Ready or not, here it comes:
VICKI RIZZO FROM ST. CHARLES, MO:
Daniel Jeremiah has Pittsburgh taking wide receiver Mike Williams in the first round of the draft. I can't see that happening when their needs are on defense. Have the Steelers ever picked a wide receiver in the first round?
ANSWER: I begin by requesting, gently for now, that submitted questions don't ask me to explain/justify what someone might have predicted the Steelers will do in a mock draft. Those mock drafts are all guesswork, and most of the people doing mock drafts do enough versions that come the actual picking they all can point to different parts of different versions and claim they had it right.**
With that off my chest, the answer to your question is that yes, the Steelers have picked wide receivers on the first round. Just looking at the history of the team's draft classes starting with 1969 when Chuck Noll was hired, the Steelers have used their No. 1 pick on a wide receiver seven times. In 1971, it was Frank Lewis from Grambling; in 1974, it was Lynn Swann from Southern California; in 1984, it was Louis Lipps from Southern Mississippi; in 1994, it was Charles Johnson from Colorado; in 1999, it was Troy Edwards from Louisiana Tech; in 2000, it was Plaxico Burress from Michigan State; and in 2006, it was Santonio Holmes from Ohio State.
BRODY ROY FROM ANCHORAGE, AK:
How come everyone thinks the Steelers have a need for a safety?
ANSWER: I don't know who you mean by "everyone," but allow me to point out that the Steelers currently have five safeties under contract. In Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis, they have two capable starters, but behind the starters the depth could stand to be fortified. Robert Golden, Jordan Dangerfield, and Jacob Hagen may be able to contribute on special teams, but none of them have shown themselves to be accomplished on defense at the NFL level.
One other thing to consider: making the case that the Steelers have a need for a safety doesn't necessarily mean the need must be filled with a first-round pick.
TERRI NONNEMACHER FROM WHITEHALL, PA:
I was wondering if you know what weekend the Steelers will be starting training camp in Latrobe? I was never there before and I want to go this year to be up close to my favorite team. I go to two games a year, but I think it would be so cool to make a trip to Saint Vincent College, and I'd like to reserve a hotel room as soon as possible.
ANSWER: That information about the dates for training camp at Saint Vincent College won't be known for a while, especially to the degree of knowing the practice schedule. Here are a couple of tips for you to keep in mind, though, as you plan for your summer trip to Latrobe. The first two days of practice at Saint Vincent College always are padless practices – the NFLPA refers to them as acclimation days – and those are held on the two days immediately following reporting day. Also, for a clue, and I only mean a clue, as to when players might be reporting to camp, wait until the preseason schedule is announced, and then count backward 13 days from the date of the preseason opener. That will give you a general idea of when training camp will start.
TIM RICOHERMOSO FROM CHESAPEAKE, MD:
With the recent signing of former Jaguars lineman Tyson Alualu, many discussions were made concerning the Steelers defensive line depth. L.T. Walton was mentioned along with Alualu as being able to spell Javon Hargrave at nose tackle, but no mention was made of Dan McCullers providing depth along the defensive line. Have the Steelers already given up and moved on from McCullers?
ANSWER: If the Steelers had "already given up and moved on" from Dan McCullers, he would've been released. I believe McCullers will get another chance this summer at Saint Vincent College, but he's going to have to show the team more than he did in his first three summers there, or the team will "move on" for real.**
NICK MITCHELL FROM GLEN-LYON, PA:
I heard that offensive coordinator Todd Haley went to Notre Dame to watch quarterback DeShone Kizer during his pro day. Does this mean anything as to life after Ben Roethlisberger, or does Haley go to a lot of pro days?
ANSWER: The Steelers are represented at many pro days during the course of a typical offseason, because the team believes in doing its due diligence on all of the top players, even those players the Steelers are unlikely to have a chance to draft.
SAM LE TISSIER FROM GUERNSEY, UNITED KINGDOM:
How do NFL franchises manage to maintain the high costs of existence, mainly players' wages and bonuses? Do the owners plough money into the franchise every year, or are they maintained via tickets and merchandise sales, plus television rights fees? I ask because in the U.K., clubs depend on player transfer prices (as well as the other things mentioned above), which NFL players don't have in trades.
ANSWER: There are two things built into the basic operation of an NFL franchise that virtually guarantee solvency. The first is the league's television contract, which, according to a 2014 story on ESPN.com, paid each team $187.7 million that year, and that number has risen since then. The other factor is the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association, which calls for the annual salary cap to be determined via a management/player split of revenue. This arrangement prohibits owners from over-spending on player salaries, and this system of free agency tied to a salary cap determined by a split of designated gross revenues is a model for all professional sports leagues worldwide.
FRANK SESTA FROM CHARLOTTE, NC:
It seems like the Steelers play the Patriots and even the Colts almost every year. How does the league do this? Seems unfair.
ANSWER: In another effort toward creating parity, the NFL arranges each team's schedule so that every team plays two games every year against teams from its own conference, and those games are determined by where the teams finished in the previous year's standings. These games are in addition to the annual rotation where a team plays an entire division within its own conference and an entire division from the other conference. And in those two games, first place teams face first place teams, second place teams face second place teams, etc. So based on how the standings in the AFC North, AFC East, and AFC South typically end up, you should have an idea why the Steelers, Patriots, and Colts always seem to end up on each others' schedules.
SHIMON MAZA-WILLIAMS FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA:
Since Rey Maualuga is a free agent and is still a decent linebacker, do you feel it would be a good pickup for the Steelers? Plus they could then use an early draft pick on a quarterback.
ANSWER: That's your opinion that Rey Maualuga "is still a decent linebacker," but I would suggest that the Cincinnati Bengals disagree, or they wouldn't have made the move away from him because the guy they signed to replace him – Kevin Minter – is going to be making virtually the same salary as Maualuga was due in 2017.
In 2016, Maualuga's playing time was cut rather significantly, by some estimates to 30 percent of the snaps from 57 percent of the snaps in 2015. Another issue that, for me, would preclude any addition of Maualuga to the Steelers locker room is his very public friendship with Vontaze Burfict. I just don't see that as a good mix, and besides, Vince Williams is a better player than Maualuga at this point.