Let's get to it:
LEN IACONO FROM YORK, PA:
Love Asked and Answered. My question: can Artie Burns cover Antonio Brown?
ANSWER: To put this into some context for those who may not be aware of your reference: the standard General Manager Kevin Colbert said the scouts use when evaluating college cornerbacks is to ask themselves the question: can (insert name here) cover Antonio Brown?
"When we say cover Antonio, we always talk about that in our evaluations, but that's a difficult task for a lot of NFL cornerbacks," said Colbert. "We are usually just talking amongst ourselves when we say that. If they can cover who we think is the best (in the NFL), he is going to have a good chance (to succeed in the NFL). Whether they can or can't, we won't find out until we get them here, but I think beyond physical talents, mental makeup and confidence are huge."
To answer the question: If Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback, there's no chance. With Roethlisberger at quarterback, I've only ever seen Antonio Brown kind of covered once, and that was by Richard Sherman in a game during which the officials were allowing the defender to be handsy with the receiver in some areas of the field where that's usually a penalty. If Artie Burns can be competitive in that matchup as a rookie, I will have high hopes for his future as an NFL cornerback.
MARK HOLDEN FROM ROSEVILLE, CA:
I like Javon Hargrave a lot, but it still seems that side-by-side Andrew Billings is the more dominant player. Has Kevin Colbert explained exactly why they went with Hargrave?
ANSWER: It seems Andrew Billings is the more dominant player? Seems to whom? To you? Javon Hargrave was the 12th interior defensive lineman drafted, and Andrew Billings was the 16th. Hargrave was the 89th overall pick, and Billings was the 122nd overall pick. That means three other teams picking interior defensive linemen there – New England, Jacksonville, and Indianapolis – liked players other than Billings, and a total of 121 picks were made in the 2016 draft until some team agreed with your assessment. I don't need an explanation from Colbert because I know the reason the Steelers went with Hargrave instead of Billings: because they think Hargrave is a better player for them. It's that simple.
GARY GOODRICH FROM PORTLAND, OR:
Will not drafting Andrew Billings (Ike Taylor's choice for our No. 1 pick), haunt the Steelers, especially since he went to Cincinnati? (See: beast of a nose tackle, freakishly strong, blows up centers, and owns the middle of the line). Note: a secondary gets better if the front-seven pressures the quarterback.
ANSWER: Haunt the Steelers? Over-stating things just a bit, aren't we? And all due respect to Ike Taylor, but it's a little early in his media career to be citing him as a reference when it comes to the evaluation of college talent and how that talent projects into the NFL, especially at an interior defensive line position. If a secondary actually does get better if the front-seven pressures the quarterback, understand that Billings had 8.5 sacks during his three seasons in college, while Hargrave had 37 sacks in his four seasons. Note: Just because you saw a guy on TV once or twice doesn't make him the better player.**
JAMES ZUCCO FROM GARDEN GROVE, CA:
In last Thursday's edition of Asked and Answered, you were asked a question about the four greatest defensive backs in Steelers history, and I noticed Donnie Shell was replaced by Darren Perry. I think Shell might be the most underrated Steelers player of all time. By the way, love your chats and the shows on Steelers.com.
ANSWER: I'm going to make some attempt to explain myself, and so let's begin with the exact wording of the question. It was: "If you could go back through the Steelers' franchise history and pick four defensive backs, with no other changes to the defense, who would your choices be for which positions? Bonus question, who are your 'nickel' and 'dime' backs?"
That was the question, and I took it to mean not that I was picking the four best defensive backs in franchise history, but a unit to add to the existing front seven personnel on this particular Steelers roster to help the franchise win its seventh Lombardi Trophy. So I was thinking in terms of a four-man unit, as opposed to the four best, and the guy who was selected over Donnie Shell was Troy Polamalu. In my mind, I was viewing Shell and Polamalu as guys who would be deployed in similar ways, while Perry is more of a pure centerfielder, a guy who was a productive playmaker while being cast in something of a complementary role. So it came down to Shell vs. Polamalu for me, and I went with Troy. Going with Shell wouldn't have been wrong, though, either.
ANDY MOTTO FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
As part of the April 28 version of Asked and Answered, you responded to questions about your "all-time best" Steelers defensive backs. I have a hard time leaving Mike Wagner off that list. I think he's probably the most underrated Steelers player with four Super Bowl rings. He has more career interceptions than Darren Perry or Troy Polamalu, and while I know that interceptions aren't the only measure of a defensive back, I would rank Wagner ahead of Perry as the free safety.
ANSWER: Mike Wagner had 36 interceptions during his 10 seasons with the Steelers, and he still ranks sixth on the franchise's all-time list in the category. Troy Polamalu and Darren Perry both finished with 32 interceptions, Polamalu in 12 seasons and Perry in seven. I'm not going to disparage your pick of Wagner over Perry, but I will explain my choice as having to do with Perry averaging 4.57 interceptions per season with the Steelers, while Wagner averaged 3.6 per season. A matter of personal preference, in my mind.
MIKE HARDING FROM SHERRODSVILLE, OH:
I saw in an interview with Kevin Colbert that he said we tried to trade up in the first round of the 2015 draft but could find no partners. Who do you think the attempted trade was for? Marcus Peters?
ANSWER: It was in search of Trae Waynes, the cornerback from Michigan State, who was picked 11th overall by the Minnesota Vikings.
DAVE LAVECK FROM ROCHESTER, NY:
Why didn't the Steelers trade with the Broncos instead of the Seahawks and take the extra third-round pick Seattle received? I assume they were contacted. Also do you agree that the Bengals pick was more about us than for them?
ANSWER: As for the Bengals, they have to be picking for what they believe is best for their team. The best way for the Bengals to stick it to the Steelers is by beating them on the field, and the only chance that has of happening is if they put together the best team they can. Drafting a guy they think the Steelers wanted just for spite doesn't make them any better.
As for trading down in any draft, remember that the players are more important than the picks. A team gets nothing for having a bunch of picks, only for using whatever picks it has to add quality players. The Steelers saw Artie Burns as being in the upper echelon of cornerbacks available in this draft, and so in their minds it was more important to add him to their team than to have an extra pick in the third round.
DEBRA THELEMAN FROM FRIENDSVILLE, MD:
We are taking our daughter and future son-in-law to a game the day after they get married, which will be Oct. 9 when the Steelers host the New York Jets at 1 p.m. They have never been to a Steelers game, and we would like to have a congratulations put on the scoreboard during the game. How do we sign up to do that, and what is the cost?
ANSWER: At this point, the Steelers only recognize birthdays on the scoreboard during games, and that is simply due to the volume of the requests received and the limited amount of time available to make sure all get recognized.