Let's get to it:
JOHN GAYNOR FROM ST. CLAIRSVILLE, OH: Devin Bush has been a different player since his knee injury. I hope this is the year he can turn it around. What are your thoughts on him?
ANSWER: I'm neither an orthopedic surgeon nor a coach, but this is what I think about Devin Bush: Before he tore his ACL, he was a good player, potentially on his way to becoming the kind of player the Steelers had in mind when they traded up from No. 20 to No. 10 in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft to select him. What some Steelers fans and media don't seem to remember is that Ryan Shazier took some time before he began to emerge as one of the defense's indispensable players, and that there were constant "suggestions" in this very forum that he should be moved to safety because he was too small to play inside linebacker and that because the Steelers insisted on playing him at inside linebacker he was going to continue to miss regular season games with injuries and ultimately earn distinction as a "bust." Everyone who wrote one of those "move Shazier to safety" submissions to Asked and Answered please raise a hand so you can be mocked suitably.
Anyway, Bush's rookie season ended with him playing in all 16 games, with 15 starts, during which he contributed 109 tackles, including 9 for loss, one sack, two hits on the quarterback, two interceptions, four passes defensed, four fumble recoveries, and one defensive touchdown. In Shazier's rookie season, he played in nine games with five starts and finished with 36 tackles, including two for loss, no sacks, one hit on the quarterback, no interceptions, and one pass defensed. Admittedly, Bush's 2021 season was not one that reflected his draft status and NFL experience, but he did tear an ACL in the fifth game of the 2020 season, and I believe it's fair to mention that in those four-plus games in 2020 before the injury he had three passes defensed, a sack and two hits on the quarterback to go along with 26 tackles. There can be no argument that Bush's first 20 regular season NFL games indicated he was a player on the rise. Obviously, 2022 is a big season for both Bush and the Steelers, and it's fair to point to it as a potential defining moment for the player in terms of how the rest of his NFL career will be viewed as well as for the team in terms of how the move made during the 2019 NFL Draft will be judged by history. Let's see how it turns out.
JOHN CARROLL FROM SUSSEX, WI: What is the holdup with Kenny Pickett signing his rookie contract? Would he take whatever the Steelers offer or sit out if it comes down to the wire?
ANSWER: What's the rush? Kenny Pickett has taken part in all of the offseason program, and Steelers players aren't due to report to Saint Vincent College for training camp until July 26, which is a bit more than six weeks away. No players are permitted to report to training camp and take part in any of the meetings or drills without a signed contract, but I am confident it will be done and signed in time for that.
KARL WALTER FROM CULVER CITY, CA: We are hoping to arrange travel to the area to coincide with Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College. Any sense when those dates will be announced?
ANSWER: The Steelers announced their complete training camp schedule on Tuesday, June 7, and it remains posted on Steelers.com. The story, written by Teresa Varley, contains all of the pertinent information fans will need to get back to enjoying one day, or even more, at the Steelers summer home for the first time since 2019.
BRIAN JENKINS FROM CULPEPER, VA: I just watched a video from the first day of Steelers minicamp. Would you happen to know what the black things are that everyone has over their helmets? Extra protection? Keeping the helmets nice and shiny?
ANSWER: Those are Guardian Cap helmet covers. During the NFL Owners Meetings in March, the membership approved a resolution requiring all offensive and defensive linemen, tight ends, and linebackers to wear Guardian Caps for every preseason practice between the start of the training camp contact period and the second preseason game. The Steelers decided to start using the Guardian Caps at minicamp, and they are having all of their players wear them. According to a story written by Kevin Seifert and posted on ESPN.com, "The caps are soft-shell pads that attach to the outside of the helmet and are used with some frequency in college football. NFL teams have experimented with them sporadically in recent years. According to the manufacturer, the current version reduces force from head contact by up to 20 percent if all players involved in the contact are using it. Guardian Cap developed the technology in part through an NFL grant awarded in 2017. The mandate represents the first significant step in the league's effort to eliminate all avoidable head contact, a goal that chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills announced earlier this year."
SAMY MIKHAIL FROM BETHESDA, MD: By my count, I see the Steelers currently have 11 defensive linemen on the roster. How many linemen do you anticipate making the final roster? Which players are most likely to make the team?
ANSWER: Because the Steelers' base alignment on defense is a 3-4, the team typically carries six defensive linemen on the opening 53-man roster. I'm not going to be someone who tries to cut the 90-man roster to 53 before training camp opens, but I am prepared to say I am confident Cam Heyward will make the team.
GLAUCIO CAFALCHIO FROM TAUBATÉ, BRAZIL: Besides Minkah Fitzpatrick's extension, which player's situation or spots on the roster do you think are most important to be addressed between now and the regular season opener?
ANSWER: Since you began your submission by mentioning Minkah Fitzpatrick, the other obvious player who could be in line for a contract extension is Diontae Johnson. The issue there is whether the team and the player can find some common ground to get a deal done, especially in light of some of the big deals signed by wide receivers earlier this offseason. I don't know what Johnson would be looking for in an extension, nor could I predict what the Steelers might think is fair in terms of an extension for him. If you're looking for a darkhorse candidate to get an extension before the start of the regular season, I would offer Chris Boswell, who is entering the final season of his contract. If the team cannot get anything done with Johnson, and if Boswell and his agent are looking for something the team finds palatable, maybe something happens there. Maybe.
ANTHONY OWENS FROM CLEVELAND, TN: I keep reading about different players adding weight, i.e., 10 pounds, to become a better run stopper or more effective offensive lineman. Specifically, are they just eating more to add mass or are they targeting muscle? I suppose the bottom line is: How does adding 10 pounds make one more noticeably effective at their various assignments?
ANSWER: Coach Mike Tomlin was asked during rookie minicamp about players adding weight, and specifically third-round pick DeMarvin Leal. This is what Tomlin had to say about that: "He's speculating if he thinks we want him to put on weight. We're just here getting to know him and his body and how it works. Oftentimes in draft preparation, guys hear things from NFL people, and they try to do what they think we want. The reality is that we're trying to get to know the athlete, the pedigree of the athlete, and how his body works, what's the optimal condition for him to be in, etc. And so, it would be much too premature to talk about desired weights and so forth with any of these guys, because we're just getting to know them." But in those cases where the team is interested in a player adding weight, it certainly wouldn't be a situation where the player was asked to sit around and pound doughnuts simply to add mass. Of course the team would want the player to add "good weight."
RODOLFO GARCIA DE ALBA FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: I know that the Steelers are supporting the NFL's international games and I am also aware that Mexico is their largest fan base market after the US. Do you know if there are any plans for a game at the Azteca Stadium in the near future? Also, could you please list the games that the Steelers have played outside of the United States? I really enjoy reading Asked and Answered every week.
ANSWER: The Steelers have played seven games outside the United States, and six of those seven have been preseason games. In 1969, the Steelers defeated the New York Giants in a preseason game in Montreal, 17-13; in 1990, the Steelers defeated New England in a preseason game in Montreal, 30-14; in 1993, the Steelers lost to the 49ers in a preseason game in Barcelona, 21-14; in 1996, the Steelers lost to the Chargers in a preseason game in Tokyo, 20-10; in 1997, the Steelers defeated the Bears in a preseason game in Dublin, 30-17; and in 2000, the Steelers lost to the Indianapolis Colts in a preseason game in Mexico City, 24-23. In their lone regular season game outside the United States, the Steelers lost to the Vikings, 34-27, in 2013 in London. The NFL announces its slate of International Games each season, and so there is no way of knowing whether or when the Steelers might return to Mexico.
DAVID BOGNAR FROM GERMANTOWN, WI: I just read the news about Stephon Tuitt's retirement. As fans, we are selfish. I was hoping he would play again, but then I realized I know nothing about the man. Having to deal with his brother's death is something I can't imagine. His perspective must have changed, and I was glad to see he got his college degree. I'm glad he was a Steelers player, and I wish him the best with his life's work.
ANSWER: Nicely put.