Let's get to it:
CLINT MICHEAU FROM ESCANABA, MI:
I see that Al Villanueva qualified for over $300,000 in performance pay from the NFL. Does this come out of the team's pocket? The NFL's pocket? Does it count against the team's salary cap?
ANSWER: To be specific, Alejandro Villanueva's cut of the performance-based pay pie was $309,835. That total was the seventh-most awarded for the 2015 season, with Broncos center Matt Paradis getting the most, at $391,648. Here is a brief history/explanation of performance-based pay:
"Players have been paid over $1 billion cumulatively since the inception of the Performance-Based Pay program, which was implemented as part of the NFL's 2002 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association, and continued as part of the parties' current agreement. Under the Performance-Based Pay system, a fund is created and used as a supplemental form of player compensation based on a comparison of playing time to salary. Players become eligible to receive a bonus distribution in any regular season in which they play at least one official down. Performance-Based Pay is computed by using a 'player index.' To produce the index, a player's regular-season playtime (total plays on offense, defense and special teams) is divided by his adjusted regular-season compensation (full season salary, prorated portion of signing bonus, earned incentives). Each player's index is then compared to those of the other players on his team to determine the amount of his pay."
Boiling down the legalese, this idea was a legitimate effort by the NFL and the NFLPA to attempt to get money to the guys without the big contracts who were doing a lot of the actual playing. The money awarded through this program does not count on the teams' salary caps, and it comes from a fund that the league and the union set up specifically to allocate money to players every year of the CBA.
BRIAN KEFFER FROM NEW OXFORD, PA:
With the signing of former Broncos tackle Ryan Harris, what do you think his role on the Steelers would be?
ANSWER: I think that Marcus Gilbert is entrenched at right tackle, and so it will be Alejandro Villanueva competing with Ryan Harris for the starting job at left tackle. The loser of that competition will provide depth, possibly along with Mike Adams.
BRANDI SCHAAL FROM ELKHART, IN:
Every year I try to travel to a new city the Steelers are visiting. I have been to St. Louis, Chicago, Nashville, and Indianapolis. Is there a stadium that should definitely be on my list to visit? I am thinking of going to Miami this year.
ANSWER: I understand that Levi's Stadium – the home of the 49ers – is very nice, but I haven't been there yet, and the Steelers aren't scheduled to go there until the 2019 season. One tip: if you indeed decide to go see the Steelers play the Dolphins this season, make your flights/plans for Fort Lauderdale, because if you stay in Miami, you'll be 45 minutes away from Sun Life Stadium.
JOHN SALVATI FROM TEMECULA, CA:
Can a player pick the team he will represent in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Kevin Greene played for several teams, but it would be nice if he goes in representing the Steelers.
ANSWER: I've answered this question a bunch of times already. It's Major League Baseball that puts a cap with a team's logo on the head of each inductee. The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducts people in three categories: player, coach, contributor. No team affiliation is depicted on the busts that go on to live in Canton, Ohio.
After being elected, Kevin Greene did say this to Steelers.com's Teresa Varley, "There is no way on God's green earth that I would be here at this point of my life if it wasn't for teammates like Rod Woodson, my hunting brother at linebacker Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown, Jerry Olsavsky, Joel Steed, Darren Perry, and my brother Carnell Lake. And Steelers Nation, the fans I loved to play for. The entire Steelers organization and Mr. (Dan) Rooney, who was so good to me, are all so special. I wouldn't be here without those who invested in me and helped me along the way. I had eight really fine years with the Los Angeles Rams, but when I came to Pittsburgh, that organization, the coaching staff, the players I mentioned, they really kind of put me on the map. They put me on the stage."
JACOB REID FROM NORTH HUNTINGDON, PA:
Do you think it is possible that the Steelers trade away their first-round pick this year for what would probably be a better first-round pick next year, and I'm assuming they can get a lot more on top of that? I'm considering this from the standpoint that there is a lot of depth at cornerback and safety, and they could probably find someone to develop into a starter in the second round seeing that they plan to start a combo of William Gay, Senquez Golson, Cortez Allen, Mike Mitchell, Robert Golden, or Robert Golden. Undoubtedly whomever they draft for the secondary will not be a starter immediately, so why not trade back for huge future benefit?
ANSWER: The Steelers' first round pick in the 2016 draft is the 25th overall, and I believe you are ridiculously over-valuing the No. 25 pick in the upcoming draft if you believe a team is going to trade a better first-round pick in next year's draft, plus "a lot more on top of that" in order to obtain it. The other thing is that the Steelers don't ever write off one season to load up for the ensuing one. That's bad business in the sports world, and the Rooney family business is sports. The Steelers stated goal for every season is to contend for a championship, and so I don't see them "loading up for the future." But even more than playing to win every year, I don't believe the kind of trade you describe is realistic at all.
TODD BRAUTIGAM FROM GREENSBURG, PA:
I am curious what affect Martavis Bryant's suspension without pay has on his contract status with the Steelers? Does it in effect extend his contract by a year, provided of course he is not eventually released?
ANSWER: Bryant will not be paid his salary for 2016 because these types of disciplinary suspensions always are without pay, nor will his 2016 salary plus pro-rated portion of his original signing bonus apply to the Steelers' salary cap this year. Also, 2016 won't count as an accrued season for Bryant, which means the four-year contract he signed as a rookie in 2014 now would not expire until after the 2018 NFL season.
RAYMOND GATTER FROM TOLEDO, OH:
Do you get to socialize with Vic Ketchman of Packers.com and other journalists during the offseason, or might that be considered possible tampering or sharing of team secrets?
ANSWER: It's not tampering. But it would be a violation of the restraining order.
ROBERT ELLIS FROM MEMPHIS, TN:
"We are hopeful that Martavis will take the necessary steps to develop the discipline in his personal life to become a successful player and a good teammate." Does this statement by Kevin Colbert in part, state that in some fashion Bryant is a bad teammate?
ANSWER: What? Isn't failing multiple drug tests and getting suspended for a full year hurting the team? Then, wouldn't that make him a bad teammate? This whole thing is too obvious for me to even understand how you could have a question.