Let's get to it:
JD AKERS FROM ORMOND BEACH, FL: Dri Archer was not the great threat he was touted to be coming out of college, so please help me understand how Calvin Austin III is any different, or if Archer was not used properly in the offense. Their respective stats and Combine results don't seem much different. Just sayin'.
ANSWER: Your research regarding Dri Archer and Calvin Austin III wasn't very thorough/accurate. While their Combine results were largely a wash – Archer was slightly faster in the 40-yard dash and the 3-cone drill; Austin did better in the vertical jump and broad jump; and their times in the 20-yard shuttle were a virtual dead heat – Archer was a running back and Austin a wide receiver, and their respective college statistics reflect that. In 47 career games, Archer had 325 carries for 2,342 yards (7.2 average) and 24 touchdowns to go along with 99 receptions for 1,194 yards (12.1 average) and 12 touchdowns. In 49 career games, Austin had eight carries for 169 yards (21.1 average) and 3 touchdowns, plus 156 catches for 2,541 yards (16.3 average) and 22 touchdowns. And the bulk of Austin's production came in his final two college seasons, with 137 of his career receptions for 2,202 yards and 16 touchdowns coming in 2020-21. At 5-foot-8, 175, Archer's size was a detriment as a running back once he came into the NFL, while Austin's size (5-9, 162) is less so because of the rules limiting contact with receivers beyond 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and the protections given to receivers on downfield hits when they are judged to be "defenseless players." Archer was being asked to create and be productive in the crowded spaces close to the line of scrimmage in the NFL, while Austin is going to be able to operate in space where his speed and short-area quickness can be utilized to its full advantage. Just sayin'.
GREGORY EDGAR FROM STUDIO CITY, CA: When was the last time a Steelers undrafted rookie free agent became a true NFL starter, and who was it?
ANSWER: I have no idea what makes an NFL starter a "true NFL starter," but here we go (in reverse chronological order: Matt Feiler started 40 games for the Steelers at left guard and right tackle; Robert Spillane has started 11 games at inside linebacker; Alejandro Villanueva started 90 games at left tackle; Chris Hubbard started 14 games at right tackle; James Harrison started 107 games at outside linebacker; Doug Legursky started 17 games at guard and center; Willie Parker started 60 games at running back; and if being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is what constitutes a "true NFL starter," Donnie Shell started 162 games at strong safety, and Jack Butler started 102 games at cornerback and safety. And that's only scratching the surface of a long list.
SCOTT ROGERS FROM CENTERVILLE, OH: Mike Tomlin has made it clear that rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett has a chance to win the starting job this season. Obviously, we're going into training camp where anything can happen, but hypothetically speaking with all things made relatively equal in terms of training camp and preseason outings, would you prefer to see Mason Rudolph or Mitch Trubisky get the nod to start Week 1 of the regular season? I'm curious if you prefer the Joe Burrow approach, or the Patrick Mahomes approach – both are exceptional quarterbacks but were developed differently in their rookie seasons.
ANSWER: I prefer the "best man for the job is the starter approach," and the way to determine the best man for the job is through a competition. Not only do the quarterbacks on the roster deserve that, but so do all of the other players and coaches on the team. One last thing – once training camp and the preseason are over, you'll see that all things are not relatively equal among Mason Rudolph, Mitch Trubisky, and Kenny Pickett. I believe once the Steelers get to that point, the starting quarterback job will have been won, or lost.
GRANT SPELLERBERG FROM CUTLER BAY, FL: I was wondering why the Steelers didn't address the interior offensive line. The run game seems to need some support there. Any idea on why that was neglected?
ANSWER: Remember James Daniels and Mason Cole? Daniels will turn 25 in September, and he has 48 NFL regular season starts already; and Cole is 26 years old with 39 NFL regular season starts already. Both are interior offensive linemen, and both are under contract to the Steelers through the 2024 season. I would counter by contending that signing those two guys qualifies as "addressing the interior offensive line."
STEVE YOUNG FROM ST. DAVID, AZ: How does the process work for teams selecting from the undrafted player pool once Mr. Irrelevant comes off the board? Is it just a free-for-all, or is there an organized method for teams to follow when signing those additional players?
ANSWER: Once the seventh round of an NFL Draft is over, it indeed is a total free-for-all for teams trying to sign undrafted rookies, and it's first-come, first-served across the board.
ABRAHAM GRAY FROM HONOLULU, HI: Seeing how devalued quarterbacks were by everyone except the Steelers, do you think they could have drafted Kenny Pickett in the second round?
ANSWER: I don't believe you can make the conclusion that quarterbacks were devalued "by everyone except the Steelers" because only one player at the position was selected in the first round. And you have no way of knowing that a team picking after the Steelers in the first round wouldn't have selected a quarterback if Pickett still were available, nor can you definitively know that a team possibly interested in Pickett wouldn't have decided to make a move into the bottom of the first round if he were available. And don't forget, the Steelers' second-round pick was the 20th in that round, which means there would have been plenty of chances for him to get selected before the Steelers' turn came at No. 52 overall.
KELVIN COLEY FROM AMERICUS, GA: This week's draft showed it's time for General Manager Kevin Colbert to retire. Why take a quarterback in the first round when you know this quarterback draft was weak? Why not draft the best defensive end on the board not knowing Stephon Tuitt's situation?
ANSWER: I'll start with this: How do you know Stephon Tuitt's situation is unknown? Just because nothing has been made public doesn't mean there have been no developments. And I have made this point often, that the Steelers draft people not positions. It's how they did it when they built the team that won four Super Bowls over a six-season span of the 1970s; it's how they did it when they won two Super Bowls over a four-season span in the 2000s; and it's how they did it over the weekend. They used their first-round selection on Kenny Pickett, who plays quarterback. If Kenny Pickett was not available when it came time for the Steelers to make their first-round pick, what makes you believe they automatically would have selected a different quarterback? If you spent some time paying attention and learning how the Steelers do business, a lot of these things wouldn't be so puzzling to you.
JAMES MAC PHERSON FROM BEACHWOOD, NJ: I'm confused on our late-round picks. Cam Heyward's brother, Connor, is a nice storyline but a fullback/tight end was needed? The real strange one to me was why did we use a pick on a second quarterback (Chris Oladokun in the seventh round)? Couldn't we have picked up a camp arm from free agents? Help me understand.
ANSWER: I would suggest you follow the advice I offered Kelvin Coley above. The Steelers draft people, not positions, and so clearly there was something they liked about Chris Oladokun that made him worth a seventh-round pick to them. Understand that when teams get into the seventh round, they're looking for players capable of either competing for a roster/practice squad spot, or of offering a level of competition that might make the other players at the position perform better in their quest for a roster spot. Also, if the Steelers had not drafted Oladokun, he would have been able to sign with any team as an undrafted rookie, and then maybe a bidding war breaks out that would have precluded the Steelers from adding him to the mix. And maybe the Steelers see Oladokun as potentially more than a camp arm, and that if he turns out to be more than a camp arm, maybe that creates an opportunity for a trade that nets some future draft capital. There's no NFL rule that says the fourth quarterback on a team's training camp roster has to be a nobody who automatically ends up on the waiver wire before the start of the regular season. Also, the Steelers typically keep three tight ends on their 53-man roster, and Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry are two. Who's the third? Connor Heyward will be competing for that spot.
CALVIN MCCLEAD FROM HERSHEY, PA: Why did the Steelers draft two quarterbacks? Doesn't that seem like over-drafting the position when we could've just as easily gotten Chris Oladokun as an undrafted rookie?
ANSWER: That Chris Oladokun would've been signed as an undrafted rookie had the Steelers not spent a seventh-round pick on him is a guess. You have no facts to support that supposition. Actually, since two teams picking after the Steelers made Oladokun the 241st overall selection also chose quarterbacks – Miami took Kansas State's Skylar Thompson 247th overall and San Francisco tool Brock Purdy 262nd overall – there's evidence Oladokun might have been picked by one of those teams.
KEVIN DOYLE FROM SALINAS, CA: Can you give a description of the type of contract that an undrafted player could expect to be offered by a team that signed him after the draft ended?
ANSWER: Generally, the contract will span three years and contain a signing bonus of around $10,000. The salary for each season will be the minimum amount for a player at that level of experience, as outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
MACAELAGH RISSER FROM SAINT ROBERT, MO: For the last two months, I have been arguing with my brother about what the Steelers were going to do in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He was persistent in telling me they were definitely picking a quarterback, and I was persistent in saying they would not. I even said Bob Labriola agrees with me. Were you as surprised as I was when the Steelers selected a quarterback in the first round?
ANSWER: As the first round of the draft unfolded, with no quarterbacks being picked early and with the run on wide receivers and defensive players, it became increasingly likely to me the Steelers would select Kenny Pickett if he were to be available when their turn arrived. And it wasn't going to be any quarterback, it was going to be Pickett.
ANDY ROY FROM MISSOULA, MT: When a team exercises the fifth-year option on a first-round pick, what happens at the end of that fifth year? Does the team still control the player, or does he become a free agent?
ANSWER: Under the scenario you describe, the player can become an unrestricted free agent, but the team also could sign him to a contract extension or use the franchise/transition tag on him.
CRAIG PATRICK FROM DAVISON, MI: This is probably a stupid question, but do you think the Steelers would consider trading Stephon Tuitt for future draft capital and promoting third-round pick DeMarvin Leal to the starting lineup right away?
ANSWER: If Stephon Tuitt is interested/capable of playing in 2022, the Steelers need him. If he isn't, there would be no market for him in a trade.
GEORGE FARR FROM WILLIAMSPORT, PA: Do you think the Steelers will keep both Derek Watt and Connor Heyward?
ANSWER: How about we wait for training camp and the preseason to determine that instead of guessing today?
HERMAN BERCH FROM HAWTHORNE, NV: Is there any chance that the Steelers could convert Connor Heyward to nose tackle so he can play side-by-side with Cameron Heyward?
ANSWER: There's a better chance the Steelers convert Cam Heyward to wide receiver so he can play side-by-side with Connor Heyward when he lines up as a tight end.