Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 5

Let's get to it:

KENNY BROWN FROM TUCSON, AZ:
I've noticed with the drafting of Travis Feeney, all the talk is about special teams and pass rush. Given that he has good speed and size and converted from safety to linebacker in college, how come there is no mention of using him as a possible dime back in sub-package? He could be used in the manner some teams are going, like the Cardinals do with Deone Bucannon.

**

Phase Two of the Steelers offseason workout program is underway.

ANSWER: Excellent. No sense waiting until these rookies even walk into the locker room at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for the first time before switching their positions.**

JASON MUSICK FROM KING, NC:
Love the read and the sense of humor in your articles. Ryan Shazier' fifth-year option has been declined, and so with him having only five career sacks, are they going to "give up" on the project. If so, with William Gay going to play just one more year, who will be the "next man up" among edge rushers.

ANSWER: The Steelers indeed declined to exercise the fifth-year option on Jarvis Jones' rookie contract, but there still are a bunch of scenarios where Jones remains with the team beyond the length of that rookie contract. The Steelers have Jones under contract for 2016 at a reported $1.59 million, and then he potentially can become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the 2017 league year. In between today and then, there are a number of things that could happen:

The sides could agree to a contract extension this summer. The Steelers could decide to use the franchise tag designation on Jones before he gets to free agency in 2017. Jones could have a great season. Jones could be a disappointment. He could be traded. He could play in 2016 and then come to an agreement with the team for 2017 that calls for him to be paid something other than the $8.4 million called for under the terms of exercising the option.

Don't read too much into this non-exercising of the option. There's way too much football still to be played.

PAUL FAHEY FROM NEWTON, NJ:
Do you consider Jarvis Jones to be a bust? I've been a fan of his since he was drafted, always hoping he needed just one more year to come on. Now that they have not exercised his fifth-year option, is it finally time they give up on him?

ANSWER: This story is still to be written. Jarvis Jones is heading into the stage of his career where the numbers can become significant, and the numbers to which I'm referring are those on his paycheck. He also is heading into that stage of his career with an opportunity, as a right outside linebacker on a team expecting to contend for a championship and needing playmaking from its defense if it's to fulfill that expectation. Fight-or-flight. Maybe this is that one more year Jones needed, or maybe this becomes the final one for him in a Steelers uniform. Tune in, and don't miss an episode.

OLIVER PAUL FROM FAIRLEE, VT:
I often find myself forgetting about the return of Senquez Golson. What impact do you envision him having within the newly upgraded defense? How does he fit into that scheme?

ANSWER: Senquez Golson is a slot cornerback. That is the role he will be expected to fill.

JERRED GAGNARD FROM ALEXANDRIA, LA:
Do you think there's a possibility by the end of the season, barring no injuries, that Artie Burns and Senquez Golson end up as outside cornerbacks, with Will Gay in the slot as the nickel corner?

ANSWER: No. As explained in the previous answer, Senquez Golson is a slot cornerback. Artie Burns, Will Gay, Stephon Tuitt, among others, are outside cornerbacks.

DAVE SCHOFIELD FROM HAGERSTOWN, MD:
Since he was on IR all last season, is Senquez Golson eligible to participate in rookie minicamp?

ANSWER: No. By going from the physically unable to perform list to the injured reserve list following his shoulder surgery, Senquez Golson was able to attain a year toward free agency and his pension. Because he still is under contract to the Steelers, he is not eligible for rookie minicamp.

STEVE KELLAR FROM CENTENNIAL, CO:
I see the players wearing and working out in a variety of different clothes with the Steelers logo on them (shirts, shorts, hoodies, etc.). How is that gear distributed? Does everyone get one of every combination? Do they just pick and choose?

ANSWER: Nike is the official apparel provider for the Steelers, and sometimes it can be just like Christmas, where players will find stuff in their lockers. Most players, especially the veterans, already have been issued a complete set of what they might need/want, and with the newcomers it can be distributed according to the time of the year and based on the weather. Or the players can ask the equipment staff for whatever it is they might need.

CARLOS ARVIZU FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO:
Is James Harrison under contract? Thanks in advance.

ANSWER: Yes. James Harrison signed a two-year contract in March 2015, and he indicated via social media on May 2 that he would be returning for the 2016 season.

Cameron Heyward, who turns 27 on Friday, hosted kids from KidsVoice at Dave & Buster's at the Waterfront for an afternoon of fun and games.

KYLE EASH FROM ST CHARLES, IL:
With the draft now over and Bruce Gradkowski being re-signed, the depth chart at quarterback seems set, which means we can stop hearing questions about getting a replacement for Landry Jones. I saw you had listed Landry Jones' college stats in answering a question from a previous Asked and Answered, and I was wondering how his numbers compared to Ben Roethlisberger's numbers in college.

ANSWER: Just to clarify, I used Landry Jones' college statistics to illustrate how much big-time college football he had played only still to need a couple/three training camps to begin to show he was figuring it out at the NFL level.

Anyway, Landry Jones' college statistics: 53 games; 2,183 attempts, 1,388 completions, 63.6 percent, 16,646 yards; 123 touchdowns, 52 interceptions.

Ben Roethlisberger's college statistics: 38 games; 1,304 attempts, 854 completions, 65.5 percent, 10,829 yards, 84 touchdowns, 34 interceptions.

BRUCE HAKE FROM YORK, PA:
If Demarcus Ayers makes the team, which player's roster spot is in jeopardy? Would it be a fellow wide receiver, or anyone competing for the 53rd spot, or will a special teamer have to worry?

ANSWER: If Demarcus Ayers earns a spot on the 53-man roster because he is a regular member of one of the multiple-receiver personnel groupings on offense, then I would imagine he would occupy a roster spot designated for the wide receivers; and if he earns a spot mainly for special teams, it could come from one of several different units.

BRIAN WOLFE FROM MARION, OH:
Did it seem to you that the Steelers should have drafted/signed at least one more cornerback? I get the Senquez Golson explanation, but they only drafted one true cornerback and signed zero as undrafted rookies.

ANSWER: Going into the draft, the Steelers had seven cornerbacks on their roster: Will Gay, Ross Cockrell, Doran Grant, and Senquez Golson – plus three guys they signed to futures contracts – Isaiah Frey, Montell Garner, and Al-Hajj Shabazz. They drafted Artie Burns, who is No. 8. Maybe they sign a tryout guy from rookie minicamp. But the Steelers went into the draft with seven cornerbacks and seven safeties, and then they drafted one of each. Sixteen defensive backs is a lot, because you want to give them a real chance to show themselves.

CARLO LUCCI FROM PALO ALTO, CA:
I am curious if the team could/would consider sharing its "draft board" with the fan base following the draft?

ANSWER: A team could. The Steelers don't and won't.

AJ DEPOE FROM PEACHTREE CITY, GA
The Martavis Bryant situation has been very quiet. Any inside word?

ANSWER: The Martavis Bryant situation is going to be very quiet for the next calendar year because he has been suspended and therefore not permitted to be a part of the team. Get used to the silence.

GUS MACRAY FROM TITUSVILLE, PA:
If an undrafted rookie gets offered a contract by more than one team, does he get to choose which team he would prefer?

ANSWER: Yes. That's why when it comes to the seventh round, for example, a player might be better off not being drafted, because by not being drafted he can look for the best situation for himself.

T.A. ERLENBUSCH FROM COLORADO SPRINGS, CO:
I know the Steelers want to test the new defensive backs, but wonder if they tell Antonio Brown not to mess them up too bad, so they can build up their confidence?

ANSWER: Actually, it's the complete opposite. Coach Mike Tomlin wants the new guys to go against the best players right away so that it becomes instantly clear to the rookies how difficult it's going to be for them in the NFL. For Artie Burns, deal with Antonio Brown in the open field. For Jerald Hawkins, deal with James Harrison coming off the edge. For Sean Davis, deal with Le'Veon Bell in coverage. The quicker the rookies figure out how much it is they don't know, the quicker they commit themselves to listening and learning. They instantly become more coachable.

ERIC MITCHELL FROM CANTON, OH:
Knowing that you sometimes, or most of the time, don't hold back from telling the truth, did the Bengals use the Steelers scouting department for the No. 1 and No. 4 picks, or did they just want to steal what should have or could have been ours?

ANSWER: The truth is that when it came time for the Bengals to make the 24th selection in the first round, there were two cornerbacks the Steelers really liked, two cornerbacks the Steelers were going to be happy to pick on the first round. At pick No. 24, the Bengals picked one of those two cornerbacks. At pick No. 25, the Steelers took the other one. As for your concern about the fourth round, the Steelers got their interior defensive lineman in the third round. There was no way they were going to pick interior defensive linemen in the third and fourth rounds. And for me, just looking at the kinds of players they were in college, I want Javon Hargrave over Andrew Billings every time. More productive pass rusher.

MICAH LEE FROM RALEIGH, NC:
Are you as happy as I am that the Steelers didn't pick a nose tackle in the first round?

ANSWER: You cannot be as happy as I am about that. It could only be a tie.

VINCE MILES FROM LATHAM, NY:
Many of the draft experts have given the Steelers a very low draft grade, some a C-minus and others worse, with the criticism being they reached with Artie Burns in the first round and didn't even draft the best available safety in the second round when they chose Sean Davis. What do you think the overall draft grade was, and do you think this draft class will be a big bust? I love your columns and responses.

ANSWER: I have my doubts about you loving this response. People who grade draft classes the day after the picks are made are modern-day snake oil salesmen. There is no possible way to predict which draft picks will be able to make the transition from college football to the NFL, and then forecast how well the ones who make the transition ultimately will perform. They are selling you a bill of goods they know is nothing but a guess, and you're falling for it. No one even can begin to evaluate the futures of these draft picks until the preseason begins in three months from now, and even then it's still going to be very early in the overall process. What I'm willing to bet is that in 3-to-5 years, when it comes time to judge the 2016 NFL Draft class, the teams will have gotten more right than the "draft experts."


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