Let’s get to it:
DENNIS SLEEGER FROM YORK, PA:
I follow the Steelers. Been a long time fan. In reading articles about the draft, I heard a lot about Pittsburgh needing defensive backs. What happened with Artie Burns? I don't hear his name mentioned. He was a first-round pick. I thought he has played well. Did he fall out of grace ,or is there an issue with him?
ANSWER: There may be some issue with fans who don’t believe he has become the next Rod Woodson quickly enough, but Artie Burns has not fallen out of favor with the Steelers. He is still a developing player with plenty of room for improvement, and the coaches are going to expect/demand that improvement. Maybe new defensive backs coach Tom Bradley can help that process along. And just as an aside, on Tuesday, Burns celebrated his 23rd birthday. He will be a 23-year-old third-year pro in 2018, and I believe that’s an exciting combination.
ZACH PAVEY FROM HUNTINGTON, IN:
Will the Steelers keep four quarterbacks on the roster in 2018? I don’t think the Steelers are willing to let a rookie or Joshua Dobbs take over if Ben Roethlisberger gets hurt. But would they be willing to let a fourth-round pick go to waste this fast?
ANSWER: You pose a few questions, and I can answer only one of them right now. They will not keep four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2018. Everything else is wait-and-see.
GREG CULLIFER FROM FLORISSANT, CO:
With four quarterbacks, who is odd man out? Joshua Dobbs?
ANSWER: My Magic-8 ball is in the shop for repairs.
CHANSE SHRADER FROM UNIONTOWN, WA:
Do the Steelers try to stash Joshua Dobbs on their practice squad this season?
ANSWER: I don’t know what the Steelers are going to do with their quarterbacks, but I can tell you that Joshua Dobbs still has practice squad eligibility. And as a matter of procedure, you should realize that before a team can place any player on its practice squad, that player first would have to be waived and then after 24 hours on the waiver wire, where any team could claim him, he then would be eligible to be signed to the practice squad.
HANS KOLLER FROM FREDONIA, NY:
I watched the video of Terrell Edmunds getting a tour of the city. Do all the rookies get a tour, or is it just the first-round pick who gets a tour?
ANSWER: When Missi Matthews was hired some years ago, she was the driving force behind the video of the first-round pick getting a tour of the city, and those have been done ever since and have been well-received on Steelers.com. Typically, it’s just the No. 1 pick.
DAVID OROCHENA FROM POTOMAC, MD:
Great responses to the questions about trading Martavis Bryant and the selection of quarterback Mason Rudolph. You made some prognostications based on a set of circumstances: who was going to offer a relatively high pick for Martavis Bryant after two suspensions and only one year on his contract? While many thought that Mason Rudolph would not be picked in the first round – he was definitely highly regarded. The Steelers organization obviously valued him. The circumstances changed, and the Steelers like any adaptable organization took advantage of the new conditions. Adapt or perish; a rule of life.
ROBERT MONTAGUE FROM ASHLAND, KY:
Picking a quarterback in this draft made sense to me, but why did the Steelers pass on Lamar Jackson, who was still available when their turn came in Round 1?
ANSWER: I don’t believe the Steelers were intent on picking a quarterback in this draft, but Mason Rudolph in the third round was too much of a value pick to pass up. And don’t discount the possibility that they liked Rudolph more than Lamar Jackson.
BOB RENFREW FROM BURLINGTON, CO:
How often have undrafted free agents had a significant impact on the Steelers (like Willie Parker)?
ANSWER: Ever hear of Donnie Shell? James Harrison? Ramon Foster? All were undrafted rookies. And there are more, but I’m too lazy to look them up.
ELLE PERIARD FROM ONTARIO, CANADA:
When watching the draft some players’ positions were identified as “Edge.” Can you clarify the meaning of this?
ANSWER: That means he is a defensive player who lines up on one of the ends of the line of scrimmage, and his primary responsibility is to rush the passer.
AUSTIN BRENNER FROM WARREN, PA:
A lot of people are complaining about the Steelers not taking an inside linebacker in the draft this year, but they signed Matthew Thomas from Florida State as an undrafted rookie. He led a talented Florida State defense in tackles. What do you think his chances are to not only make the roster but be a contributor?
ANSWER: There are reasons why players are not drafted, and looking up Matthew Thomas, I found several reason why he might not have been. I’m not going to get into all of the flaws in his game and the potholes that dotted his college career, because I have no interest in running down a player before he has even a chance to show what he can do on the field. I will tell you this: typically, there might be one, or at most two, undrafted rookies who even make the 53-man roster, and the Steelers signed 13 immediately after the draft. Thomas is a long-shot.
STAN MOYER FROM AKRON, OH:
What happens at rookie minicamp? I'm guessing there are football activities, but are the rookies given counseling/education on what it means to be in the NFL? It's their first job out of college, and so are they signing up for health care benefits, the 401k, etc.?
ANSWER: Simply being drafted, or being signed as an undrafted rookie, doesn’t mean those players have a job in the NFL. The reality is that this is still an extended audition, and the audition is going to continue until the end of August when rosters are cut to 53. If they make the 53-man roster, then they have a job, and because of that it’s imperative that these newbies study and learn when it’s time for the football activities. Their performances in those, and their adaptability to the mental demands of the sport are what will determine whether in fact the NFL is their “first job out of college.”
BILL PALAICH FROM CLERMONT, FL:
How do you remain so civil with the people who are obviously relishing the chance to admonish you for some pre-draft notions, such as predicting the Steelers would not take a quarterback, or that they wouldn’t be able to trade Martavis Bryant for good value. Circumstances are the drivers behind both moves. My question is, what kind of meds does your health plan cover to keep you so calm and patient in explaining to the fans who just want to be right, never considering the events that made them so?
ANSWER: No meds. I just rely on my naturally cheery disposition.
TIM DOUGHERTY FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
Since the inside linebackers the Steelers felt were worthy of a No. 1 pick were off the board when their turn came, do you think they went with Terrell Edmunds and later to Marcus Allen to appease the people who wanted to move Ryan Shazier to safety? They're just doing it backwards (safeties to linebackers) so these people can say, “I told you so.”
ANSWER: Absolutely. You have cracked the code. Instead of trying to better the roster for a run at a Super Bowl, the Steelers were using the draft to play a million-dollar version of neener-neener.
JOHN MCGINNIS FROM TITUSVILLE, PA:
The Steelers just added an English rugby player to the practice squad. What do you think his chances are of making it as a starter?
ANSWER: About as good as your chances.
BILL JACKSON FROM SAPULPA, OK:
Not a question. Just a comment. Your story about Mel Kiper was amazing. Thank you for sharing. I have much more faith in the Steelers' organization than I do in Mel Kiper.
ANSWER: Here’s another story about instant draft analysis that I have shared a few times already, but it seems to fit in with this general discussion, and so here it is again:
It’s unanimously accepted that the best draft in NFL history was the Steelers’ in 1974, in which they drafted four Hall of Fame players – Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster – on the first five rounds. Back in those days, the draft included 17 rounds, with the first five being conducted on one day with the final 12 rounds the next day.
The following was written by a sports columnist and appeared in the Jan. 30, 1974 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette following the first five rounds of the 1974 NFL Draft, after the Steelers had picked Swann, Lambert, Stallworth, cornerback Jimmy Allen, and Webster:
“The Steelers seem to have come out of the first five rounds of the draft appreciably strengthened at wide receiver but nowhere else. They didn’t get a tight end, and the ones remaining are more suspect than prospect. They didn’t get a punter, although none of the nation’s best collegiate punters went in the first five rounds. They didn’t get an offensive tackle who might’ve shored up what could well become a weakness. What they did get was Swann, who seems to be a sure-pop to help; Lambert, who figures to be the No. 5 linebacker if he pans out; and three question marks.”