Let’s get to it:
LEN KRING FROM TELL CITY, IN: Since Matt McCrane was perfect in the game against the Bengals, will he be the kicker in 2019?
ANSWER: After the Steelers’ 16-13 victory over the Bengals, Coach Mike Tomlin awarded Matt McCrane with a game ball for his contributions to that outcome. I believe the Steelers will have some legitimate competition for Chris Boswell through training camp, and if McCrane is interested and has no better options I believe he could be the kicker to provide it.
NATHAN READING FROM CARY, NC: You have said repeatedly that the NFL needs to fix the problem with terrible officiating, and I agree. If you were in charge of the league, what would you do?
ANSWER: If I were in charge, I would do what President Ronald Reagan did with the air-traffic controllers. For readers too young to remember, on Aug. 5, 1981, President Reagan began firing 11,359 air-traffic controllers who continued to strike in violation of his order for them to return to work. The firing slowed commercial air travel for some time, but it didn't come to a grinding halt, and there were no disasters. In the meantime, on Aug. 17 the FAA began accepting applications for new air-traffic controllers and then came the long process of hiring new controllers. So in summary, I would fire all of the current NFL officials and start over, and in doing so I would re-train the new hires into the type of officials I would want working in my league. And I would hold them accountable.
BILLY LAVERDURE FROM FARGO, ND: People are saying it's going to be tough to move on, but with the money freed up by not signing Le’Veon Bell and the possibility of trading Antonio Brown, would that be enough to sign two or more players to fill those voids easily?
ANSWER: Before getting ahead of ourselves with plans to sign free agents, understand that the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement are such that the Steelers would be assessed approximately $22 million in dead cap money if they were to trade Antonio Brown, or cut him.
J.P. BURG FROM GARWOOD, NJ: I got a bad feeling when I first heard Antonio Brown was on the injury list in the days leading up to the season finale vs. the Bengals. I found it strange that the day after JuJu Smith-Schuster was voted team MVP this injury popped up. Now, there are rumors Brown may be gone by the end of the offseason. Do you think that's true?
ANSWER: As I explained in the previous submission, the salary cap hit in the form of dead money that the Steelers would have to absorb if they traded or cut Antonio Brown is considerable, and no team would be willing to give the Steelers fair value in a trade. At this stage of things, and understand that it’s very early in the process, I would think it’s more likely the Steelers keep him than unload him. My opinion.
WILLIAM MCSORLEY FROM MOAB, UT: Will this be the year that management works out a trade and moves up in the draft to fill the void left by Ryan Shazier’s injury?
ANSWER: Making a trade requires a team willing to be a partner in the deal, and the kind of player you’re hoping for the Steelers to acquire is the same kind of player so many other NFL teams are seeking as well. The Steelers have made overtures to trade up in the draft in previous years, but at that stage of the first round teams usually would rather pick from the available talent than to acquire whatever a team might be offering in a trade. It’s a lot more difficult to do than you might think.
NEIL GLASSER FROM MANALAPAN, NJ: What is Mike Tomlin's record vs. the Ravens, Bengals, and Browns?
ANSWER: Since Mike Tomlin was hired in 2007, the Steelers are 13-12 vs. the Ravens, including playoffs; 20-5 vs. the Bengals, including playoffs; and 20-3-1 vs. the Browns.
ROCKY FALLETI FROM YOUNGSTOWN, OH: I asked this question before and you said it was because of the amount of spam that was posted. So I ask you again: Why is it that we cannot post remarks to articles written about the team?
ANSWER: Yes, you indeed asked this question before, and I answered it as you explained. Your question hasn’t changed, and neither has the answer.
RITA BYRD FROM LAKE HAVASU CITY, AZ: Since the realignment to the four-team, four-division format in 2002 the Steelers have only missed the playoffs six times, and five of those have come in years where we played the AFC West. Can you offer any sensible reason why we always play so much worse against AFC West teams, even when they are not very good teams?
ANSWER: If you’re looking for a sensible reason, I have nothing for you. But I would maintain that in two of those seasons – 2006 and 2009 – the team’s Super Bowl hangover had more to do with missing the playoffs than any other reason, and then in 2003 the reason for that team’s losing record was the mistake of believing Tommy Maddox was a capable starting quarterback in the NFL.
NIMA HADIAN FROM EMMAUS, PA: How many times have the Steelers gone to a Super Bowl following a season in which they didn't make the playoffs?
ANSWER: That has happened just once. The Steelers played in Super Bowl XLV the season after not making the playoffs in 2009.
PHILLIPE PETITE FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Why is Ben Roethlisberger coming back for another year? I know he had 5,000 yards passing, but he had close to 20 turnovers, which is why we lost so many games. All the other teams in the AFC North are using their young quarterbacks, and so why are we still using this old, immobile guy? We are not going anywhere anymore with Ben. No one ever blames him when we lose.
ANSWER: “No one ever blames him when we lose.” Isn’t that exactly what you’re doing? I will admit that 16 interceptions, which is the number Ben Roethlisberger threw during the regular season, is too high, but there is a vast, vast difference between asking/expecting him to cut down on that total and moving on to Joshua Dobbs and/or Mason Rudolph starting in 2019. Roethlisberger still has a remarkable ability to move around within the pocket to buy time and create plays down the field to his receivers. And the man just joined an extremely elite group of NFL quarterbacks who have passed for 5,000-plus yards in a season. Let me clue you in on something else: if Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield believe they have a future in the NFL as a running quarterback as opposed to a pocket passer, I suggest they ask Robert Griffin III about that.
JACK G. FOSTER FROM HELENA, MT: Love this feature. I read it earnestly every time it appears on Steelers.com. But what happened to Chalk Talk?
ANSWER: There was no edition of Chalk Talk following the Saints game, because it was Christmas Eve and the vast majority of people are otherwise occupied that evening. There was no edition of Chalk Talk following the game against the Bengals because of a software malfunction. But thanks for being a faithful fan of the show.