Let’s get to it:
BOB SEIER FROM LAURYS STATION, PA: Heinz Field is one beautiful venue and must be viewed in person to be truly appreciated. However, it appears to me to be one of the smaller venues in terms of seating capacity. Where does it rank among all NFL stadiums in terms of seating capacity?
ANSWER: Based on figures pertaining to “listed seating capacity,” Heinz Field is No. 18 among NFL stadiums at 68,400. It’s should be noted that the figures used to come up with this ranking are listed capacities. For example, Jerry Jones’ AT&T Stadium has a listed capacity of 80,000, but it can hold more people for special events when additional seating is added. Based on listed capacity, the largest NFL stadium is MetLife at 82,500. That’s the venue shared by the New York Jets and the New York Giants. In the AFC North, Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium has the largest listed capacity at 71,008; Heinz Field is next; Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium is third at 67,895; and Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati has a listed capacity of 65,515.
GENT RIVERS FROM FT. MCCOY, FL: The Steelers drafted Dan McCullers on the sixth round in 2014, and even though he hasn't been very productive they signed him to a one-year extension this offseason. Mike Hilton is in his second season with the Steelers, and he has been productive and also was signed to a one-year extension this offseason. Can you help me understand what could be the reason for devoting a roster spot (temporary or not) for a non-productive player and not providing a productive player with more stability?
ANSWER: First of all, teams sign players when it becomes necessary, and the contracts for both McCullers and Hilton expired after the 2017 season, with McCullers an unrestricted free agent and Hilton an exclusive rights free agent. With offseason rosters consisting of 90 players, teams want to have a selection of players at every position in preparation for training camp and the preseason. Dan McCullers has unique size, and because of that, plus the fact Karl Dunbar is in his first year as the defensive line coach, the decision was made to give him a chance to get through to McCullers. Hilton enters camp as the starting slot cornerback, and you are correct in labeling him a productive player in 2017. But because he cannot even become a restricted free agent until 2020, he has no leverage and likely will be playing on a one-year contract in 2019 as well. One other thing to remember: Both McCullers and Hilton will have to make the 53-man roster to see any of the money detailed in their respective one-year contracts, and odds are Hilton has a much better chance to do that than McCullers.
CLARENCE TUNSTALL FROM REISTERSTOWN, MD: Among the many Le’Veon Bell questions and displays of frustration I'm sure you're getting, I was just wondering – aside from Rod Woodson – how many top talents left the Steelers and went on to better their careers? I believe the market for Bell next year is not going to be what he thinks. Let the market set the rate and see what he gets.
ANSWER: As for the players who left the Steelers as free agents and went on to have successful seasons with other teams, the players who come to mind are Rod Woodson and Chad Brown. As for Le’Veon Bell’s prospects on the open market in 2019, I believe he is going to receive at least one ridiculously high offer, and there are a couple of reasons I believe that.
The salary cap will continue to rise as NFL revenues grow – because as was recently reported by many outlets, “The National Football League distributed a record $8.1 billion to its teams last season, up almost 5 percent from 2016.” There is a provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that requires all teams to spend a certain percentage of the salary cap – known as the cap floor – and there always are teams needing to get above that level. Also, a team signing Bell would reap good public relations from the move, one that could serve to energize the fan base, even possibly translating into increased ticket sales. What I don’t believe Bell will get from his next team is the kind of supporting cast he currently has in Pittsburgh.
JOHN COOKE FROM LANCASTER, PA: Should the Steelers withdraw the franchise tag from Le’Veon Bell? I see nothing positive having Bell with the team in 2018. I believe as the season rolls on his commitment and attitude will become a problem for a team ready to go to the Super Bowl.
ANSWER: Rescinding the franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell would be stupid, and Steelers management isn’t in the business of doing stupid things. You see nothing positive from having Bell on the team? Are you contending that 1,946 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns in 15 games – Bell didn’t play in the regular season finale vs. Cleveland when Coach Mike Tomlin decided to rest key guys in advance of the playoffs – constitutes “nothing positive?” C’mon. You’re being overly emotional about this.
JEFF ZAVALA FROM ALTADENA, CA: With Le’Veon Bell not signing a long-term contract by July 16, could the sides agree to a long-term contract during the 2018 season?
ANSWER: No. According to the rules of the CBA, players carrying the franchise tag who didn’t come to a long-term deal before the July 16 deadline cannot sign long-term contracts until the end of the 2018 season.
WILLIAM DOWDELL FROM COCOA BEACH, FL: If the Steelers, or any team, make a pick in the supplemental draft, how does that affect them in next year's draft?
ANSWER: A team that participates in the supplemental draft forfeits its corresponding pick in the next year’s NFL Draft. For example, if a team uses a third-round pick on a player in the supplemental draft, it forfeits its third-round pick in the following April’s draft.
NICK MITCHELL FROM GLEN-LYON, PA: In most seasons, how many drafted rookies make the initial 53-man roster heading into the first week of the regular season?
ANSWER: If it’s a year when a team made seven picks in the draft, my guess would be five.
DARRELL GRANT FROM RICHMOND, VA: Could the secondary potentially be the strength of the defense as opposed to the linebacker position this season? Do you expect an increased use of nickel and dime packages this season?
ANSWER: Mike Tomlin has estimated that the defense is aligned in its base 3-4 around 30 percent of the time. The rest is sub-package football, with the nickel being one of the most-utilized sub-packages. Putting more than five defensive backs on the field at a time only will happen if the unit can stop the run in that alignment.
ABE CHUTA FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: The Steelers did not spend a third-round pick on Mason Rudolph for him to be Landry Jones’ backup. By suggesting that Jones is their solid No. 2, you are suggesting that they “wasted” that pick.
ANSWER: The question was about a prediction on how the quarterback depth chart would play out in 2018. Not beyond 2018, but only for 2018. And I wasn’t “suggesting” anything. I was relating what the Steelers coaches think about Landry Jones. What fans think of Jones has no bearing. I believe the way it ultimately plays out is that Mason Rudolph will get a chance at some point to be the Steelers’ starting quarterback, while Jones will continue to be viewed as a competent backup.