Let’s get to it:
RONELL GARY FROM WIMAUMA, FL: Could you summarize what went wrong in the two years the Steelers had to negotiate a contract with Le’Veon Bell? Was it a question of money, or the length of the contract, or what?
ANSWER: Le’Veon Bell wanted more guaranteed money over the length of the contract than the Steelers were willing to give.
JIM JORDAN FROM BLOOMINGTON, IL: In the Jan 15 edition of Asked and Answered, you wrote that the league thinks the amount of a Le’Veon Bell tag is $9 million and the union contends it’s closer to $14 million. I thought I read back when he didn’t sign the last tag that a third tag would put him at quarterback money, or somewhere in the $20 million range.
ANSWER: You have your tags confused. A third consecutive franchise tag would carry a tender in the amount of “upwards of $25 million,” according to NFL.com. What I wrote for the Jan 15 edition of Asked and Answered referred to the transition tag. The franchise tag and the transition tag are completely different, and they require completely different tender amounts.
KARL WHITE FROM CRESTLINE, CA: I have yet to get a clear explanation of how/why the Steelers would be on the hook for $21 million if they trade Antonio Brown. I get the Collective Bargaining Agreement has language in it to that effect, but as I don't have a copy of the CBA with me, can you explain why if the Steelers, or any team, trade a player they do not also automatically trade the contract?
ANSWER: You answered your own question. The reason why “the Steelers, or any team, trade a player they do not also automatically trade the contract” is because “the Collective Bargaining Agreement has language in it to that effect.” Therefore, that’s the law of the NFL, and that’s why. Just so you know, that contingency was a part of the original Collective Bargaining Agreement when the NFL first went to a system of free agency tied to a salary cap back in 1993.
TOM GORSKI FROM MONROEVILLE, PA: I have a four-part question regarding the Steelers defense: First of all, as I compare players between the Ravens defense and the Steelers defense I see an overall comparable level of talent. Yet the Ravens defense was ranked first and the Steelers in the bottom half of the league. If I am missing a significant disparity in overall talent, where is it?
ANSWER: As you can see, I cut you off after the first part of your four-part question, and that was because you began with inaccurate facts. I also believe the Steelers defense needs to improve, but your statement that “the Ravens defense was ranked first and the Steelers in the bottom half of the league” is false. The Ravens defense was No. 1 in the NFL in total yards per game allowed, and in that particular category, the Steelers defense was No. 6 in the NFL. No. 6 is not in the bottom half of the league.
JASON WOOD FROM LITCHFIELD, IL: We all love our players getting selected to the Pro Bowl to fill in for other people who drop out, but what is your take on the significance of such selections?
ANSWER: Judging that significance is up to each individual, but that whole Pro Bowl scenario is why I place so much more importance on being voted All-Pro than I do on the Pro Bowl. And even though some media outlets claim that it’s acceptable to refer to a player who participates in the Pro Bowl as an All-Pro, that’s simply not true. There could end up being close to 100 players who have an opportunity to participate in a particular Pro Bowl, once the guys with injuries, or the guys on the teams that get to the Super Bowl, or the guys who just aren’t interested in a week in Orlando all are factored into the equation. On an All-Pro team, there are 11 players voted in for offense, 12 players voted in for defense (there’s an extra defensive back because of the amount of nickel alignments teams play nowadays), and four for special teams – a punter, placekicker, punt returner, and kickoff returner. That’s it. So if you’re an first-team All-Pro center, as an example, that means you were voted the best center in the NFL. That’s significant.
BEN MONTANARELLO FROM FISHKILL, NY: As far as obtaining another running back to maybe back up James Conner, would Art Rooney II consider going after Kareem Hunt this offseason to fortify the running back position? Hunt has some baggage, but would or could the Steelers organization look past the controversy and go after this high-powered running back?
ANSWER: I don’t get it. I truly don’t. I get submissions to this forum where fans moan and complain about drama, about players who aren’t good citizens, about players who aren’t “real Steelers,” about how they would rather have their favorite team be 8-8 than go 14-2 with bad people who are me-first players. Hunt’s “baggage,” by the way involves a video of him shoving and kicking a woman, and now I get a submission that’s obviously in favor of signing the guy. Run Le’Veon Bell out of town because he wants a lot of money, but sign a guy who’s on video shoving and kicking a woman. And signing the guy who’s on video shoving and kicking a woman to be a backup running back? A backup? Come on.
BUTCH QUICKEL FROM YORK, PA: How come we lost Mike Munchak? Didn't he improve our offensive line play?
ANSWER: Mike Munchak is one of the premier offensive line coaches at any level of football, and he indeed improved that unit during his five seasons as a Steelers assistant coach. Here is what Munchak told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about why he left the Steelers to take the same job with the Denver Broncos: “As my career shows, when I get somewhere, I stay there. When this opportunity came up (in Denver) to work in a city with my daughter, her husband, my granddaughter and my other daughter not far away in L.A., that’s what we wanted. I’m not 30 or 40 years old anymore. I’m 58 and different things become important as you age. It was a family decision all the way. This was all about family from the beginning. If my daughter lived (in Pittsburgh), I wouldn’t have taken any head coaching interviews. I’d rather be a line coach here than a head coach anywhere else, other than family.”
GEORGE MCWILLUMS FROM BUTLER, PA: I know you criticized my question about Johnny Manziel last week, but I'm a smart guy and a robotics engineer from Ohio State. I shouldn't be treated like that.
ANSWER: I’ll make you a deal: If I ever send you a ridiculous question about robotics, you can make fun of me. And as I mentioned in that answer, I ignored your question for quite some time in an effort to be kind, but you wouldn’t give it up. And just so you know, I have included one of the kinds of submissions (see below) from other fans who think the same way about the Steelers adding Johnny Manziel to the roster. The mere idea of it can drive fans to drink.
GARY BROUSE FROM OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA: It's 4:40 a.m., and I couldn't sleep. I just read your response to yesterday's question on Johnny Manziel and I laughed, had a shot of brandy, and went back to bed. Mr. McWillums probably has not had a chance to watch Johnny play in the CFL. He's had a hard time adjusting.
ANSWER: OK, so can we be done with the Johnny Manziel questions?
ISRAEL PICKHOLTZ FROM JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: When Art Rooney II says “nobody gets absolved” for the disappointing 2018 season and includes the front office, that begs the question: What will Bob Labriola and Missi Matthews do to win a championship in 2019?
ANSWER: Missi will bang the bell more often to keep me and Mike Prisuta in line during episodes of Agree to Disagree, and I will be more sarcastic with people who send in ridiculous questions for Asked and Answered. You have been warned.