Let's get to it:
ALFRED SHROPSHIRE from ROME, GA: Having grown up in Pittsburgh, (and still rooting for the Steelers at age 85), I was wondering, how many top NFL quarterbacks have come from Western Pennsylvania?
ANSWER: According to Profootballhof.com, there are 23 modern era quarterbacks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and six of them are from Western Pennsylvania: George Blanda (Youngwood, Pa.), Johnny Unitas (Pittsburgh), Joe Namath (Beaver Falls, Pa.), Joe Montana (New Eagle, Pa.), Dan Marino (Pittsburgh), and Jim Kelly (Pittsburgh/East Brady, Pa.). In addition to those Hall of Fame members, here are some other quarterbacks from Western Pennsylvania who have had careers in professional football, either in the United States or Canada: Charlie Batch, Marc Bulger, Johnny Lujack, Jeff Hostetler, Gus Frerotte, Willie Thrower, Warren Heller, Tyler Palko, Terrelle Pryor, Alex Van Pelt, Sandy Stephens, Terry Hanratty, Mike McMahon, Major Harris, Matt Cavanaugh, Chuck Fusina, Rod Rutherford, Ted Marchibroda, Babe Parilli, John Hufnagel, Tom Sherman, Richie Lucas, Boyd Brumbaugh, Scott Zolak, Anthony Morelli, Ed Matesic, Tom Clements, Coley McDonough, Charley Seabright, and Bruce Gradkowski.
FELIX GIORDANO FROM ASHFORD, CA: What do you see as Paxton Lynch's future with the Steelers? Would a full year of OTAs and minicamps help solidify Lynch as Ben Roethlisberger's backup and eventual successor, or is Lynch destined to be waived?
ANSWER: Paxton Lynch is under contract to the Steelers through the 2020 season at a salary that will be absolutely no strain on the team's salary cap, and I fully expect him to participate in the offseason program, including OTAs and minicamp, then be brought to training camp at Saint Vincent College and then be given a chance to compete for a roster spot during the preseason. In doing that, the Steelers will give Lynch an opportunity to determine his own future with the team.
MICHAEL FILAK FROM PLANO, TX: When Troy Polamalu, Donnie Shell, and Alan Faneca (hopefully) get into the Hall of Fame this year, do you think that the Steelers will be chosen for the Hall of Fame Game? Is this something they can refuse?
ANSWER: If all three of those players you mention are elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Centennial Class of 2020, I would feel very strongly that the Steelers would be playing in the Hall of Fame Game, which this year is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 6. In fact, if any one of those three former players you mention are elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the Class of 2020 is announced on Feb. 1, I believe the Steelers will be chosen for the Hall of Fame Game, and it isn't something they could refuse.
NICK MOSES FROM SIMI VALLEY, CA: How concerned are you that Ben Roethlisberger never will play at a high level for us again?
ANSWER: Not that concerned. The procedure was performed by a top orthopedic surgeon, there constantly are significant advances being made in sports medicine, and I believe Ben Roethlisberger is very serious about returning to the level where he can help the Steelers compete for a championship and therefore will attack his rehabilitation with the same competitive spirit with which he always has played the sport. Sure, there are inherent risks with any surgery and those risks might be compounded by his age, but some years ago Adrian Peterson had significant knee surgery and returned well within a calendar year to become one of the NFL's premier running backs again.
JOHN PUHALA FROM SPRINGFIELD, VA: With the news that Tuzar Skipper signed a two-year contract, is that a contract that takes effect in 2020 or does that go on the 2019 books?
ANSWER: The two-year contract Tuzar Skipper signed binds him to the team through the 2021 season.
AUSTIN LOCKWOOD FROM VAN, TX: What are the chances that Le'Veon Bell makes a return to the Steelers in 2020?
ANSWER: I would say you have a better chance of hitting the Powerball jackpot. Here's why: In 2020, Le'Veon Bell is due $13.5 million in salary and a roster bonus, and I feel certain the Jets would want something significant coming back to them in any trade. And if the Jets would just cut him, they would be on the hook for the $27 million guaranteed that's part of his contract in addition to taking a significant hit on their salary cap in terms of dead money.
DON GARY FROM MUSKEGON, MI: Not even looking at the 2020 NFL Draft, with Ben Roethlisberger's return, do you see the Steelers retaining both Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges as backups, or might they finally start looking to a "QB heir apparent" and bring in someone else? Keep humoring us through the offseason.
ANSWER: First off, whenever the Steelers go looking for the quarterback to follow Ben Roethlisberger, that will happen via the draft and not free agency. At this stage of the process, I don't believe any decision has been made on whether that is/will be Mason Rudolph, but identifying an heir apparent isn't a decision that will be made this offseason. As for the way the depth chart at quarterback will shake out in 2020, the Steelers always bring four quarterbacks to training camp, and I believe those four will be the four quarterbacks currently under contract to the team – Roethlisberger, Rudolph, Devlin Hodges, and Paxton Lynch. They will open the season with three on the 53-man roster, and the competition at training camp and through the preseason will determine which three.
EARL PRICE FROM ARLINGTON, VA: I'm looking ahead to the 2020 draft. I think the Steelers should look at drafting an offensive tackle and then interior defensive line. What is your opinion on what position they should look at first?
ANSWER: This is a subject that is broached every year, and I will continue to reiterate that when the Steelers make their draft picks, it's always more about the individual than the position he plays. Not that the position he plays is irrelevant, but it's always more about the individual, his talent, his professionalism, the way he will fit in, etc. That's how they look at the draft, and so people interested in trying to predict their approach should keep that in mind.
MARK WESTRICK FROM SANFORD, FL: Listening to ESPN this morning, I heard that Dallas interviewed two people for their head coach position, eventually hiring Mike McCarthy. If this is the case, what happened to the Rooney Rule that, if I understand it correctly, requires a minority coach to be interviewed when hiring head coaches. Am I wrong on my understanding of this rule or am I missing something?
ANSWER: According to NFL.com, at some point in the process of hiring Mike McCarthy, the Dallas Cowboys also interviewed Marvin Lewis, the former coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.
*ED JOHNSON FROM GERMANTOWN, OH: T.J. Watt as a tight end in the red zone? I can't believe some of the questions you get. I believe Franco Harris finished his career in Seattle. How many years did he play there, and am I correct in believing he was not very successful there? I really enjoy Asked and Answered. *ANSWER: Franco Harris was released by the Steelers during the summer of 1984 after he didn't report to training camp despite having a year left on his existing contract. He played in only eight games for the Seahawks, six of which he started, before being released. He finished the 1984 season with 68 carries for 170 yards (2.5 average), and no touchdowns. And don't forget Johnny Manziel at quarterback, who might be throwing to T.J. Watt in the red zone.
DOUG COOPER FROM DUNCANNON, PA: I understand fans' concerns about the quarterback situation moving forward with Mason Rudolph's injury and Devlin Hodges' limited ceiling. However, given Ben Roethlisberger's pending return, Rudolph's recovery and valuable experience, and having a quarterback with the tools and potential of Paxton Lynch, why is there so much scuttlebutt and angst about drafting a quarterback when cap space is so limited, key free agents need to be signed or replaced, and there are so many other needs like tight end, offensive line, etc.? Seems like a lot of obvious needs without worrying about an area where there is both hope and depth.
ANSWER: As they say in countless church basements, "Bingo!" Well stated.