Let’s get to it:
GUSTAVO NEGRIN FROM TELDE, ESPAÑA: I am concerned about the possibility that Joe Haden may be released due to problems with the salary cap. Please tell me not to worry and he will be at the beginning of the season.
ANSWER: Don’t worry, Joe Haden will be starting at cornerback for the Steelers in 2019.
BILLY THOMAS FROM MERCER, PA: I’ve read a few articles talking about Steven Nelson being signed to the biggest free agent contract in Steelers history at $25.5 million over three years. Am I missing something, because didn’t Joe Haden sign a three-year deal worth $27 million?
ANSWER: The two players you reference are in two completely different categories. Steven Nelson was an unrestricted free agent when he signed that three-year contract with the Steelers, while Joe Haden had been cut by the Browns before signing his contract. If the people who wrote those stories were being thorough, they would have made the distinction because it is a significant one. As just one example of the significance of the distinction, the signing of Steven Nelson will be considered when the NFL gets around to determining the Steelers’ compensatory draft picks for 2020, but the signing of Joe Haden did not count in that formula for 2018.
JOHN MAIR FROM RIDGE, NY: Is it true that Steelers head coach Bill Cowher wanted to take an offensive lineman in the 2004 NFL Draft instead of Ben Roethlisberger?
ANSWER: Yes. That player was Shawn Andrews, and he was a right tackle from Arkansas.
ESTHER PATTON FROM CINCINNATI, OH: Wasn't Bill Nunn instrumental in selecting players from HBCUs such as Joe Greene, Mel Blount, and John Stallworth?
ANSWER: Bill Nunn most certainly was instrumental in scouting the talent the Steelers drafted from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, but North Texas State, where Joe Greene played his college football, wasn’t a part of the HBCU. The HBCUs in Texas are: Prairie View A&M University, Texas Southern University, Texas Southern University – Thurgood Marshall School of Law, St. Philip’s College, Huston-Tillotson University, Jarvis Christian College, Paul Quinn College, Southwestern Christian College, Texas College, and Wiley College.
KADE BRADBURY FROM SUMMIT POINT, WV: With five days worth of OTAs over, what positions do you think the Steelers should focus on more or spend more time focusing on?
ANSWER: It’s way too early to believe any aspect of the team needs less attention than another, and besides that, it’s not the way an NFL coaching staff approaches things. All areas of the team are targeted for development and improvement in every period of every practice every day.
BOB SIMEN FROM TOLEDO, OH: What is the holdup in signing Justin Layne? Shouldn't he have signed already?
ANSWER: Justin Layne is permitted to attend OTAs and minicamp and participate in the on-field workouts while negotiations are ongoing. I have no doubt he will be signed before the opening of training camp, and I suggest you shift your concern to other issues.
CHRIS WELBURN FROM GLASTONBURY, CT: Because of the turnover of receivers this year, does that make it more likely that Ben Roethlisberger will need/want more reps than normal in practice or preseason games, and would that delay the development or competition for Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph?
ANSWER: In this respect, it’s going to more about quality than quantity, because the Steelers are going to continue to monitor the amount of throwing Ben Roethlisberger does through the rest of the offseason program, as well as throughout training camp and the preseason. The scheduled days off for Roethlisberger serve a duel purpose: they lessen the chances of arm/shoulder discomfort to a 37-year-old quarterback while also providing opportunities for the two young quarterbacks to get repetitions and continue to develop.
JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: Mike Hilton did not sign his tender for the 2019 season and is practicing without a contract. Is there a deadline that a contract has to be completed by before he is no longer allowed to practice with the team?
ANSWER: Mike Hilton would not be permitted to participate in training camp without a signed contract.
CHRISTOPHER WINKLER FROM FRANKLIN, PA: I see the Steelers signed Johnny Holton recently. He is listed as a wide receiver and did indeed play that position some with the Raiders in 2017, but it seems he spent most of last season on Oakland’s practice squad where they were trying him at cornerback. Do you have any idea if the Steelers are looking at him as a receiver or a defensive back?
ANSWER: Since signing with the Steelers, Johnny Holton – who was issued jersey No. 80, by the way – has lined up exclusively on offense as a wide receiver.