Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 14

Let's get to it:

JOHN ROEBUCK FROM ALTOONA, PA: I'm tired of hearing how Ben Roethlisberger likes tall receivers. Can you name anyone over 6-foot who ever led the Steelers in catches and or touchdowns in one year with Roethlisberger at quarterback? My point is a tall receiver never gets used, even in the red zone.
ANSWER: It certainly didn't take too deep a dive into Ben Roethlisberger's career statistics to debunk your point. In Roethlisberger's rookie season of 2004, a 6-foot-5 receiver named Plaxico Burress led the Steelers in receiving touchdowns.

MEMET SRATT FROM NEW YORK, NY: A lot of commentators are saying the Steelers have one of the easiest schedules in the league in 2020. It's true they don't have a division winner's schedule. However, the intra-division games, some difficult road games and having three of the last four games on the road seem to be pretty tough to me. What do you think about their schedule?
ANSWER: The way the NFL determines strength of schedule is by adding the opponents' won-loss records from the previous season and then comparing those totals on a team-by-team basis. Based on that procedure, the Steelers' schedule is the second-easiest in the NFL with a combined opponents' 2019 winning percentage of .457; Baltimore has the easiest schedule with a combined opponents' winning percentage of .438; and New England has the most difficult schedule with a combined opponents' winning percentage of .537. I personally believe that is a ridiculous way of trying to calculate strength of schedule, because NFL teams change so much from one year to the next, but that's the way the NFL does it and therefore that's what is used in such discussions at this time of the year.

NICHOLAS PITNER FROM RUSSELL, PA: I saw in an article that Ben Roethlisberger's record as a starting quarterback with the Steelers over 17 seasons is 144-71-1, and that Mike Tomlin's record as the team's coach over 14 seasons is 133-74-1. How can Tomlin have more losses than Roethlisberger if he has been here three fewer years?
ANSWER: That's because during Mike Tomlin's tenure as the Steelers' coach, Ben Roethlisberger has missed 31 games for various reasons. Those 31 games don't count on his won-loss record, but they certainly count on Tomlin's.

LES POORE FROM LYMAN, PA: Are you confident that the Steelers have a strong enough receiver group for a deep playoff run?
ANSWER: I am confident that with Ben Roethlisberger as the starting quarterback, the receivers the Steelers currently have on their roster are good enough to accomplish any of the goals the team sets for itself in 2020. In the NFL, it's about the quarterback.

MIKE FOSTER FROM EWA BEACH, HI: Assuming the new NFL television contracts get done, when would they factor into the salary cap? Is 2021 too soon? I ask because I am hoping the Steelers can extend the contracts of JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, T.J. Watt, and others more easily with a bump in the salary cap than without one.
ANSWER: There is a lot of assuming with this answer, but since that's all we really have right now … Based on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the league can extend the regular season to 17 games starting in 2021. If that happens, and assuming that is also a year that included the expanded playoff format (which it should), teams could see a considerable jump in the salary cap based on a corresponding jump in the television revenue. But possibly working as a counter-balance to that is if COVID-19 influences fans to stay away from stadiums or forces teams to implement policies that would decrease the number of people permitted in the stands. The NFL's deal with ESPN expires in 2021, and the league's deals with CBS, FOX, and NBC expire in 2022. When the deals are negotiated and when they take effect will determine when the jump in the salary cap occurs.

NATE HURDLESTON FROM CLEVELAND, OH: Now that the draft is completed, do you have any hopeful free agent signings?
ANSWER: I would classify this under the category of pipedream: Clay Matthews.

ERIC SMITH FROM WOODBRIDGE, CT: Can you explain why the Steelers terminated Rosie Nix's contract? He was in his prime and had a Pro Bowl under his belt. Was it injuries, money, the thought that Derek Watt is a better player?
ANSWER: I have been over this a couple of times already, and so this will be the final time. Rosie Nix sustained a knee injury early in the 2019 season that was expected to sideline him for a relatively short time. Since it never got better to the degree where he could return to play and then forced him to the injured reserve list, my belief is that it was more of a condition than an injury. The difference between those two things is that an injury can and usually will heal, while a condition continues to get worse. Also, Derek Watt is an improvement over Nix in all aspects of what a team looks to get from a fullback, and their special teams abilities are comparable. Based on his knee, Nix was not a player in his prime, as you describe.

BRIAN DUFF FROM SEATTLE, WA: The Steelers still have more than $5 million in cap space, which I'm not used to seeing from this organization so close to the start of the season. What are your thoughts about the best way to utilize this money? Should we save it in case of an emergency during the season or should we look to reinforce any particular position?
ANSWER: I have no direct knowledge of the Steelers' amount of space under their salary cap, although overthecap.com lists it at $5.7 million, and so we'll go with that for the purposes of this question. A couple of things to consider right off the bat: Right now, only the top 51 salaries count on a team's cap, and come the start of the regular season, all 53 players plus practice squad guys must fit under the cap. So if those two additional players are making the NFL minimum, that's an additional $1.2 million charge to the cap. Then the practice squad, which can be 12 players this season at $8,100 per week over 17 weeks. That's another $1.65 million, which could turn out to be more because during each week of the upcoming regular season, two players from the practice squad can be elevated to the active roster each week, and a team deciding to take advantage of that will have to pay those guys a regular game check, which would be $35,882.35 per guy instead of the normal practice squad rate of $8,100 per guy. And the Steelers also like to keep a $2-$3 million cushion on their cap for in-season injury replacements. Oh, and the signing of the draft picks also has to come out of that $5.7 million. I'm not going to do all of the arithmetic, because there are too many variables, but while you might look at the Steelers as having money to spend, I see them having to create more cap space just to do the normal things that will be cropping up on the horizon.

ERNEST GUTIERREZ FROM SAN JOSE, CA: I read a SteelCurtain article stating the Steelers should move Terrell Edmunds from strong safety to inside linebacker to replace Mark Barron and let rookie Antoine Brooks Jr. play strong safety.
ANSWER: Please don't ask me to verify what's written on other websites. I'm trying to cut back on being unkind.

KEVIN STAATS FROM FREDERICKSBURG, VA: The Steelers once had a tight end named Weegie Thompson that they could throw the ball up high to in the red zone and hope his mismatch would allow him to come down with the ball. Why don't the Steelers just sign a 7-foot-3 stiff who isn't good enough for the NBA and teach him to catch a football? He could also be used on special teams to block field goals.
ANSWER: First of all, Weegie Thompson was a 6-foot-6, 212 pound wide receiver, and of the 11 total touchdowns he scored in 92 career games with the Steelers, I am willing to bet that fewer than five of those were the jump-ball types you describe. Sign "a 7-foot-3 or taller stiff who isn't good enough for the NBA and teach him to catch a football?" What a great idea. Are you a long-lost relative of Bill Veeck?

TODD CRUM FROM BAHAMA, NC: NFL.com is at it again. Would the Steelers consider signing Cam Newton for one year to back up Ben Roethlisberger and then negotiate a long-term deal if Roethlisberger is not healthy? How would signing Newton affect the salary cap if the contract is for the league minimum but with heavy incentives?
ANSWER: THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Maybe repeating it three times in a row will help it stick. And please, stay away from NFL.com, and if you must torture yourself, and me by extension, do not believe anything that isn't said or written by Judy Battista. Over and out.

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