Let’s get to it:
JON SWEETEN FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA: When the Steelers evaluate free agents like Donte Moncrief, do they or can they ask them to re-run the 40-yard dash in the Steelers facility? If not, why not?
ANSWER: When it comes to veteran NFL players, that’s usually not done because there is sufficient game video available of the player in action, and while that video doesn’t give the team a specific time for the player’s speed, it does provide evidence of whether that player has sufficient speed to be effective against other NFL players. Watching Donte Moncrief get separation on NFL defensive backs, for example, is much more valuable than having him run a 40-yard dash for a stopwatch.
MICHAEL HUGIC FROM LAWRENCEVILLE, PA: Why didn't Steelers make a better effort to keep Le’Veon Bell? I'm so disappointed as a Steelers fan, and now I’m not sure that I can support the decisions that the team made regarding Antonio Brown and Bell.
ANSWER: It’s a free country, and so you can support what you want, but according to every national media member who analyzed the situation, the Steelers’ offer to Le’Veon Bell was for more money than what he chose to accept from the New York Jets. And Antonio Brown quit on the team by going AWOL and incommunicado at a time when the Steelers were about to play a game they had to win to have a shot at making the playoffs.
BUDDY POWELL FROM FT. MYERS, FL: Did the Steelers make a run at Eric Berry before signing Mark Barron? Or was he going to be too expensive and a guy coming with an injury history?
ANSWER: Two totally different players for two totally different roles within a defense. Mark Barron came into the league as a safety and now is listed as a linebacker, which indicates he’s the kind of hybrid player the Steelers were looking for last year when they signed Morgan Burnett. Eric Berry is in a totally different category. He’s 30 and his injury/health history has had him miss one season with a torn ACL, another with a torn Achilles, and another when he was diagnosed with lymphoma.
MICHAEL ROBERTS FROM ELIZABETHTOWN, KY: With the recent signings of Mark Barron and Steven Nelson, do you feel that we're still on the defensive playmaker route? Or now, maybe for the best player available?
ANSWER: As a reminder, there were only two NFL teams with fewer takeaways than the Steelers managed in 2018, and they also tied a franchise record for fewest interceptions in a season with eight. That record was set in 1940 when teams rarely passed the ball and seasons were only made up of 11 games. Best defensive playmaker available in each of the first two rounds would be my draft strategy.
BLAINE MCNALLY FROM PORT ST. LUCIE, FL: Do you think the loss of personnel on offense and the heavy emphasis on finding defensive playmakers will play a part in Ben Roethlisberger's decision to extend his contract?
ANSWER: If you mean impact his decision in a negative way, absolutely not.
JASON NORTON FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA: Last week, I saw reports on Ben Roethlisberger getting a contract extension, but since then, nothing. Is that still in progress, and is there a deadline to get that done?
ANSWER: Patience. These are complicated negotiations, and the only deadline would be to get it done before the start of the regular season because the Steelers don’t talk contracts once the regular season starts.
DAVID JOHNSON FROM MANSFIELD, OH: Late round offensive linemen usually take a few years to develop. Do the Steelers need to draft a right tackle early, or find an unrestricted free agent?
ANSWER: As of this minute, the Steelers have seven offensive linemen on their roster with NFL regular season playing experience, and three of them have that playing experience at tackle. Also, Jerald Hawkins will be coming off the injured reserve list and participating in his third training camp with the Steelers this summer, and the team has high hopes for Zach Banner, who was signed late last summer and stuck on the 53-man roster. When it comes to adding offensive linemen, never say never because of the importance of the unit for a team with so much depending upon the health of its franchise quarterback, but I see the Steelers as having a good situation as far as the depth of their offensive line. It’s certainly not a pressing need.
MIKE SMITH FROM DENVER, CO: I've heard about the players being added in free agency, but so far haven't heard much about who left the Steelers. Could you please tell us the players who have moved on who aren't named Antonio Brown?
ANSWER: So far, it has been Le’Veon Bell to the New York Jets, Jesse James to the Detroit Lions, and L.J. Fort to the Philadelphia Eagles.
ERIC PLATE FROM GREENSBURG, PA: Why did the Steelers let L.J. Fort leave? I thought he was a really good special teams player.
ANSWER: That’s the thing about NFL free agency. Not only are teams free to sign players with the idea of bettering their rosters, but players are free to leave to better their careers. I’m sure L.J. Fort’s decision to sign with the Eagles was based on the amount of money they offered along with the opportunity for more playing time on defense than he was likely to get if he stayed in Pittsburgh. Good for him.
RANDY STEBBINS FROM NORTH CANTON, OH: Since Chuck Noll was replaced by Bill Cowher, what has been the highest pick in the first round the Steelers have had (without trading up)? And, which years, if any, have they not had a first round pick (same time frame)?
ANSWER: The highest in the first round the Steelers have drafted since 1992 was No. 8 overall in 2000 when they selected wide receiver Plaxico Burress from Michigan State. I know this wasn’t your question, but the last time the Steelers didn’t have a pick in the first round of a draft was in 1967.
JOSEPH PARHAM FROM PHILADELPHIA, PA: In what round was one of the most underrated Steelers players of all time drafted? His name is Jason Gildon.
ANSWER: Jason Gildon was the first of two third-round picks made by the Steelers in 1994. He was the 88th overall selection.
MARIO ZINNA FROM PALM BAY, FL: What do you think about signing Terrelle Pryor to a contract with a low salary that includes lots of incentives? It has been reported that he would love to play for his hometown Steelers. I am from Jeannette and would love for him to sign and possibly be in a “slash” role like Kordell Stewart had.
ANSWER: No interest in this. None at all. You’re a fan of Terrelle Pryor and would like to see him playing for what’s your hometown team as well, and Pryor would love to play for any NFL team since he’s out of football. And how does putting Ben Roethlisberger on the bench so Pryor can try to re-create “Slash” get the Steelers closer to contention in 2019? It doesn’t.