Let's get to it:
THOMAS MILLIARD FROM MESA, AZ: Would putting the franchise tag on T.J. Watt after the 2021 season give him a lower cap hit for the 2022 season than if Pittsburgh signed him at market value?
ANSWER: When a team decides to use the franchise tag or is forced to use the franchise tag, the entire amount of that one-year salary is guaranteed as soon as the player signs the tender and the entire amount is charged to the team's salary cap. When a team and a player negotiate a long-term contract, there are ways to get money into the player's pocket without all of it counting on the team's salary cap that year. So when the aim is to play the player in a way to mitigate the hit to the salary cap, the best way to do that is through a long-term extension as opposed to using the franchise tag.
FRANK FOGGIA FROM SAULT STE. MARIE, ONTARIO, CANADA: Offensive schemes and playbooks have changed quite a bit over the last few years. I'm not sure of Dwayne Haskin's strengths and weaknesses, but do you think our new offensive coordinator might have some plays where he enters the game with the threat or running, rolling out to spread the defense, and play-action pass.
ANSWER: If you're asking me if I believe offensive coordinator Matt Canada wants to remove Ben Roethlisberger from the game in order to use Dwayne Haskins as a glorified "slash," I don't think that's happening. For one thing, what if Haskins doesn't make the team coming out of training camp?
JEFF SHAUGHNESSY FROM YOUNGSTOWN, OH: Does each player who makes the team have to learn more than one position? And for example is there a big difference learning right offensive tackle if the player is a left offensive tackle?
ANSWER: There is a difference between being able to play a position on both sides of the line of scrimmage vs. being able to play more than one position, which could be described as having a guard also able to line up at tackle. Being able to play more than one position can be valuable for an individual in a fight for a roster spot, but it's not mandatory for everyone, especially if the individual is decorated at his position such as being an All-Pro.
DERRICK WEATHERSPOON FROM DAYTON, OH: If a player signs a one-year contract, for example, in the offseason, when does he start getting paid?
ANSWER: Unless that contract includes a signing bonus, which is paid upon signing the contract, players are not paid their salary until they earn a spot on the 53-man roster and the regular season games begin. An NFL contract is paid in installments over the course of a regular season. During the era of the 16-game season, players were paid in 17 equal installments. Since a regular season is now 17 games starting this season, I imagine players now will be paid in 18 equal installments.
TIM SEANOR FROM FORT MYERS, FL: With the Steelers signing Roland Rivers III from Slippery Rock, it got me curious as to whether there have been any other Division II quarterbacks who have been signed and went on to start or have a solid career in the NFL. Any insight on this?
ANSWER: You're getting a little bit ahead of yourself with this question. Roland Rivers III has not been signed by the Steelers. He has accepted an invitation to participate in Rookie Minicamp this weekend, and the reason the Steelers did this is because the rules for participation in Rookie Minicamp do not allow for any of the other quarterbacks on their roster – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dewayne Haskins, or Joshua Dobbs – to participate. And a team cannot have a minicamp without a quarterback. If Rivers is impressive over the weekend, maybe then he would get signed, but right now he's just a player on a tryout basis.
WILLIAM DOWDELL FROM COCOA BEACH, FL: Reading about the invitation extended to Roland Rivers III for Rookie Minicamp, and looking at his highlights online, his highlights show an accurate arm and an ability to move. Do you have any insight you can share about this young man?
ANSWER: My intent is not to disparage Roland Rivers III, but allow me to explain some things to you about a Division II quarterback trying to make it in the NFL. During the three-day NFL Draft, there were 259 players, including 10 quarterbacks, selected, and he wasn't one of them. After the draft, each team signed about 10 undrafted rookies, which accounts for another 320 players, roughly, and he wasn't one of those either. You were watching highlights of a quarterback competing against players who are not NFL caliber and projecting the how the skills he showed in those highlights will transfer against NFL-caliber players. The Steelers will bring four quarterbacks to training camp, and then keep three of those on their initial 53-man roster, and the four quarterbacks they currently have under contract all have started regular season games in the NFL. Maybe Rivers can put together a nice showing this weekend and maybe generate some interest to maybe get him a shot at a spot on a team in the spring league. But outside of that, I don't envision this weekend being the start of an NFL career for him.
MONTRAIL VERCHER FROM COMPTON, CA: Why do so many fans say that Mason Rudolph is better than Dwayne Haskins? And shouldn't Haskins be challenging Ben Roethlisberger for the starting job by the middle of the 2021 season?
ANSWER: I've mentioned this many times regarding many different questions, and I'll repeat it now for your benefit: It doesn't matter what the fans say or think or believe or want when it comes to personnel matters. General Manager Kevin Colbert and Coach Mike Tomlin both believe Mason Rudolph should be the No. 2 quarterback, and since President Art Rooney II signed both men to contract extensions during this offseason I would contend he is in agreement. And as I mentioned in a previous answer, Haskins' first challenge is going to be to beat out Joshua Dobbs for the No. 3 job and a spot on the 53-man roster.
KEITH HARRIS FROM COSTA MESA, CA: Is there going to be Rookie Minicamp this weekend and if so, where is it being held?
ANSWER: The Steelers will hold their Rookie Minicamp this weekend at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. It is closed to the public.
LUIS DAVILA FROM ORLANDO, FL: Outside of No. 1 pick Najee Harris, which rookies have the best chance of starting for the Steelers this upcoming season, in your opinion?
ANSWER: I believe Kendrick Green has a chance to start at center, and undrafted rookie Shakur Brown could have a chance to be the starting slot cornerback. Neither is a shoe-in, though, by any stretch of the imagination.
JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: With the NFL having released the dates and times for its 2021 regular season on May 12 and based on our 2021 opponents, do the Steelers in fact have the toughest schedule in 2021?
ANSWER: The NFL computes what it refers to as "strength of schedule" based on the combined won-loss records of all the opponents from the previous season on a particular team's schedule. Using that metric, the Steelers have the strongest "strength of schedule" in 2021.
PHILIP GEISLER FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: After looking at the NFL strength of schedule rankings for the upcoming season, I was completely disgusted. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the fourth easiest schedule in the league. This system has to change. Don't you think that a team coming off of a Super Bowl win should be challenged to the Nth degree?
ANSWER: In 2020, the Steelers had the easiest schedule in the NFL based on the same metrics used to determine that their 2021 schedule is the most difficult in the league. A good bit of what makes a team's schedule easy or difficult has to do with the other teams in its division. As an example, in 2020 the AFC North contained the 12-4 Steelers, the 11-5 Baltimore Ravens, and the 11-5 Cleveland Browns. Since a team plays each of its division opponents twice every year, and because strength of schedule is measured by combining the records of all opponents based on the previous year's outcome, the Steelers' home-and-home series against the Ravens and Browns added up to a 44-20 record when computing 2021's strength of schedule.
MICHAEL RAINWATER FROM ACWORTH, GA: Will Kendrick Green and Dan Moore be starting on the offensive line by year's end, or before?
ANSWER: You're asking for a guess, so mine is that Kendrick Green is the starting center before the end of the 2021 season, and Dan Moore Jr. completes his rookie season as the No. 3 offensive tackle.
MARK FROST FROM TOLEDO, OH: What are the Steelers planning on doing with Josh Dobbs? Does he have a legitimate chance of becoming the starter for the Steelers?
ANSWER: The Steelers' plan for Joshua Dobbs is to allow him to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster, and in the process he will have a legitimate chance to be one of the three quarterbacks the Steelers bring into the 2021 regular season.
LARRY LORENZI FROM FORT MILL, SC: I read your response to Tom Frazier concerning other great Steelers besides Jerome Bettis and Minkah Fitzpatrick, and while Bobby Layne was great, that was mostly for the Lions, and I was shocked to see that you failed to mention James Farrior, who was an integral part of several Super Bowl teams.
ANSWER: You were shocked? The question was about great players the Steelers acquired via trade besides Jerome Bettis and Minkah Fitzpatrick. James Farrior was signed as an unrestricted free agent. He did not come to the Steelers via trade.
CHRIS GIBSON FROM DENVER, NC: How do you think the offense will change this year under the direction of Matt Canada?
ANSWER: It won't finish last in the NFL in rushing.
SAMUEL PAM FROM BROOKLYN, NY: Since there is supposed to be a more concerted effort to run the ball this season, are there any plans to use Derek Watt as a lead blocker in a two-man backfield instead of a majority of one-back formations?
ANSWER: I'm not privy to details of the plans for the offense in 2021, but when it comes to improving the running game, I would subscribe to Chuck Noll's motto: "Whatever it takes."
JOHN JORDAN FROM STAFFORD, VA: Due to the added 17th regular season game, did the number of players allowed on each team increase and did the number of players increase for game day?