Let's get to it:
THOMAS RICKEY FROM JACKSON, NJ: What happens to a college player who goes undrafted and is not signed by a team after the draft? Does he go back to college and continue to play football and come back to the draft next year? Or is it just one bite at the apple, and his football career is done?
ANSWER: Once a player declares for the NFL Draft, whether he has any college eligibility remaining or not, his college career is over. As to an example of a college player who goes undrafted and then isn't signed as a free agent immediately after the draft, look no farther than Devlin Hodges. After his record-setting career at Samford, Hodges wasn't drafted nor was he signed as a free agent after 32 teams passed on picking him through seven rounds. What Hodges did was hit the tryout circuit, where he won a roster spot with the Steelers and then performed well enough over the rest of the offseason to make it to training camp. Skipping right to the end of Hodges' story, he ended up starting six games as a rookie for the Steelers, and he accumulated a 3-3 record in those starts.
JOEL HIGGINS FROM VANCOUVER, WA: What is Mike Hilton's status this offseason? I believe the Steelers should try to bring him back. He's been a playmaker on the defensive side of the football.
ANSWER: Mike Hilton is a restricted free agent, and the rules for restricted free agents are as follows: if interested in retaining the player's services, the player's current team extends a tender at one of three different amounts/levels – original round, second-round, or first-round, with each tender calling for more money as the level of compensation rises. That tender sets a one-year salary for the player and sets the compensation should the player sign an offer sheet from a different team that his current team declines to match. Using Hilton as the example, if the Steelers offered him a second-round tender, and Hilton signed an offer sheet from another team that the Steelers decided not to match, the Steelers would receive a second-round draft pick from the team that signed Hilton to the offer sheet. Complicating things with Hilton, though, is the fact he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent, which means that if the Steelers tendered him at the lowest amount, the original round tender, they only would be able to match any offer sheet Hilton signed and there would be no draft pick compensation to them if they declined to match the offer because Hilton wasn't drafted.
PETER TOPA FROM OLD FORGE, PA : Do you see the Steelers keeping Artie Burns?
ANSWER: I look at this one from the other end. I don't see Artie Burns having any interest in staying with the Steelers, especially not after he lost his role on defense and even lost his spot as a gunner on the punt team to Justin Layne.
TIMOTHY ORTON FROM WICHITA, KS: Should the Steelers consider picking up Austin Hooper during free agency?
ANSWER: And pay him with what? Estimates currently have Austin Hooper commanding a multi-year contract paying him a salary in the neighborhood of $9-plus million a season.
CHRISTIAN LABRICCIOSA FROM TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA: Is there any chance/scenario you can see where the Steelers work a trade to move into the first round on draft night? I understand everything is speculation until the dominos fall, but they did pull the trigger on a solid move up last year to pick Devin Bush without sacrificing too much. Although Minkah Fitzpatrick was totally worthy of this year's first round pick – no complaints there.
ANSWER: In the real world, no.
ROBERT RIEGER FROM ERIE, PA: I've been on the season ticket waiting list for around three years. How long does it take to actually get regular season tickets?
ANSWER: While there is no such thing as a definitive answer to that, what I can tell you is that currently, people who signed up for the waiting list in 2002 are currently being served. That should indicate to you that you still have a ways to go with your wait, but that if you stick it out there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
TOM RENWICK FROM MONROE, MI: Does anything happen to an athlete's appraisal when he chooses not to participate in an event at the NFL Scouting Combine?
ANSWER: There could be some whining about it, but no. Ohio State defensive end Chase Young did not work out at all in Indianapolis, and I am completely confident he will fall no farther than second overall in the first round. It's all about whether the guy can play.
RANDY GALMISH FROM TITUSVILLE, PA: After watching some of the recent Combine, I wonder, do teams really get a lot from it? It seems to me that if they are interested in someone, they would gain more from watching film from them in actual games, and not from some of the drills they run through.
ANSWER: Teams watch a lot of video, too, but there is some value in the on-field testing done annually at the Scouting Combine. For example, the 40-yard dash provides a specific number for the teams in terms of straight-line speed. Teams that use the "underwear Olympics" as the primary part of an evaluation on a player frequently regret it, but getting specific measurements for strength and speed has some value.
ERNEST GUTIERREZ FROM SAN JOSE, CA: I saw that Dez Bryant has been working out with Pat Mahomes in an effort to get back into the NFL. I think for the right price and if he still has some ball skills he would be a good veteran to help the Steelers young receivers. Do you think the Steelers would be interested in him?
ANSWER: You have GOT TO BE kidding me. Dez Bryant a "good veteran to help the Steelers young receivers?" In what alternate universe?
MATHEW TORRES FROM VAN NUYS, CA: Reports came out that the Steelers met with a ton of running backs during the Scouting Combine. Does that mean that's their top priority, or does it all change after visits and interviews with players?
ANSWER: The Steelers met with 45 prospects during their time in Indianapolis, and I don't know specifically how many of those 45 were running backs, nor do I know how many running backs would qualify as a ton's worth. During the entire pre-draft process, NFL teams will meet with players at the Senior Bowl, and then at the Scouting Combine, and then they will meet with 30 more players in the weeks immediately preceding the actual draft. Assuming the Steelers get a compensatory pick for losing Le'Veon Bell, they will go into this draft with six picks, and they will have met with over 100 players. What I have come to understand is that the Steelers typically use their initial selection on a player with whom they have met, but their meetings don't necessarily point the way they plan on going in the draft. It's a fine distinction, but it comes down to how you view the process.