORNE FROM TITUSVILLE, FL: On kickoffs, how are live balls that bounce in the end zone now dead balls and don't have to be covered and downed? Wouldn't it be a strategy worth employing to kick the ball just in bounds forcing the opponent to cover the ball?
ANSWER: When the NFL decided to de-emphasized kickoffs in the interest of player safety, one of the changes made was that as soon as a kickoff hits the ground in the end zone, it is automatically a touchback and the receiving team gets the ball at the 25-yard line. Your suggestion for a "strategy worth employing" in fact is attempted, but it's not as easy as you make it sound to drop a kickoff around the 1-yard line with enough hang time for it to be covered well enough to prevent the returner from advancing the ball beyond the 25-yard line. Also, if the returner simply lets the ball hit the ground, and it bounces across the goal line and into the end zone, it's an automatic touchback based on the rule change I previously explained.

DERL HICKS FROM ARKANSAS CITY, KS: How do fans express their appreciation to the players and team? I'm sure there are a lot of negatives going on right now, but as a lifelong Steelers fan I enjoy watching them, reading about them, and keeping up with what's going on with the team and players. The season didn't end the way anyone wanted, but I want the team to know how much they are appreciated.
ANSWER: Maybe including your submission here, along with a couple of others (see below), will get your message across.

KATHY ADAMS FROM STATE COLLEGE, PA: I want to thank the Steelers organization, especially the coaches and players, for us being able to have a football season. For a few hours every week, I was able to escape the reality of this publicly and privately dreadful year. Sunday night's game was too painful to watch to the end, but I still look forward to next year.

STEVE STRUNK FROM WALLINGFORD, KY: I do not have a question but would like to express my gratitude for the Steelers this year. Even though the season ended before anyone would have liked, I still enjoyed watching them play every game. This was a strange year to say the least, and I had a lot of personal challenges that were at times hard to deal with. The Steelers gave me a few hours each week to cheer for my team and to be able to ignore the problems around me. Win or lose, I would like to be able to send my thanks to the team for the hard work and efforts to entertain all of us.