Let's get to it:
ROBERT ELLIS FROM MEMPHIS, TN:
Do you agree with the sentiment that Maurkice Pouncey should be moved to guard for the Steelers' offensive line to continue on an upward swing? I am fine with Cody Wallace being a backup lineman, but no matter how we feel about Pouncey he is one of the most athletically gifted linemen in the league.
ANSWER: No, I don't agree with that sentiment, and in fact I disagree with it vehemently. Maurkice Pouncey has played four full NFL seasons – in another he had a teammate dive on his knee eight plays into the opener and end his season, and in another he had an opponent fall on the back of his leg in the third of five preseason games and break his ankle to cost him another season. But in the four full seasons Pouncey has been able to play, he was voted first-team All-Pro center twice, which means he was judged to be the best center in football on two different occasions. When you have a player who's that good at one position, you don't move him to another position to open a spot for someone who's not nearly that good. I'm so opposed to moving Pouncey to another position that I actually would be more in favor of moving Ryan Shazier to safety, and all regular readers of Asked and Answered know how stupid I think that would be.
MAX RICHTER FROM GILLETTE, WY:
Do you think the Steelers will draft a quarterback in one of the later rounds, due to the fact Landry Jones and Bruce Gradkowski are getting up there in age? Also can you see Cortez Allen getting cut and the Steelers bringing back Brice McCain?
ANSWER: I've gone over this before, but we'll do it again here. The way I envision the depth chart at quarterback for 2016 is: Ben Roethlisberger is the starter; Landry Jones is the backup; and then there are a couple of ways the team could approach the No. 3 spot, because as we've learned from their time working together, General Manager Kevin Colbert and Coach Mike Tomlin believe in the value of having three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. That No. 3 could be a young player the Steelers attempt to develop into a backup, or it could be a veteran who understands his role and is willing to accept it. Because the Steelers don't have picks in the fifth or sixth rounds of this draft, and because I'm not well-versed on the depth of quarterback talent in this class, I would have questions about being able to find a capable player at the position in this draft. And to update everyone on the Brice McCain situation: according to his agent yesterday, McCain has agreed to a two-year deal with the Tennessee Titans for $5 million.
TIM OVERA FROM DRUMS, PA:
Whose jersey number would we likely see back in rotation first: Troy Polamalu's No. 43, or Ben Roethlisberger's No. 83?
ANSWER: Heath Miller's No. 83, and the reason for that is because of the number of receivers and tight ends teams currently carry on their 53-man rosters these days, it's difficult to hold back those numbers in the 80s. The Steelers have three Hall of Fame players who wore jerseys with numbers in the 80s – Jack Butler (80), John Stallworth (82), and Lynn Swann (88) – and all of those have to be in circulation. Plaxico Burress wore No. 80 most recently; Michael Palmer wore No. 82 most recently; and Emmanuel Sanders wore No. 88 most recently. Since the Steelers have been issuing jerseys in the 80s that were worn by their Hall of Fame players, I believe we'll see No. 83 back in circulation relatively soon.
GARRETT BRENK FROM HAGERSTOWN, MD:
I love reading these in my college dorm room to procrastinate. Thanks for keeping us entertained. Could you explain the franchise tag and transition tag? And whether players like it or not?
ANSWER: There actually are three different kinds of tags: exclusive franchise tag, the franchise tag, and the transition tag.
Exclusive franchise tag: An exclusive franchise player must be tendered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player's position as of a date in April of the current year, or a contract for 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater. Exclusive franchise players cannot negotiate with other teams. The player's current team has all the negotiating rights to the exclusive player, and as soon as the player signs the exclusive rights tender, that one-year salary is fully guaranteed.
Franchise tag: A franchise player must be tendered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player's position for the previous five years, or a contract for 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater. A non-exclusive franchise player may negotiate with other NFL teams, but if the player signs an offer sheet from another team, the original team has a right to match the terms of that offer, or if it does not match the offer and thus loses the player, it is entitled to receive two first-round draft picks as compensation. Just as is the case with the exclusive franchise tag, as soon as the player signs the tender that one-year salary is fully guaranteed.
Transition tag: A transition player must be offered a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of the prior season at the player's position or 120 percent of the player's prior year's salary, whichever is greater. A transition player designation gives the original team a first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the player by another club. If his original team matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.
Franchise player tenders by position for 2016 (positions listed alphabetically: Cornerback $13,952,000; Defensive End $15,701,000; Defensive Tackle $13,615,000; Linebacker $14,129,000; Offensive Lineman $13,706,000; Punter/Kicker $4,572,000; Quarterback $19,953,000; Running Back $11,789,000; Safety $10,806,000; Tight End $9,118,000; Wide Receiver $14,599,000.
Transition player tenders by position for 2016 (positions listed alphabetically: Cornerback $11,913,000; Defensive End $12,734,000; Defensive Tackle $10,875,000; Linebacker $11,925,000; Offensive Lineman $11,902,000; Punter/Kicker $4,123,000; Quarterback $17,696,000; Running Back $9,647,000; Safety $9,116,000; Tight End $7,713,000; Wide Receiver $12,268,000.
As I mentioned earlier, these tenders are fully guaranteed once they are signed, and so if a team wanted to guarantee me one of those salaries, I'd be signing that tender as soon as I could, and I'd be doing it with a big smile on my face.
Pittsburgh Steelers Kelvin Beachum hosts a football camp in Mexia, Texas.
LEE HUNT FROM LOUISVILLE, KY:
If you were the one writing the checks, cap space was not an issue, and as the team is currently configured – if you could re-sign either Ramon Foster or Kelvin Beachum, which player would you choose and why?
ANSWER: One more qualifier: If I knew what I was going to do wasn't going to have any adverse impact on the locker room, I would pick Kelvin Beachum because he's younger, and he has shown himself capable of starting and play winning football at left tackle. But if Beachum is going to refuse to play any other position along the offensive line, and if re-signing him would create some hard feelings among other offensive linemen who would be willing to play another position up front, then I would choose Foster. I'm not implying Beachum would do that, but that issue would have to be resolved to my satisfaction as well.
JAMES MONTIEL FROM SAN BERNARDINO, CA:
I know fans typically ask you crazy questions, like moving Ryan Shazier to safety, but Alejandro Villanueva did play tight end. So, any chance the Steelers give him some reps in practice or during the preseason at tight end, because I'm sure he'd be extremely useful in running situations. For a big guy, Villanueva can move, and so I'd see him more as a blocking tight end, but I think with work he can be an effective goal-line receiver as well.
ANSWER: Or, how about this: You allow Alejandro Villanueva to work full-time on becoming the best left tackle he can be? That's not good enough for you? Protecting Ben Roethlisberger's blind side? As many touchdown passes as you could fantasize Villanueva catching in your wildest imagination would be fewer than the number of touchdown passes to which he could contribute by giving Roethlisberger time to throw the football to one of his actual receivers. Just saying.
RICKY CORRADO from NEW YORK, NY:
Based on all your years of experience covering the National Football League, besides the quarterback, what position do you think is the most crucial to winning championships? In other words, what position would you want your second-best football player to play?
ANSWER: The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and winning a championship without a great one is usually difficult, but the Broncos took home the Lombardi Trophy this year because of another football axiom: defense wins championships. So, my choice would be a defensive playmaker, and by that I mean someone who will take the football away, make splash plays, be disruptive either by attacking the backfield or patrolling the secondary in a way that would make the opponent account for his presence on every snap.
JERRY SALGADO FROM MOORE, OK:
Tim Tebow is better than Landry Jones , why not give him an opportunity as the backup quarterback?
ANSWER: That is just not true. Tim Tebow not only isn't better than Landry Jones, but he's not an NFL quarterback, period. Do you think there's some conspiracy among NFL teams to keep Tim Tebow out of the league? A league where at least one team was willing to sign Greg Hardy? If a guy can play, and if the guy who can play can play quarterback, somebody will give him a job. Give him a chance to make a roster. Get over it. Tim Tebow cannot play in the NFL, because if he could, he would be.