Let's get to it:
JOE KILBURG FROM CLARK, SD: A lot of Mitch Trubisky haters got what they wanted when he was benched at halftime of the game against the Jets and Kenny Pickett replaced him as the starting quarterback. Pickett is off to a rocky start. Can you provide an example or two of other quarterbacks who had a rough rookie season or a rough first few games and turned out to have a successful career?
ANSWER: Here are two quarterbacks, both drafted first overall, who threw a lot of interceptions as rookies and went on to become first-ballot Hall of Fame selections. Terry Bradshaw threw five interceptions in his first three NFL games, after the first six games of his rookie season he had thrown 12, and he completed his rookie season with 24 interceptions. Peyton Manning threw 11 interceptions in his first four games and finished his rookie season of 1998 with 28, which remains the all-time NFL rookie record for a whole season.
KYLER HADLEU FROM ELKHART, IN: Do you think the Steelers might take advantage of the Panthers fire sale? Taylor Moton is one of the league's better tackles and also played alongside Chuks Okorafor in college at Western Michigan. Dan Moore and a mid-round pick might get that done.
ANSWER: I don't believe the Steelers have any interest in trading away future assets, and I also believe the team sees Dan Moore Jr. as its left tackle of the future. Trading a starting left tackle and a future pick for a right tackle who carries a cap hit in the neighborhood of $20 million in each of the next three seasons based on the fact he "also played alongside Chuks Okorafor in college" falls way short of getting an endorsement from me.
MARK HILLIARD FROM WARREN, OH: How soon will Calvin Austin III play? Do you think Gunner Olszewski would be cut or traded to put Austin on the active roster? With Steven Sims having injury issues, is Austin an option at return specialist? Is there a deadline for a player to return to the active roster after coming off injured reserve?
ANSWER: Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Once a player on injured reserve returns to practice, a team has 21 days to make a decision as to whether to return him to the 53-man roster. The team's choices as that 21-day window expires are to put him on the 53-man roster, return him to injured reserve where he would remain for the rest of the season, or cut him. In Calvin Austin III's case the third option won't happen, but the other two remain possibilities. I believe you're getting ahead of yourself in terms of expectations for Austin's potential to make an immediate impact after missing so much time dating back to the day before the preseason opener, and remember, he is a rookie. As for Gunner Olszewski, he has value on special teams in coverage, and he had a tackle last week in his first game in that role.
ROBIN SISAK FROM JACKSONVILLE, FL: On Sundays, there are always a couple of games that start at 4:05 p.m., and a couple of games that start at 4:25 p.m. Why are they staggered like that?
ANSWER: The games that start at 4:05 p.m. EDT are televised only in the local markets of the two teams involved. The games that start at 4:25 p.m. EDT are televised to a larger audience, or possibly to a national audience depending upon the specific matchup.
PAUL LUKACS FROM VIENNA, VA: Last year, Montravius Adams was a bright spot on the defensive line. This year, it seems he doesn't seem as disruptive. Is it attributed to rotations, injuries, or something else?
ANSWER: No disrespect to Montravius Adams, but he has played for three teams in his 6-plus NFL seasons, which makes him a journeyman by definition. Adams has missed some time this year dating back to training camp, and another factor in his decreased playing time was the signing of Larry Ogunjobi, who didn't need much time to establish himself as the second-best defensive lineman on the team behind Cam Heyward. Now that Adams has been moved into the starting lineup at nose tackle, he should be getting more opportunities to show what he can do. From here, it's pretty much up to him.
STEPHEN KAUTZ FROM EVANS MILLS, NY: Mitch Trubisky did an outstanding job as a backup for Kenny Pickett after he was concussed in the Bucs game. Do you think that Mitch feels a little more comfortable as a backup than as a starter?
ANSWER: I don't think there's any doubt that Mitch Trubisky is more comfortable being a No. 2 quarterback than he was being the Steelers' starter, and I don't need any more evidence to support that belief than the way he played as the starter vs. the way he played coming off the bench in relief of Pickett. I wouldn't want to speculate as to why Trubisky is more comfortable and therefore more able to be effective in a backup role, but I do know that there always is a place on an NFL roster for a veteran backup quarterback who conducts himself with the professionalism Trubisky has showed and comes off the bench and plays the way he did vs. Tampa Bay. And as things progress down the road here a little bit, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Steelers were very interested in Trubisky filling that role behind Pickett for years.
RON TAYLOR FROM WEST POINT, IN: You said Mason Rudolph can become an unrestricted free agent in March 2023 and you don't expect him to be back next year. When does Mitch Trubisky's contract end, and do you expect him back with the Steelers next year?
ANSWER: My reason for believing that Mason Rudolph will choose to take advantage of free agency and move onto another team is that when he hits free agency, he will be 27 years old with four years in the league and at least 10 regular season starts on his resume. Mitch Trubisky is signed through the 2023 season, and while his cap number will be $10 million next season, the combined cap numbers for both Trubisky and Kenny Pickett would be slightly less than $14 million, which is a bargain for the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart. Trubisky also has shown some knack for being a backup quarterback in the NFL, and I believe that if he's interested in continuing a relationship with the team as Pickett's No. 2 the Steelers would have interest in having him in that role.
WADE AGES FROM DALLAS, TX: The professional careers of Kendrick Green and Kevin Dotson have been disappointing to date, given their performance and awards in college. I notice that Kendrick played left guard in college, but the Steelers drafted him as a center, and that Kevin played right guard in college, but the Steelers drafted him as a left guard. Is it a common practice for the Steelers to change the positions of their draftees, and if so, how successful has that practice been?
ANSWER: First of all, a player moving from right guard to left guard, or vice versa, is not a big deal, because the ability to play more than one position along the offensive line is a sought-after trait, even at the college level. But in terms of moving a guy who played guard in college to center in the NFL, that is a description of both Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson. Webster played some guard at Wisconsin and dabbled at the position at the start of his Steelers career, but Dawson was exclusively a guard at Kentucky and played only guard with the Steelers as a rookie before moving to center. Since both Webster and Dawson are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it's safe to say the practice was a success.
KENDALE JOHNSON FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Are we trading Chase Claypool?
ANSWER: In a word, no, unless a team loses its mind and offers more than the Steelers had to spend to draft him in the first place. And to refresh your memory, Chase Claypool entered the NFL as a second-round draft pick.