Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 5

Let's get to it:

MICHAEL RICKLEY FROM GERMANTOWN, PA:
Will Bud Dupree be able to wear No. 2?

No. Bud Dupree will have to choose from the available jersey numbers in the 40s, 50s, and 90s. It's an NFL rule. Totally a guess on my part, but I would predict either No. 93 or No. 99.

LUKE SMOKER FROM DOVER, DE:
If you could bring back any player who ever played for the Steelers to play for them over the next few years, who would it be?

Interesting premise. Since there are so many Hall of Fame players in franchise history, it has to be one of them because they represent the best of the best, and in my mind anyway, the one I pick will be in the prime of his career. Based on the current makeup of the team's roster and its relative strengths, I am going defense. Because the Steelers currently employ a 3-4, I'm excluding the front-seven players who wouldn't necessarily fit the scheme. For me, that leaves three cornerbacks – listed chronologically they are Jack Butler, Mel Blount, and Rod Woodson.

The Hall of Fame qualifier eliminated players such as Jason Gildon (77.0 career sacks), and Joey Porter (60 sacks in seven seasons here), and I don't know how to account for James Harrison, who's still on the roster but not what he was in 2007-11 when he posted 54.0 sacks in 74 regular season games over five seasons. Also eliminated by the HOF requirement is Troy Polamalu, whose playmaking abilities should qualify him for enshrinement once he becomes eligible. And the 3-4 scheme doesn't really account for the greatness of Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, and Jack Ham, even though I understand the apparent stupidity of ignoring the greatest individual player in the history of the franchise, as well as two linebackers who re-defined their respective positions.

With 52 career interceptions, Butler ranked as the NFL's second all-time leader in interceptions when he retired after the 1959 season, and he also had 10 fumble recoveries. Butler's interception percentage is 50.5 (52 in 103 games), the best of any player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Add in the fumble recoveries, and whenever Jack Butler took the field for a game with the Pittsburgh Steelers, 60.2 percent of the time he finished with at least one takeaway.

At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Blount would be kryptonite to today's taller receivers, because he was so big, strong, and fast. Blount played 14 seasons and 200 games in Pittsburgh, and his 57 interceptions are tops in team history. With 11 interceptions in 14 games in 1975, Blount was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year on what I still believe was the best Steelers team in franchise history. He also played in five Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro four times. His interception percentage was 28.5.

Woodson, at 6-0, 200, wasn't quite as big as Blount, but still big enough. One of only five active players selected to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994, Woodson was a six-time All-Pro cornerback during his career in Pittsburgh and was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 1993. Woodson intercepted 38 passes during his career here, and he set a team record by returning five for touchdowns. His interception percentage with the Steelers was 28.3.

Butler was the most productive interceptor, but Woodson and Blount separate themselves athletically. Woodson had a legitimate shot to make the 1988 U.S. Olympic team as a hurdler; and as a 31-year-old man in 1982, Blount bettered the vertical jump posted by Renaldo Nehemiah, then the world-record holder in the 110-meter high hurdles, during a private workout at Three Rivers Stadium.

I'm going with Mel Blount.

LAZARO BROITMAN FROM SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA:
I was in attendance at the last preseason game in 2014 and really loved Howard Jones. I know these games don't match the regular season in terms of evaluation for a position guy, but I really loved his intensity. Can he make the team this year? And what about Jordan Zumwalt?

The path to a roster spot got more difficult for both Howard Jones and Jordan Zumwalt based on what the Steelers did with their eight selections in the 2015 NFL Draft. Because the team added two linebackers in No. 1 pick Bud Dupree and No. 6b pick Anthony Chickillo to a depth chart that already includes James Harrison, Jarvis Jones, and Arthur Moats on the outside, plus Lawrence Timmons, Sean Spence, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, and Terence Garvin on the inside, that's going to toughen the path to a spot on the 53-man roster for Jones and Zumwalt.

WAYNE EDWARDS FROM BLANDON, PA:
Would you consider Dri Archer a "bust?"

Too early. One NFL season isn't a long enough period to be that definitive about a player who has a difference-making characteristic, which is what Archer has in terms of his speed.

DAVID SNIDER FROM TRENTON, ONTARIO:
With a bunch of retirements in the organization lately, it had me wondering how the salary cap situation works if a player still has time left on his contract? Do they just concede the money left on the contract?

For the purposes of answering this question, there are two components of a player's contract – the signing bonus and the base salary. In terms of the base salary, any remaining years on the contract are wiped off the books – the player gets none of that money and the team is not charged that amount on the salary cap. With the signing bonus, here's a hypothetical example to explain the procedure: I signed a five-year contract that included a $5 million signing bonus, which means $1 million of that would be charged to the salary cap each year over the life of the contract. If I retire after three years, the remaining $2 million is charged to the team's cap the year I retire. There are some other variables that could come into play, but this is the basic principle.

JUDY MELTON FROM WARFORDSBURG, PA:
Is there any truth to the rumor that the Steelers are going to trade Le'Veon Bell?

Where on earth did you hear that one? My sarcastic side is tempting me to type something like, "They're not trading him. They're just going to move him to safety along with Ryan Shazier." But I don't want to rile up the etiquette police. No, no, 1,000 times no. The Steelers are not looking to trade Le'Veon Bell.

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