Let's get to it:
DAN WRIGHT FROM QUEENS, NY: Is there any chance the Steelers could look to sign Bud Dupree back to the squad so we could have a rotation at outside linebacker that would include Dupree, T.J. Watt, and Alex Highsmith?
ANSWER: "Any chance?" I don't see this as being a situation where the door is completely closed, and so, sure, there is a chance the Steelers could add Bud Dupree to the roster at some point this offseason. But because Dupree was released by Tennessee back on March 6 and remains on the open market, that's an indication there are issues to be resolved. Health figures to be a significant factor, because since sustaining a significant knee injury in December 2020 while still a member of the Steelers, Dupree started only 17 of a possible 33 regular season games and played 850 defensive snaps during the 2021-22 seasons combined for the Tennessee Titans. Another issue would be his role with the Steelers, because T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith are entrenched as the starters, and just a short time ago Melvin Ingram chafed at being a veteran backup behind that duo. What kind of contract, in terms of length and dollars, is Dupree willing to accept, and what kind of contract are the Steelers willing to offer, especially with Highsmith going into the final year of his rookie deal and possibly looking for an extension at some point over the summer. There are a lot of ways where a reunion between the Steelers and Dupree sounds good, but that doesn't mean it will be simple to turn that into a reality.
HARLEY FARR FROM BOWIE, MD: You have written that "Mason Rudolph is an unrestricted free agent." Do the Steelers still pay him?
ANSWER: The last money Mason Rudolph got from the Steelers was a game check for the 2022 regular season finale, and his contract with the team officially expired on March 15.
CHRIS BALMER FROM ALLENTOWN, PA: Considering the recent signings of Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig, do you think Kendrick Green and J.C. Hassenauer are going to be gone?
ANSWER: That's the way it might end up, but at this stage of the process predicting roster spots is nothing but a guess. Between now and the start of training camp, the Steelers are going to assemble a group of offensive linemen they want to take to Saint Vincent College and turn loose in a competition. Then the ones who win the competition, or survive it, will make the 53-man roster. I don't believe Steelers fans have a sufficient appreciation for how rare and special it was to have the same five offensive linemen available for every regular season game, and then for them to play 100 percent of the snaps in each of those games. A much more common occurrence is for a team to have to build a depth chart capable of absorbing injuries that make front-line players unavailable for varying hunks of the season. The Steelers had 9 offensive linemen among the 53 who prepared to open the 2022 season in Cincinnati vs. the Bengals. Keep that in mind as the offseason continues to unfold.
CHRIS FACKLER FROM BENSALEM, PA: Has there been any discussion about Derek Watt being re-signed? I am a fan of the fullback position, as well as his special teams contributions.
ANSWER: It's normal procedure for the Steelers to conduct high-level meetings leading into the offseason where upcoming free agents are evaluated and prioritized, so I'm confident Derek Watt's situation has been discussed. If this ultimately concludes with a new contract for Watt, I would expect him to have to take a reduction on the previous contract he had signed with the Steelers, which was for three years and $9.75 million, including a $3.5 million signing bonus.
NOAH DELATORRE FROM CANFIELD, OH: Do you think the Steelers should add depth to their receiving corps? Maybe like a Jordan Addison-Kenny Pickett reunion, or drafting Jaxon Smith-Njigba from Ohio State?
ANSWER: There is a decided difference between adding depth to the receiving corps and spending what would be necessary in draft capital to add Jordan Addison or Jaxon Smith-Njigba. I am in favor of adding depth at wide receiver, and I believe that can be accomplished without spending premium draft picks on the position.
RANDY DUVALL FROM HAMPTON, VA: Just curious that recently there has been no mention or discussion about retaining Terrell Edmunds. Will the Steelers offer him a contract?
ANSWER: I feel certain the Steelers have an interest in continuing to do business with Terrell Edmunds, but if there would be any offering of a contract that leaks into the public, all that accomplishes is setting a floor for any other teams that might harbor some level of interest in Edmunds for themselves.
BRIAN BOYCE FROM SPRINGBORO, PA: As an example, do the Steelers offer Terrell Edmunds, or any other in-house free agent, a contract for $4 million a season and let him go see if he can beat that offer on the open market, or is it a situation where does Edmunds goes out, gets his best offer, and then comes back to the Steelers and says, "I got a $ 4 million dollar offer, can you match or beat that?"
ANSWER: As I explained in the previous answer, teams typically don't want to get caught doing the negotiating for the rest of the league, nor do they want to set a baseline for the competition. It's a balancing act, and the teams employing the better negotiators usually find a way to walk that line without alienating the player or his agent.
WILLIAM KILPATRICK FROM MONONGAHELA, PA: I know that there is a slotting system for rookie salaries, so in the 2023 NFL draft does the Steelers' 32nd overall pick get a first-round salary because there would be 32 picks in the first round if the Dolphins didn't have to forfeit their No. 1 pick this year?
ANSWER: Any round of an NFL draft – in this specific case the first round – does not expand as a result of a team having to forfeit a pick within that round because of league-imposed discipline. The Steelers 32nd overall pick is the first pick of the second round. It will be made on Friday (the second day of the draft). That's the rule.
H. FERNANDEZ FROM MONTERREY, MEXICO: Don't you think that it was worth keeping Robert Spillane with a contract that paid him $5 million per year?
ANSWER: Actually, the contract Robert Spillane signed with the Las Vegas Raiders is to pay him $7 million in salary and bonuses over the next two years, which works out to an annual average of $3.5 million, not $5 million, per year. I just see it as a situation where the Steelers determined they needed to be better at inside linebacker than they were in 2022, and rather than viewing the situation as a salary dump, I would characterize it more along the lines of the team looking for more bang for the buck from the position. Spillane is a hard-worker, smart, valuable on special teams, a good teammate, but he's limited physically (6-foot-1, 229 pounds) and athletically, which was exposed when opposing offenses matched him up in coverage. Maybe the Steelers choose to utilize their inside linebackers in a different way moving forward, and maybe the determination was made that Spillane's skill-set wasn't conducive to that. I don't believe there can be much argument that the Steelers did need to improve their defense at the inside linebacker position, and time will tell whether the decisions they made will accomplish that.
JIM ANDERSON FROM TOLEDO, OH: Do the Steelers evaluate and rank every player who will be available in the draft? How many players can NFL teams start with at the beginning of training camp? How many undrafted players do you see the Steelers trying to sign?
ANSWER: Yes, the Steelers will evaluate every draft eligible player. At the start of training camp, the NFL roster limit is 90 players. The Steelers will bring the full complement of 90 players to training camp, and the number of undrafted players who ultimately are signed will be impacted by that climb to 90. However players are added, teams try not to just bring guys to camp to cut them because if players are clearly below the line they can have a negative impact on the ability to conduct worthwhile practices.
ERIC OLSON FROM DOWNINGTOWN, PA: I often hear about Pro Days at various universities. Are these restricted to that particular university's players? Also, is this initiated by the university with the doors open to whatever NFL team would like to attend?
ANSWER: There is no hard and fast rule that covers all situations regarding college Pro Days, but most often the workout at a particular university is limited to the draft eligible players from that particular university. All of the major college programs – certainly all of the ones that are members of the Power 5 conferences – usually restrict the participants to players from their own program. The on-field drills are set by the universities, but there is an occasional allowance for some of the NFL personnel on hand to participate in running the drills. And while it would be counter-productive for the host program to limit the NFL teams it welcomed to attend the Pro Day, there is usually an RSVP required so the university knows what size of a crowd to expect.