Let’s get to it:
KHARI CLEMMONS FROM BOCA RATON, FL: We keep hearing that next year's franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell would be over 20 Million because it would be the third straight such tag. But if he never signed the second tag, and the Steelers never paid it, doesn't that make the second one null-and-void, as if it never happened? Similar to when a player is suspended for a year, that year doesn't count against his contract. How can Bell potentially get to a third tag this summer, if the second one, technically, never happened?
ANSWER: You can want this second franchise tag not to count if Le’Veon Bell doesn’t report to the team by 4 p.m. today. You can believe this second franchise tag shouldn’t count. You can maintain it’s not fair, that it’s not right, whatever. But the fact is that if Bell sits out the entire 2018 season and if the Steelers would place the franchise tag on him again in 2019, the amount of the tender would be the average of the top five quarterback salaries in the NFL.
JACOB SKARLIS FROM ALBANY, NY: Does Ben Roethlisberger have a chance at being voted MVP?
ANSWER: I cannot imagine a realistic scenario in which Ben Roethlisberger is voted the NFL MVP Award in 2018, and that statement has nothing to do with an opinion on his worthiness. Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Todd Gurley, and even Aaron Donald have been media darlings since the season opened. The NFL MVP is a lot like the Heisman in that a candidate who generates some early buzz among the electorate ends up with a big advantage once the voting actually is done. But if the Steelers somehow reach the Super Bowl and win it, I see Roethlisberger as the odds-on favorite to be voted Super Bowl MVP.
ANDREW ROBINSON FROM HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA: I was wondering whether the money the Steelers are saving on Le'Veon Bell’s game checks count against the salary cap? And if not will that money roll over to next year?
ANSWER: The money the Steelers haven’t/won’t be paying Le’Veon Bell will be rolled over into their 2019 salary cap.
MICHELE DAUGHERTY FROM DENVER, CO: If the Steelers win the Super Bowl this year would Le'Veon Bell get a ring? He is on the roster but he hasn't played.
ANSWER: Le’Veon Bell is not on the Steelers roster. Unsigned players are not considered to be on an NFL roster, and Bell has been unsigned throughout this whole process.
WARD DINWITTIE FROM FORT COLLINS, CO: When the NFL schedule came out, I put a big circle around the Jacksonville game, but now it has been flexed to 11 a.m. on CBS. Problem is, I don't get the game in my local market. Is there talk of flexing the Oakland game as well? Also, isn't this process difficult logistically for teams to shuffle these games around?
ANSWER: When I first saw your question, I didn’t understand your reference to an 11 a.m. kickoff, but then I noticed you’re from Colorado. Yes, the game against the Jaguars has been flexed from an 8:20 p.m. kickoff to a 1 p.m. EST kickoff, and the reason for the whole flex-scheduling program was to appease the NFL’s network broadcasting partners, who pay millions and millions of dollars and want competitive games between contending teams in the marquee time slots.
When it comes to the logistics of moving a game from one kickoff time to another, either earlier in the day or later, it’s not as big of a deal as you might expect. There is no change in the length of the visiting team’s stay in the hotel – except for a few hours difference in the check-out time because the day of the game remains the same – and the same holds true for the charter flight arrangements. A time change might impact the teams’ preparation time for the following week’s games, but the league is much more concerned with appeasing the networks than it’s worried about whether the coaches are getting enough meeting time with the players. And in the specific case of this Jaguars game, let me give you one example of what moving the game to 1 p.m. means to the Steelers: the team’s charter flight from Jacksonville will land in Pittsburgh right around the time the game would have begun if kickoff had stayed at 8:20 p.m.
As for your question about the game against the Raiders being flexed, I know nothing concrete about that, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the game were moved from its currently scheduled 8:20 p.m. kickoff. The Raiders are 1-8 and currently are on a five-game losing streak, and things could even be worse by the time Dec. 9 rolls around. Just looking at the schedule that week, more enticing options for Sunday night would be Rams at Bears, and maybe even Colts at Texans.
JIM WOLFE FROM ARLINGTON, TN: In the past I remember CBS always televising AFC games and FOX always televising NFC games. This year I have noticed a number of games being televised where this is no longer the case, like the late afternoon game on Sunday on CBS with the Seahawks at the Rams. Has something changed?
ANSWER: That’s all part of the league’s flex-scheduling formula. In an effort to take away some of the sting from a network losing a good matchup to a primetime kickoff slot and try to make it more fair in terms of which network has to do the sacrificing, the league expanded the flex scheduling to include sending traditionally AFC games to FOX and traditionally NFC games to CBS. The teams don’t care which network is televising the game, and this can balance the schedule – and therefore the ratings – for broadcast partners that make big investments in the NFL.