Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: July 29

Let's get to it:

RUSS PALLONE FROM TRINIDAD, CO: I noticed that outside linebacker Melvin Ingram III is wearing No. 8. What's up with that? I know that there were some changes to who can wear what, but I thought linebackers were to wear jersey numbers from the 40s to 90s. Can a player now wear No. 0?
ANSWER: The NFL has changed its rules regarding jersey numbers and what positions are permitted to wear specific numbers. In the past, only quarterbacks, punters, and placekickers could wear single digits. That now has been expanded to include tight ends, wide receivers, running backs, linebackers and defensive backs.

Here's how it breaks down under the new guidelines: quarterbacks can wear jerseys with numbers between 1-19; running backs, wide receivers and tight ends can wear jerseys with numbers between 1-49 or between 80-89; offensive linemen can wear jerseys with numbers between 50-79; defensive linemen can wear jerseys with numbers between 50-79 or 90-99; linebackers can wear jerseys with numbers between 1-59 or 90-99; defensive backs can wear jerseys with numbers between 1-49; and punters and placekickers can wear jerseys with numbers between 1-49. There is no provision for any player on a team to wear No. 0.

MIKE MARIC FROM VERNON, BC, CANADA: The signing of Melvin Ingram was done to improve depth at outside linebacker and allow for a three-man rotation with him along with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Does that mean each will end up playing some left outside linebacker and right outside linebacker, or does someone else need to step up to make it a four-man rotation to keep each player on one end of the line of scrimmage?
ANSWER: The Steelers have made it work with a three-man rotation, but if a fourth guy steps up and shows he's deserving of regular season snaps, then four could work, too. The fact Melvin Ingram III has the ability to play both sides was one of the things that made him an attractive signing, and Alex Highsmith played both sides last season as the third man in the rotation with T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree.

MARK MADSON FROM UPPER ST. CLAIR, PA: I always believed David DeCastro was a bit underrated during his prime years with the Steelers. It reminds me of one of my favorite Steelers from the 1970s – Jon Kolb. I believe Kolb is the most underrated Steelers player of all time. I believe I am correct in saying that Kolb never made a Pro Bowl despite anchoring the left side of the Steelers line for 10 years. Do you agree with my thoughts on Kolb?
ANSWER: Let's start with a mild disagreement from me regarding David DeCastro, because in his nine seasons with the Steelers, DeCastro was voted to the Pro Bowl six times and first-team All-Pro twice. Those are not credentials of an underrated player.

Anyway, Jon Kolb is in a completely different category in the underrated department. Kolb started 177 games at left tackle over the course of his 13 years, including four Super Bowls. In those Super Bowls, Kolb went against Minnesota's Jim Marshall, Dallas' Harvey Martin twice, and the Rams' Fred Dryer. Marshall finished his career with 127 career sacks, but none in Super Bowl IX vs. Kolb; Martin finished his career with 114 sacks, but none in Super Bowls X and XIII vs. Kolb; and Dryer finished with 104 career sacks, but none vs. Kolb in Super Bowl XIV.

RAY WILES FROM ANNAPOLIS, MD: I love the color rush uniforms. Will the Steelers wear them more this year?
ANSWER: Teams typically are permitted to wear their color rush uniforms for one home game per season, unless granted a waiver by the NFL.

DWAYNE RUTLEDGE FROM NORTH CHARLESTON, SC: Do you think safeties Tre Boston or D.J. Swearinger can help the Steelers?
ANSWER: No. In 2020, Tre Boston, 29, signed a three-year contract with the Carolina Panthers, and after collecting $9.46 million for that season he was released. D.J. Swearinger, 30, entered the NFL as a second-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2013, and in the eight seasons since, he has played for six different teams.

RACHEL HERRERA FROM ANTHONY, NY: Is there going to be a Hall of Honor Induction/Game this year?
ANSWER: To start, the Hall of Honor Class of 2021 will be announced at noon on Saturday, July 31 in a media event at 12:30 p.m. at Heinz Field prior to the team's scheduled 1:30 p.m. practice that is open to fans. The Hall of Honor Induction will be held on Saturday, Nov. 13, with the recognition coming at halftime of the game against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, Nov. 14.

MIKE PALOMBO FROM MCMURRAY, PA: Now that Steven Nelson has signed a relatively cap friendly deal, it appears that money wasn't the issue. What do you believe is the reason for the Steelers' lack of interest in re-signing him and his lack of interest in returning?
ANSWER: The one-year contract Steven Nelson signed with the Philadelphia Eagles has been reported as being worth between $2.5 million and $4 million. I'll allow you and other fans to decide whether that qualifies as cap friendly. Anyway, when the team released Steven Nelson early in the 2021 offseason, it most likely was a move based on the Steelers making a decision on whether it could afford his salary based on his play and their cap situation. As the offseason progressed, the Steelers committed to Cam Sutton as a starter at the cornerback spot opposite Joe Haden, which would mean a return by Nelson would come with him being a backup. Do you believe Nelson would've been content with having his salary cut and losing his job to Sutton? Me neither.

CHUCK WEIDLER FROM STAFFORD, VA: In the July 27 Asked and Answered, you answered a question regarding the relative merits of the timing for the Steelers to sign players during the offseason process. You ended your answer with: "But remember, one of the risks associated with waiting for final cuts to add a guy is that if a player is placed on waivers, there is the possibility he could be claimed by a team with a higher waiver priority." Can you please explain the "higher waiver priority" reference?
ANSWER: During the process of teams cutting their rosters from 90 to 53 for the start of the regular season, players with fewer than four seasons of service are placed on waivers, while players with four or more seasons of service are released. Players who are released are permitted to sign with any team at any salary. Players who are placed on waivers can be claimed by NFL teams over a 24-hour period. If only one team claims the waived player, that player is awarded to that claiming team, and he either plays for that team or he doesn't play for any team. If multiple teams claim a waived player, the player is awarded to the claiming team with the worst record based on the previous year's standings, and then the player plays for that team or he doesn't play for any team. Also, waiver claims are prioritized the same way the draft order is determined. So to put this in the context of the Steelers making waiver claims during this time of the NFL calendar, their priority would be the same as their slot for the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Steelers used the 24th pick in the first round in 2021 to select Najee Harris, which means 23 teams would have a higher waiver priority than the Steelers..

GIO CALABRO FROM EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, NJ: Regarding the tight end position, it seems most of the attention is going to Pat Freiermuth, but can you provide any insight on the development of third-year pro Zach Gentry? At 6-foot-8, I would think at the very least he would be a red zone threat.
ANSWER: Since coming to the Steelers as a fifth round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Zach Gentry has remade his body completely and now looks like an NFL tight end. The issue with him has been: can he be physical enough to play the position? With an emphasis on being able to run the football effectively this season, I would imagine the No. 3 tight end is going to have to be a player capable of being an asset in that phase of the offense. Gentry now looks the part, and the padded practices during training camp followed by the preseason games could be the final determination into Gentry's ability to earn a spot on the roster.

LOGAN SCHAFFER FROM BISMARCK, ND: Being a North Dakota boy and an alumnus of North Dakota State, I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on Joe Haeg and his role going into camp and the preseason.
ANSWER: In the team's training camp depth chart, Joe Haeg is listed as the primary backup to Zach Banner at right tackle. Because Haeg is a five-year veteran with 67 regular season games, including 38 starts, on his resume, I would point to him right now as the favorite to become the swing tackle for the 2021 season.

BRIAN BINGHAM FROM KAYSVILLE, UT: Would it be safe to say that the Steelers got far more production from Robert Spillane than they might have expected? Spillane seemed to display more speed and coverage ability than Vince Williams once he became the starter to replace the injured Devin Bush.
ANSWER: It's safe to say Steelers fans "got far more production from Robert Spillane than they might have expected," but that's not how team views such things. Neither Coach Mike Tomlin nor General Manager Kevin Colbert, or anyone on their staffs, would discount the potential contributions of a player because of how he entered the league, Doing so could cause the team to miss out on a potential difference-making talent. Donnie Shell, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 7, James Harrison, and Willie Parker all entered the NFL the same way as Spillane.

LAWRENCE BELL FROM NORTH BEACH, MD: Will the Steelers trade for a shutdown cornerback?
ANSWER: I believe their strategy is going to be to visit the shutdown cornerback tree and just pick a ripe one off the branches.

AMY LEWIS FROM BROOKINGS, SD: Just a thank you for putting Rick Delgado in his place for suggesting putting a logo on both sides of the Steelers helmet. Please …
ANSWER: I'm here for you.