Let' get to it:
GLAUCIO CAFALCHIO from TAUBATÉ, BRAZIL: Is the signing bonus in a rookie contract fully paid even if the rookie doesn't make the roster?
ANSWER: Yes. A signing bonus is considered guaranteed money and is paid regardless of whether or not the individual earns a spot on the 53-man roster. And unless otherwise stipulated in the language of the contract, the signing bonus is paid immediately upon the player signing the contract. Sometimes a player might choose to have some of the bonus paid at a later date, but typically the signing bonus is paid immediately.
SAM MIKHAIL FROM BETHESDA, MD: Which position battles are you looking forward to seeing play out during training camp and the preseason?
ANSWER: In terms of starting spots, there really aren't that many spots up for grabs, but there are several roles within the offense and defense available to be won. On offense, the logical assumption is that Najee Harris will be the starting running back, and I cannot see that changing. I believe Kendrick Green will be given every opportunity to show he belongs in the starting lineup at center, with B.J. Finney there in case the rookie falters. Because of the constant switching of personnel packages, it doesn't much matter who starts at wide receiver, because JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and James Washington all will see plenty of playing time. On defense, there are no starting spots up for grabs, in my opinion, on the defensive line, at outside linebacker, or in the secondary. The starting spot at inside linebacker alongside Devin Bush looks like it will come down to Robert Spillane or Vince Williams. There will be competition for roles on both offense and defense, such as the pecking order of the wide receivers, how much playing time Pat Freiermuth gets at tight end, and who ends up as the No. 2 running back behind Harris. On defense, it's who ends up being the slot cornerback and who emerges as the No. 3 outside linebacker, but as of today in terms of a pure one-on-one competition for a single job, Jordan Berry vs. Pressley Harvin III at punter looks to be a compelling battle.
CHRIS GIBSON FROM DENVER, CO: What are your thoughts on the possibility of the Steelers re-signing Steven Nelson?
ANSWER: I do not believe Steven Nelson would be brought back to be a starting cornerback, and I also think the Steelers will be trying their best to get T.J. Watt signed to a long-term extension this summer, a move that figures to eat up considerable salary cap space. Don't forget, the Steelers cut Nelson, so would Nelson have interest in returning to the team on a low-cost contract to be a backup?
MARK O'MALLEY FROM MANTUA, NJ: I always wait to buy my annual Steelers gear until I see what Coach Mike Tomlin is wearing on the sideline. He always wears the best looking of the new season line. I also do the same throughout the season when Coach wears something new. Could the Steelers Store start a "Coach Edition" line like some large college football programs, so we can purchase earlier in the year? It's nice to get a jump on other Steelers fans.
ANSWER: I am including your question as a way to pass along your suggestion, and I also can tell you this: Sometimes, what a coach wears on the sideline begins as a choice based on what he likes, or believes looks good, or is based on what he decides is comfortable and practical. But there are other times when what a coach wears on the sideline consistently has to do with how the team performed when he first started wearing it. In other words, superstition. Here's an interesting story along those lines: The hat Bill Cowher wore on the sideline during the stretch run of the 2005 regular season, then through the AFC Playoffs, and then during the victory in Super Bowl XL was a hat from a previous season's collection, one that wasn't being manufactured anymore at the time he made it a regular part of his game day attire. Cowher's decision drove the Merchandise Department crazy, because fans wanted to buy that hat after seeing him wearing it, but it wasn't made anymore and therefore quickly became unavailable. But the Steelers won the Super Bowl, and to Dan Rooney that was way, way, way more important than selling a bunch of hats.
RICHARD VOLZ FROM JAMESTOWN, NC: Born and raised in the Allentown section of Pittsburgh, I saw the Steelers play at Pitt Stadium back in the 1950s. I keep hearing about a three-down running back who can do it all. Someone who I thought was very good at that was Franco Harris. In four Super Bowls he had 101 carries for 354 yards. But what no one seems to remember is that he also had five catches for 114 yards with an average of 22.8 yards per catch. Do you think that Franco is underrated as a pass catcher?
ANSWER: Franco Harris' receiving usually entailed catching a swing pass out of the backfield and then doing what he could with the ball in the open field. It was essentially a long handoff, and then Harris made it happen with run-after-the-catch. In today's NFL, a pass-catching running back is more of a player who can run routes and then catch the ball, often down the field. Harris was an all-time great running back, a four-time Super Bowl champion who was a transformational player for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But I personally wouldn't refer to him as underrated as a pass-catching running back.
DAN HARDER FROM SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA: The Steelers are not favored in most of the projections and I realize much of it has to do with the strength of the division. Has there ever been a time that the AFC North had this much depth or even close to it? If so, how did the Steelers fare during those seasons?
ANSWER: Since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, there have been four years in which three teams from the Steelers' division – either the AFC Central or the AFC North – made the playoffs in the same season. Those instances came in 1988 (Cincinnati at 12-4, Cleveland at 10-6, and Houston at 10-6); 1989 (Cleveland at 9-6-1, Houston and Pittsburgh both at 9-7); 2014 (Pittsburgh at 11-5, Cincinnati at 10-5-1, and Baltimore at 10-6); and 2020 (Pittsburgh at 12-4, Baltimore and Cleveland both at 11-5). But in my opinion, the season in which the Steelers' division was the most difficult was the 1975 version of the AFC Central. Pittsburgh finished first at 12-2 and went on to win Super Bowl X; Cincinnati was 11-3, with two of the losses against the Steelers; and Houston was 10-4, with two of its losses also against the Steelers. In 1975, there was only one Wild Card team per conference, and so the 1975 Oilers didn't make the playoffs.
MITCHELL SHEDIO FROM LEHIGH ACRES, FL: Using Tim Tebow as a for-instance, if a team signs a player who does not make the roster is there any cost to the team?
ANSWER: I'm going to assume you're referring to a financial cost. The answer to that is: no, unless there was some signing bonus or other guaranteed money included in the terms of the contract signed by the player.
ALEJANDRO LANDERS FROM WINCHESTER, VA: What is the highest and lowest you could see the Steelers' record this year?
ANSWER: On the high end: 17-0. On the low end 0-17.
MICHAEL GLENDENNING FROM LEAMINGTON, ONTARIO, CANADA: With a new look offensive line, is there an expectation for Ben Roethlisberger to be at the OTAs to help with the development and cohesion with the offensive line?
ANSWER: Ben Roethlisberger has been a regular part of the offseason program, including OTAs to this point, but it escapes me how a quarterback helps with the cohesion of the offensive line.
GREG WEBBER FROM BAR NUNN, WY: We are flying from Wyoming for the Pittsburgh vs. Denver game on Oct. 10 at Heinz Field. Just wondering if we have to be vaccinated to attend the game?
ANSWER: I cannot tell you definitively at this time whether proof of vaccination will be required to attend a Steelers game in October, but what I can tell you is that at the present time throughout Pennsylvania, life largely has returned to normal for all fully vaccinated people. The NFL even has eliminated the requirement to wear masks at team practice facilities and on the field for fully vaccinated people, and Steelers President Art Rooney II is on record as saying that all team employees are being "strongly encouraged" to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated can do nothing but help things return to normal.