Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 5

Let's get to it:

JASON NORTON FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA: In regard to Kenny Pickett getting jersey No. 8. As I understand it, the person receiving the number is obligated to purchase the merchandise of the previous owner. Is Pickett picking up the tab, or does someone else?
ANSWER: The procedure of a player having to pay the NFL for jerseys already made with his name and number on them typically apply only to "significant" players staying with the same team who decide to switch numbers after their professional careers have started. For example, Steelers players who would fall under that category are guys who have been voted to the Pro Bowl or other full-time starters. Anyway, the two most recent players to wear No. 8 for the Steelers were Melvin Ingram and Karl Joseph. As you know, Ingram was traded to the Chiefs (so he doesn't count), and that's when Joseph, a former No. 1 pick by the Raiders in 2016 who had been signed by the Steelers and was on their practice squad, switched to the No. 8 he had worn during his college career at West Virginia. Joseph spent the majority of the 2021 season on the practice squad and appeared in two games late in the season. He had been re-signed by the Steelers during the early stages of the 2022 offseason. Since it's highly, highly unlikely the NFL had made any No. 8 Joseph jerseys in advance for sale, it's highly unlikely there would have been any payment for Joseph to make to switch to No. 38 (which is what he currently wears) to open up No. 8 for Pickett. Now, whether Pickett had to compensate Joseph, or chose to compensate Joseph, is an issue between those two players.

CHARLES HURT FROM STAFFORD, VA: What is your opinion on the current offensive line as a whole? The Steelers seem satisfied with the players they have. I was of the opinion they should improve on this to protect the quarterback and help the run blocking.
ANSWER: I like what the Steelers did during free agency to strengthen the interior of the offensive line with the signings of James Daniels and Mason Cole, plus securing Chuks Okorafor with a three-year, $29 million contract after he became an unrestricted free agent allows for the return of the two starting tackles from 2021. While I'm far from prepared to proclaim this group the 2022 version of the "seven blocks of granite," I do believe it's overall an improved group from the 2021 unit. Some young players, such as Kendrick Green and Kevin Dotson and Dan Moore Jr., will have to continue their development and show improvement, and at this point I'm not sure who would serve as the No. 3 tackle in the case of an injury to one of the starters. It's going to be a challenge for new offensive line coach Pat Meyer as well as offensive coordinator Matt Canada to facilitate the players' development and get them into situations where they have a chance to succeed.

JOHN BRAGG FROM FAIRMONT, WV: It's probably a question that can't (or wouldn't) be answered, but had Kenny Pickett been off the board, would the Steelers have taken Malik Willis at No. 20 overall, or was it Kenny Pickett or bust?
ANSWER: My feeling is the Steelers would have still made a pick in the first round if Kenny Pickett wasn't available when their turn came at No. 20 overall, but that player would not have been a quarterback. "Kenny Pickett or bust" is a gross exaggeration.

KEVIN COOK FROM DALLAS, TX: Overall I think the Steelers had a solid draft, but I would have liked to have seen at least one offensive lineman picked. Why would they pick another quarterback with their last pick of the seventh round? Is that just a camp arm? Could they have picked an offensive lineman there (four were drafted after the Steelers' pick of Chris Oladokun), or is it that at such a late stage in the draft there isn't really anyone who could make the team anyway?
ANSWER: During the scouting process, one of the ways the Steelers classify prospects is by grouping them by what round the team believes they will/should be drafted, and then there also is a group of evaluated players designated to be free-agent types. It's very possible that come the 241st overall pick, the remaining undrafted offensive linemen had been classified as free-agent types, and so they chose to go in another direction. The other consideration is that even if the remaining available offensive linemen had been judged to be seventh-round worthy, it's also possible the Steelers didn't believe those guys had a real chance of beating out anyone already on their roster.

CORY TSCHIDERER FROM PERRY, NY: Is there an undrafted rookie who intrigues you, and you can't wait to see in training camp?
ANSWER: Here are three names to watch once training camp starts: Mataeo Durant, a running back from Duke; Tyree Johnson, a 240-pound defensive end at Texas A&M who projects to outside linebacker for the Steelers; and Jake Dixon, an offensive tackle from Duquesne.

•Durant, who ran a 4.38 at his Pro Day, played in 42 games at Duke, and he finished with 2,562 yards rushing (5.2 average) and 18 touchdowns to go along with 55 catches for 480 yards (8.7 average) and four touchdowns.

•As a senior at Texas A&M, Johnson had 31 tackles, including nine for loss, 8.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. In his final three seasons at College Station, Johnson had 16.5 sacks.

•Dixon attended Bethel Park High School, south of Pittsburgh, where he played football, basketball, and volleyball. Dixon (6-foot-6, 290 pounds) first went to Lewis College to play volleyball, but he missed football so much that he transferred to Duquesne, where he first played tight end before being switched to tackle.

GREG SMITH FROM GAINESVILLE, VA: Now that the draft is complete and Kevin Colbert has ridden off into the sunset, what in your opinion is the priority for the Steelers – identifying the new GM or locking up Minkah Fitzpatrick with a contract extension?
ANSWER: I don't see it as an either/or situation. The Steelers can, and will, do both.

DOUGLAS KELLAR FROM WARREN, OH: What does it mean that the Steelers declined Devin Bush's fifth-year option? Does he no longer play for the Steelers?
ANSWER: Because the Steelers elected to decline the fifth-year option on Devin Bush's rookie contract, that means he will fulfill the final year of his original four-year contract, which will pay him $3.07 million and carry a cap charge of $6.04 million for the 2022 season. After that, Bush could become an unrestricted free agent in March 2023, or the Steelers could sign him to an extension or use the franchise or transition tags on him.

MICHAEL VELLUCCI FROM ATCO, NJ: I honestly thought the Steelers would have drafted a potential talented cornerback or another defensive playmaker somewhere around the third round. Your thoughts?
ANSWER: As of right now, I think the Steelers may have gotten a defensive lineman with some top-of-the-depth-chart potential in the third round. He would be Texas A&M's DeMarvin Leal, who recorded 58 tackles, including 12.5 for loss, 8.5 sacks, two passes defensed, and a forced fumble in 2021. In this particular draft, the strength in Rounds 2-3-4 was the wide receivers, and the Steelers added a couple of good ones in George Pickens in the second round and Calvin Austin III in the fourth round.

DAVID HAYES FROM HARTSELLE, AL: I was expecting a running back in the sixth round or later, but signing two undrafted rookie backs to compete for backup roles should get the attention of Benny Snell Jr., Trey Edmunds, and Anthony McFarland Jr. Do you believe one or both of those guys surprise and make the roster?
ANSWER: As mentioned in a previous answer, I am intrigued by Mataeo Durant from Duke, but I would be surprised if the Steelers kept two undrafted rookie running backs on the 53-man roster.

TOM COOPER FROM DENVER, CO: I get a charge out of all of the "coaches" and "general managers" who write you to second-guess every move the Steelers make or don't make. You must either have a very good sense of humor, or the patience of Job. Why don't they wait for at least the preseason?
ANSWER: Too much free time on their hands?

BRYAN HACKETT FROM BOULDER CREEK, CA: How on earth did Kevin Colbert keep his job so long when clearly there are so many more qualified people to do it, based on all the very smart individuals sending you messages criticizing this last draft before training camp even starts? Jeez. Thanks for your patience, something a significant portion of our fanbase clearly lacks.
ANSWER: My wife might tend to disagree with you about that whole me being patient narrative.

SABINE KAPPEL FROM FLUORN-WINZELN, GERMANY: What happens during the draft if a team does not hand in its selection during the countdown? Do they forfeit that pick? Did that ever happen?
ANSWER: If a team that's on the clock during the draft doesn't turn in its card before that time expires, the next team in the draft order can rush its choice to the podium and that pick will be accepted. If the original team that allowed the clock to expire still doesn't turn in its pick, then the next team in the order can do the same, and so on. The original team doesn't lose its pick, but it does lose its place in line. I cannot recall the year or the specific instance, but there was one time when I remember that happening, but after one team rushed its pick in and got its player, the original team got it together and turned in its pick.

JC CHUTA FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Why wasn't Kenny Pickett in Las Vegas to accept the jersey from the Commissioner? Were players offered a choice of staying home or going to Las Vegas? I would imagine that the exposure would also help their careers (TV commercial deals, etc.) Curious to learn how was it that so many of the drafted players were ready to walk the stage to accept jersey from the Commissioner?
ANSWER: Kenny Pickett chose to spend draft day in New Jersey surrounded by family and close friends, very few of whom would've been able to be with him had he decided to attend the event in Las Vegas. Players are invited by the NFL to attend the draft, and only those invited are eligible to attend. But attendance is not mandatory. I don't know Pickett, but I would imagine the opportunity to share such a life event with family and close friends was more important to him than trolling for a spot in a television commercial. Trust me, if Pickett turns out to be the player he and the Steelers believe he can become, his face will be on television plenty.

SHAWN BITTNER FROM JACKSONVILLE, NC: Can you explain the difference between an un-drafted rookie signed to a contract after the draft and a free agent who receives an invitation to rookie minicamp?
ANSWER: The difference is simply this: undrafted rookies signed at the conclusion of the draft are under contract to an NFL team, and that contract usually contains a signing bonus of some amount plus a contract that spans usually three or four years. A player invited to rookie minicamp is there on a tryout basis. In other words, if he's not offered a contract by the team hosting the tryout, then he has no NFL job. While there are occasions when tryout players are offered a contract at the conclusion of rookie minicamp, more often than not they aren't offered one.

DAN MCNEEL FROM LONDONDERRY, NH: I am old enough to remember when the headlines screamed, "Who's Joe Greene?" or "Why Lambert?" when they and others now in the Hall of Fame all were drafted. Seems the older I get the more the same thing just keeps happening. Way too many "fans" don't have enough common sense or patience to wait to state their opinion for whomever is drafted. I'm quite certain if the "fans" were permitted to weigh in on the draft selections, we would have seen Lydell Mitchell, Brian Bosworth, and other "franchise generational players" drafted or acquired via trade. Please fans, take a breath and think before you speak for a change. As the old Proverb goes, "It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to open one's mouth and remove all doubt."
ANSWER: I offer myself that advice and often wish I had taken it.

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