Let’s get to it:
FABIAN KOBALD FROM INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA: Why is Mark Barron allowed to wear No. 26? I thought a linebacker had to wear a number between 40-59 or 90-99?
ANSWER: When Mark Barron entered the NFL as a first-round draft choice in 2012, he did so as a safety, and so during his time with Tampa Bay he wore numbers in the 20s. Then when he was traded to the Rams, his position was defined as LB/CB and then LB/SS, and that allowed him to stick with a jersey number in the 20s.. Because of that, plus the fact he will play the hybrid position of inside linebacker/safety with the Steelers – which is sometimes referred to as dime linebacker – he is permitted to continue to wear jerseys in the 20s.
DAN DAKOTA FROM REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA: On May 21 there was a question about retired numbers, and you touched on numbers that are not given out anymore. What would it take, or who would have to approve those numbers being put back into circulation? By that I mean, is this a Rooney family decision, team input, or even would the fans have a say?
ANSWER: That would be a decision made by Steelers President Art Rooney II.
MICHAEL CURRENCE FROM SMITHFIELD, PA: Is it going to become a common thing for first-round rookies to get their contracts fully guaranteed, like Devin Bush did? Only other player I know in the NFL with a fully guaranteed contract is Kirk Cousins.
ANSWER: This isn’t anything new, but it hasn’t affected the Steelers because of their drafting position since the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified in 2011. With respect to rookie contracts, that CBA set forth several parameters, and one of the byproducts of those parameters is that virtually all contracts for players picked in the top 10 in the first round since 2011 are guaranteed. Bush was the 10th pick in the first round, and so his contract fell into those parameters. It’s nothing new, but it is something different for the Steelers, because the team’s highest draft position from 2011-18 was No. 15.
JIM GARRETT FROM PAGOSA SPRINGS, CO: When Kansas City replaced Alex Smith with Pat Mahomes going into last season, clearly they made a judgment based on Mahomes’ one year on the team that he could do the job. The Steelers have no more reason to rush to replace Ben Roethlisberger than Green Bay did to replace Brett Favre with Aaron Rodgers, but is it too early to say whether they believe either Josh Dobbs or Mason Rudolph have the potential to take over effectively when the time comes?
ANSWER: It’s even too early to say whether Joshua Dobbs or Mason Rudolph will be the No. 2 quarterback in 2019. The Steelers just signed Ben Roethlisberger to a three-year contract, which points to a commitment from both parties for the foreseeable future. And in the NFL, three years is an eternity.
JACK SACCO FROM MONESSEN, PA: What do the Steelers plan on doing with Mason Rudolph? I feel like they want him to play, but with Ben Roethlisberger signing that new extension, I feel like he should at least be made the backup. I would like to know what will happen to him or Joshua Dobbs.
ANSWER: Nobody is going to be “made” anything, because roles are won and lost on the field. What will happen with Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs this season will be that one serves as the No. 2 quarterback and the other will be the No. 3 quarterback.
BRETT BILLEC FROM CAMPBELL, OH Can you compare Phase 3 of the offseason program to something fans have seen? Is it comparable to training camp when the players wear shells instead of full pads?
ANSWER: Phase 3 of the offseason program, which contains the 10 OTAs and the three-day veteran minicamp, is similar to a padless practice at training camp, but I’d say it’s even a little less physical than that in terms of contact.
BUDDY POWELL FROM FT. MYERS, FL: Do you envision the team hiring someone to fill the role of outside linebackers coach with the departure of Joey Porter? I understand Keith Butler is serving that role now, but being the defensive coordinator as well seems to be a lot on his plate.
ANSWER: If the Steelers were going to hire someone from the outside to coach the outside linebackers, it would have been done long ago. NFL teams don’t add to the coaching staff at this late date. Keith Butler will coach the outside linebackers in 2019.
HUMBERTO NUNEZ FROM WEST NEW YORK, NJ: Can we see a depth chart in the coming months for the different defensive packages – the nickel, dime, and dollar defenses?
ANSWER: The Steelers release a depth chart based on what’s required by the NFL. The first depth chart will be released in advance of the preseason opener, and it will include the base formations on offense and defense, plus a depth chart for the specialists in the kicking game. There is no depth chart for the personnel packages you describe in your question.
ROBERT LONG FROM CLEARFIELD, PA: I know it's way too early but based on the information you've received thus far, which positions in the upcoming 2020 draft appear to be the deepest talent wise?
ANSWER: There has been no credible information received thus far, because nobody knows which players will or won’t come out for the draft early, or who will be injured, etc. It’s too early to even be way too early to be predicting anything about the 2020 NFL Draft.
JOHN BRAGG FROM FAIRMONT, WV: The arrivals of Chuck Noll and Joe Greene are regarded, rightfully so, as turning points in Steelers history. I've always thought that Noll was hired and was the main reason Joe was drafted, because he had scouted Greene while coaching in Baltimore. I've heard some stories recently that Art Rooney Jr. was scouting Joe Greene, also. Would the Steelers have drafted Joe Greene even if they hadn't hired Chuck Noll as coach?
ANSWER: First of all, Joe Greene was regarded as one of the top talents available in the 1969 NFL Draft, and so I can guarantee you that it was more than Chuck Noll and Art Rooney Jr. who were scouting him. I have no way of knowing how that draft would’ve turned out for the Steelers if Noll had not been hired, but what I do know is that Dan Rooney’s vision for the franchise was to build through the draft in a way where the facets of the organization worked together. In other words, it was never going to be a situation where the Director of Player Personnel would pick the players unilaterally and then the coach would coach them. It was going to be a cooperative effort.
PAUL MARTIN FROM SAEGERTOWN, PA: How is it determined the order in which NFL teams will hold rookie minicamps? Since rookies may attend more than one minicamp, might a player be offered a contract by more than one team?
ANSWER: For the most part, the players who would be attending a rookie minicamp on a tryout basis are players who have not been drafted, and who have not been offered a contract as undrafted rookies. If one of those individuals is to get invited to attend a rookie minicamp on a tryout basis and then is offered a contract at its conclusion, I am confident that individual wouldn’t be shopping around for another offer.
RICHARD MEAGHER FROM LAKE HAVASU CITY, AZ: During the Chuck Noll era, Noll had the final say on all draft picks and trades. Today, who gets the final say on all draft choices, trades and free agent signings. Is it General Manager Kevin Colbert or Coach Mike Tomlin?
ANSWER: That’s not a completely accurate description of how draft picks were made during Chuck Noll’s tenure as coach. Certainly, there were no picks made over Noll’s express veto, but he also was willing to listen and come to a consensus. A prime example of that happened in 1972, when Noll initially favored running back Robert Newhouse over Franco Harris. But Director of Player Personnel Art Rooney Jr. was strongly in favor of Harris, and Noll came to be convinced. A similar cooperative system exists today between Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin, and don’t ever forget that Art Rooney II has a voice in those discussions as well.