Let's get to it:
BILL ROSENBERGER FROM CARROLLTON, OH:
Now that Martavis Bryant has applied for reinstatement with the league, what is the process from this point on? Does the league have a deadline to accept/deny his application? Is there anything for the Steelers to do other than decide if they want to keep him or cut him? Obviously, it would be nice to know what's going to happen with him before the draft and/or the start of free agency.
ANSWER: According to Thomas Santanello, who is Martavis Bryant's agent, the formal application for reinstatement has been submitted, but according to the NFL's drug policy that's just the first step. This is how the language of the drug policy reads as it pertains to applying for reinstatement:
"His application should include all pertinent information about the Player's: (a) Treatment; (b) Abstinence from Substances of Abuse throughout the entire period of his banishment; (c) Involvement with any Substances of Abuse related incidents; and (d) Arrests and/or convictions for any criminal activity, including Substances of Abuse-related offenses."
Then, there are five other steps that must be completed, and they range from being interviewed by some of the league's medical personnel, to releasing a bunch of information pertaining to substance abuse history to attendance at counseling to attendance at rehab, to submitting to urinalysis at a frequency to be determined by the NFL's medical advisor, to meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell. If all of this happens in a timely fashion, the commissioner could render a decision within 60 days of receipt of the application for reinstatement.
In other words, it's a long, involved process, with the hope being the team would have some idea of Bryant's status before the NFL Draft.
JACK RAMSAY FROM CINCINNATI, OH:
Assuming Martavis Bryant is reinstated this year , how many more years will the Steelers control his contract?
ANSWER: I have answered this one a bunch of times already, but since his official application for reinstatement is something of a mile marker in the process, I'll do it again. As a fourth-round draft pick in 2014, Martavis Bryant signed the standard four-year rookie contract, which bound him to the team through the 2017 season. Since he was suspended for all of 2016, that contract now binds him to the team through the 2018 season.
BOB BRILL FROM CALABASAS, CA:
I decided to keep Martavis Bryant on my keeper Fantasy Team. As a native Pittsburgher and die-hard Steelers fan, what's your inside info on him returning this coming season, and his ability to rebound to his old self?
ANSWER: I have no inside info, and neither does anyone else, truly. There are guesses, there are hopeful predictions, but there really isn't anything in the area of inside info. And I have no idea whether Martavis Bryant has the "ability to rebound to his old self." You can hope for the best, but other than that it's going to be a process. As the saying goes, one day at a time.
DYLAN SHEARS FROM PARKERSBURG, WV:
I firmly believe Ben Roethlisberger will be back next season, but his talking about retiring in a roundabout way does raise some concern as to how much longer he will play. If he did decide not to return for the 2017 season, which player in the draft do you believe would be the best fit for the team at quarterback? And if Ben does return for 2017, do you still think it's time to draft a quarterback at some point in the draft in order to prepare for the inevitable future without Ben?
ANSWER: This is not a good draft class for quarterbacks, and so I'm going to go with "none" as the answer to your first question. And "no" as the answer to the second, because I believe Ben Roethlisberger will play to the end of his existing contract.
SCOTT WALRAVEN FROM BROOKS, GA:
For two or three years now we have heard about the offense wanting to score 30 points a game. Other than a few flashes in insignificant games, in my opinion we struggle mightily scoring. Given the playmakers we have, what do you see as being the biggest problem keeping us from scoring consistently?
ANSWER: I'm going to get to your question, but first this: I absolutely hate when fans make a generalization based on a personal opinion/bias and present it as fact. "Other than a few flashes in insignificant games" is an example. The Steelers scored 31 points against the Ravens on Christmas Day to clinch the AFC North. Hardly insignificant. They scored 43 in a win over Kansas City on Oct. 2. In 2015, the scored 33 in a win over the Bengals in Cincinnati, and then 34 the next week in a win over Denver at Heinz Field. Again, not insignificant games vs. insignificant opponents, and those are just a few examples.
With that out of the way, I get your point about needing to score more points, with the most recent examples also being glaring ones – those being the playoff win in Kansas City and the AFC Championship Game the following week against the Patriots in Foxborough. Where I would disagree with you is in your assessment of the current state of the Steelers' available playmakers. During training camp in 2015 – when the Steelers began opening practice every day with "seven shots," where it was offense vs. defense for seven plays from the 2-yard line – the offense was deploying Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Heath Miller, and Le'Veon Bell to go along with Ben Roethlisberger. Based on that personnel grouping, it was like stealing for the offense, because there was no way to cover/defend all five of those guys on the same play, and the Steelers in fact converted an NFL best 8-for-11 two-point conversion attempts during that regular season.
In Kansas City, there was no Wheaton nor Bryant nor Miller, and in Foxborough, there also was no Bell. This isn't meant to be an excuse for the offense, because the unit didn't produce what was necessary in these playoffs, but the Steelers are not overstocked with playmakers, at least not to the degree they were at the start of 2015. Still, the red zone efficiency was not what it needed to be to get the Steelers to the Super Bowl.
VICTOR FANKS FROM FT. BRAGG, NC:
Do you think that the Steelers should draft quarterback Nate Peterman from Pitt in the second round?
ANSWER: I have seen Nate Peterman a few times on television, so I'm not an expert on him, but from what I saw I don't believe he's a starting quarterback in the NFL. At least not a full-time starter on a contending team, and if you spend a second-round pick on a quarterback it should be because you see him as a full-time starting quarterback. So based on that, my answer would be no.
CHRIS FERGUSON FROM GREENVILLE, SC:
What do you think will happen with Ryan Shazier in the offseason?
ANSWER: Ah, a Magic 8-Ball question. Let me start with this: I have no way of gauging what interest there might be in Jarvis Jones on the open market, but I still believe Jones will opt to leave as an unrestricted free agent, if for no other reason than to get a fresh start on his career. Because here, there already has been a decision made that he's not starting material.
JEFF TRODDEN FROM YORK, PA:
Since William Gay wasn't really needed or used, do you think the Steelers could use him in a trade to move up in the draft ?
ANSWER: Zach Mettenberger was claimed by the Steelers on waivers from San Diego on Aug. 31. At that point – Aug. 31 – waiver priority is given based on team's final record from the 2015 season. The Steelers were at No. 25, which means 24 teams at a higher waiver priority than the Steelers had a chance to put in a claim for Zach Mettenberger but chose not to do so. As a result, I just don't perceive enough interest in him that a team would trade something – even if only a few spots in a round in a draft, and certainly not the first round – to acquire him. Not at this point, because as you point out, in 2016 Mettenberger wasn't "needed or used."