Let’s get to it:
TERRY GARDNER FROM MUNCY, PA: Questions about the NFL Combine: Who decides which players are invited to participate? Secondly, some players are asked to work out at multiple positions, who makes those requests?
ANSWER: This explanation is provided by nflcombine.net about the selection process: “All 32 NFL teams are invited to provide input on draft-eligible players which is used by the Player Selection Committee to select each year’s participants. The Directors of both National and BLESTO scouting services, which combined represent 28 NFL teams, are joined by members of various NFL player personnel departments to form the committee. The participating NFL executives can rotate on a yearly basis, and remain anonymous. ALL eligible players are reviewed and voted on by the committee members. Each athlete receiving the necessary number of votes, by position, is then extended an invitation. While it is not a perfect science, the goal of the committee is to invite every player that will be drafted in the ensuing NFL Draft.”
As for players working out at multiple positions, or at a position other than the one he played in college, there are pre-Combine meetings in which teams can submit a request to see a player work out at a different position. Often, there will be multiple teams requesting the same player to work out at a different position. These requests then are passed on to the player, and he has the choice to grant the requests, or decline, as Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley did when asked to work out with the defensive backs.
MIKE CLAPPER FROM BEDFORD, PA: Was there an NFL Scouting Combine back in the 1970s? Where was it held and did players like Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Mike Webster, Mel Blount participate?
ANSWER: It was Tex Schramm, the president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys from 1960-89, who first proposed to the NFL Competition Committee the idea of a centralized evaluation process of draft-eligible prospects. Prior to 1982, teams had to schedule individual visits with players to run them through drills and subject them to medical tests. The national invitational camp (NIC) was first held in Tampa in 1982. It was originated by National Football Scouting, Inc. as a way for its members to look at NFL draft prospects. For non-member teams, two other camps were created and used from 1982–1984. The NIC was renamed the NFL Scouting Combine following the merger of the three camps in 1985 to cut the cost of running the extra camps. The NIC was held in New Orleans in 1984 then in Arizona in 1985 and again in New Orleans in 1986. It moved permanently to Indianapolis in 1987.
TIM MOSES FROM HAMBURG, PA: Even though the Steelers need defensive help, but with the lack of a deep threat to stretch the field at wide receiver, do you think they will go after someone like wide receiver D.J. Metcalf from Ole Miss early in the draft?
ANSWER: You are absolutely correct. The Steelers need defensive help, and their chances of getting that later in the draft are much worse than their chances of getting a decent receiver later in the draft.
MARK JONES FROM HARTWELL, GA: What is the bigger need in your opinion, inside linebacker or cornerback?
ANSWER: The Steelers need playmakers at both of those spots, and I believe the team will not be able to contend for a championship in 2019 unless they upgrade both of those positions. In that situation, I don’t prioritize one position over another, I prioritize one player over another. In other words, when the Steelers’ turn comes around to pick a guy at one of those spots, they should go with the player who has the best chance to turn into a playmaker.
TOM LAUDICINA FROM NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ: Kevin Colbert said at the Combine that the Steelers are awaiting clarification from the league as to what is allowable regarding a roster spot for Ryan Shazier. Can’t they just hire him as a coach, say assistant linebacker coach? That way he would have access to the building and be able to continue his rehab with the Steelers.
ANSWER: But he wouldn’t be adding time to his player pension. He wouldn’t have access to the same level of health care. There are a lot of things that go into this beyond having access to the building to work on his rehabilitation. The Steelers are going to do right by Ryan Shazier. Let the process play out.
JOE KILBURG FROM CLARK, NJ: Antonio Brown is talking about walking away from football if necessary. If a trade doesn’t work out and he does walk away, are the Steelers still on the hook for his salary?
ANSWER: If Antonio Brown retires today, the Steelers would owe him no more money, but they would have to carry $21.2 million of dead money on their 2019 salary cap.
KEN COFFEY FROM HOUSTON, TX: With Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell going to other teams, is it safe to say the Steelers will be active in the free agent market? Or will the Steelers consider themselves as a rebuilding team in 2019?
ANSWER: This your first year following the Steelers, eh? Active in the free agent market? Never have been and I don’t anticipate that changing this offseason. A rebuilding team in 2019? With Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback? Hardly.
LORI MCDONALD FROM RICHMOND, VA: When are we going to stop talking about the thousand-and-one options regarding Antonio Brown? Can’t we just wait to let the people who actually know what they are talking about and signing the paychecks handle it?
ANSWER: From your lips to God’s ear.
JEFFREY MAURER FROM FAIRLAWN, OH: Do you think the Steelers have to change the way they do business? Many other teams seem to have moved to contracts with huge amounts of guaranteed money. Will the Steelers be unable to compete for free agents if they don't change their ways?
ANSWER: Based on the Steelers philosophy that the best way to build a roster is through the draft, I don’t know that they’re all that interested – nor have they ever been – in competing for free agents.
As for re-signing their own free agents, this is how Kevin Colbert addressed that at the NFL Combine: “As for the contractual stuff, we think we’ve been very fair, we think we’ve been very consistent, and I think our players appreciate and understand that,” said Colbert. “If a player doesn’t like a deal, he won’t sign it. And once a player has signed a deal, that means he has accepted it even though they may say differently (later). We like the way we try to do business. We think we’re very fair. We’re very competitive. We try to keep our own and reward our own for them wanting to be part of us.”
MATTHEW BERCELI FROM GAINESVILLE, FL: Considering that the Steelers group of safeties is relatively young and that Morgan Burnett will not be back with the team next season, do you think the Steelers will go after a “big name” free agent safety? Possibly Landon Collins or Earl Thomas?
ANSWER: You are assuming the Steelers grant Morgan Burnett’s request to be released, and that’s nothing but an assumption at this point. And with the exception of Dont’a Hightower, the Steelers haven’t gone after a “big name” free agent in years.
JEFF HUBBELL FROM IZMIR, TURKEY: I guess you would probably call me a "click monkey" for looking at the mock drafts on NFL.com, and I guess I am guilty as charged. However, you have to admit it is entertaining to see "Draft analyst" Chad Reuter project the Steelers to take a wide receiver in the first round and a running back in the second round?
ANSWER: Entertaining? Only if you’re a fan of lowbrow humor.
JEFF CUNNANE FROM KINTNERSVILLE, PA: Let's keep this simple: Antonio Brown for Nick Foles.
ANSWER: You want simple? OK, here’s simple: Learn the rules. Nick Foles is an unsigned player and unsigned players cannot be traded.