Let’s get to it:
ISAAC BUSSELMAN FROM RICHLAND, WA:
The three best Steelers defensive players of all time to me are Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, and Rod Woodson. Do you agree with my choices, and if not who are your top three defensive players for the Steelers?
ANSWER: I would go with the three players I believe all were transformative figures, both for the Steelers and the NFL. Joe Greene, because he transformed a franchise that never won anything into one of the dominant dynasties in NFL history; Jack Ham, because he transformed the way linebackers played in the NFL; and Mel Blount, because he was so dominant that he forced the league to change its rules to limit his effectiveness as a cornerback.
MIKE PORTER FROM DEMING, NM:
What was Troy Polamalu's draft analysis by the so-called “experts?”
ANSWERS: At the time Troy Polamalu was eligible for the 2003 NFL Draft, one of the most widely circulated Draft Guides was published by Pro Football Weekly, even though its principle writer, Joel Buchsbaum, died on Dec. 29, 2002. Here is what that Draft Guide published on USC safety Troy Polamalu:
“Positives: Strongest player on the team on a pound-for-pound basis. Has a 600-pound squat. Real warrior who is totally dedicated to getting better. Good football intelligence and flexibility. Great motor and competitiveness. Excellent in run support and tackling. Will wrap up. Can backpedal and cover. Gets a good jump and can adjust to the ball. Has good range. Intense, physical and tough with a high motor. Strong. Good planting and driving. Can cover tight ends and backs. Very good punt blocker. Explosive. Big 10¼-inch hands. Can cover man-to-man. Big-time hitter who has receivers hearing footsteps. An extra linebacker vs. the run. Excellent speed and suddenness to close. Showed improvement every year. Special-teams captain as a junior and senior. Can cover most slot receivers. Instinctive and can accelerate.
“Negatives: Short for the NFL and is not a real ballhawk. Misses plays because he is out of position. Does not read keys well and diagnose. Struggles covering man deep. Plays out of control and lacks great change of direction. Skills will translate to the NFL, but measurables might not. Gets carried away. Prefers setting up a well-timed hit to break up a play over going for an interception. Does not have great playing speed and range.
“Summary: Best safety at USC since 1980, when Ronnie Lott and Dennis Smith were the greatest safety tandem in the college game, and Lott, Smith, Jeff Fisher and Joey Browner were the greatest secondary in school history.”
MARC LEWIS FROM AMITY, OR:
Love the throwback uniforms. Any possibility of updating the logo? Perhaps adding shadows or depth to make it more interesting?
ANSWER: I really don’t see any realistic scenario in which the Steelers would be inclined to alter what they believe is one of the most iconic logos in all of sports. I may be wrong, but I just don’t see it happening. Not in my lifetime, anyway.
VINNY CARCHEDI FROM SAUQUOIT, NY:
Do you think Le’Veon Bell will show up to training camp?
ANSWER: Only if the sides come to a long-term contract agreement. If not, I expect it to play out exactly as it did last summer.
NICK GUEGUEN FROM HASTINGS, PA:
What are your early thoughts on Terrell Edmunds? Do you think he is a defensive starter come Week 1?
ANSWER: Barring injuries, no. Maybe he’s a regular part of one of the sub-packages on defense, but I see the starting safeties being Sean Davis and Morgan Burnett.
See first-round pick Terrell Edmunds in uniform at Heinz Field for the first time.
ERICH MATTHEWS FROM GARDENA, CA:
What’s the status of WR Justin Thomas?
ANSWER: He is and has been a regular attendee during the offseason program. He’s currently working as both a wide receiver and a returner on special teams. There’s not a whole lot else to say at this stage.
FREDERICK APPLE FROM PANAMA CITY, FL:
Mason Rudolph or Josh Dobbs for No. 2 quarterback?
ANSWER: Is this an attempt at a trick question? The answer is: Neither. Landry Jones is the No. 2 quarterback.
TOM KUMPFMILLER FROM CRANBERRY TWP., PA:
How would you rate Mason Rudolph's arm strength. Can he make all of the throws? I have read both that he has a gun and that he does not.
ANSWER: I would rate Mason Rudolph’s arm as the second-best among the Steelers current quarterbacks, behind Ben Roethlisberger. I haven’t seen Rudolph have any trouble making any of the kinds of throws NFL quarterback are required to make.
CRAIG REILLY FROM AKRON, OH:
The roster on the new website doesn't show jersey numbers listed for Damoun Patterson or R.J. Prince. Can you provide those?
ANSWER: Damoun Patterson is No. 83. R.J. Prince is No. 64, which he shares with defensive end Kendal Vickers.
JASON VOLKMAN FROM FAIR OAKS, CA:
I would be curious to know how you would handle the distribution of snaps during the preseason for our four quarterbacks. If it were me, I would delegate 50 percent of the snaps to Mason Rudolph, 25 percent to Joshua Dobbs, 15 percent to Landry Jones, and 10 percent to Ben Roethlisberger.
ANSWER: I don’t know about percentage of snaps, but I would handle it more in line with playing time in the four preseason games. Ben Roethlisberger would not play in either the first or the fourth preseason game; he would play two series in the second preseason game, and close to all of the first half in the third preseason game. If he believes he needs more than that to be ready for the opener, then he will get more.
Landry Jones is the backup, and so he needs playing time to be ready for the season as well, but in a different way than Roethlisberger. Jones would start preseason games one and four, and he would finish the first half of game two. With him, game three would be up in the air, based on what I had seen in the first two.
Josh Dobbs and Mason Rudolph are fighting for the No. 3 job, and the third-string quarterback only becomes more than an afterthought during the regular season if No. 1 or No. 2 is injured. With them, I would divide up the playing time, while being cognizant of the fact I’m also trying to evaluate receivers, tight ends, etc., and if one of the two is struggling then that would make those evaluations difficult, if not impossible to make.
There also is a division of labor during training camp practices, and that often is used to determine playing time in the preseason games.
PETE GAYDOSZ FROM SCOTT DEPOT, WV:
What’s your take on Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown missing most of the OTAs?
ANSWER: I couldn’t care less, just as I never cared that Troy Polamalu missed a bunch of the offseason program to get his body ready for the regular season. All it really means is that there are more practice repetitions for guys who need them. You think Antonio Brown is going to report to training camp out of shape? Me neither.
FRANK ROSSI FROM NEW YORK, NY:
Do you think we will see seven defensive backs on the field in 2018 ? Those safety/hybrids could be difficult for offenses to diagnose.
ANSWER: It will depend on whether the unit can stop the run with seven defensive backs on the field. If not, you won’t see it very often.