Let’s get to it:
MIKAELA PANNELL FROM SIOUX FALLS, IA: When will the training camp schedule be released? My family is planning a trip from Iowa to experience it.
ANSWER: The complete training camp schedule, with practice times and scheduled days off for the players, will be released at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 12. You will be able to find it exclusively on Steelers.com.
GREG RIDNER FROM MONROE, MI: The Steelers have hired William Gay and David Johnson as coaching interns. What does “coaching intern” actually mean? And is there a specific coaching position for these two? Will they be with the Steelers for the entire 2019 season or just the offseason?
ANSWER: I have no first-hand knowledge about the way it’s handled with other NFL teams, but a coaching internship with the Pittsburgh Steelers under Mike Tomlin is much more than a ceremonial appointment. Typically, the men who are interested in these positions are interested in learning and contributing, and Tomlin expects them to do a lot of both. William Gay and David Johnson already have been with the team since the start of OTAs, and during the on-field sessions, they can be seen working with various groups right alongside the respective position coaches. For example, both guys can be seen helping Danny Smith during special teams periods, and that only makes sense since both Gay and Johnson were core special teams players at different times during their NFL careers, and they will be with the team through the 2019 season. The NFL’s Diversity Committee has recommended that the 32 teams take a proactive approach in identifying diverse candidates to become coaches in the NFL. The NFL implements several coaching and personnel development programs, including the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, NCAA Coaches Academy, Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship, NFL Player Personnel Clinic, General Managers Roundtable, and the NFL Career Development Symposium.
CARLOS ARVIZU FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: Is there a timetable for Mike Hilton's contract?
ANSWER: All players must have a signed contract in order to report to training camp and participate in meetings and on-field practices. That would be the only timetable worth noting.
MATT ZIMMERMAN FROM FORT WAYNE, IN: Recently I was reading about the Steelers first-ever draft pick, a kicker/running back from Notre Dame named William Shakespeare. What I saw was that he declined the offer because pro football didn't pay enough. What I'd like to know is why was he entered in the draft if he didn't want to play? Did the Steelers talk to him before spending a first-round pick on him? Did that ever happen again to the Steelers?
ANSWER: The first thing to understand is that when the NFL first implemented its player draft, it was 1936, and the business of professional football wasn’t a glamorous one. The league wasn’t necessarily stable financially, and so guys who played football in college often chose to pursue other opportunities in order to be able to provide for their families. Also, scouting was done largely by word of mouth, and most teams were left to pick players who either were from the nationally famous programs, such as Notre Dame, or those teams were limited to trying to stock their rosters with guys from colleges in close proximity. There were no scouting departments, or even scouts as we know them today. Finally, players didn’t enter, or declare for the draft as they do now, and so many of them had no idea about being drafted, or about the franchises that picked them. It was all so unsophisticated. And yes, having college players decide to forego the NFL for other pursuits happened often in those fledgling days of professional football – both to the Steelers and to every other NFL franchise.
BRIAN GRABBATIN FROM COLUMBIA, SC: In a previous Asked and Answered, you mentioned Jaylen Samuels’ ability to play H-back. Can you explain the role of this position and give us some insight into how the Steelers have used H-backs in the past?
ANSWER: Sometimes H-backs are described as move-tight-ends, and all that means is a tight end who has the ability to perform the blocking and receiving required of his position on the move instead of lining up in the more traditional spot at one end of the line of scrimmage. H-backs typically begin aligned in the backfield, and then they might go in motion to one side of the formation or the other, and from there they can serve as a lead blocker or have a running start on getting out of the backfield and into the pass pattern. The Steelers never really have been a team that employs an H-back on a fulltime basis, but they occasionally will align tight ends in the backfield and utilize them as H-backs. Since Jaylen Samuels has some experience at this from his college days at North Carolina State, and because he is a decent receiver and evolving blocker it seemed logical to me that he could be utilized some in that way.
LARRY SHEARER FROM HUBBARD, OH: I just saw a short report on Steelers.com with Missi Matthews and Arthur Moats talking about OTAs. Moats always seemed upbeat and a positive force on the defense. Is he now a part of the Steelers.com staff?
ANSWER: Arthur Moats already is a part of the regular rotation on Steelers Nation Radio, and there are plans for him to contribute in other ways on other platforms at training camp and during the regular season.
CHRIS MORTON FROM OIL CITY, PA: The Steelers have had just three coaches in the past 50 years: Hall of Famer Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin. All three have won Super Bowls. Can any other team match that kind of success for that period of time with so few coaches?
ANSWER: The only other franchise with six Super Bowl championships is the New England Patriots, and starting in 1969, which was when the Steelers hired Chuck Noll, the Patriots have had 13 head coaches.
WAYNE TUCKER FROM CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA: Joe Horrigan retired after 42 years of incredible work at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Would he be eligible to be inducted as a contributor at some point?
ANSWER: Joe Horrigan would be eligible to be inducted under the contributor category, and I would be in favor of that happening.
ROBERT LONG FROM CLEARFIELD, PA: I was very pleased with the selection of Benny Snell Jr. in this year’s draft. Given the vulnerability of a spread offense to game changing turnovers, are there signs that NFL offensive coordinators are beginning to rediscover the benefits of a strong running attack?
ANSWER: From the tone of your question, I’m going to guess that you mean the benefits of a running game that go beyond being a legitimate option in the red zone and a weapon to protect a lead in the fourth quarter. If my guess about your question is correct, I think citing this one statistic will tell you which way the trend is going: in 2018, there were 21 receivers in the NFL who finished with 1,000-yard seasons and nine running backs who finished with 1,000-yard seasons. It’s a passing league, and I don’t see that changing.
CRYSTAL AUGUST FROM WAPPINGERS FALLS, NY: Given how Chris Boswell struggled last year, why wouldn't the Steelers bring in an established veteran as opposed to an untested rookie to compete for the job in training camp? Looking at the free agent list, there are still quite a few available, including Kai Forbath, Cody Parkey, and Matt Bryant. Is it all about their cost and the salary cap? If so, are the Steelers being penny wise and pound foolish? A lot of games are decided by three points or fewer.
ANSWER: The Steelers are making Chris Boswell compete for his job, and they’re using the universal tool as the primary incentive – money. Boswell had been due a $2 million roster bonus this offseason, but the Steelers convinced him to defer that payment until after the final preseason game, because by that time a decision will have been made by the team whether to keep him or move on to another kicker. And don’t believe for a second that undrafted rookie Matthew Wright from Central Florida is Boswell’s only competition, because the reality is that even if Boswell is better than Wright he still might not win the job if he doesn’t perform to the level the Steelers expect from a guy who was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2017. And if Boswell doesn’t win the job and earn the $2 million, the Steelers actively will look for a kicker when teams reduce their rosters to 53 players by 4 p.m. on Aug. 31. There are reasons why Kai Forbath, Cody Parkey, and Matt Bryant are not on any team’s 90-man roster at this point.