Let's get to it:
ADAM FELDERMAN FROM TUCSON, AZ:
Now that the Steelers have signed Knile Davis, does this mean that they will not re-sign DeAngelo Williams?
ANSWER: The addition of Knile Davis, I believe, has more of an impact on Fitz Toussaint than it does on DeAngelo Williams, but that's shouldn't be misinterpreted as meaning Williams is a lock to be brought back. Williams will celebrate his 34th birthday in late April, and that's old for an NFL running back, especially one who has carried 1,730 times over 11 professional seasons. My guess, and I emphasize that it's a guess at this point, is that the Steelers will add a young running back via the draft to be Le'Veon Bell's backup, and then Davis and Toussaint compete for the No. 3 spot. If they are unable to get a running back they like in the draft, then maybe the Steelers go back to Williams, if he even wants to play anymore.
JACK MACDONALD FROM WINCHESTER, VA:
I know there are no details on the contracts for the four free agents we just signed but would it be safe to say they are cap friendly?
ANSWER: Very safe to say, and very cap friendly. Knile Davis and Justin Hunter each signed one-year contracts, and Coty Sensabaugh and Tyson Alualu each signed two-year contracts. My guess is that both of the one-year contracts were the kind that pay the minimum salary for a player of their respective years of experience while giving the team a cap discount for signing a veteran to a one-year deal. And since I doubt either of the two-year deals contained much of a signing bonus and/or guaranteed money, cutting Sensabaugh or Alualu wouldn't really sting from a cap standpoint.
SCOTT FLYNN FROM HORSEHEADS, NY:
Thanks for doing Asked and Answered. I try to read every installment because I learn a lot in between laughs at your sarcasm. After the season ended, the Steelers (and probably every other team) signed a bunch of players to futures contracts. I was wondering if the Steelers have ever had one of those offseason signings go on to become a starter and make a significant contribution to the team.
ANSWER: I didn't go too far back researching this, but here are five guys who signed futures contracts, and I'll let you decide whether they have made significant contributions to the team: Alejandro Villanueva, Rosie Nix, Chris Hubbard, Brad Wing, and Jordan Dangerfield.
GENT RIVER FROM FT MCCOY, FL:
If a restricted free agent presents a signed offer sheet to his current team, is he locked into that signed sheet, or can he decide to remain with the current team with its original offer?
ANSWER: If the restricted free agent wants to remain with his original team, all he has to do is not sign the offer sheet from the other team. Just because another team presents him with an offer sheet doesn't mean he has to sign it. But once he signs it and it's presented to the original team, the clock starts ticking on the match/compensation clock. So, the moral of the story is, don't sign any offer sheet from another team unless you're willing to go there and play under the terms of that contract.
JOEY SPRY FROM STATESVILLE, NC:
Have you ever seen someone go through what Senquez Golson has, missing two seasons back to back, and return to be productive? Thank you for this great segment.
ANSWER: Sean Spence.
ANTHONY LAIRD III FROM ANGLETON, TX:
I really enjoy these segments, and they get me through some rough days, so I wanted to say thank you for that. I was wondering if a player who has signed a long-term deal and then decides within that time frame that he wants to retire, would the money that is left over be counted as dead money or does it go back to the organization?
ANSWER: In the event of a player retiring, the base salaries remaining on the contract simply become void. It doesn't go to the player, nor does it count against the team's salary cap. As for the signing bonus – let's say it's a five-year contract with a $5 million signing bonus, and the player decides to retire three years into that deal – the team can seek to be repaid the $2 million. If the team doesn't seek repayment, then that $2 million is considered dead money on the salary cap for the next season.**
JACK SHEARER FROM NORTH CHESTERFIELD, VA:
What's up with all the free agency signings? Has the team given up on the draft? Are they pinning their hopes on one season (2017), and then they're done?
ANSWER: Gotta admit, this is a first. Questioning whether the Steelers are putting all of their eggs into the 2017 basket, because most fans/questions seem to be in favor of doing just that. No, that's not what's happening here.
These free agent signings – Justin Hunter, Knile Davis, Coty Sensabaugh, Tyson Alualu – provide depth at positions where the Steelers entered the offseason needing depth. These signings were not to add starting-caliber players to the roster. These signings were to add depth to some areas needing it so that the Steelers can have optimum flexibility during the three days of the 2017 NFL Draft.
BRUCE WILSON FROM MEMPHIS, TN:
Would you be opposed to signing Colin Kaepernick? Why?
ANSWER: Yes. Because he stinks. Well, maybe "stinks" is too harsh, but he's certainly not good enough to be worth the distraction that would be created by signing him. And his style of play doesn't mesh with the Steelers' style of offense.
ALEX GAILEY FROM CRESSON, PA:
What led the Steelers to release William Gay early in his career and then sign him again later?
ANSWER: My recollection is that the Steelers had some salary cap issues that offseason, and they wanted James Harrison to take a pay cut. He declined, and so he was released.
JIM HARRISON FROM APPLETON, WI:
I'm thinking about "crazy position change suggestions." The flip side of that is players who have changed positions successfully. Who among the Steelers, over the years, do you feel have been the best at actually switching?
ANSWER: First of all, I want to distinguish the guys who have had to make position switches from the positions they played in college in order to make it in the NFL, which is different than the "move Ryan Shazier to safety" nonsense, because he was drafted in the first round as a linebacker. In the first category, I offer Donnie Shell, Carnell Lake, Antwaan Randle El, and Rosie Nix. Shell and Lake played linebacker in college, Randle El was a quarterback at Indiana, and Nix was a defensive lineman at Kent State. In terms of position switches after getting to the NFL, I have two: Carlton Haselrig and Alejandro Villanueva, but both of them entered the league as undrafted rookies.
PAUL GRANZEIER FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
Which current or past Steelers defensive back would you say is the most underrated, and why did you pick them?
ANSWER: Donnie Shell, because as mentioned in the previous answer, he was a linebacker at South Carolina State, and he did the work to transition to safety in the NFL. Along the way to becoming a proficient safety, Shell contributed on special teams, and during the early years of his NFL career, he was a dynamic special teams player.
When he retired, Shell had played in 201 NFL games, with 162 starts, and he personally was responsible for 70 takeaways – 51 interceptions and 19 fumble recoveries. Three times during his career, Shell finished in the top 10 in the NFL in interceptions, and remember, he was a linebacker in college and so he had to develop those ball skills once he got to the NFL. Shell was voted to five Pro Bowls, and he was named first-team All-Pro three times.
So how can Shell be considered underrated? Because he deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he isn't.
GREG FINDURA FROM NORTH ROYALTON, OH:
Many of the mock drafts that are out there have the Steelers taking a tight end with their first pick in the draft. You have said no way. What do they see that we don't see? Outside linebacker or cornerback makes better sense.
ANSWER: What the people doing the mock drafts don't see is the Pittsburgh Steelers on a regular basis.
JEFF WENZEL FROM NEW MARKET, MN:
On Feb. 23, I believe, you had a "Best of Asked and Answered" on Steelers.com. Isn't that an oxymoron, like government intelligence? Sorry, couldn't resist. I love reading this. On a serious note, with all of the new signings doesn't someone have to be cut, or can we be over 90 player on the roster at this time of the year?
ANSWER: You forgot another oxymoron: jumbo shrimp. Anyway, I like it better when I come up with the clever things, but I acknowledge a good one when I read it. As to your question, NFL rosters cannot exceed 90 players during the offseason, and as of the signing of Tyson Alualu on March 21, the Steelers had 80 players on their roster. Remember, the team's remaining unrestricted free agents – Shamarko Thomas, DeAngelo Williams, Ricardo Mathews, and Cody Wallace – don't count, and they wouldn't count unless and until they re-signed.