Let's get to it:
BOB ZEWE FROM ERIE, PA: Do you think the Steelers would consider signing Mark Barron to the league minimum for a year since he is still an available free agent? He had his ups and downs but could potentially help rookie Antoine Brooks Jr., who could likely be playing the hybrid linebacker role.
ANSWER: At one time during the offseason, I thought there could be a possibility the Steelers might be interested in bringing Mark Barron back if he were willing to accept a lesser salary, but I believe that ship has sailed at this point. One factor working against Barron was the condition of his body, which prevented him from practicing more than once a week towards the end of the regular season. And then what clinched it for me is that the Steelers gave Barron's No. 26, which he wore last year, to rookie Anthony McFarland. The way it usually works is that if the team is still interested in doing business with a guy, they hold onto his jersey number until a final determination has been made. Now, I'm confident a final decision has been made.
FRANK DAVIS FROM PONTE VEDRA, FL: What is Martavis Bryant's status? Is he out there for the taking? Now that marijuana is no longer an issue as a result of the new CBA it seems as though he is destined to return to the Steelers if there is no other roadblock to bringing him back to the team.
ANSWER: Martavis Bryant, who has been out of football since the middle of the 2018 season, may resurface in the NFL, but if he does it won't be with the Steelers. The team drafting Chase Claypool indicated to me it was interested in replacing what Bryant once brought to the offense – a big, physical receiver with plenty of speed to threaten opposing defenses down the field – without the reliability issues Bryant always had hanging over his head. Here is what General Manager Kevin Colbert said recently about Claypool when he was a guest on the #PFTPM podcast:
"We've been watching Chase for two seasons because as a junior there was a chance that maybe he'd come out a year early and there was some talk about that. He decided to stay (at Notre Dame). We had, I believe, three reports on him as a junior. We had more reports this year. Same thing, he had improved. We had good grades going into the Senior Bowl. When we got down to the Senior Bowl and Coach Tomlin and I got up close on the practice field and watched his physicality in blocking drills, his physicality in special-teams drills, it really stood out. Plus he's a 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver who can get deep, and quite honestly we didn't have that threat last year. We didn't have that tall receiver who can just outrun coverage. We've always had that in the past with Nate Washington, Mike Wallace, or Martavis Bryant. That was very attractive to us in the long term."
MEMET SRATT FROM NEW YORK, NY: Would you have taken Chase Claypool at the spot the Steelers did with players like J.K. Dobbins available and then selected a wide receiver where they took Anthony McFarland?
ANSWER: I am of the opinion that it's not necessary to spend the 49th overall pick in a draft on a running back when you already have one on the roster who showed the ability to post good-enough statistics to get voted to a Pro Bowl. With their second-round pick, the Steelers needed to add a difference-maker for their offense. A big, fast wide receiver has the potential to do that, and you're not going to get a big, fast wide receiver in the fourth round. Yes, the Steelers got Martavis Bryant in the fourth round, but if he hadn't had that substance abuse history, he wouldn't have been available in the fourth round. I realize the Steelers are gambling on James Conner being healthy in 2020, but I see it as a risk worth taking, because they're not going to have Ben Roethlisberger around for too many more seasons.
NICHOLAS PITNER FROM RUSSELL, PA: Back in 2008, we drafted quarterback Dennis Dixon in the fifth round. I happened to be watching a replay of his start against the Ravens in Week 12 of the 2009 season. Whatever happened to him? Also, do you know how many starts he had with the team during his career?
ANSWER: Dennis Dixon had a couple of opportunities to establish himself as an NFL quarterback, but for various reasons he wasn't able to do that. In 2010 with Ben Roethlisberger suspended for the first four games on the regular season, Dixon was the opening week starter because Byron Leftwich was injured late in the preseason. But Dixon wasn't very good in the opener, which the Steelers won, and then he was injured the following week and was replaced by Charlie Batch. For his Steelers career, Dixon started three games and appeared in four, and he completed 59.3 percent for 402 yards, with one touchdown, two interceptions, and a rating of 71.4. Dixon spent a good bit of the 2012 season on the Ravens' practice squad, but it was in 2013 when it seemed as though the stars had aligned perfectly for him. Signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, Dixon was reunited with his college coach at Oregon, Chip Kelly. But when it came time to pick the three quarterbacks for the 53-man roster, Kelly kept Mike Vick, Nick Foles, and Matt Barkley, and he cut Dixon.
JACKSON LATTA FROM PRESTONSBURG, KY: I love to see the University of Kentucky guys get picked up by the Steelers, and I'm an old-school Dermontti Dawson fan. That got me thinking – which college program has the most players represented in the Steelers Hall of Honor?
ANSWER: There's a tie between Notre Dame (Jerome Bettis, Rocky Bleier, Johnny "Blood" McNally) and Penn State (Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Dick Hoak) with three apiece.
MIKE PAGOTTO FROM LONG POND, PA: Do you think the Steelers rely too much on "chunk plays" to get themselves into scoring position? It often seems they have a large number of three-and-outs because they are trying low percentage, long vertical passes rather than trying to average 3.5 yards per rush.
ANSWER: I believe the only way for an offense to score consistently in the NFL is with chunk plays. Expecting an offense to be able to execute 12-play, 75-yard drives without any penalties, or sacks, or other negative plays on a consistent basis is just not reasonable. That was one of the things that really crippled the offense last year and made the Steelers the only team in the NFL to fail to score 30 points in any one game – the lack of chunk plays. Teams have to make the opposing defense defend the whole field, both vertically and horizontally.
KURT MCDONALD FROM BURBANK, CA: Is there anything that leads you to believe that Anthony McFarland won't turn out to be the next Dri Archer? I know it is silly at this point to put any type of expectation on any player. But it seems like the hype is similar for McFarland as it was for Archer.
ANSWER: Is there anything that leads you to believe Anthony McFarland Jr. will turn out to be the next Dri Archer? It is extremely silly at this point to label a player or place an expectation on him, positively or negatively, based on something as random and superficial as "hype." I am guessing at this point your comparison of McFarland to Archer has to do with his size, or more accurately his height. Because while both of them are listed as 5-foot-8, Archer weighed 173 pounds while McFarland carries 208 pounds and consistently was timed in the low 4.4s in the 40-yard dash. Maybe McFarland makes it, or maybe he turns out to be a bad draft pick, but slapping a label on him so soon is unfair.
MARK DIXON FROM LEWISBERRY, PA: Has a Mr. Irrelevant ever succeeded in the NFL?
ANSWER: I don't know what you would consider succeeding, and I cannot speak for the entire NFL, but after winning Super Bowl XIV the Steelers made the final pick of the 1980 NFL Draft. They used that to select Tyrone McGriff, a guard from Florida A&M. Over three seasons with the Steelers, McGriff played in 36 of a possible 41 games with the team, and he had 10 starts. For a guy who was the 333rd overall pick, that qualifies as succeeding to me.
ELLIOT MEYER FROM PHOENIX, AZ: Does hitting the 90-man roster limit mean that the Steelers won't go out and sign any more free agents?
ANSWER: All it means is that for any future addition, there must be a corresponding subtraction.