Let’s get to it:
JOHN CHI FROM HUNTERSVILLE, NC: I know running backs are deemed to be plentiful, but good ones who are reliable and can take the air out of the football at the end of games and/or are effective gaining the tough yards down at the goal line are considerably more rare. Is there something about Benny Snell that I’m missing? How did he slip to the fourth round?
ANSWER: In the last installment of Asked and Answered, the question about Benny Snell was why did the Steelers pick him so high? This time it’s why wasn’t he picked earlier? I cannot speak for the other 31 NFL teams with respect to their opinions of Snell, but here is a pre-draft evaluation of him that appeared on NFL.com and was written by Lance Zierlein: “Downhill grinder with an ability to create for himself with his vision and power, but lacking desired level of elusiveness and burst as an NFL runner. Snell is a touchdown hog whose scores were often earned and rarely given. Teams will like his toughness, size, and instincts, but he must improve his blitz pickup to counter his athletic limitations. He needs to find the right fit to become an average RB2/RB3.” Zierlein then projected Snell would be drafted in the fifth or sixth round.
The Steelers, however, were tickled to be able to have a chance to pick Snell in the fourth round, and this is what General Manager Kevin Colbert said about him at the conclusion of the weekend: “Benny Snell is a dominant SEC runner … he's got a little natural run skill to his game. Where he sees things, he's really good on the second level finding and creating space. One thing that we really want to point out about Benny, in today's college environment, a lot of these kids are skipping their bowl games as they head into their pro careers. That's a choice that they make, but when a player like Benny Snell ends up playing for his team in his bowl game, we really like to acknowledge that and give him credit for putting his team and that win over his own priorities.”
RODNEY MOON FROM PICKENS, SC: Last season I was hoping the Steelers would sign Tre Boston in free agency. This year he remains on the market. Do you think his price tag is too high or the fit isn't good enough for the team to consider him?
ANSWER: I have no idea what’s going on with Tre Boston, and I’m not just talking about with respect to the Steelers. Here is a summary of his career: Boston, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound safety, was a fourth-round pick by Carolina but was waived by the Panthers in May 2017, after his third NFL season. After clearing waivers, which means no team was interested enough to claim him, and maybe that lack of interst at the time had something to do with the knee he injured late in the 2016 season. Still, Boston then signed a one-year deal with the Chargers, and in 2017 he started 15 of the 16 games and finished with five interceptions and eight passes defensed. Boston then hit the open market and signed a one-year prove-it deal with the Arizona Cardinals, and in 2018 he started 13 games and finished with three interceptions and nine passes defensed. Boston won’t turn 27 until June 25. So why has a young, fairly productive safety become a journeyman? Did neither the Chargers nor the Cardinals have any interest in doing business with Boston beyond those one-year deals, and if not, why not? Or was he the one who wanted to seek another opportunity? Why has no NFL team made anything beyond a one-year commitment to him since he was drafted by the Panthers? Why is he still a free agent? And maybe most significantly, why is he a free agent with seemingly no interest from anyone? There are answers to these questions, but I don’t know what they are, and my guess is that those answers would explain why Boston doesn’t have a job in professional football right now. And I cannot see it being the Steelers who offer him one.
STEPHEN MIHALOV FROM TAMPA, FL: Do you think there is any chance that the Steelers would sign any of the defensive tackles left in free agency for the right price? I’m referring to Ndamukong Suh, Muhammad Wilkerson or Corey Liuget?
ANSWER: There are many reasons why the Steelers don’t use free agency as a primary method of roster building, and players such as these three are prime examples. Let’s begin with Ndamukong Suh: In 2018, he played under a one-year, $14 million contract with the Rams, when he had 4.5 sacks and four passes defensed, and so you cannot realistically expect him to agree to a contract that would represent a significant cut in pay from what he earned in 2018. And that proved to be the case when Suh recently agreed to a one-year deal with Tampa Bay that was reported to be worth in the neighborhood of $13 million.
As for Corey Liuget, here is what Pro Football Focus wrote about him in a recent story that recommended the Chargers cut him earlier this offseason: “He's still only 29, but Liuget has managed only 611 snaps over the past two seasons. In six games this season, he notched all of 10 pressures. Cutting him would save the Chargers $8 million in space … 2018 was filled with a couple of unfortunate events for Liuget. He started the season suspended for the first four games due to testing positive for performance enhancing drugs (PED) and had a season-ending injury in Week 11 … Proving to be unreliable this past year, Liuget's production has gone, and he's failed to stay healthy since he signed his current contract two years ago. Los Angeles has to be concerned about his future and cutting him would make the most sense.”
Muhammad Wilkerson will be 30 in October, and he’s coming off a 2018 season in which he played in three games before injuring an ankle that required surgery and landed him on injured reserve on Sept. 29. He played on a one-year deal last season in Green Bay that ended up paying him a little less than $4 million since he was on injured reserve and couldn’t earn all of the incentives built into the deal.
DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: With the Steelers being thin at safety, how about Barry Church? Have to add, this would be a must-have jersey for me.
ANSWER: I will relate this one more time, and hopefully I won’t have to do it again: the Steelers do not perceive themselves to be thin at safety. Here is what Coach Mike Tomlin said in the immediate aftermath of the draft when asked about “being thin” at the safety position: “We're comfortable with the number of people that we have working (at safety). We're also comfortable with the versatility of some of the corners. You've seen Cam Sutton play some safety. You've seen Mike Hilton play safety on our football team in the past. I'm sure there are others who are capable as well. So we're comfortable, not only with our numbers, but with the flexibility of others who may not be ‘safeties.’” And so my advice to you would be that if you’re itching to invest in a Steelers jersey, I would recommend Terrell Edmunds’ No. 34.
JIM FOX FROM BATON ROUGE, LA: In your opinion who will be the No. 2 receiver when the season starts?
ANSWER: My guess is that the starting wide receivers to open the 2019 regular season will be JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington.