Let's get to it:
ROBERT ANAVIAN FROM REDONDO BEACH, CA: Who are the most notable offensive linemen the Steelers have chosen in the first round of the draft?
ANSWER: In the 52 drafts since Chuck Noll was hired in 1969, the Steelers have picked an offensive lineman on the first round only seven times. If by "notable," you mean good, I offer you three names: Alan Faneca in 1998, Maurkice Pouncey in 2010, and David DeCastro in 2012. If by "notable," you mean a mistake, there are two who stand out: John Rienstra in 1986 and Jamain Stephens in 1996.
JOHN SAUERS FROM NORTHLAKE, TX: Assuming the Steelers do not restructure the current contracts for the following players, what is each player's salary cap impact for the 2021 season: Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Vance McDonald, Derek Watt and Vince Williams? What would be the salary cap impact if the Steelers were to release each player?
ANSWER: Based on published reports, the following are the salary cap numbers (rounded up/down in some cases) to keep the player vs. trade/cut the player: Ben Roethlisberger: $41.25 million to keep; $22.25 million to cut/trade; Maurkice Pouncey: $14.5 million to keep; $6.5 million to cut/trade; Joe Haden: $15.6 million to keep; $8.6 million to cut/trade; Steven Nelson: $14.4 million to keep; $6.2 million to cut/trade; Vance McDonald: $7.9 million to keep; $2.7 million to cut/trade; Derek Watt: $3.8 million to keep; $1.1 million to cut/trade; and Vince Williams: $7.03 to keep; $3.03 million to cut/trade.
DAVID MILES FROM SOUTH BLEND FALLS, NY: Been hearing a lot of chatter about Deshaun Watson being unhappy in Houston. That being said as I don't believe we have our next starting quarterback currently on our roster, can you see any way we could bring Watson in to spend a year learning the system and building rapport with the team while backing up Ben Roethlisberger? Just trying to envision what the future looks like for the Steelers at quarterback.
ANSWER: Whatever the future might be for the Steelers at quarterback, this is definitely not it. If Ben Roethlisberger is on the Steelers roster in 2021, he will count $42 million on the team's salary cap. To get Deshaun Watson from Houston, the Steelers would have to offer significant draft capital to entice the Texans to make a trade, and then Watson would be due $146.5 million on the contract the Steelers would have to assume by making the trade. This is impossible in so many ways, and the most impossible would be any scenario where both are on the roster and one is backing up the other.
ED BURGH FROM NIPOMO, CA: My question regards conditioning. Since it appeared that the team was overmatched physically in so many games and at individual positions, could it be that there may need to be changes in this area?
ANSWER: Yes, there have to be changes, but the changes have to be in personnel. In too many areas, the Steelers have gotten old, and age coupled with the inevitable wear-and-tear on bodies that have absorbed so many NFL games take a toll. It's inevitable. It's a fact of professional sports.
H.C. PETLEY FROM CORTEZ, CO: Two scenarios: No. 1: Empty set, the quarterback gets the snap, takes off running to the left, and is tackled behind line of scrimmage. Is this a sack or a tackle for loss? No. 2: The quarterback throws a pass that is intercepted by a cornerback, but the outside linebacker is flagged for encroachment. Does the cornerback get credit for the interception?
ANSWER: No. 1: It's a running play from the time the ball was snapped, and so it's a tackle-for-loss. No. 2: The offense accepts the 5-yard penalty for encroachment and the play that resulted in the interception does not count.
CHASE CROWE FROM GORHAM, NH: Do you think the Steelers could feasibly re-sign both Mike Hilton and Cam Sutton when Bud Dupree most likely takes a bigger contract elsewhere?
ANSWER: Mike Hilton and Cam Sutton also could choose to accept an offer from another team that either pays them more money than the Steelers are offering or maybe offers them a role within the defense they like better than the role they would have by staying here. Both Hilton and Sutton could be re-signed, but I think one of them will end up being lured away by what they perceive to be a better offer/situation.
MICHAEL WOLOZYN FROM OIL CITY, PA: What would you think about hiring Ben Roethlisberger as the offensive coordinator at some point in the future? If he's making/opting out most of the play calls anyway, it would seem to me to be a reasonable move.
ANSWER: I have no idea what Ben Roethlisberger plans to do with his life after football, and in trying to answer this question I'm going to assume he plays out the final year of his contract. In that event, Roethlisberger will have earned something in the neighborhood of $280 million as the Steelers quarterback. Why would he want to start living the life of an NFL coordinator, which during the season entails late nights during the week and games and travel and training camp? Then in the offseason the job would entail preparation for free agency and preparation for the draft and then rookie minicamp and then the offseason program and the OTAs and then minicamp? In so many ways, that life would take him away from his family and things he might want to do with his life more than being a player did. I cannot imagine someone who had made close to $280 million already and will be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and as such could make a fine living doing signings and making appearances would have any interest in that career move. None. In his shoes, I surely wouldn't.
TYLER WENRICH FROM DEVER, PA: Any idea if Tony Romo might come out of the booth and be a coordinator or coach for some team? The Steelers maybe?
ANSWER: According to reports, Tony Romo earns $17 million to be the analyst on CBS' No. 1 broadcast team for NFL football. He might work one or two preseason games, 17 regular season games, and about three playoff games, which could be four in the years CBS has the rights to broadcast the Super Bowl. That's 22 games, maybe 23, and it's a few days of "work" per game. No pressure. No second-guessing. No having to deal with temperamental players or owners. I know which job I would rather have, and Bill Cowher has come to the same conclusion.
RYAN HANNAN FROM MURRELLS INLET, SC: With Ben Roethlisberger asking for JuJu Smith-Schuster to return, do you think it's possible for the team to make that work? And with all the free agents coming up on defense do you think defensive unit will still be top-tier next season as it was the past couple of seasons?
ANSWER: I see this as being an either-or proposition, given recent projections for the 2021 salary cap number. If the Steelers decide to commit the salary cap resources necessary to convince JuJu Smith-Schuster to re-sign, there won't be the amount of space left to devote to the players on defense who will become unrestricted free agents to keep the unit on the top tier.
DEREK LAKE FROM BUSHNELL, FL: Thank you for all you do for Steeler fans. In a previous installment of Asked and Answered, Rod Woodson was brought up as part of a question about the best cornerback in Steelers history. I had a chance to meet Rod, and one thing I noticed was he had extremely big hands and long fingers. Were Mel Blount's hands just as large and long, and do you think it had an effect on why they were so good?
ANSWER: Mel Blount will be 73 years old in April, and he still is an extremely imposing man in person. He doesn't look his age, there is no visible softness to his body that typically develops in older men, and he moves around without any apparent orthopedic issues. And I'm sure his large, strong hands had a lot to do with his ability to lock onto wide receivers and disrupt their pass routes to the extent the NFL decided it had to change the rules to limit that tactic as well as intercept 57 passes during his Hall of Fame career
JERMAINE HALL FROM GROVETOWN, GA: Would you take Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis with the 24th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft?
ANSWER: I don't know nearly enough about the talent pool to make that decision, but I agree with the way you're thinking about the usage of the Steelers' first-round pick. In assessing offensive linemen, tackles typically are picked earliest, and later in the first round is where the interior guys typically start coming off the board. There could be some good value at center and/or guard at No. 24.
RAY HEATON FROM COTTAGE GROVE, MN: If the Steelers cut/trade Vance McDonald, Joe Haden, and David DeCastro, how much cap space would that open up?
ANSWER: After subtracting the dead cap money from what those players are owed, the difference is around $22.5 million in salary cap space.
BEN FIELY FROM MEADVILLE, PA: There are some strong running backs in the draft this year. Do you think instead of taking our annual defensive player with our first-round pick, we should take a running back or a quarterback?
ANSWER: I am not in favor of using the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft on either a quarterback or a running back. Running backs can be found in the third round, and at this early stage of the offseason I believe the Steelers have other pressing needs that need attention before thinking about drafting a quarterback.
DOUG ENDRES FROM LEAD, SD: Since your stated plan on doing Asked and Answered until you hit the Powerball, here's a little lottery humor for you: A man comes home and asked his wife what she would do if he won the lottery. She replies that she would take half and leave him. He told her that he won $12 and said, "Here's $6, now get out."
ANSWER: I'm usually the one who goes for the laugh, but that was pretty good. My wife chuckled, too.