Let's get to it:
JOE WERNER FROM WEST HENRIETTA, NY: Besides Donnie Shell and James Harrison, who are some other undrafted players who have gone on to have productive careers with the Steelers?
ANSWER: Willie Parker. Nate Washington. Matt Feiler is currently a starting offensive lineman, so I contend he qualifies. If you want to go back in franchise history, I also would offer Jack Butler, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. Undoubtedly there are more, but those are the ones who immediately come to mind.
JAY BALL FROM LEXINGTON, KY: What is Roosevelt Nix's contract situation? Is he in danger of being a salary cap casualty?
ANSWER" Roosevelt Nix is signed through the 2021 season, and he will count $1.89 million on the 2020 salary cap. That's not an outrageous amount by any means, and Nix is a valuable core special teams player in addition to being the only fullback on the roster.
JOE POMPEO FROM POLAND, OH: It looks like the Steelers currently have five picks in this year's upcoming draft. Is this the fewest number of draft picks the Steelers have had in any given draft?
ANSWER: The Steelers also had five picks in the 2003 NFL Draft. The year they picked Troy Polamalu in the first round, Alonzo Jackson in the second round, Ike Taylor in the fourth round, Brian St. Pierre in the fifth round, and J.T. Wall in the seventh round. Five is the fewest number of picks in any draft in franchise history, and I remind you the league has yet to announce the awarding of compensatory picks for 2020.
BRIAN MORELLA FROM POLAND, OH: When the NFL calculates the compensatory draft choices a team gets for losing a free agent, do they look at where that player was drafted or their performance? For example, since Artie Burns was a first round pick, would he possibly help the Steelers receive a high comp pick in 2021?
ANSWER: The factors weighed in the awarding of compensatory picks are the amount of the contract the free agent signs with his new team, and how that player performs in his first season there – Pro Bowl, All-Pro, Super Bowl MVP, as examples. How high or how low he originally was drafted has no bearing.
TONY MODZELEWSKI FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: While Hodges may have the "it" factor he's proven he doesn't have the arm factor, so why bring him back when there may be a Tom Brady sixth-round pick out there somewhere? Would it not be wiser to roll the dice on someone unknown as opposed to someone who has proven he's not an NFL quarterback?
ANSWER: Finding Tom Brady in the sixth round of an NFL Draft is a one-in-a-million shot, and if that's the way you like to gamble your money, best of luck to you. And while I'm not endorsing Devlin Hodges as a lock to earn a spot on the 53-man roster, I also don't believe the Steelers will be spending ANY of their 2020 draft capital on a quarterback. There are five quarterbacks under contract with the Steelers right now: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges, Paxton Lynch, and J.T. Barrett. When the regular season opens in eight months, the Steelers will have three quarterbacks on the initial 53-man roster, and my money would be on it being three of those five I just mentioned. That's how I would gamble my money.
ANDY ROY FROM MISSOULA, MT: Have the Steelers ever played three quarterbacks and made the playoffs? And has any NFL team ever played three quarterbacks and made the playoffs?
ANSWER: The Steelers started three different quarterbacks in 2015 – Ben Roethlisberger started 11 games, Mike Vick started three games, and Landry Jones started two games. That team finished 10-6, qualified for the playoffs as a Wild Card, defeated the Bengals in Cincinnati, 18-16, in the Wild Card Round, before losing to the Broncos in Denver, 23-16, in the Divisional Round.
RICK SMEARCHECK FROM FAIRFIELD, KY: I see a lot of the early mock drafts having the team taking a quarterback or a running back. While either position could maybe be addressed, I personally feel like they need to address the offensive line, defensive line, outside linebacker, and wide receiver spots first, depending on who is or isn't retained. What positions do you see them addressing in this draft?
ANSWER: If you enjoy reading the various and never-ending mock drafts for entertainment, then have at it and enjoy. But if you do it looking for accurate information, you are WASTING YOUR TIME. Those people are guessing, and they're guessing in the early mock drafts, they're guessing in the intermediate mock drafts, and they're guessing in the latest mock drafts. If they did a mock draft 30 seconds before Roger Goodell first took the podium to announce the start of the draft, they would be guessing. With that off my chest, I see the Steelers spending most of their draft capital in 2020 on offensive positions, but not a quarterback.
RAY GREHOFSKY FROM BLACKSBURG, VA: I just wanted to thank you for taking time to speak with the Steelers equipment guy to find cleats for a young player with size-17 feet.
ANSWER: I have to pass along the credit for that, because the guys in the Steelers equipment room always are willing to cooperate with answers to questions whenever possible. They never fail to take the time to respond.
MICHAEL POLECHKO FROM MOUNT PLEASANT, PA: If the Patriots should choose to use the franchise tag on Tom Brady, what would the salary be and how is it calculated?
ANSWER: The tender amounts for the franchise tag and the transition tag are determined by the league and announced around mid-February. Those amounts are calculated by the NFL in conjunction with the announcement of what the per team salary cap will be for the coming season.
GARRETT PUGH FROM EUGENE, OR: In your opinion, what is the likelihood the Steelers sign an experienced quarterback this offseason to take over the primary backup role? Do you think Marcus Mariota would ever be on the radar for us?
ANSWER: Once again, Coach Mike Tomlin and President Art Rooney II have said publicly that they are comfortable with Mason Rudolph as Ben Roethlisberger's backup in 2020. And they said so publicly in response to direct questions. The coach and the boss. Both. I don't believe either of those men are liars.
MICHAEL JAKUBOWSKI FROM BURLINGTON, ONTARIO, CANADA: With Joe Burrows likely going to the Bengals, a lot of fans are quite anxious about all the high caliber first-round picks playing quarterback in the AFC North Division. Do you think the Steelers should just leave the NFL and try to join the XFL where we might have a chance to win?
ANSWER: Join the XFL? Landry Jones is a starting quarterback for the XFL's Dallas Renegades. Maybe the Steelers should petition to join the CFL.
JASON SAGER FROM GALLOWAY, OH: Should we try Dez Bryant for a year to see what he can do?
ANSWER: This isn't fantasy football, nor is it a video game. Do you honestly think Dez Bryant would agree to a short-term, salary-cap-friendly contract so the Steelers could "try him out for a year?" My feeling is the answer to that one is a hard "no." So I would rather have the team invest its cap money on keeping Bud Dupree and working on extensions for Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt. And after some years of drama and turmoil created by divas, do you really want to dive back into that kind of situation with a guy you'd be adding as an unrestricted free agent? Me neither.