Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: March 27

Let's get to it:

FRANK LUCAS FROM HOUSTON, TX:
Lately, the Steelers No. 1 draft pick has started from day one. Since the signings of Morgan Burnett and Jon Bostic, it appears that a starting inside linebacker and safety are off the list. As a result, could you see them drafting Bud Dupree 's replacement in the event they do not pickup his fifth-year option?

ANSWER: Just because the last couple of No. 1 draft picks were starters early in their rookie seasons doesn't mean that's the way it's going to be every year, and even after the additions of Jon Bostic and Morgan Burnett, the Steelers still need to reinforce the positions of inside linebacker and safety, respectively. As for Bud Dupree, here's what General Manager Kevin Colbert said about him on Sunday during the NFL Owners Meetings:

Q. Any decision about Bud Dupree's fifth-year option?
COLBERT: Not at this point. That is something we don't have to deal with until May, so that is something we will look at down the road.

Q. When you look at making that decision, do you look at the player's potential moving forward, depth at the position, what the player has done? What do you look at?
COLBERT: All of the above.

Q. If you pick up the fifth-year option, you can always pull it back, right?
COLBERT: If we pick up the fifth-year option, the intention is having that player, whoever we designate, be a part of our team for the long run.

Q. Evaluate Dupree's first few seasons?
COLBERT: I want to say, not inconsistent, but there have been some highs, there have been some health issues he has had to fight through. I think Bud is just scratching the surface on what he can be. Playing another season with T.J. (Watt), and T.J. playing with Bud, I think those two will help each other grow as this thing continues to unfold. I think there's more that Bud wants to get out of himself and we want to get out of Bud. Part of that has been health related where he has had some issues that have held him back. Pairing him and T.J. together, I think the both of them will benefit.

BILL SAMPEY FROM MT ELGIN, ONTARIO, CANADA:
Thank you for this great segment. You do a sterling job of answering some ridiculous questions. So here's another: Why did management see a need to re-sign nose tackle Dan McCullers? Normally I side with their judgment, they're good at it, but can you explain what they see in him? Inactive for 10 games last year.

ANSWER: I believe in this instance it has more to do with Karl Dunbar than Dan McCullers. Since being the team's second pick in the sixth round pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, McCullers has been involved in 27 tackles and been inactive for 21 games. John Mitchell tried to get through to him. Joe Greene tried to get through to him. Neither was successful.

McCullers became an unrestricted free agent on March 14, and it was last week that the Steelers re-signed him to a one-year contract. While neither the team nor the McCullers camp has revealed the financial terms, my guess is that it was one of those deals that pays the player the veteran minimum while charging the team less than that against its salary cap. At 6-foot-7, 352 pounds and not sloppy, McCullers is an intriguing physical specimen, but based on the way he has gone about his business in the NFL there have to be questions about whether it's at all important to him.

It's likely that Dunbar either asked for a chance to try to get something out of McCullers, or Dunbar was asked if he thought he could get something out of McCullers. Based on the decision to re-sign him, the answer to one of those questions must have been "yes." But make no mistake, McCullers is going to have to make the team this summer.

ZACK FARNSWORTH FROM NEWPORT, OH:
Is there any rule in the NFL prohibiting a player on a team from trying to recruit a free agent to his team through social media, calling, texts, etc.?

ANSWER: There is no rule prohibiting what you describe.

BOB DUFF FROM ARLINGTON, TX:
I read that the Steelers did not make an offer to Eli Rogers. What does that mean for him? Do you see him on the Steelers roster this year?

ANSWER: Eli Rogers was a restricted free agent, and because the Steelers didn't offer him a qualifying tender by the March 14 deadline he became an unrestricted free agent who will be able to sign with any team. The issue with Rogers was the ACL tear he sustained in the January playoff game against Jacksonville that required reconstructive surgery, and because rehabilitation from that kind of procedure usually is in the nine-to-12 month range it's unlikely he would be able to pass a physical a team would require before signing him.

Will Rogers be on the Steelers roster in 2018? Too soon to tell, but at wide receiver, the team has Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and JuJu Smith-Schuster at the top of the depth chart, and Smith-Schuster can play in the slot. Also in the mix for Rogers' spot would be Marcus Tucker, and maybe even Trey Griffey and Justin Thomas. And that's assuming nobody else is added via the draft.

BILL DUBBS FROM DELTON, MI:
Who is going to be the slot receiver this year?

ANSWER: I would pencil in JuJu Smith-Schuster for that role as of today.

SETH FIRESTONE FROM ASHBURN, VA:
How much money did we spend on Morgan Burnett and Jon Bostic? Would we have been able to sign Tyrann Mathieu with the money we spent on both of them? If so, why don't you think this happened.

ANSWER: According to spotrac.com, the combined 2018 cap charge to the Steelers for the contracts signed by Morgan Burnett and Jon Bostic is $3.9 million, which is just a little more than half of the $7 million that Tyrann Mathieu will count against the Houston Texans' salary cap in 2018. Also as I wrote last Friday in a story appearing on Steelers.com:

"What was largely being overlooked by the advocates of signing Mathieu was an injury history much more alarming than Bostic's and Burnett's combined. In December 2013, Mathieu tore both the ACL and LCL in his left knee, which required major reconstructive surgery. Then in December 2015, he tore the ACL in his right knee, which meant more major surgery. And in 2016, Mathieu missed about half of the season with a shoulder injury that landed him on the injured reserve list for the third time in a four-year span. All of this happening to a slight-bodied man (5-foot-8, 186 pounds) before he hit his 26th birthday in a violent sport made him too much of a medical risk for the money he was seeking in a new contract."

TED FAULKNER FROM SHEFFIELD, UK:
In Steelers history, which player has played in the most games?

ANSWER: The player who has played the most games for the Steelers is Mike Webster, who played in 220 from 1974-88.

BRUNO CONTORCHICK FROM YORK, PA:
From the March 22 edition of Asked and Answered, you were asked: "Would you regard James Farrior as the best free agent signing the Steelers have ever made?"

Your answer: "I would."

Would Donnie Shell be considered a free agent when he signed. If so in my opinion, Shell would have been the best signing.

ANSWER: Different kinds of free agents. Donnie Shell was an undrafted rookie. James Farrior was a player already in the NFL whose contract had expired, which made him an unrestricted free agent. The question had to do with unrestricted free agents, not undrafted rookies.

RAY GREHOFSKY FROM BLACKSBURG, VA:
In your March 22 edition of Asked and Answered, you said you thought James Farrior was the best free agent signing the Steelers made. How bout two guys with busts in Canton based largely/mostly on their play with the Steelers? Jerome Bettis and Kevin Greene would be at the top of my list. Thanks for your insights.

ANSWER: Jerome Bettis was acquired via trade – on Draft Day in 1996 – and so he was not signed as an unrestricted free agent. And you are incorrect about Kevin Greene in this significant aspect: Greene played 15 seasons and finished his career with 160 sacks, but only three of those seasons and 35.5 of those sacks came with the Steelers. That works out to 20 percent of his career and 22.2 percent of his sacks, which hardly qualifies as "largely/mostly" with the Steelers.

STEVE MARSHALL FROM ENFIELD, CT:
If/when Bell tests the free agent market next year (his health, production, everything is good) do you see teams offering him what he wants? And if his offers are not what he envisioned them to be, do you see the door still open (in that scenario) of the Steelers wanting to re-sign him?

ANSWER: Way too many hypotheticals involved for me to have any chance at answering that one. As Bill Cowher used to say, "I don't play the what-if game."

TIM SCHUCKERS FROM BIG RUN, PA:
Has any other team made Chris Boswell an offer? If not, any word on a long term deal? Thanks and keep up the good work.

ANSWER: No. No. You're welcome.


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