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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: March 28

Let's get to it:

FRED WARD FROM WARREN, PA: Kudos to General Manager Omar Kahn for his efforts this offseason, and also credit to Coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers organization, and the fan base for creating the kind of climate that helps to entice free agents. My question has to do with Cory Trice Jr. How has his rehab been progressing, and will he potentially be ready for Latrobe?
ANSWER: At this time of the year, the NFL does not require teams to provide injury updates on players, and so there is no news on Cory Trice Jr.'s rehabilitation. And it's doubtful there will be any specific information passed on to the public for some time. The Steelers offseason program begins on April 15, but there won't be anything resembling real football-like activity until OTAs begin in late May. Regardless of what might be said or witnessed during the offseason program, I personally will be looking at Coach Mike Tomlin's presser that opens training camp at Saint Vincent College. That's the day we'll learn whether Trice will open training camp on the physically unable to perform list. And that will be the first real indication of where Trice is in his rehabilitation.

ELI LIRA FROM CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO: What are your thoughts regarding the new rules approved during the NFL Owners Meeting in Orlando? Specifically, the banning the "hip-drop tackle" and the changes in the kickoff. By the way, thanks.
ANSWER: When it comes to changing kickoffs, I really think I'm going to have to see it practiced and then executed in games. A few XFL clips don't provide enough of an idea of the impact on both the receiving team and the kicking team. As for the hip-drop tackle, there is credible recent video evidence of offensive players sustaining injuries that sidelined them for significant hunks of the regular season. And the NFL is trending toward a product erring on the side of high-flying offense at the expense of rock-ribbed defense. There is nothing wrong with trying to eliminate those kinds of injuries, but the enforcement of "the infraction" in real time during a regular season or playoff game doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in me. Officials might be encouraged, via "points of emphasis," to set a tone with respect to enforcement, with the resulting penalties ending up either too numerous or too impactful, or both. But the reality is that the NFL has no problem making it more difficult and punitive to play defense. This is another example of that.

CHUCK MARQUES FROM MARIETTA, SC: Have the Steelers ever moved on from a first-round pick as fast as they did with Kenny Pickett? Basically 1½ seasons.
ANSWER: In 1991, the Steelers used the 19th overall pick on Huey Richardson, who turned out to be a swing-and-a-miss in an attempt to find a playmaking 3-4 outside linebacker. After a completely disastrous rookie season, Richardson was cut at the end of the next training camp. That's the quickest trigger on a No. 1 pick I can remember.

OWEN HIGGS FROM KENNEWICK, WA: My unscientific observation is that the Steelers brass tries to have at least one player signed at each position going into the draft so they are not beholden to a certain position. If you agree, do you see the Steelers signing a center or cornerback before the draft so they can choose the best available player?
ANSWER: Since free agency began, the Steelers acquired cornerback Donte Jackson in a trade with Carolina, and when asked about the center position at the Owners Meetings, General Manager Omar Khan said, "All options are still on the table. There's some players out there still that are free agents. There's maybe some trade opportunities, and then there's a draft. But you know, we have (Nate) Herbig around, and as I mentioned to you guys in Indy, we have some offensive linemen who have some versatility, but it's a work in progress."

ROY PERRIN FROM RALEIGH, NC: If a player is about to be released as a cap casualty, can he offer to accept a lower salary to stay on the team? Does that ever happen?
ANSWER: If a team is planning on a cap-related move with a player but still is interested in continuing to do business with that player, it could broach the subject with the player. The way it usually works is that the team initiates that kind of a conversation.

DICK VOCHEK FROM PORTAGE, PA: When free agents visit a team's facility, do their agents attend with them in hopes they can ink a deal?
ANSWER: Not usually. Most agents have more than one client, and visiting a particular team with a particular player wouldn't be a good usage of time, what with cell phones and email available for whatever might be necessary. That way, the agent could service more than one client if necessary.

SUNIL GEORGE FROM PRINCETON, NJ: I am taking a wait and see approach with Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. On paper, they are better than Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph, and Mitch Trubisky. If neither Wilson nor Fields work out in 2024, I can see the Steelers drafting a quarterback in 2025. The question I have, is how good is the 2025 draft class for quarterbacks?
ANSWER: It's my policy to employ a strict wait-and-see approach regarding anything about the quarterback class in the 2025 NFL Draft.

WILLIAM PALAICH FROM CLERMONT, FL: For many years the "best player available" draft philosophy was the Steelers' mantra. Can you comment on the evolution of the team to a "roster needs/best at the position" draft philosophy and more free agency activity?
ANSWER: The Steelers still believe in building their roster via the draft, but when they are executing the draft – it's only 7 rounds, too – they have to respect the fact that a lot of the players they draft will be eligible for unrestricted free agency in four years, five at the most. Back when the Steelers could afford a strict "best player available" draft philosophy, players had no freedom of movement. Those 9 Hall of Fame players from the 1970s Super Bowl teams never had a chance to test their worth on the open market. But times have changed. For a team to utilize the draft properly these days, it must incorporate "positions of need" into the process. It's just the way the business has evolved.

DAN McNEEL FROM MANCHESTER, NH: As we head into the draft, I recall when the Steelers drafted a young defensive lineman named Gabriel Rivera. If memory serves me, many projected him to be the "replacement" for Joe Greene. (Not possible.) Rivera had an automobile accident that ended his career before he ever saw the field. Are you able to shed light on his current status?
ANSWER: Gabe Rivera was the Steelers' No. 1 pick in the 1983 NFL Draft, and he was an interior defensive lineman who was stout against the run while also providing pass rush production with quickness and athletic ability. Over a six-game span as a rookie in 1983, Rivera had 2 sacks and the Steelers were 5-2. Rivera never was billed as a replacement for Joe Greene; what Chuck Noll tried to do was rebuild the 1980s Steelers with defense, which was how he built the dynasty that ruled the 1970s. Rivera's automobile accident came on Oct. 20, 1983, and it left him with life-changing injuries. He died on July 16, 2018. He was 57.

DAN HALL FROM DEER PARK, WA: I was born and raised in Oregon. Would the Steelers draft Bo Nicks if the stars are aligned and even though they picked up Justin Fields?
ANSWER: The Steelers also have agreed to terms with veteran Kyle Allen, and I believe that was done with the idea of him being No. 3 behind Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. They won't spend the draft capital that would be necessary to pick Bo Nix.

MICHAEL TORSIELLO FROM SUMMIT, NJ: Usually when the Steelers sign or acquire a big-time player in a trade, there is hoopla about him entering the city and one-on-one interviews with him. I have seen no such thing with Justin Fields. I haven't seen any news on him actually being in Pittsburgh or at the team's facility.
ANSWER: Don't lose any sleep over that. Justin Fields is on a Youth Football Camp tour that has taken him overseas.

DENNIS BRADLEY FROM TOLEDO, OH: Andy Russell, who was on two Super Bowl winning Steelers teams, played for the Steelers before Chuck Noll became head coach in 1969. Who were the other players who won a Super Bowl with the Steelers but predated Noll's arrival with the team?
ANSWER: There were 5: Rocky Bleier, Ray Mansfield, Sam Davis, Bobby Walden, and Andy Russell.