Let’s get to it:
ISAIAH RAGSDALE FROM HIRAM, GA: With all the optimistic rumors (even some from Le’Veon Bell) going around, how optimistic are you that the Steelers will be able to sign Bell to a long-term contract before camp?
ANSWER: The deadline for players under the franchise tag to sign a long-term contract is July 16, which is six days from today, and so the clock is ticking. Generally speaking, I am not an optimistic person, or to describe it as Mike Tomlin would, I have a tendency to live in my fears. While I believe every player has the right to bargain for the highest salary he can get, it’s also important to consider that football, as the ultimate team sport, is a job where an individual running back’s success is dependent on many things that to some degree actually are outside his control.
I will refer to some comments made recently by Jerome Bettis: “Neither one of you (the team or the player) are as good by yourself as you are together. Le’Veon, you’re not going to be as good going somewhere else because they’re not going to have the offensive line, they’re not going to have the quarterback, (or) the receivers that they have in Pittsburgh,” Bettis said. “You have a full complement around you that allows you to be as great as you want to be.”
In other words, being a first-team All-Pro running back, as Bell has been twice already during his five-year career, is more than a one-man job. But the first sentence of Bettis’ message also makes it very clear that he believes the Steelers are better off having Bell in their backfield than not, which means the notion among some fans that he’ll be easily replaced is misguided. Remember, Franco Harris’ last season with the Steelers was in 1983, and the team really was unable to find a similar talent until the draft day trade in 1996 brought Bettis from the Rams. And then after Bettis retired following the 2005 season, the Steelers didn’t have a big-time player at the position until it drafted Bell in 2013.
MATTHEW WINDER FROM ATTICA, IN: Le’Veon Bell has yet to sign his franchise tender this year, and they haven’t agreed upon a long-term deal yet. I keep seeing that Bell will become a free agent next year if they don’t come to terms on a deal. What exactly is preventing the Steelers from tagging him for a third year in that scenario?
ANSWER: Money. To use the franchise tag for a third time on a player, the team must pay that player 144 percent of his previous year’s salary. Assuming Le’Veon Bell plays the 2018 season under the franchise tag, that means he would earn $14.544 million. Using the tag again next year would mean Bell would earn $20.94 million in 2019.
CHUCK THIEL FROM WALDORF, MD: I don’t want to beat the Lawrence Timmons thing to death, but I am curious if it’s a money thing that keeps him out of the Steelers’ discussion, because he always seemed productive on the field.
ANSWER: Lawrence Timmons is 32 years old, and your memory of him being “productive on the field” is from a different time. When the Steelers were defeated by New England in the 2016 AFC Championship Game, the Patriots passing attack took regular advantage of Timmons and exploited him time and again. The only way Timmons comes back to the Steelers is if the team sustains more than one serious injury at the inside linebacker position. And even then, it’s still only a maybe.
ALVIN MCDANIEL FROM BYRAM, MS: What is the progress of Jaylen Samuels and does he look capable of making a impact this season?
*ANSWER: Jaylen Samuels looked like he belonged during the football-in-shorts portion of the offseason, which ended in mid-June with the conclusion of minicamp. His job during the 41 days between the end of minicamp and the day players are due to report to Saint Vincent College is to get his body in the kind of shape necessary for him to be able to stay on the practice field once the pads go on and the real evaluating will begin. The newcomers who are able to be available for practice regularly during the first portion of camp will be the ones who are able to learn and improve steadily, which will instill confidence in the coaching staff that they are deserving of playing time once the preseason games begin. If Samuels is able to do that, he’ll give himself an opportunity to have a chance to contribute early in his rookie season.
JAMES MCCOMBS FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: Does Joshua Frazier have a chance of seeing the field in the regular season over Daniel McCullers in any two defensive tackle packages?
ANSWER: Neither Daniel McCullers nor Joshua Frazier is assured of making the 53-man roster, let alone be active on game day even to have a chance to get onto the field. They’re going to have to make the team, and that will happen – one way or the other – starting July 25 at Saint Vincent College.
MIKE MARIC FROM VERNON, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA: In a perfect world, where all the quarterbacks play well in the preseason, could you see the Steelers trading either Landry Jones or Josh Dobbs?
ANSWER: If Landry Jones plays “well in the preseason,” he will be Ben Roethlisberger’s backup in 2018.
KALYAN POTHINENI FROM BAYTOWN, TX: I am not sure if this was asked and answered before. With OTAs and minicamp wrapped up, how do teams pay the players? Is it weekly like the regular season? Or is it daily?
ANSWER: This has been asked and answered many times before, but here it is again: When it comes to the salary stipulated in a player’s contract, that sum is paid out in 17 equal installments over the course of a regular season – 16 games plus the bye week – and if the player isn’t on the 53-man roster for a game or games then he does not get paid those particular installments. During training camp, players receive a stipend based on their years of service in the NFL, and during the offseason program room and board is provided for those who live out of town.