Let's get to it:
MAE MURRAY FROM WINSLOW, MN: Now that the Steelers have signed B.J. Finney, do you think they'll use their top picks in the upcoming draft for needs like offensive tackle and running back, and then maybe add a developmental center later, or do you think they won't draft a center at all?
ANSWER: The addition of B.J. Finney removes the urgency for the Steelers to address the position in the 2021 NFL Draft, and in turn will allow the team to pick from its board. Remember though, the contract Finney signed is only for one year and so even if both sides end up satisfied with the arrangement his contract status would have to be revisited in 2022.
ROBERT PURAT FROM NEWTOWN, CT: If re-signed who among these three players – Zach Banner, Matt Feiler, or Chuks Okorafor – would be a better left tackle for the Steelers?
ANSWER: Zach Banner won the starting right tackle job last summer, and Matt Feiler was a right tackle before he was moved to left guard after Ramon Foster retired. That would leave Chuks Okorafor, but if all three of those players are on the Steelers roster when training camp opens in late July, I suspect there would be a competition, and the decision would be made based on what happened on the practice field and in the preseason games. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Matt Feiler has agreed to a contract with the Chargers for a reported $27 million over three years.)
JASON VENDERGRAFT FROM PAYNESVILLE, MN: Why did the Steelers refuse to tender Ola Adeniyi?
ANSWER: Ola Adeniyi is a restricted free agent, and the lowest tender for restricted free agents in 2021 is $2.133 million, and that tender amount only would allow the Steelers to match any other offer Adeniyi received, without compensation if they did not match the offer. If he received no other offer, the Steelers would be on the hook for paying him $2.133 million for 2021, and then Adeniyi could become an unrestricted free agent in 2022. Adeniyi has developed into a consistent special teams player, but he never has been able to blossom as a 3-4 outside linebacker. It's not as though the Steelers don't want Adeniyi in 2021, but their decision not to tender him is an indication they don't believe he's worth $2.133 million on a one-year deal.
SCOTT HUESTON FROM GLEN ALLEN, VA: How much time is spent scouting players such as Trevor Lawrence and others who are "locks" to go in the top 10?
ANSWER: It was 1987, back in the days before free agency, and the Steelers had the 10th overall pick in the draft. Tony Dungy, then the Steelers defensive coordinator, told the story of how Chuck Noll had told him not to bother going to Purdue that spring to work out cornerback Rod Woodson, so sure was Noll that the Steelers would have no chance to pick him. But thanks to some foolishness by teams picking ahead of them, Woodson was available to the Steelers and they selected him, sight unseen to some degree. Now that free agency is a way of life in the NFL, it can pay dividends for teams to do their due diligence on players they theoretically will have no chance to draft, because somewhere down the road that player might be on the open market and the work done previously could add to a team's overall assessment in terms of gauging interest in him as a potential signing. Also, the Steelers see value in scouting draft-eligible players they theoretically have no chance to draft for competitive reasons, because some of those players could end up being selected by a team that's in the AFC North and thus on the schedule twice a year. It's not an exhausting evaluation process with those kinds of players, but there is enough time to get that kind of work done.
CHUCK KARL FROM BLUE RIDGE, VA: I see we are all invited to nominate individuals for the Steelers Hall of Honor, Class of 2021. I thought I would check out the list to see who I would want to add to the already honored Steelers. But I could not find a list of the Hall of Honor members on Steelers.com. I would like to see a dedicated web page on Steelers.com to list and maybe provide a bio and some photos on those already elected to this honor. But that's just me.
ANSWER: You must not have done very well when you were a kid at things like an Easter egg hunt, huh? Go to Steelers.com, and on the far right of the top nav bar you'll see "…" Click on that, and you'll be shown a series of additional categories. One of those categories is "History." Click on that, and you will be brought to a page divided in quarters. On the top left is the entry to "Steelers Hall of Honor." If you click on that, I'm betting you'll find what you seek.
RUSS PALLONE FROM TRINIDAD, CO: I know that the Steelers have struck gold with a few free agent signings; James Farrior is one of the more notable ones. Any others come to mind?
ANSWER: I believe James Farrior is the best unrestricted free agent ever signed by the Steelers, and others I would include at the top of any such list would be Kevin Greene, Jeff Hartings, Ray Seals, Kimo von Oelhoffen, Will Wolford, and John L. Williams.
IEDONIAE COLE FROM BRADDOCK, PA: Do you think there is any chance the Steelers move up in the draft, possibly trade up to select quarterback Trey Lance?
ANSWER: No to both. I don't believe the Steelers will be trading up in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft because they're going to have more needs to fill than picks to address them, and I also don't believe the team will be spending its first round pick on a quarterback.
KYLE MONROE FROM GARLAND, ME: Bills wide receiver John Brown has expressed interest in joining the Steelers. Is there any chance we pick him up?
ANSWER: The way I would classify this is there's not no chance – pardon the double negative – but as is part of every answer that has to do with the Steelers possibly signing a veteran free agent: there isn't a lot of money to spend, and I can't foresee a situation where the team would be excited about doing any significant cap-clearing to add a soon-to-be-31-year-old wide receiver.
JAKE GREEN FROM CHICAGO, IL: Can we cut Vince Williams and maybe David DeCastro to get more cap space and maybe sign Bud Dupree?
ANSWER: It's not against any NFL rules, but it would violate laws of common sense. You're suggesting cutting an All-Pro guard who played through an injury last season as part of an offensive line that needs rebuilding even assuming he would be back healthy for the 2021 season to "maybe sign" Bud Dupree. It's time to accept that Dupree is going to get a big offer from another team. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Bud Dupree has agreed to a multi-year contract with Tennessee that reportedly will pay him $16.5 million a year.)
BRIAN BOYCE FROM SPRINGBORO, OH: With retirements and restructuring we are at or near cap compliance. Assuming we lose Bud Dupree ($16 million) Avery Williamson ($3.5 million), JuJu Smith-Schuster ($1 million), and James Conner ($800,000), is that $20.8 million of free money to sign Alejandro Villanueva? Or even add Villanueva ($6 million) to the list, then do we now have $26.8 million to sign Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton, and Robert Spillane?
ANSWER: The players you list – Bud Dupree, Avery Williamson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Alejandro Villanueva – all are eligible to become unrestricted free agents on March 17. As such, they do not count toward the computation of the Steelers salary cap for 2021, because they don't have a contract with the team for the 2021 season. Losing all of those players via free agency ultimately will factor into the formula for which and how many compensatory picks the Steelers receive for the 2022 NFL Draft, but they have no impact on the team's 2021 salary cap situation.
DENNIS SLEEGER FROM YORK, PA: I realize the salary cap has dropped because of no fans in the stands. What I don't understand is how much they lose because of no fans in the stands? With the price of tickets and the things fans buy like food, beer and team merchandise, how much could they lose per game to cause the cap to drop like it did?
ANSWER: According to one estimate, the average ticket price to an NFL game is $104.73, and in 2018, the average attendance at an NFL game was 67,040. When you multiply $104.73 times 67,040 times 10 (home games per team) times 32 (teams in the NFL), that comes out to approximately $2.25 billion. That's ticket revenue only. Not suite fees, or concessions – one beer at a 49ers home game is $14, nachos in Dallas are $20, the average price of a T-shirt at an in-stadium store runs $30, and parking in Minnesota is $100. Start doing the arithmetic. It's a lot of money
BART CONIJN FROM BOXTEL, THE NETHERLANDS: I am curious about the quarterback strategy after Ben Roethlisberger. Do the Steelers take a quarterback in this year's draft if one of the top five quarterback prospects are available?
ANSWER: What you're really asking is will the Steelers use a first-round pick on a quarterback, because it's extremely unlikely that any of the top five prospects at the position still would be available when they make their second-round pick. I just don't see the Steelers picking a quarterback on the first round of the upcoming draft. With Ben Roethlisberger having adjusted his contract, with Mason Rudolph under contract, and with the Steelers having signed Dwayne Haskins, there isn't an open roster spot. I'm not anointing either Rudolph or Haskins as a franchise-quarterback-in-waiting, but I also believe the Steelers want to spend at least one year learning what they might have in Haskins, just as I believe Rudolph is entrenched as Roethlisberger's backup for 2021.