Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: March 24

Let's get to it:

ANTHONY MOLINARO FROM OAKVILLE, ONTARIO, CANADA: It has been a very busy free agent period for the Steelers this year. They've done a good job addressing a lot of the positions of need. It looks like safety is the position they need to address now. Do you think their best option is to re-sign Terrell Edmunds or draft a safety and expect him to start as a rookie? Or is there another option?
ANSWER: My personal opinion is that Terrell Edmunds showed some improvement from season-to-season during his time with the Steelers, and he had his best year in 2021. Re-signing him would be the preferable option in my mind, because it wouldn't be easy for a rookie to be able to step into the starting job there right away and also because keeping Edmunds would be good for continuity on the back end of the defense. But the Steelers also have to consider what they're going to have to pay Minkah Fitzpatrick on a contract extension, and then it becomes a matter of how much money/cap space the team wants to commit to the safety position. Tyrann Mathieu also is unsigned at this point, but the money/cap space issue allocated to safety would be a factor in this potential solution as well.

TIMOTHY BYRNES FROM MONTREAL, CANADA: Knowing that a player's main motivation is money and that platitudes expressed at signing often are PR, is it true that the Steelers have an edge in recruiting free agents due to Coach Mike Tomlin and the team's overall culture?
ANSWER: When asked about his interest in a college coaching job, Coach Mike Tomlin famously said, "Never say never … but never!" But that doesn't mean he lacks the qualifications to be successful at that level, and one of those qualifications is the ability to recruit. I believe there are a number of players around the league who have seen how Tomlin operates and would like to play for him, just as I also believe the long-term success the Steelers have enjoyed and the reputation the organization has based on solid ownership and stability at the head coach and general manager positions can be attractive to a number of players when those players get an opportunity to choose their next destination. But as you mentioned, the main motivation most often is money.

AARON BREEZE FROM FRESNO, CA: In your opinion is the starting quarterback position is Mitch Trubisky's, or do you think that he was brought in to have a legitimate competition with Mason Rudolph for the starting job? I have a hard time believing the latter.
ANSWER: The best scenario would be for the Steelers to stage a legitimate competition for the job between Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, because I don't believe either quarterback has the kind of support/reputation throughout an NFL locker room to engender confidence among teammates through the inevitable rough patches that always come during any NFL regular season if he were to be anointed the starter. Remember, neither one of those guys is an established franchise quarterback, and neither one of them can point to a Lombardi Trophy with his name engraved on the base. Let them compete, and the name the winner of the competition the opening day starter, with the understanding that it's not a lifetime appointment.

BOB DELLAPOSTA FROM HERMITAGE, PA: If Jordan Davis is by some miracle sitting there at No. 20, would it be a mistake of biblical proportions to take Malik Willis or another quarterback instead of a proven run-stopper? I'd be willing to trade up to get him if he doesn't fall into our laps.
ANSWER: Here are a few things I believe about how to spend the 20th overall pick in the upcoming draft: I'm not using that pick or any pick on a quarterback this year unless I am very confident that player is a franchise-quarterback-in-waiting, as opposed to being the best quarterback prospect in this draft, or an intriguing prospect in this draft, because there already are three with starting NFL experience on the roster; and while I personally believe the Steelers need to add to the top of their depth chart along the defensive line and the first round is typically the time to do that, I don't know how valuable/necessary it is to add a two-down player at that point in a draft. If Jordan Davis is more than that, or if the Steelers are convinced he can become more than that, then OK. But a mistake of biblical proportions would be passing on the next Reggie White, and outside of a flashy showing at the Combine, I'm not sure that Jordan Davis even is the next Casey Hampton.

CHRISTOPHER WINKLER FROM FRANKLIN, PA: There were reports over the last week that the Steelers were going to be re-signing Ahkello Witherspoon, and even a couple that said the deal was done ($8 million for two years). Yet at this point ( March 22) he still doesn't appear on the list of transactions on Is Witherspoon off the market, or does he still have a toe or two in the free agent pool?
ANSWER: The Steelers have come to agreement on a contract with Ahkello Witherspoon on a two-year contract, but until the paperwork is signed the team's policy is not to list it as a done deal. The paperwork hasn't been signed most likely because Witherspoon doesn't live in Pittsburgh during the offseason.

DAVID KRAYNAK FROM EUREKA, MT: If the Steelers miss out on the top two quarterbacks in the draft, do you see them possibly using the 20th pick on a wide receiver, or continue to try and invest in the offensive line for their next franchise quarterback?
ANSWER: There are some defensive linemen who, if they are available, would justify the expenditure of a No. 1 pick regardless of how many quarterbacks were still available.

MICKI ANDERSEN FROM FREDERICIA, DENMARK: In all the years I have followed this wonderful franchise I can't remember it being this active in free agency. Is it my memory that is failing, or has the team been more active than usual?
ANSWER: I cannot speak to the number of free agents signed, but this year the Steelers have spent more money on unrestricted free agents than in any previous offseason since free agency was introduced to the NFL in 1993.

OMAR SANCHEZ FROM SANTA ANA, CA: To my surprise, the Pittsburgh Steelers had heavy involvement during free agency. Most issues were addressed, but I feel like we still lack a No. 1 wide receiver in the locker room. What do you think about George Pickens as the No. 20 pick in the draft?
ANSWER: George Pickens tore an ACL in 2021 and on the lists I have seen, he isn't listed among the top five wide receivers in this draft class. Therefore, I wouldn't pick him in the first round.

JOHN COLLIS FROM HUNT, TX: Can you help us understand the waiver wire? Do teams have someone who sits around waiting to see who becomes available when it is their turn to select? Is there a certain amount of time, like in the draft, for a team to select the player before the next team has a chance?
ANSWER: When a player is waived, the paperwork is filed with the NFL office in New York, and then the period during which teams can put in a claim for the waived players lasts for 24 hours. Usually, that 24-hour period runs from 4 p.m. one day to 4 p.m. the next day, and waiver claims are not awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The procedure for awarding a waived player to a team is that the league will wait until the 24-hour claiming period expires, then see all of the teams that have submitted a claim, and then award the player to the claiming team with the worst record.

MIKE FOSTER FROM EWA BEACH, HI: In your estimation is Gunner Olszewski strictly a special teams guy, kick returner, punt returner, coverage teams? Or does he offer slot receiver and jet sweep capabilities despite little statistical evidence thus far in his career?
ANSWER: I have no idea at this point, but what I can tell you is that during his first two seasons in the NFL, Julian Edelman was the Patriots' slot receiver, and then in 2021 New England's top receivers were Kendrick Bourne (55 catches), Nelson Agholor (37 catches), and Jakobi Meyers (83 catches), with former No. 1 pick N'Keal Harry also a part of the group. I imagine the Steelers will give Gunner Olszewski a chance to be more than a returner this offseason, and then it'll be up to him to prove whether he can handle an increased workload.

BOB WERLEY FROM TOKYO, JAPAN: I have been noticing a lot of people more or less implying that our receiving corps is not good. Did I miss something last season when Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Pat Freiermuth, and others were hauling in a lot of passes from Ben Roethlisberger? JuJu Smith-Schuster seems like the only "big" loss, but hardly one that cannot be addressed through free agency or the draft. Has everyone just gone crazy?
ANSWER: If you read Asked and Answered regularly, you should recognize your question about fans going crazy is a rhetorical one.

MAURICIO AMENABAR FROM SANTIAGO, CHILE: How are the locker room places assigned? Do players get to choose, or are they determined by the team?
ANSWER: For established veterans – Cam Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt, as examples – they have some input, and any reasonable requests to relocate would be made to accommodate them. Newcomers – rookies or veterans – usually can expect to have their lockers assigned based on a variety of factors. One example: If the Steelers' first-round pick in the upcoming draft is a defensive lineman, he could expect to have his locker in close proximity to Heyward's as a means of accelerating his acclimation to the NFL and jump-starting the process of learning how to be a professional.

ROBERT ANAVIAN FROM REDONDO BEACH, FL: The Steelers have been very active in free agency. Besides Mitchell Trubisky, which free agent signings do you think will have the most impact on the team?
ANSWER: To pick one free agent addition from each side of the ball, I would give you Myles Jack and James Daniels, with Levi Wallace right there as well

CHRIS FARIS FROM CARMICHAEL, CA: Knowing of your disdain for self-described "experts" and preseason prognostication, please humor me and offer your rationale for why, after what I see to be very positive moves in free agency, the Steelers' odds of winning the Super Bowl dropped significantly?
ANSWER: You just have to understand that oddsmakers are interested is setting odds that induce people to bet money on both sides of an issue in order to balance the books and make certain that the house wins. For example, when the oddsmakers make a team the favorite to win the Super Bowl, or get to the Super Bowl, or win the division, they're hoping to have found the sweet spot to entice bettors to look at those odds and then place money with or against those odds in equal numbers. That's how the oddsmakers "get it right." It has far less to do with accurately predicting how the standings are going to turn out.