Let's get to it:
PAUL LUKACS FROM VIENNA, VA: I'll admit I was not a fan of Terrell Edmunds' performance the past few years, mainly because it seemed as though he avoided contact. What stands out this year is his willingness to tackle, and it has made him a complete player. I'd like your assessment especially around Terrell's aggressiveness. What changed?
ANSWER: I disagree with your premise suggesting that Terrell Edmunds ever was unwilling to make tackles because he avoided contact, and I would venture that his improvement through each season of his career with the Steelers indicates he needed time to develop. If there is a criticism of Edmunds, it would be that he isn't a safety who's going to make a lot of plays on the football, and I believe that was a factor in the Steelers' decision not to exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. But in his 4-plus NFL seasons, Edmunds has been unavailable for just two games because of injury, he has played 4,346 defensive snaps and made 363 tackles in 69 career games. And against the Buccaneers, he was the veteran glue that helped hold a patchwork secondary together when the opposing quarterback was Tom Brady.
JAMES LABAR FROM CATASAUQUA, PA: A week or two ago, I asked if there was any hope for the rest of the season. The Steelers answered that question for me with their performance against the Buccaneers. I was hoping Mason Rudolph would get a chance to play this year, but that is not going to happen. Mason has been a very mature professional and an asset to this team, in my opinion. Do you think he will be with the team next year?
ANSWER: Answering your question based on the current situation at quarterback – that being with Kenny Pickett as the starter and Mitch Trubisky as the backup, I would have to say no. Mason Rudolph can become an unrestricted free agent in March 2023, and I cannot imagine a realistic scenario where he would choose to re-sign with the Steelers. At the time he would be become an unrestricted free agent, Rudolph would be a 27-year-old with three seasons in the NFL and with some regular season starting experience. Maybe he won't command a big contract, but I imagine some team would present him with an offer and an opportunity at least to compete for a starting job.
CHRIS BALMER FROM ALLENTOWN, PA: In the interest of keeping the quarterback/officiating questions alive, why was there not a roughing the passer penalty called on Devin White when he clearly hit Pickett facemask to facemask? Tom Brady gets properly (and legally) tackled, then kicks the man in his nether regions, and he gets the call. Ben Roethlisberger got punched in the face some years ago, and also no call. What gives here?
ANSWER: I can handle a lot of questions, but please don't ask me to try to get into the head of NFL officials and explain what they call and don't, because I wouldn't even know where to begin. And as a footnote, Tom Brady was fined $11,139 for kicking Grady Jarrett.
PATRICIA FISH FROM CHANDLER, AZ: Since only two quarterbacks dress for the game, what happens if both are injured in the game?
ANSWER: That team that loses two quarterbacks to injury in the same game and only has those two quarterbacks on the active list that day better have a plan in place in terms of an emergency quarterback, because there are no provisions for taking the third quarterback off the sideline and allowing him to put on a uniform and play.
CRAIG OGLE FROM BELLEVILLE, ONTARIO, CANADA: The Steelers placed DeMarvin Leal on injured reserve before the game against the Buccaneers. Because of this, he will not play against the Dolphins or the Eagles. The week after the Eagles game is the Steelers bye week. Will Leal be eligible to come off injured reserve after the Steelers bye week, assuming he is healthy enough to do so, or will he have to stay on injured reserve for another week so that he misses four games?
ANSWER: The rule regarding the minimum time that must be spent on injured reserve involves games and not weeks. So DeMarvin Leal must miss four games before he will be eligible to come off the injured reserve list. That means he won't be eligible to return to practice until the week after the Nov. 13 game vs. New Orleans at Acrisure Stadium.
BILL SHINER FROM JACKSON, TN: How many times have the Steelers drafted a quarterback in the first round?
ANSWER: In doing the research for this question, I have to admit the Steelers have drafted a quarterback on the first round far fewer times than I would've guessed. The Steelers have participated in 87 NFL Drafts, and they have picked a quarterback in the first round six times. Those players and years were Ted Marchibroda from Detroit Mercy in 1953, Len Dawson from Purdue in 1957, Terry Bradshaw from Louisiana Tech in 1970, Mark Malone from Arizona State in 1980, Ben Roethlisberger from Miami (Ohio) in 2004, and Kenny Pickett from Pitt in 2022.
GENE GREY FROM MORENO VALLEY, CA: Joe Greene lined up at an angle towards the quarterback. Is that still allowed? If so, then why doesn't anyone do it today?
ANSWER: That alignment, with Joe Greene lined up at an angle in the gap between the center and a guard was known as the Stunt 4-3, and for a time it was devastating to offenses because Greene had the quickness and strength to penetrate that gap to get into the backfield and cause havoc. That alignment also prevented offenses from double-teaming Ernie Holmes, whose strength and power proved to be just as difficult for offenses to deal with; and then with all of the offensive linemen so engaged in dealing with Greene and Holmes in the interior, and with Dwight White and L.C. Greenwood threats on each end of the defensive line, Jack Lambert and Jack Ham were freed to roam the second level and find the guy with the football. This variation of the 4-3 alignment is not illegal, but in answer to your question about why current teams don't employ it, I would imagine a big part of the reason is there isn't another NFL team that could match the personnel I just described. Sure, coaches might disagree and come up with explanations and diagrams about why the scheme could still be effective, but I will refer to that ancient football adage that "it's not the Xs and the Os; it's the Jimmys and the Joes." In the NFL, personnel triumphs over scheme every time.
TODD HAMMERS FROM BLOOMFIELD, IN: With all of the trade rumors flying about, I was wondering: What requirements does the NFL have regarding the reporting of a trade? I seem to remember reading that "terms were not disclosed." Does this mean teams have discretion, or am l conflating issues?
ANSWER: It's one thing not to disclose the complete terms of a trade to the public – such as the conditions involved when part of the compensation is a draft pick – but I can guarantee you that those conditions must be disclosed to the NFL office when the papers are submitted.
JEFF MOLEVER FROM RANCHO MIRAGE, CA: If the helmets players wear in practice are safer than their regular helmets, why doesn't the NFL switch to the "practice" helmets for games?
ANSWER: In photos of Steelers practices, what you are seeing the players wearing are Guardian Cap helmet covers, which fit over their regular helmets. Those are not different helmets. With the Guardian Caps, there are still some issues to be worked out, such as the rubberized surface possibly being a bit too sticky and possibly posing a problem as a result, but at some point in the future maybe that kind of helmet covering or some variation of it will be worn by players during games.
JOSEPH YEVICH FROM COATESVILLE, PA: What is the current estimate on the return of T.J. Watt? I never see him mentioned in Coach Mike Tomlin's weekly injury report. Is his injury more serious than first reported?
ANSWER: Players on the injured reserve list are not included on the weekly injury report, and since Watt is not playing today, is still on the injured reserve list, and hasn't practiced since the week before the regular season opener, my guess would be that the earliest we might see him back on the field would be for the Nov. 13 game against New Orleans, which is on the Sunday after the bye week.