Let's get to it:
ERIC SCHIER FROM DOWNINGTOWN, PA: I recently read an interesting article about Casey Hampton, a great player on a great team who doesn't get the recognition he deserves. Can you reflect on Hampton's career and what he meant to the team on the field and in the locker room?
ANSWER: The primary reason Casey Hampton tends to be an overlooked player when it comes to those Steelers teams of the 2000s is primarily because he was used as a two-down player. Hampton was a classic, old-school nose tackle, which means he was the linchpin of a stingy run defense but didn't contribute to the pass rush (189 career regular season and playoff games over 12 seasons with 10 sacks). But it's also worth noting that Hampton was voted to 5 Pro Bowls during his 12 NFL seasons, so maybe he wasn't unappreciated when it came to players around the league. Hampton also was an integral ingredient in the social pecking order in the locker room, because everybody loved and respected him. And "everybody" sometimes extended to powerful people in powerful places. To illustrate that point, Hampton attended the University of Texas at the same time George W. Bush was the governor of the state, and Hampton often told his teammates of how he used to share the university's weight room and commiserate with the man who was the President of the United State when Hampton was drafted in the first round in 2001. Needless to say, many of his teammates doubted Hampton's claim, but then came the visit to the White House after the victory in Super Bowl XL. With the Steelers players and coaches lined up on stage in the East Room of the White House, President Bush entered the room and as he walked to the podium, he noticed Hampton out of the corner of his eye. "Hey, Hamp, what's up?" said Mr. Bush loud enough for the rest of the people on stage to hear. It's safe to say none of Hampton's teammates ever doubted him again.
DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: Was Ben Roethlisberger the player with the longest time as a Steeler?
ANSWER: Ben Roethlisberger holds the all-time franchise records for most seasons with 18, for most games played with 249, and for most games started with 247.
JAMIE EWEN FROM BOURNE, UK: Would we have salary cap space to acquire Jalen Ramsey and/or Bobby Wagner if the stories are true about the Rams being open to letting them go? And if we do have the cap space, do you see them as the type of players that we would want?
ANSWER: There have been reports that Jalen Ramsey will be seeking a new contract if he is traded this offseason, and it should be noted that Ramsey's current deal calls for him to be paid $37 million over the next three seasons. Bobby Wagner already has been released by the Rams, and as I have written in a previous Asked and Answered, if he ends up signing with the team that makes the highest offer, that won't be the Steelers.
BRUCE HACKLEY FROM HIGH POINT, NC: Do you ever tire of the "Mike Tomlin won with Bill Cowher's players" narrative? Who did Cowher win with, seeing as Chuck Noll's last season ended with a 7-9 record?
ANSWER: Among the players that Bill Cowher inherited from Chuck Noll were 2 future Hall of Fame selections (Rod Woodson and Dermontti Dawson), 12 Pro Bowl players (Woodson, Dawson, Tunch Ilkin, Carlton Haselrig, Eric Green, Neil O'Donnell, Barry Foster, Greg Lloyd, David Little, Hardy Nickerson, Carnell Lake, and Gary Anderson), and 7 players who would end up being voted Steelers MVP by their teammates (Woodson, Lloyd, Foster, Little, O'Donnell, Anderson, and Bryan Hinkle).
MICHAEL HORAN FROM O'FALLON, MO: I was stationed with a fellow United States Army Officer in Korea named Bob Gay. He claimed to have graduated from Dartmouth University and played for the Steelers and maybe the Patriots, circa 1972. That made him a bit of a legend to have played, perhaps in a small role, but nonetheless a real live NFL player. I'm wondering based on your history and expertise, did he play for the Steelers?
ANSWER: I can find no record of someone named Bob Gay having played for the Steelers. It's possible he attended training camp, but if he never made the roster he would not show up as having been a player for the team.
LARRY HALL FROM AUSTIN, TX: Asking your opinion vs. what the team will do here. If it were your decision and given the state of the team, if you're trying to build a contender would you trade down 5-6 spots in the first round if the return was an extra second-round pick and another pick in the fourth or fifth round?
ANSWER: That's a question that cannot be answered without knowing more of the specifics, because the NFL Draft isn't something that can be boiled down to numbers on a piece of paper or on a chart. Who are the players available at No. 17 overall the Steelers would be giving up a chance to select, and who might still be on the board five selections later when their turn came up again? How has the draft unfolded to that point with respect to how the Steelers have aligned their draft board? Then, would all of that indicate their best value would be adding more picks according to the scenario you present, or would it be better to pick at No. 17 because of the caliber of a certain player available at that spot? These trade-down scenarios are nothing but hypotheticals until you're able to attach names to them.
TIM WHEELER FROM MELTON MOWBRAY, UK: How do you feel about the NFL's proposal to introduce roughing the passer reviews?
ANSWER: There's still a long way to go between that being an issue discussed during meetings of the Competition Committee in February and being put up to a vote during the owners meetings in late March. But to get to the question, if it got to that vote, I would say I'm sure there are things I would hate more than making roughing the passer penalties (called and uncalled) liable to replay review, but off the top of my head I cannot think of any right now. NO MORE REPLAY. I'm going to get that made into a bumper sticker and put it on my car.
CHRIS HANN FROM SARASOTA, FL: The Scouting Combine is being held this week, which is covered by NFL Network. As a reporter, are you allowed to attend or is it strictly team personnel/ scouts outside of the television coverage?
ANSWER: For civilians interested in watching the drills during the Combine, I can tell you from personal experience that watching it on television is far superior to watching it in person inside Lucas Oil Stadium. The NFL Network broadcast does a good job of explaining who the players are (they're not wearing numbered uniforms, so distinguishing one cornerback from another, as an example, isn't easy), and the telecast also puts what you're seeing into a perspective that makes for better viewing and an understanding of what you're viewing. What I found myself doing when I was watching from inside the dome was locating a television and watching the NFL Network broadcast.
WAYNE PHILLIPS FROM SPRING HILL, FL: You answered a question from Steve Samack from St. Mary's, Pa. About draft day trades. So I'm sitting here thinking a call comes in about a trade and the owner and coach and the GM have a very short time to decide about trading possibly a star player. How much time is given, or has the team given any thought to scenarios ahead of time?
ANSWER: What you should understand is that the Steelers have already discussed and debated more scenarios days, even weeks, before the draft than we could concoct days in a setting lkike this. Who they might be willing to trade. Who is an untouchable. What they would expect in compensation from a proposed trade. Would they even consider a certain kind of trade – up or back in a particular round, as an example. Then there are members of the personnel department who are charged with touching base with other teams around the league to gauge interest in who might be willing to trade once the picking begins, and maybe even which players those teams might have interest in picking in the event a trade is consummated. This is not at all done in the way you describe. There's way, way more prep work done in advance.
WILLIAM PALAICH FROM CLERMONT, FL: How are compensatory picks determined? I know it involves the round in which a player was drafted, but what else determines the awarded pick?
ANSWER: Teams are awarded compensatory draft picks based on a formula that takes into consideration unrestricted free agents lost vs. unrestricted free agents signed, while also factoring in such issues as size of contracts and playing time for the new and/or lost players. There is no one-for-one draft pick compensation for unrestricted free agents lost.