Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: June 8

Let's get to it:

My question is about training camp and the Friday Night Lights practice. Are tickets sold for this practice or is it a free event?

ANSWER: There is a nominal fee to attend the annual Friday Night Lights practice at Latrobe Stadium, with all proceeds going to the Greater Latrobe Athletic Department. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for children under 18 and senior citizens. Children under 5 will be admitted free if accompanied by a parent. All proceeds are used to fund student programs, such as Student Council and Booster Organizations.

I have been thinking about making the trip to Latrobe now that the training camp schedule is out. For someone who has never been there, is it worth almost a six-hour drive to watch them practice, or are there other festivities that will be taking place? I also see that practice starts at 2:55 p.m. Approximately how long will practice be?

ANSWER: I cannot gauge what would be worth a six-hour drive for you, but I will attempt to describe what the day typically offers and then you can decide its worthiness. Parking is free on campus, and campus opens at noon. During the time between campus opening and the start of practice, fans can occupy their time at The Traveling Great Hall, which is a miniature version of the team-themed museum at Heinz Field; there is a Steelers merchandise tent if you're interested in souvenirs; and there is a Steelers Experience football-themed park if you bring children, or if you're a child at heart. Starting at 1:30 p.m. fans are allowed to pick their seats for practice – either the hillsides or the bleacher seats along the one side of Chuck Noll Field – while others choose to stake out spots close to the entrance to the locker room in the hopes of securing some autographs as the players make the walk down to the field for practice.

Practice lasts for two-plus hours, and it's an opportunity to get an up-close look at NFL players plying their craft. Following practice, some players and Coach Mike Tomlin sign autographs, but since not all players sign autographs every day, it's impossible to guarantee you an autograph from your favorite player. Since it's a six-hour drive for you, I would suggest staying overnight at one of the many hotels/motels in the Latrobe/Greensburg area.

I'm so fortunate to be attending my second Steelers Camp in Mexico. Who should I thank for the continued presence of the team in my country? Steelers Nation knows no borders.

ANSWER: Steelers President Art Rooney II long has been a champion of the team's fans in Mexico. All of the initiatives in Mexico and for the team's Spanish-speaking fans should be credited to him.

We are constantly reminded how often William Gay is tested for PEDs. Is there a limit on how often the NFL can test a player?

ANSWER: Based on what I was able to discern after wading through the legalese on, players can be tested up to 24 times a year – either urine or blood – for PEDs, and during the offseason the maximum number of tests per player is six.

In some of the photos from OTAs there seem to be officials present. Are they from the league, and what are they doing at OTAs? Practicing to get better? Make correct calls? Maybe that's too much to hope for.

ANSWER: There are occasions during the offseason where the officials present for OTAs are NFL officials, but other times Coach Mike Tomlin will bring in local high school officials to work the practice sessions. This is designed to get the players, especially the young players, acclimated to the rules. It's understood that the high school officials aren't NFL caliber, but they can help the young defensive backs get an early idea about how much contact with receivers is allowed, as one example.

I read that T.J. Watt has been practicing with the first team defense during the OTAs. Barring any injuries or suspensions to Watt, could you see him starting in Week 1?

ANSWER: T.J. Watt has been practicing at right outside linebacker with the first-team because James Harrison, while he attends each and every offseason workout, is not taking any repetitions during the seven-on-seven or the 11-on-11 sessions. Harrison doesn't need that work, and Watt does, and so that's why the depth chart at right outside linebacker is the way it is right now. And barring any injuries to Harrison, he will be the starter at the position for the regular season opener. Book it.

Steelers players work with local youth at the annual Urban Impact football clinic.

Can you offer some insight as to why the majority of NFL writers love Ozzie Newsome? Every article I can remember reading has Newsome ranked higher than Kevin Colbert. Based on my research, the Steelers under Colbert's leadership have a better record, more Super Bowl appearances and fewer losing seasons.

ANSWER: I cannot speak for "the majority of NFL writers," nor do I have any idea whether your assessment of their "love" for Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome is accurate. I also am not going to criticize Newsome or any of the particulars of the job he has done for the Ravens because I'm not familiar enough with the team or the circumstances to comment intelligently.

OK, with all of that out of the way, during Kevin Colbert's 17 seasons with the Steelers (2000-16), the team has played in three Super Bowls and won two; there have been eight division titles, 11 playoff appearances, and one losing season.

Ozzie Newsome's first job after his playing career ended was as an assignment scout in 1991. Two years later, he was promoted to assistant to Coach Bill Belichick/offense/pro personnel. In 1994, Newsome was named the Browns' director of pro personnel, and then in 1996, he was promoted to vice president of player personnel. In the 21 seasons from 1996-2016, the Ravens played in two Super Bowls and won them both; there have been four division titles, 10 playoff appearances, and seven losing seasons.

Ozzie Newsome is good at his job, and so is Kevin Colbert. Who is better? What I will say is I'm happy that Colbert works for the Steelers.

Did I understand you correctly in that the NFL has changed the cut-down roster limits during preseason this year?

ANSWER: Yes. The way it used to be was the NFL mandated that all teams cut from 90 players to 75 on the Tuesday following the end of the third weekend of the preseason, and then cut from 75 to 53 on the day after the fourth preseason games are played. Now, the only cut will be from 90 players to 53 on the day after the fourth preseason game.

I think it's great to have 90 players through the four preseason games. How do the Steelers evaluate 90 players? Who makes the decisions on who makes the roster and who is on the practice squad? I appreciate your insights. You make the offseason interesting.

ANSWER: There are a lot of people involved in the evaluation process, from the assistant coaches to the scouts. Every practice session during training camp is evaluated, with the assistant coaches responsible for their respective units, and with each scout being assigned a particular position group and also contributing to the grading process. A lot of information is gathered and many opinions are solicited, but in the end it's Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, and of course, Art Rooney II who are involved in the final decisions.

When selecting NFL Hall of Fame nominees, are off-the-field activities taken into account?

ANSWER: Off-the-field issues aren't supposed to be considered.

In 1990, the Steelers' No. 1 pick was Eric Green, who threatened to hold out for the whole season. In doing so, he would have been eligible for the following year's draft. If that were to happen today, would the Steelers be compensated with a second first-round pick in the year following or would they lose out all together?

ANSWER: There is no compensation to a team that doesn't sign a draft pick who then enters the following year's draft.

Why are the Titans named after a state (Tennessee) and not a city like everyone else. Seems kind of impersonal.

ANSWER: You mean like the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots?

Just a compliment to you and the rest of the Steelers Digest staff on the Dan Rooney tribute issue I received recently. As a lifelong fan, most of the information was familiar, but I did learn a few things, and I could not have been more impressed as to how the article, quotes, and photos were put together. After I finished, I put the Digest down. I'll read about our future players another day. I'll reflect on Mr. Rooney for now. It heightened my pride as a Pittsburgh guy in the land of fruits and nuts.

ANSWER: More than anything else I've ever done in this job, that was a labor of love for me. Shed a few tears, too.

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