Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 7

Let's get to it:

MICHAEL WU FROM LOS ALTOS, CA:
When do you think Bud Dupree  will be starting at outside linebacker?

When he shows he deserves to start at outside linebacker. My guess is it's not going to be a similar situation to last year when Ryan Shazier took the first snap of minicamp at inside linebacker with the first-team defense.

TOMAS HERNANDEZ FROM BAYAMON, PUERTO RICO:
I'm a little concerned with the status of Le'Veon Bell's knee. A few weeks ago, Bell said he is almost 100 percent. That's what he said before the playoff game vs. the Ravens. What you know about this?

A few things: I have no first-hand knowledge that what you're claiming Le'Veon Bell said was actually said, or even whether you heard it yourself or are reacting to something that someone else told you. I'm not doubting you, but there's a lot of junk out there, and you never really know. But let's assume your description of events is accurate, and so there are a couple of things to consider: The first, and most important, is that the Steelers don't report to training camp until late July, probably around July 25, and that's more than 11 weeks from today. Plenty of time. The other thing is that often times elite athletes can be very fussy when it comes to discussing their physical condition. As an NFL running back, there is a real chance Le'Veon Bell's knees are never going to be 100 percent again for the rest of his life. Just the nature of his profession. Anyway, I believe there will be times over the course of his career where Bell nursing an injury will aggravate fans and maybe some coaches, but when it's time to play Bell has shown himself to be very willing and extremely capable.

MARK ROSS FROM SACRAMENTO, CA:
Do you select questions to answer based on where people live geographically, or are there really that many Steelers fans all over the world?

To paraphrase the late Chuck Noll, "Getting your question picked for Asked and Answered has nothing to do with geography." There really are that many Steelers fans all over the world, as evidenced by the preceding question and the two that follow yours.

MICHAEL CARLSON FROM BRNO-KRALOVO POLE, CZECH REPUBLIC:
As a Steelers fan overseas, I love keeping up to speed though this Asked and Answered series. Wondering if you've met the new draft picks yet? Any impressions of their character? Coates sure has a fascinating story at: http://www.si.com/nfl/2015/05/01/2015-nfl-draft-sammie-coates-auburn-inspirations.

Doing this for as long as I have, the recently-drafted rookies always are wonderfully naïve in many of the ways of being a professional athlete. All wide-eyed and innocent. That said, the Steelers' locker room traditionally has been remarkably free of jerks, and I cannot see any of these draft picks being character problems. I'm sure Sammie Coates isn't the only one with an interesting story, and if these picks are good enough players to last long enough in the NFL, we'll all have more time to uncover those stories.

JOSEF HOELSCHEIDT FROM DORTMUND, GERMANY:
I know a lot of people don't like the throwback jerseys, but I really love them. Is there a rule that limits the use of the third jersey in the regular season? And is there a possibility to purchase the matching socks? They'd be a great fit to my Da Beard No. 99 throwback jersey.

One thing that always amuses me about the whole throwback concept is when fans/people mock the jerseys for not confirming to current fashion trends. They're throwbacks, which means it's what people wore or what people thought was stylish at a different time. If they conformed to current fashion trends, they wouldn't be throwbacks. Now, to answer your questions: Yes, there is a limit to the number of times a team can wear its throwback jerseys in a given season, and the limit is established by the NFL; and no, the socks that go with the 1934-vintage Steelers throwback jersey are not currently available for sale.

POWELL CARLOS FROM RESTON, VA:
Since Bud Dupree was selected in the first round and Jarvis Jones is getting another shot in the 2015 season, will James Harrison be benched? I know Harrison came off the couch last year, but he was producing an effective pass rush for 36-year-old.

I'll let outside linebacker coach Joey Porter handle this one: "I wouldn't say monitor (Harrison's snaps), but anybody who gets to that age, if I wasn't as hard-headed as I was when I played, my snaps should have been monitored. But I was in a different mind-set and thought I could play every play. When you get to a certain age you really can't. Your mind will tell you you can. But Harrison is going to be a better player for us if I keep his snap count down to 25 snaps. I'll get the best James Harrison I can out of him instead of trying to make him play like he was 25 (years old and) 60 snaps a game. He knows where he is. I know where he is. We have that relationship that he knows. I told him already, the James Harrison (of before) is over. He's going to play his role, and his role is going to be effective. He knows what we're asking of him, and he's going to be ready to answer the bell."

LOU SKONT FROM SHORT PUMP, VA:
Do you think Bud Dupree will enter training camp as a safety on the off chance Ryan Shazier doesn't work out there?

Full disclosure: I looked at the city you listed in your emailed question and thought this might be some kind of plant, but since there actually is a Short Pump in Virginia – Google is quite dependable – I decided to answer your question with all the seriousness with which you submitted it. I'm think it's gonna be tight end for Dupree 15 minutes after the first practice in pads. Why be patient, right? Gotta take advantage of that 42 ½-inch vertical. Red zone threat. Throw it high!

MIKE GENTILE FROM CENTRAL POINT, OR:
What is team management doing to beef up the offensive line to protect Ben and to open up holes in the defensive line for Le'Veon Bell, even though he seems to do well without large holes?

Again, I don't understand the rampant dissatisfaction with the offensive line's play in 2014. It wasn't perfect, but it was a significant improvement over any season in the last five-to-seven years. And Ben Roethlisberger tied for the most passing yards in the NFL, Antonio Brown had the most yards of any wide receiver, and Le'Veon Bell was second only to DeMarco Murray in rushing yards. That cannot happen with incompetent offensive line play. What is management doing to beef up the offensive line? It's extending contracts to ensure that the young core of starters – Kelvin Beachum, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Marcus Gilbert – can stay together and continue to develop under the tutelage of Mike Munchak.

ROBERT ELLIS FROM MEMPHIS, TN:
The Steelers currently have Cameron Heyward as a starting defensive end. With the pick of L.T. Walton, do the Steelers feel that Heyward's contract demands will be unreasonable? Or is he strictly a depth guy, which makes Cam Thomas expendable?

I don't want to demean L.T. Walton in any way, but you are WAY TOO EARLY surmising these things just because the Steelers spent a sixth-round draft choice on a defensive lineman. Again, all due respect to Walton, but Cam Heyward is a Pro Bowl player, an alpha in this Steelers locker room, a fifth-year pro who just turned 26 yesterday. Heyward is a core player the Steelers will sign to a long-term deal. General Manager Kevin Colbert did say at the conclusion of the draft, "I think that we got eight players who will help us be a better team going forward. We did the count, and we have 47 guys back from last year's team. When you add in DeAngelo Williams, that's 48 guys. Really, we didn't have a lot of spots unless we get competition to beat out someone who was already on our team. We hope that this group of eight and whoever we pull out of this free agency class will make us better. If that means beating someone out who's currently on this team, so be it." His meaning is clear: jobs have to be won, but expecting a sixth-round draft pick to crack what figures to be a group of six defensive linemen heading into the regular season isn't fair to Walton, or the players you are replacing/cutting.

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