Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: March 17

Let's get to it:

KEN WILSON FROM MILTON, FL: It is reported that Dwayne Haskins received the original-round restricted free agent tender worth $2.54 million. Does this mean that if a team offers him a contract for more money and he accepts it, then the Steelers would receive that team's first-round pick in next year's draft? Does the tender become a contract?
ANSWER: If a team presents Dwayne Haskins with an offer sheet, and he signs it signaling his acceptance of the offer, then the Steelers have the option to match the offer and retain Haskins' services at the terms designated in the signed offer sheet. If the Steelers decline to match the offer, they will receive that team's first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. If the offering team has more than one first-round pick in that draft, the Steelers would receive that team's original first-round pick. The tender becomes a contract once the player signs it following the end of the restricted free agency period, which in 2022 is on April 22.

SAM MIKHAIL FROM BETHESDA, MD: The Steelers had to improve their offensive line this offseason. With the acquisitions of James Daniels and Mason Cole via free agency, I am greatly encouraged. The former is projected to start at right guard. Regarding Mason Cole, do you project him to be a starter or backup?
ANSWER: First of all, those projections you have heard or read don't mean squat. It's reasonable to expect the starting right guard job to be James Daniels' to lose since Trai Turner – last year's starter there – is an unrestricted free agent. I believe the trio of Mason Cole, Kendrick Green, and Kevin Dotson will compete for two starting jobs – left guard and center. And I believe it will be a legitimate competition, and not one of those competitions in name only with a predetermined outcome.

ROO O'DONNELL FROM NORFOLK, VA: The Steelers have not named a starting quarterback, but it's easy to feel like their recent signing of Mitchell Trubisky is an indication he's the direction in which they want to go. Given the fact that he might be more of a game manager type quarterback, it'll put more pressure on Najee Harris to help carry the offense. How do you feel about Harris' ability in the passing game? Do you think he can develop into a legitimate threat as a receiver out of the backfield?
ANSWER: There are a lot of assumptions in your submission, and since the only question has to do with whether Najee Harris "can develop into a legitimate threat as a receiver out of the backfield," I am going to address that and ignore everything else. In the Oct. 31 game against the Browns in Cleveland, it was Harris' blocking that gave Ben Roethlisberger the extra time he needed to throw the game-deciding touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth, and his 74 receptions were the most by a running back during the 2021 regular season. Harris may not be a Marshall Faulk-caliber receiver out of the backfield, but he is a willing and reliable blocker, and he led all running backs in receptions as a rookie and tacked on 499 yards-after-catch on those receptions. In my book, that makes him a legitimate threat as a receiver out of the backfield.

JOE WERNER FROM WEST HENRIETTA, NY: Can you please explain the system the NFL used for determining the site of playoff games prior to today's procedure of seeding based on regular season record, with the higher seed getting the home game? I seem to remember that the home teams were pre-determined based on their divisions, which was why the undefeated Dolphins had to come to Pittsburgh for the 1972 AFC Championship Game.ANSWER: There's really not a whole lot to explain. On a rotational basis, one division per conference was given priority to host all playoff games in which one of its teams participated, and one division per conference was given the lowest priority to host a playoff game, which only came into the equation in those situations where the team from the prioritized division was eliminated before the Conference Championship Round. And this system only applied to the division winners in each conference, because the lone Wild Card team in each conference could not host a playoff game. There also was a rule in place that teams from the same division could not meet in the playoffs until the conference championship round.

DANIEL WILLCOX FROM TAYLOR RIDGE, IL: What do you expect the Steelers will do with JuJu Smith-Schuster this offseason?
ANSWER: JuJu Smith-Schuster became an unrestricted free agent at 4 p.m. on March 16, and I believe you are looking at his immediate future backward. It's not going to come down to what the Steelers will do with Smith-Schuster, but what Smith-Schuster finds for himself on the open market. If he receives a big-money offer, I believe Smith-Schuster will take it and move on. But if he doesn't, I believe the Steelers will have a chance to re-sign him. In this particular situation, the ball is in the player's court.

JARED QUINN FROM NEW YORK, NY: Many people in the media claim to have "sources" providing them information about potential player signings and trades prior to their actual execution. Generally, who are these "sources," and why do they release what seems to be confidential information?
ANSWER: Generally, the "sources" who reveal the type of information you ask about are player agents, and the reason they release the information about who is signing where and for how much has to do with promoting themselves and their services. Hypothetically speaking, if "sources" reveal that "quarterback-X" has signed a four-year, $200 million contract extension, the down-the-road impact is that it serves as a recruiting tool for the agent who was serving as the "source" in terms of attracting future clients who could be attracted by his role in that big-money contract. It's not the case in every such instance of leaks of information, but to use your word, "generally" that's the how and why of the leak.

CHRIS BAKER FROM ST. LOUIS, MO: Why would the Steelers pay over $7 million dollars a year to a guy who is not a proven starter? I'm not a professional, but it looks like the Steelers have committed to Trubisky as their starter for this year at least. This guy was terrible in Chicago, and the Steelers are ready to go all in?
ANSWER: Reports of the contract Mitch Trubisky signed with the Steelers have it as a two-year deal worth $14.25 million, plus incentives, which means the average value is $7.125 million, which is not an exorbitant amount for an NFL quarterback these days, and in no way is a contract of that "size" a reflection of going "all in." I don't know what your solution would be to the Steelers quarterback situation, but let's pretend you were in favor of them trading up in the first round, say to the eighth overall pick to select Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis. That's going all-in because of the draft capital required to move up that far, let alone having to pay a rookie contract that would include a signing bonus higher than Trubisky's average annual salary with the Steelers.

Let me remind you that Case Keenum's contract is for $6.1 million in base salary in 2022, and his cap number is $8.3 million; Taysom Hill's 2022 cap number is $12.3 million for 2022. Neither is a starter. I am on record as being in favor of Mitch Trubisky having to win a competition this summer to be the Steelers starting quarterback in 2022, but your characterization of him as "terrible in Chicago" is exaggerated and inaccurate. Trubisky had a 29-21 record as a starter for the Bears, and during his time there he completed 64 percent, with 64 touchdowns, 38 interceptions, and a rating of 87.0, while also averaging 5.6 yards per rush and scoring an additional eight touchdowns. Trubisky was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2018, and he will turn 28 in August. Trubisky needs work on his completion percentage and will have to cut down on his interceptions, but your characterization of him as "terrible in Chicago" isn't backed up by the facts.

KEITH MILLER FROM CANTON, OH: A few years back the Steelers surprised everyone by cutting Landry Jones, who was their veteran backup quarterback. Can you see a circumstance where they do the same with Mason Rudolph? Helps with the salary cap, and there might even be a trade option for a low-round pick.
ANSWER: The Steelers don't have salary cap issues this offseason, which has become apparent by their level of activity already in free agency, and barring something unforeseen, I would rather have a depth chart containing three quarterbacks all with starting NFL experience at a combined cap charge of around $13.6 million than an extra "low-round pick."

HOWARD ASHCRAFT FROM LANSING, MI: In your opinion, would you use this draft to add depth on defense and another receiver and wait until next year to draft a quarterback?
ANSWER: In my opinion, I'm not drafting a quarterback this year. As I wrote in the above answer, a three-man depth chart containing, in some order, Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and Dwayne Haskins, at a combined $13.6 million cap charge is the way I would progress in 2022. And then next year's draft strategy would be determined by how the 2022 season unfolds.