Let's get to it:
RICHIE SNYDER FROM HARRISBURG, PA: What exactly happened at the recent rookie minicamp? Is this similar to the NFL Combine?
ANSWER: This was how Coach Mike Tomlin explained it during a media session during the May 12-15 Rookie Minicamp: "Really important weekend for us here as we lay some foundational things for these guys individually and collectively. Continuing the getting-to-know process in some instances, getting to know them, introducing ourselves to them and how we do business, the things that are expected. But also, it's a tryout opportunity for many men, and so we're multitasking here. It's important that we create an environment where they get an opportunity to learn and show some skills and be evaluated. It's an opportunity for us to give and receive some information. To see how they learn. To work on some presentational things from a coaching perspective. And so, there's a lot of little things that are getting done that make this an important weekend. It's just fun to spend time with them. I think what you look for when you're talking about a tryout guy are the things that you can't coach. The pedigree-related things. The things that they bring, and if it's above the line, meaning if it's at a professional level, then you consider them. You look at movement, speed, body control, the ability to drop their weight, change of direction, things of that nature, per their positions."
JASON GODFREY FROM ENOREE, SC: In a previous Asked and Answered, you answered a question about draft picks who never played a snap for the Steelers and found better options in the workforce to support their families. Do you know the first Steelers player/players or era where salaries meant that they no longer had to work their offseason/day jobs?
ANSWER: I believe part of that answer had to do with the decision made by Bill Shakespeare – the first-ever No. 1 pick by the franchise in the 1936 NFL Draft – to forego the chance to play professional football for a job selling tools, because that was a more lucrative endeavor at the time. That's different than "had to work" an offseason/day job as you reference in your question. Once the NFL survived into the 1950s, players worked in the offseason not so much because they "needed" to supplement their football earnings as much as they wanted a better lifestyle. What they "needed" was to prepare themselves for life after football, because playing careers in the NFL can be very short. As Chuck Noll referred to it, "their life's work."
WILLIAM HELMS FROM FAYETTEVILLE, AR: I don't want to assume Joey Porter Jr. will start at cornerback, but it seems likely. Will there be a competition for the starting cornerback positions, plus the nickel cornerback spot? Do you see three front-runners already, or will they let that position develop through the summer?
ANSWER: There is absolutely nothing to be gained by having "front-runners" for those jobs before OTAs even begin. As has happened in the past, I'm sure there will be some order established so that practices can be conducted in a smooth fashion, but that order will change based on performance, with some players ascending and others descending on the depth chart. There might be some people willing to identify "front-runners" now, but I seriously doubt any of them will end up being involved in the final decision.
SCOTT ROGERS FROM CENTERVILLE, OH: It looks like the Steelers are re-signing Mason Rudolph. The reports are explaining that the plans are for him to return and compete for the No. 3 quarterback spot with undrafted rookie Tanner Morgan. Is this an attempt by the Steelers to do the best they can and solidify the quarterback depth chart before entering training camp? Obviously we have a lot of time, but regarding the No. 3 quarterback spot, is there actually any competition there?
ANSWER: I thought it was self-evident that adding players always is an attempt to increase competition on the 90-man roster in an effort to have options and injury insurance to select the best possible group of 53 to take into the 2023 regular season. That's what the Steelers are doing by signing Mason Rudolph, who is a veteran quarterback with NFL starting experience, and in addition a player who is familiar with the Steelers and the way they do business as well as being familiar to most of the players in the locker room and the coaches on the staff. I imagine it would seem that any Rudolph vs. Tanner Morgan battle would be a competition in name only, but there could be injuries or other circumstances during the training camp-preseason process that can throw a wrench into the best laid plans.
TIM CICOTTA FROM ROCHESTER, NY: I try not to listen to all of the outside noise about the Steelers and get my information about the team on Steelers.com. However, as of this writing on the morning of May 17, there is nothing about the signing of Mason Rudolph on the website. The news has been out there for at least a few days now, and this seems to happen a lot. Why is that?
ANSWER: The Steelers announced that Mason Rudolph had signed a one-year contract as part of a news release that was posted on the website at 12:15 p.m. on May 17. The "news" that had been out there for at least a few days before was not really news, but more in line with speculation, tips from anonymous sources, social media scuttlebutt. That's fine, and different media members and outlets have different ways of doing things, but the Steelers typically choose to wait until the contract is signed and then submitted to the league and approved before "announcing" it. That's the way the Steelers choose to handle this kind of business. For them, it's more important to be accurate than first.
RAYMOND CHASON FROM CONNEAUTVILLE, PA: Do you think Mitch Trubisky's backup job is in jeopardy since we brought Mason Rudolph back?
ANSWER: I do not think that at all. My feeling is that fans should remember what General Manager Omar Khan said earlier in the offseason when he was asked about Trubisky's role as the team's No. 2 quarterback. Khan said the Steelers would be interested in having Trubisky in that role "beyond the 2023 season."
RAY JAMES FROM WOODSTOCK, GA: I've been a Steelers fan for 50 years My all-time favorite Steelers player is Jack Lambert. Who do you think is the Steelers greatest linebacker?
ANSWER: I would pick Jack Ham. Understanding that my choice of Ham is highly subjective and acknowledging Jack Lambert as a great player in his own right, I had my eyes opened first in conversations with Bill Nunn about the great Steelers of the 1970s, and then by the announcement by the Pro Football Hall of Fame's of its 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. There were only three linebackers picked from all of the Hall of Fame players to that point in NFL history, and the two outside linebackers were Lawrence Taylor and Jack Ham. About the reasoning behind Ham's selection, it was written: "Smart, instinctive, great football IQ. Ham was a sure tackler who could diagnose plays very quickly, and he was also able to handle the quickest of backs in coverage. The 1970s was the decade when running backs really started to get involved in the passing game, eventually giving rise to the third-down back. Ham could handle them all. It is said that, from zero to 10 yards, Ham was faster than any of the other Steelers. There were those within the organization who felt that he was the club's best player. Ham certainly belonged in that conversation with "Mean" Joe Greene, as he also played an integral role on the four Super Bowl-winning teams of the 1970s. Ham's 53 career takeaways remain the highest figure ever by a non-defensive back."
JOSH MATTHEWS FROM NEW YORK, NY: Punter Adam Korsak was invited to both the Steelers' and the Chiefs' rookie minicamps. Could you tell us anything about how he performed? Do you think the Steelers are interested in signing him?
ANSWER: The Steelers already had two NFL veteran punters on their roster before their May 12-15 Rookie Minicamp – Pressley Harvin III and Braden Mann. Because those two individuals are NFL veterans, they were not eligible to participate in Rookie Minicamp, and so the Steelers brought in Adam Korsak for that weekend. The Steelers are not going to bring three punters to training camp.
GERARD DORAN FROM DUBLIN, IRELAND: Where would you rank this year's draft picks by the Steelers compared to other years? I think we picked very smartly this time around.
ANSWER: It's not possible to rank a draft class until 3-to-5 years have passed after the picks were made, because it will take that long to find out definitively whether these newest rookies can play in the NFL and handle all of the things that go along with a career in professional football. Until then it's all a guess, and your guess is as good as mine.
MIKE FOSTER FROM EWA BEACH, HI: Do you think the Steelers are a better team now than they were a year ago at this time?
ANSWER: I believe the Steelers have the potential to be a better team in 2023 than they were in 2022, and one of the main reasons they have that potential is they won't be starting a rookie quarterback this year. I'm not proclaiming Kenny Pickett as a superstar-in-waiting, but I believe he has the approach and the work ethic to be a successful starting NFL quarterback, and more experience and know-how can only help his development.
STEFAN PISOCKI FROM WILMINGTON, DE: Imagine it's time for the Steelers to make their last cut to get to the league limit of 53 players for the start of the season, and they are trying to decide between Player A and Player B. They prefer A, but he puts the team over the salary cap, while B fits under the cap. To what degree is the team able to wheel and deal to get the preferred player?
ANSWER: I don't believe the Steelers would make any final roster cut solely on the basis of salary. I'm sure there are instances where salary is a factor in making roster decisions, but I don't know that it ever would be allowed to come down to the either-or scenario you describe.