Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: June 1

Let's get to it:

JOE WERNER FROM ROCHESTER, NY:
I enjoy getting your insight and perspective here several times a week. If the NFL Network people gave you the opportunity to choose a member of the Steelers organization to be featured on an episode of "A Football Life," who would you choose, and why?

ANSWER: I could come up with a bunch of subjects I believe would be extremely interesting, and the list would start with Dan Rooney. Another would be Franco Harris. Andy Russell, as a guy whose NFL career was interrupted by a two-year stint in the Army and as one of the few players to survive and thrive through the Bill Austin-to-Chuck Noll coaching change. Mel Blount. Bill Nunn would have been a great subject, because of his work as the sports editor of The Pittsburgh Courier picking the Black College All-America Team every year, as a member of the inaugural class of the Black College Football Hall of Fame, as a scout helping put together the Steelers of the 1970s. NFL Network doesn't do documentaries on those types of people. It does one on Bruce Arians.

TIM RICE FROM MANDAN, ND:
I really enjoy your sarcasm with some of the questions. Would like to get your educated guess of when "Friday Night Lights" will be this year. I am a working stiff and need to plan days off way in advance.

ANSWER: No guessing necessary. The Steelers' Friday Night Lights practice at Latrobe Stadium will be held on Aug. 4. The complete training camp schedule is available on Steelers.com.

STEPHEN HOMA FROM LURAY, VA:
Has T.J. Watt signed yet?

ANSWER: No. Players aren't due to report to training camp until July 27. That's 56 days away. I cannot imagine a realistic scenario in which it doesn't get done by then, and since Watt is participating in OTAs and is expected to attend minicamp as well, there's no rush.

ROB FENTON FROM NESCOPECK, PA:
I have seen no mention of free agent nose tackle Demond Tucker. He was invited to try out this spring. Not talented enough?

ANSWER: Nose tackle Demond Tucker, 5-foot-11, 303 pounds, played his college football at Iowa State and attended rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. He was not offered a contract.

NICK KRASKI FROM FRANKLIN, TN:
What are the rules regarding players who can be waived and reclaimed on the practice squad? And would Demarcus Ayers and Landry Jones potentially qualify?

ANSWER: I have come to view practice squad eligibility the same way I view the awarding of compensatory draft picks. There is a formula, but rather than try to figure things out on my own, I ask somebody who knows. That's what I did here, and both Demarcus Ayers and Cobi Hamilton would be eligible for the practice squad in 2017.

JOHN DIX FROM LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ:
A bit of a philosophical question for you: why do you think there is so much fighting in hockey and not so much in football? You can't get through three periods of NHL hockey without a fight, and the on-ice officials let it continue. In the NFL, you rarely see a gloves-off fight.

ANSWER: Fighting is part of the sport of hockey at the NHL level. If two hockey players square off and fight during an NHL game, penalties are assessed, and play continues. Any fighting in the NFL would result in player ejections and likely suspensions. Fighting is not part of the NFL, certainly not in the way you describe.

FRANK HIGHSMITH FROM TAMPA, FL:
I see all of these predictions of scenarios as to which wide receivers will make the team. I never see Justin Hunter mentioned. Is it possible he will make the team and knock out one of the other guys?

ANSWER: Absolutely. Very possible. That's why those kinds of predictions of scenarios are largely meaningless at this time of the year.

KENNETH HAGGERTY FROM REYNOLDSBURG, OH:
Can you tell me if Le'Veon Bell is at OTAs to show support for the team, or is he not allowed to attend until he signs a contract?

ANSWER: Show support for the team? Is this high school? Le'Veon Bell is showing his support for the team by working hard to get his body into shape for an NFL season after having surgery in early March. If the Steelers ever need people to help cut the orange slices, I volunteer.

RICHARD FABER FROM JACKSON, MI:
In the May 30 installment of Ask and Answered, you answered a question about Tyler Matakevich contending for a starting job with, "and that reality has more to do with Vince Williams and the kind of player he is rather than what Matakevich is not." What does a rookie or second-year player have to do to jump ahead of a returning starter? Is it physical speed and strength, or does the mental toughness and natural instincts play a key part in who gets the job?

ANSWER: Most often, it's more about the returning starter losing the job than it is about the new guy winning it. And the losing of the job might have happened during the previous season, which precipitated the acquisition of the new guy in the first place. My impression is that coaches don't make a lineup change to replace a guy who's playing well with a guy they hope/believe might play better. It usually doesn't work that way. At the root of most changes is a player opening the door to a replacement by doing things that could cause a coach to have a roving eye.

The Steelers participate in day 5 of the 2017 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

CARL MEROLA FROM HANCOCK, WI:
As an employee of the Steelers how much freedom do you have in choosing topics and subject matter vs. what the team wants covered?

ANSWER: In 30 years in this job, the Steelers never have told me what topics to address or what topics to avoid.

KEN ILOKA FROM MILTON KEYNES, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, UK:
I enjoy reading your answers to some real funny questions from some absolute plonkers. You must be a saint, and if not, then you must be serving some serious penance. Anyhow, I was lucky enough to see my Steelers play the Vikings in London in 2013. Unfortunately we lost, but I got to see Le'Veon Bell's first NFL touchdown, which was awesome. When do you think we will see the Steelers again on our shores?

ANSWER: My guess is that the Steelers' next appearance outside the United State will be for a regular season game in Mexico. So it would have to be some time after that, and probably not soon after that. A wild guess would be at some point in the 2020s, maybe.

SCOTT LOFTON FROM FRISCO, TX:
With the uncertainty surrounding Ben Roethlisberger's future, what are the chances the Steelers look at pursuing Kirk Cousins next year? I do not fancy facing another decade of mediocre quarterback play like we had pre-Ben. I wonder if it would even be worth cutting Ben and his maybe 1-2 years of, hopefully but not likely, healthy play to secure the position for another 10 years.

ANSWER: OK, let's summarize: You suggest cutting Ben Roethlisberger now to secure the starting quarterback position for the next decade by pursuing Kirk Cousins next year. That's your idea of an idea? And Kirk Cousins is the player you identify as the guy "to secure the position for another 10 years?" At this point I normally would advise you to make sure you look both ways before crossing the street, but after thinking about it a bit more I honestly believe it's best that you never leave the house. Too dangerous. Or did MTV bring back Punk'D, and I'm on TV right now?

DOUGLAS ENDRES FROM LEAD, SD:
Why are you such a softie? Is it part of your sentence that you aren't allowed to call stupid people out?

ANSWER: You're absolutely correct. I need to do better.


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