Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: March 22

Let's get to it:

NATHAN GEISLER FROM BOISE, ID: The Steelers historically have had great defensive players, but I divide it into two different defenses. First was the 4-3 alignment with the famous Steel Curtain front four of the 1970s, and then starting in 1982 came the 3-4 alignment. In your opinion who would be your starting seven and their backups in the 3-4 alignment since 1982?
ANSWER: This is hardly a scientific method I employed to answer this question, and I acknowledge I didn't do a deep dive into lots of statistics or specific roles the guys I selected had on the Steelers teams on which they played. So without further ado, here we go: my first-team all-time 3-4 alignment for the Steelers has Aaron Smith and Cam Heyward flanking nose tackle Casey Hampton on the defensive line. The inside linebackers are James Farrior and Ryan Shazier, with T.J. Watt and Greg Lloyd as the outside linebackers. The backups along the defensive line are Brett Keisel and Ray Seals flanking Javon Hargrave in the middle. The inside linebackers are Levon Kirkland and Lawrence Timmons, with James Harrison and Joey Porter as the outside linebackers. And on this "all-star team," Farrior would be the captain and wear the green dot.

CHRISTOPHER GALLOWAY FROM DALLAS, TX: What is the difference between contract termination and being cut or released or waived?
ANSWER: Essentially, there is no difference. A player who is waived is subject to a 24-hour period immediately after that paperwork is filed where he can be claimed by any team in the league, with priority given to teams with the worst records, very similar to the order used in the draft. A player claimed on waivers must play for the claiming team or not play at all. A player who is released is automatically free to sign with any team willing to have him. The Collective Bargaining Agreement determines whether the player must go through waivers and the times of the season when the waiver system applies.

WHITTAKER MACK FROM MONTVALE, NJ: Like many, I have played fantasy GM over the last couple of weeks and countless mock simulations. To me, it was best when I traded out of the first round in several simulated trades that helped me accumulate second- and third-round picks. I believe the best value picks could be had there in this draft vs. chasing the very best, because I believe the Steelers could obtain several good players between selections Nos. 50-100. If doable, would you agree trading down multiple times to subsequently get out of first round to obtain two-to-four additional second- and third round picks could be a more profitable venture?
ANSWER: Fantasy. Mock. Simulated. Believe. Could. I just picked those five words out of your submission, and what do you notice about them? What I notice is that none of them are reflective of the real NFL world where these transactions have to be made. In your world, there are teams willing to make the trades you want to make at the terms you are seeking. In your world, after these trades are made, the other teams in the draft have cooperated by not picking some of the good players at the positions of need you would be looking for. In your world, the Steelers are able to make the trades they want at the terms they want and still pick the players they want at the positions they need. It's all theoretical. It's not real. Sure, there are instances of teams making multiple in-draft trades to move down in rounds and stockpile picks that then are used to add good players, but there are more examples of teams making a bunch of trades and all they have to show for it are multiple picks that guys like Mel Kiper and others in his "business" will praise on the Monday after the draft. The final sentence of your submission begins with "if doable." Here's another sentence that begins that way: "If doable, I want to hit the Powerball and win hundreds of millions of dollars so that I can retire immediately with nary a care for the rest of my life." It's a great plan, and if it came true, it would work out great. But what's my backup if that "isn't doable?"

DUNCAN SMITH FROM GREENWOOD, MS: Do you think an Emmanuel Sanders reunion is possible now that Pittsburgh needs a third receiving option?
ANSWER: Emmanuel Sanders is 35 years old, but his injury history isn't bad for someone who has played 6,839 offensive snaps over 12 NFL seasons, but what is his interest in the Steelers? Would he have any interest in the role the Steelers would have available at the salary they would be willing to pay? And would he have any interest in playing for a team at the Steelers' current stage of development? If all of those things check out, it could be worth a conversation.

BOB RUSSAK FROM HASTINGS ON HUDSON, NY: While excited about the free agent signings, what is the status of extensions for Dionte Johnson and Minka Fitzpatrick? On a second thought, with such a good work ethic, wouldn't signing Jarvis Landry be a coup?
ANSWER: General Manager Kevin Colbert explained that the kinds of contract extensions to which you refer are items of business that are conducted only after free agency and the draft are concluded. That means there is no status regarding contract extensions for Diontae Johnson and Minkah Fitzpatrick at this point in the offseason. Regarding Jarvis Landry, his situation is somewhat similar to the one I described above with Emmanuel Sanders, but since Landry is younger (he'll turn 30 in November) and was voted to five straight Pro Bowls from 2015-2019 I would imagine he would have more options in terms of finding his next team. If signing Landry would be doable in terms of the sides coming to agreement on the length and compensation for a contract and an understanding and acceptance of a role, I'm all in favor. But doing business with these kinds of established veterans has to happen with both sides entering into the agreement with a complete understanding of all those variables. Otherwise, it's not going to work, as we have seen.

THOMAS WARD FROM LADSON, SC: The offensive line has been addressed as well as the quarterback position, but now this one question arises: who is the quarterback going to throw the ball to? Great strategy.
ANSWER: The Steelers top four receivers from last season, based on number of catches were Diontae Johnson with 107, Najee Harris with 94, Pat Freiermuth with 60, and Chase Claypool with 59. The receivers the Steelers lost so far this offseason were JuJu Smith-Schuster (15 catches in an injury-shortened season), James Washington (who was absolutely no lock to make the 53-man roster in 2022), and Ray-Ray McCloud (who caught 39 passes for an average of 7.1 yards per catch in 2021) and is the definition of a journeyman in that in his NFL career he has 81 punt returns, 72 kickoff returns, 64 catches, and eight rushing attempts and never has scored a touchdown in his career. I expect the Steelers to address the wide receiver position before free agency is over and then certainly at some point during the draft, but I can assure you the receivers the Steelers have lost this offseason are not Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Hines Ward.

HUMBERTO NUNEZ FROM WEST NEW YORK, NJ: Daxton Hill would be a good first-round pick, but he weighs 192 pounds, and Minkah Fitzpatrick weighs 207. If the Steelers were to draft Hill, is it possible they would move Minkah to strong safety and play Hill at free safety?
ANSWER: While I agree that Daxton Hill has some intriguing skills, I'm nowhere near ready to label him a No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, let alone the No. 20 pick in the first round. And I am absolutely, positively opposed to moving a 25-year-old, two-time first-team All-Pro NFL free safety to accommodate an "intriguing" player with four interceptions in his 32 career college games. No way. Never.

LARRY SHEARER FROM HUBBARD, OH: What are your thoughts regarding the AFC North this year? Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and now Deshaun Watson all are in the mix with some respectable ground games and defenses on each team.
ANSWER: A bit early to be predicting the 2022 AFC North standings, isn't it? And while I'm never one to allow facts to get in the way of paranoia, you should know that over the last two regular seasons, the Steelers are 4-0 vs. the Ravens and 3-1 vs. the Browns. They are 3-2 all-time vs. Lamar Jackson, who has thrown four touchdowns and six interceptions for a rating of 67.4 while being sacked 16 times against the Steelers. In the Steelers only game vs. Deshaun Watson, the defense sacked him five times in a Pittsburgh victory.

NICHOLAS MOSES FROM SIMI VALLEY, CA: So now that every receiver on the team not nailed down has flown the coop, what exactly are the Steelers going to do?
ANSWER: There's only one thing left to do: Line up in the wishbone formation and run a lot of jet-sweeps. And I guarantee you that if the Steelers put the same group of wide receivers on the field in 2022 that they had on the field in 2021, you'd be whining about that the whole season.

TODD CRUM FROM BAHAMA, NC: Somebody has to ask. Is it possible the Steelers bring Baker Mayfield into the quarterback competition?
ANSWER: Remember back when you were young, and someone might have told you that there is no such thing as a dumb question? They were lying.