Let’s get to it:
BILL PALAICH FROM CLERMONT, FL: Do you think switching sides will have a positive impact, no impact, or a negative impact for Bud Dupree?
ANSWER: I first heard about the idea of having Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt switch sides around the time of the NFL Scouting Combine, which was in late February. It made sense – and seemed to me to be worth trying – based on the particular skill-sets of each of the players and how they were used in college. While I understand that Dupree will be entering his fourth NFL season and the Steelers already have exercised their fifth-year option on him for 2019, he missed just about all of his second NFL season because of an injury, which makes him still a developing player in a lot of respects.
Dupree plays at 270 pounds, which to me seems to make him better suited to be working along the line of scrimmage and attacking the backfield. Watt is close to 250 pounds, and based on the plays he made in space last season as a rookie he seems to have an aptitude for playing in space. Traditionally, the right outside linebacker position within the Steelers defense has been manned by the unit’s best pass-rusher – Joey Porter, James Harrison – and so putting Dupree there could turn out to be playing to his strengths.
The Steelers want to upgrade their outside pass rush, and they also want their outside linebackers to be able to do multiple things within the scheme of the defense. Flip-flopping Dupree and Watt could facilitate that. Again, in my mind, it’s worth a try.
VESPERA STEINER FROM GYPSUM, CO: Touching base regarding the various training camp start dates. Is there a reason why some teams have more training days for rookies prior to the return of veterans and variations with start dates in general? Will all teams have the same number of hours of practice come the start of the regular season?
ANSWER: According to the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are permitted to begin training camp 15 days before the date of their preseason opener. Because the Baltimore Ravens, as an example, are playing in the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday, Aug. 2, while the Steelers don’t open their preseason until Aug. 9, the Ravens will spend more time practicing before the start of the regular season. Whether this is an advantage is debatable.
Teams also are permitted to have their rookies report to camp one week earlier than the veterans, but the only teams taking full advantage of that this summer are Baltimore, Jacksonville, Miami, Detroit, and New Orleans. Several teams bring in their rookies a couple of days before the veterans, and Bill Cowher did that for a short time after he was hired in 1992 but ended the practice shortly thereafter. One of the reasons given for not doing that is many coaches prefer the rookies get an immediate idea of the difficulty of playing in the NFL and the high level of competition that will have to face on a daily basis. For a rookie cornerback trying to make the Steelers roster, for example, that point is driven home the first time the guy lines up and tries to cover Antonio Brown. Not so much if he’s spending a week lining up against an undrafted rookie from some Division II school.
ROBERT CIAFRE FROM ELLENTON, FL: Have the Steelers found anyone to replace Ryan Shazier?
ANSWER: No, and it’s doubtful they ever will. Players of his caliber are uniquely one-of-a-kind.
STEVE APESOS FROM MILFORD, MA: Outside of Pittsburgh's roster of receivers, who do you think will be the most productive receiver in the AFC North Division this year?
ANSWER: Doing some preparing for your fantasy league draft, are you? I might guess it would be Cleveland’s Josh Gordon, but the Browns’ quarterback situation is iffy at this point. Then there’s Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, but he will be working with Andy Dalton. So my recommendation to you would be to decide whether you like Dalton or the Tyrod Taylor/Baker Mayfield duo in Cleveland better, and then choose accordingly.
BARRY BIBLER FROM SALEM, OR: If Le'Veon Bell doesn't ultimately sign with the Steelers long-term, does the front office enter move-on mode and scout college running backs more heavily for next year’s draft?
ANSWER: There’s really no change to the scouting emphasis, but there would be a change in emphasis on when they might decide to spend a draft pick on one.
MARK WHITE FROM COLUMBUS, OH: If Le'Veon Bell isn't signed to a long-term deal and he goes to another team, who would the Steelers put in his place for the 2018 season?
ANSWER: If no long-term contract agreement is reached by the 4 p.m. deadline on Monday, July 16, Le’Veon Bell will play under the franchise tag in 2018. For the Steelers.
TREVOR FOLLANSBEE FROM WAVERLY, PA: What are the chances that Mason Rudolph is Ben Roethlisberger's backup this year?
ANSWER: Barring an injury to Landry Jones, I would put the chances at slim-to-none.
FRANK ARTINGER FROM FRISCO, TX: How does the guaranteed portion of NFL contracts work as to the salary cap. For instance, does any of it apply to the team’s cap?
ANSWER: All compensation paid to a player – whether the money is guaranteed or not – counts on his team’s salary cap.
AARON HANES FROM ST. PETERSBURG, FL: I missed Asked and Answered for the past couple of weeks. Judge give you time off for good behavior?
ANSWER: I was on vacation the previous couple of weeks, as I will be next week as well. I have no comment on the good behavior, however.
PETER DEWAR FROM MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA: Any chance Dez Bryant makes it to the Steelers? Another star wide receiver for the team.
ANSWER: Only if there’s any money left after adding Tim Tebow.