Let's get to it:
WILLIAM DOWDELL FROM COCOA BEACH, FL: I'm curious how the players who get invited to participate in Rookie Minicamp on a tryout basis are selected for that opportunity? Can you provide any insight on that?
ANSWER: The Steelers personnel department begins scouting players for the upcoming NFL Draft in August of the previous year, and over the course of all that time the scouts have a chance to see hundreds and hundreds of players, either live or on video, or both. All of these players are evaluated and graded as potential NFL prospects and grouped by how the team views them in terms of their status among the others in their draft class. After the draft and then the period where teams sign undrafted rookies immediately after the draft, there inevitably are many more players out there, undrafted and unsigned. There also are players out there who have tried and failed to make an NFL roster and who are unsigned. There are local players, maybe from colleges with smaller football programs who are unsigned. There might be some players who are extended invitations as a favor because of some connection to the Steelers. Generally, that's the pool – plus the team's draft picks and undrafted rookie signings – from which individuals are invited to try out during rookie minicamp. And sometimes it can become a challenge for a team to put together a group that's sufficiently complete to allow for three days of on-field workouts that include offense, defense, and special teams, because although there are rare exceptions, anyone who previously has spent time on an NFL roster is not eligible.
GENE GREY FROM MORENO VALLEY, CA: I'm confused and concerned about Kenny Pickett's age. I could swear that I heard someone remark that he is 25 years old already. But I just looked at his bio and it says he's 23, was born in June 1998. But he spent 5 years at Pitt. Did he enroll at 18? What's the deal?
ANSWER: What's the deal? The deal is simple. You should quit believing things you "swear you heard someone remark." What kind of a source is that? Who's the someone? And if you took a moment to do a little simple arithmetic, it would have revealed to you that since Pickett was born in June 1998, that means he'll be 24 shortly, and if he spent five years at Pitt that would mean he enrolled at 19, because his birthday came before school typically starts in August/September. The difference between being 18 and 19 on paper might look to be a year, but in actuality it might just be the difference of a couple of weeks or a few days. Find something more important than this to be "confused and concerned about."
FRITZ SCHERZ FROM VERONA, NY: Now that rookie minicamp is over, will any of the tryout invitees (i.e., Jack Badovinic, a guard from Illinois) get signed? Wasn't sure what the process is as far as the signing time frame.
ANSWER: At the conclusion of their rookie minicamp, which ran from May 13-15, the Steelers signed defensive tackle Trevon Mason (6-foot-6, 305, from Arizona), cornerback Carlins Platel (6-1, 205, South Carolina), placekicker Nick Sciba (5-9, 191, Wake Forest), and wide receiver Tyler Snead (5-7, 174, East Carolina). To make room on the 90-man roster, the Steelers have waived wide receiver Rico Bussey and placekicker Sam Sloman, terminated the contract of vested veteran linebacker John Simon, and waived/injured defensive back Bryce Watts.
JIM ANDERSON FROM TOLEDO, OH: Are the Steelers scouting any players in the USFL?
ANSWER: The Steelers certainly are paying attention to the USFL, just as they pay attention to the Canadian Football League, and will pay attention to the XFL once it resumes playing games. But as far as scouting any specific individuals, I doubt it.
RON WILLIAMS FROM ASTORIA, OR: What is the current minimum salary that must be paid to an undrafted free agent who has zero experience in the league?
ANSWER: In 2022, the league minimum for rookies is $705,000.
GEORGE THOMAS FROM OCALA, FL: I was wondering how the contracts of undrafted rookies are structured. Are the players paid a base salary and then another contract based on whether they make the 53-man roster? Or if it's the practice squad, is another contract?
ANSWER: Undrafted rookies typically sign a contract that spans either three or four years. It includes a signing bonus that is paid up-front and annual salaries in compliance with the minimums outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. As with all NFL contracts, the salaries are not paid until the player makes the 53-man roster and the regular season begins. So if an undrafted rookie does not make the roster, he does not earn the salaries outlined in that contract. If the player is waived during the training camp/preseason process and then signed to the practice squad, he signs a separate practice squad contract.
JACK MATTHEWS FROM LIVERPOOL, UK: I was wondering when Ben Roethlisberger's official retirement presser will be?
ANSWER: At the end of the Steelers 2021 season, Ben Roethlisberger chose to announce his retirement on his social media accounts instead of having the team hold an "official retirement presser." That was Roethlisberger's preference, and the Steelers respected his decision.
CARLOS ARVIZU FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: Recently Antonio Brown expressed a desire to retire as a member of the Steelers. If I remember correctly the organization doesn't hand out 1-day contracts for such purposes, but do you think they would at least let him hold a press conference within the facilities?
ANSWER: I sincerely hope not.
CHRIS HANN SR. FROM SARASOTA, FL: Antonio Brown says he wants to re-join the Steelers for the purposes of retiring as a member of the franchise. I am against this based on his erratic behavior on and off the field. How do you feel about Brown rejoining the Steelers so he can retire as a member of the Steelers?
ANSWER: My personal opinion is that Antonio Brown's right to make such a request evaporated when he quit on the Steelers at the conclusion of the 2018 season when they needed a win in the regular season finale to have a chance to make the playoffs.
MATT MITCHELL FROM WESTERVILLE, OH: I have a question about how NFL contracts are structured. Regarding NFL contracts, it's my understanding that in most cases, signing bonuses (if issued) are spread equally over the life of the contract. It's also my understanding that the annual salary is divided into equal payments for each game the player is on the active roster (i.e. game checks). Am I correct in assuming that if a player does not make the 53-man roster in 2022, the contract is terminated and the team owes that player nothing, with the exception of any monies potentially agreed upon as a signing bonus applied to subsequent years?
ANSWER: Unless specified in the player's contract, a signing bonus is paid in full at the time the player signs the contract, but the amount of the signing bonus is spread out over the life of the contract for salary cap purposes. For example, if a player signs a 5-year contract that includes a $5 million signing bonus, the $5 million is paid immediately but on the salary cap that money counts $1 million per year over the life of the deal. If the player then is cut after three years, the team would be assessed $2 million in a dead money charge on its salary cap based on the remaining signing bonus deferment. Base salary is paid during the season in weekly installments during the regular season, and you are correct in that if a player does not make the 53-man roster the contract is terminated and the team owes the player nothing, except in the cases of guaranteed payments as detailed in the language of the contract.
VALERIE ACOCELLA FROM HATTIESBURG, MS: Have you heard any news about the status of Stephon Tuitt returning to play this year?
ANSWER: I have not.
RICHARD SANTRY FROM ALLENDALE, NJ: This whole Stephon Tuitt waiting game is getting a little old. Even as a Notre Dame grad myself, I find it annoying that a fellow alumnus is leaving the Steelers hung out to dry. Is there a time frame involved here and more importantly, why are Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin allowing this? Is there something in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that's protecting him?
ANSWER: Except for you wanting to have your curiosity satisfied, I don't understand why this would annoy you. With rosters set at 90 players, there is no urgency to create space, and even if there was some urgency, exactly which currently unsigned player do you believe is as important to the team's success in 2022 as Stephon Tuitt? How do you know that Steelers President Art Rooney II is being hung out to dry? How do you know whether the Steelers feel any animosity in the way Tuitt is handling this situation? How do you know that they don't know more than they're saying publicly right now? While under contract, Tuitt is not getting paid at this stage of the NFL calendar, and the Steelers obviously don't believe his salary cap hit currently poses a problem to the team being able to do the business it wants to do.
CIERA BUNCH FROM MISSOULA, MT: When do OTAs and training camp start?
ANSWER: Organized Team Activities (OTAs), which are voluntary, begin on May 24 and run through June 2. The team will hold six OTAs over two weeks, with the dates being May 24-25-26 and May 31-June 1-2. During OTAs, live contact is not permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are allowed. The team's mandatory minicamp will be June 7-8-9. No dates for training camp have been announced yet, but my guess is that it will begin sometime in late July at Saint Vincent College is Latrobe, Pa.
LARRY MORRISON FROM PENSACOLA, FL: I just read that the regular season game between the Raiders and the Steelers will be a part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Immaculate Reception. Many of the 1970s greats will be on hand. Jack Lambert is my all-time favorite Steelers player. Do you have any information as to why he never makes any appearances?
ANSWER: I'd like to begin with a clarification. This is what Steelers President Art Rooney II said about that weekend: "We're going to have some celebrations on Dec. 23, on the actual anniversary (of the Immaculate Reception), and so we'll probably have some guys in from that 1972 team." The Immaculate Reception happened on Dec. 23, 1972, and Jack Lambert was the Steelers second-round pick in the 1974 NFL Draft, and so when Franco Harris was running down the sideline with the ball at Three Rivers Stadium that day, Lambert was still a student-athlete at Kent State. If the Steelers decide the event primarily is for the players on the 1972 team, Lambert would not be included because his rookie year was in 1974.
MIKE CLAPPER FROM BEDFORD, PA: I saw a recent article that reported Russell Wilson can become the fifth NFL quarterback to beat all 32 teams if he engineers victories against the Seahawks and Chargers this season. I was just wondering what teams Ben Roethlisberger never defeated during his NFL career?
ANSWER: Ben Roethlisberger retired following the 2021 season with victories over 31 NFL teams. The only team Roethlisberger never defeated was the Pittsburgh Steelers.
KAYLEIGH GUZEK FROM ASHBURN, VA: I'm sure you get requests all of the time, but I was hoping for a shoutout to my mom and dad, who will celebrate 35 years of marriage this year. My dad has always bled black and gold. My mom, however, has grown into a "cheer and yell at the TV" fan for the Steelers each week (often shocking us out of our seats with her outbursts). These two are the epitome of a beautiful relationship, and an unwavering couple of Steelers fans. If it's not too much trouble, could you please send a shoutout to Charlie and Joan?
ANSWER: To Charlie and Joan, congratulations on 35 years together as husband and wife. As a small part of the Steelers organization, I want to wish you a Happy Anniversary, and also to let you know you have raised a thoughtful daughter who loves you both very much. Which I'm sure you already knew.
PETE SITAKE FROM ALBUQUERQUE, NM: I heeded your earlier advice and quit reading unverified outlets for Steelers information (mock drafts, trades, disgruntled players, etc.). Since this change in lifestyle, I have been amazed at the amount of extra time I have at my disposal. In fact, last month alone I solo-climbed Mt Everest, completed a 3,977 mile trek down the Amazon River, helped build a church in Haiti, worked for 10 days on a humanitarian hunger mission in the Congo, and meditated for two weeks with Tibetan monks in a high-mountain temple. My wife and kids also have noticed I am more attentive and happy. Do you have any more worldly advice for us wayward fans?
ANSWER: Stay off social media. That also can be a cesspool of misinformation.