INDIANAPOLIS – Let's get to it:
Check out the greatest photos of Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Rod Woodson.
CHARLES WEST FROM BATTLE CREEK, MI:
Please enlighten us on the drafting of Rod Woodson. If I heard right, the Steelers did not do too much scouting on him, because they thought he would be drafted before their turn.
ANSWER: When the 1986 college football season was over, the Purdue Boilermakers were a 3-8 team with a Hall of Fame caliber talent on their roster named Rod Woodson. In 44 games at Purdue, Woodson had 445 tackles and 11 interceptions, and he also played wide receiver, running back, and he returned both punts and kickoffs. He was 6-foot. A world-class hurdler to boot. Then it came time for the Scouting Combine, and Woodson put on a show. He ran a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash. His 10-foot, 5-inch broad jump and 36-inch vertical jump were what you'd expect from a world-class hurdler. His short-shuttle tape should've been used as a 3.98-second teaching tool.
By today's standards, those are good, not great, numbers, but today's players spend more than a month in special programs training specifically for Combine workouts. That didn't happen in Woodson's era, and the 1987 Combine was held in late January, not early March.
Once the Steelers returned from having seen Woodson perform in Indianapolis, and the scouts and coaches gathered to put schedules together to re-visit some of the players, Tony Dungy, then the defensive coordinator, said Chuck Noll had told him not to bother scheduling a visit to Purdue because there was no way Woodson would still be on the board when it came time for the Steelers to make the 10th overall pick of the first round. In fact, a story appearing in the draft day edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called for the Steelers to pick Woodson but suggested a trade up in the first round would be necessary to make that possible.
But as so happens during an NFL Draft, some teams do some silly things. That day, the Browns picked linebacker Mike Junkin and the Cardinals picked quarterback Kelly Stouffer, and some other teams drafted according to their needs at the time, and Rod Woodson was available when the Steelers' turn came. Sight-unseen, sort of, but the Steelers wasted no time picking Woodson when presented with an opportunity they never saw coming.
JOE BURG FROM CLARK, NJ:
There are two reports on Antonio Brown's new deal: $68 million over four years, the other said $72.71 million over five years. Which is correct?
ANSWER: Although the NFL will make a distinction whether Antonio Brown's newly-signed contract extension is officially a four-year deal or a five-year deal, it doesn't matter from a practical standpoint. That's because the difference in length and cash has to do with whether you're counting 2017 as part of the new deal or as part of the old deal. Either way, Brown is now bound to the team through the 2021 season when he will be 32 years old.
DANIEL ESPARZA FROM HOUSTON, TX:
Why do you insist that Landry Jones is a proven backup quarterback who can take the Steelers to a victory in the Super Bowl? What numbers of his make you believe that? Can you show me, please?
ANSWER: You misunderstand what I mean by "proven backup quarterback." In the NFL, there are teams lucky enough to employ a legitimate franchise quarterback, and on their roster they have somebody on the depth chart behind that guy. These are not situations where the backup is an up-and-coming guy, a high draft pick who is going to play sooner rather than later. These are the teams with a distinct separation between the starting quarterback and the backup quarterback, because they're paying the starter hundreds of millions of dollars.
Here is a sample of what I'm talking about: this is a list of current starting quarterbacks with their backups: Eli Manning-Ryan Nassib, Joe Flacco-Ryan Mallett, Matt Ryan-Matt Schaub, Andrew Luck-Scott Tolzein, Derek Carr-Matt McGloin, Phillip Rivers-Kellen Clemens. Look at those backups. See what I mean? The job of an NFL backup quarterback is to fill in for the starter until the end of a particular game, or over a short period of time during the course of the season. Teams don't win the Super Bowl with their backup quarterback, nor do they expect to win the Super Bowl with their backup quarterback. Not in today's NFL. If a backup quarterback wins a Super Bowl, he isn't the backup any more. Your definition of "proven backup quarterback" and what his role needs to be is a fans' perspective. That's not the perspective of the people in charge of building the Steelers roster.
JOSHUA BEEGLE FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA:
With the Steelers seemingly whiffing on Ryan Shazier in the draft a few years ago could you see Pittsburgh drafting a player like Derek Barnett to take over for William Gay at the ROLB position, or will the Steelers wait until the middle of the draft to look at linebacker with them still needing an upgrade at cornerback?
ANSWER: That's really impossible to predict right now, because even if you knew who among the pass rushers and defensive backs were going to be available when the Steelers make the 30th overall pick of the 2017 Draft, they don't have those guys ranked in any order yet.
As for Derek Barnett, I would predict this week in Indianapolis turns out to be important for him once April 27 rolls around. Barnett (6-foot-3, 265 pounds) is a three-year starter at Tennessee, who posted 32 sacks over the course of his career as an SEC pass rusher. He will enter the draft as a 20-year-old, but will turn 21 in June. If Barnett runs well and otherwise handles himself like the professional he wants to be, that could boost his stock to the degree he wouldn't be available at No. 30. If he has a poor showing at the Combine, he could turn out to be a reach at No. 30.
GEMETRIUS MCNEIL FROM INDIAN TRAIL, NC:
Do you see any veterans, such as Will Gay, Ramon Foster, or Mike Mitchell as cap casualties?
ANSWER: The Steelers don't have to make any moves to be cap compliant when the new league year begins on March 9 at 4 p.m., ET.
KEVIN BAILEY FROM ONTARIO, CANADA:
When a team puts the franchise tag on a player, how does that impact the cap space?
ANSWER: It's nothing more complicated than simple arithmetic. Let's pretend a team with $25 million in salary cap space puts a $12.5 million franchise tag on a player. In that situation, the team then would have $12.5 million in salary cap space. A tag – franchise or transition – comes off the team's cap dollar-for-dollar, and all at once.
PAUL KIMBLE FROM SOUTH FAYETTE TWP., PA:
If each of the outside linebacker/edge rushers and cornerbacks to whom the Steelers have assigned first-round grades have been chosen, and Christian McCaffrey is still available, would you be in favor of the Steelers selecting McCaffrey? Besides fulfilling the backup running back role, he could be a very productive slot receiver. He could return kicks as well. If a first-round is going to be Harrison's understudy, wouldn't it be better to select someone who will add some offensive production right away, rather than reach for second-round talent?
ANSWER: Clearly, you are in favor of drafting Christian McCaffrey, and picking him is adding an understudy/special teams player as well, because he'd be a backup to Le'Veon Bell, he isn't going to beat out Eli Rogers as the slot receiver, and he would have to take the punt return job from Antonio Brown. There could be a realistic scenario that develops where I could be in favor of that as well, based on the remaining linebackers and defensive backs. Too early to put that all together now, though. Way too early.
Steelers WR Antonio Brown began his career at the Combine.
JORDAN MARTIN FROM SALEM, OH:
With the draft coming up, what are your thoughts on our current cornerbacks: Will Gay, Artie Burns, and Stephon Tuitt? Do you think this is something the Steelers should address in Philadelphia this year?
ANSWER: My thought on the Steelers cornerbacks is that the team doesn't have enough good ones. I'm all for adding more top talent to the group and letting it play itself out at training camp.
ROSS HUNT FROM LISBURN, NORTHERN IRELAND:
How many quarterbacks have won multiple Super Bowls? Who are they and what team(s) did they win with? I'm only interested in the quarterbacks who participated in the games.
ANSWER: Tom Brady, five, New England; Terry Bradshaw, four, Pittsburgh; Joe Montana, four, San Francisco; Troy Aikman, 3, Dallas; Bart Starr, 2 Green Bay; Roger Staubach, 2, Dallas; Bob Griese, 2, Miami; Jim Plunkett, 2, Raiders; John Elway, 2, Denver; Ben Roethlisberger, 2, Pittsburgh; Eli Manning, 2, New York Giants; Peyton Manning, 2, Indianapolis/Denver.
SCOTT RANDALL FROM TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA:
The NFL free agency signing period hasn't started yet. Why are some teams signing free agents anyway?
ANSWER: Players with existing contracts must wait until those contracts expire, which is March 1. Players who have been cut and have cleared waivers can sign contracts with other teams immediately, and players with contracts set to expire on March 9 can re-sign with their current team. That's the difference. The Steelers were able to sign Le'Veon Bell, for example, in 2015 when they did because he had been cut by the Carolina Panthers.
JIM SPATZ FROM BOONSBORO, MD:
Can you give us an idea of how much agents typically make on a players contract? Ten percent?
ANSWER: Way high. The standard is 3 percent.
TIM KING FROM WILLOW GROVE, PA:
Just getting over the playoff loss to the Patriots. How long does it take for you to get over a playoff loss? Second question: I noticed the Steelers play the Lions in Detroit this year. Am I smelling turkey and Steelers football this year?
ANSWER: I seriously doubt the NFL would schedule the Steelers for Thanksgiving Day road games in back-to-back seasons. And I still haven't gotten over the loss to the San Diego Chargers in 1994, or the Denver Broncos in 1997.
JUAN SAENZ FROM CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO:
Question : Do you really think that Ben has what it takes to take the Steelers to the Super Bowl? Please be 100 percent honest.
ANSWER: I know it. I know it because I've seen him do it already. Three times.
ANNA BADENHOOP FROM NEW YORK, NY:
Is Ben Roethlisberger retiring?
ANSWER: Yes. At some point. I can't imagine the Steelers cutting him.
BILL FENIMORE FROM TROY, MT:
I've been watching film on a safety out of Nebraska named Nate Gerry. This kid seems to have serious playmaker written all over him. Do you think the Steelers will draft him as the final piece of the puzzle that has been missing from our secondary?
ANSWER: The last film I watched was "Fences," and I thought it was better than both "La-La Land" and "Moonlight."