Let's get to it:
RICK SMEARCHECK FROM TAYLORSVILLE, KY: Based on what you've seen and heard about Chase Claypool, do you believe that he will receive significant playing time as the season progresses? Is the team viewing him as an outside or inside type of player?
ANSWER: When it comes to playing time for receivers and the production resulting from that playing time, the individual who has significant control over those things is the quarterback, and here is what Ben Roethlisberger said about Chase Claypool during training camp:
"I always get caught trying to spread too much praise on rookies, because I want them to sneak up on other people, but it doesn't look like Chase is going to be able to sneak up on anybody right now because people are talking about him and deservedly so. He's just making plays. I think the plays that he's making are impressive, but I think, to me, what's more impressive is that he doesn't ask a lot of questions, which means he knows his stuff. I can change a play with a hand signal or call a different play at the line of scrimmage, and I always check him like, 'Are you good?' He's like, I got it. That's very impressive from a quarterback perspective, because as much as we've thrown at him, he's able to digest it. I'm not saying he doesn't make a mistake, but when he does make a mistake, he's not making the same mistake twice. I just think that's really impressive."
With Claypool's size – 6-foot-4, 238 pounds – I would expect him to be an outside receiver.
DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: The news on David DeCastro's injury has been vague, and now there are reports that he will miss the Monday night game against the New York Giants. Is Stefan Wisniewski the starter in his absence, and how does that change the offense?
ANSWER: If those reports about David DeCastro missing the opener against the Giants turn out to be true, Stefan Wisniewski would be the likely starter in his place. That's why the Steelers signed Wisniewski during free agency, and having him in the lineup wouldn't change the offense at all. NFL offenses don't change because of an injury to a right guard, even if that right guard is an All-Pro like DeCastro.
CLARENCE CRAWLEY FROM SMYRNA, GA: I saw Tuzar Skipper being the first player released and was released outright. I thought he was a lock to be a primary backup. What happened to him?
ANSWER: In hindsight, the excitement surrounding Tuzar Skipper at the end of the 2019 preseason was blown out of proportion. His 16 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery certainly were eye-popping statistics, but because much of that happened late in preseason games the level of competition Skipper was facing came from the bottom of the opponents' depth charts. Another red flag had to do with the amount of special teams Skipper was playing, or more accurately the amount of special teams he wasn't playing. The Steelers liked Skipper enough to bring him back about a month after the Giants waived him on Oct. 22, 2019. But for whatever reason, Skipper didn't flash during his second training camp, and then rookie Alex Highsmith did. The assumption all along was that the Steelers would keep four outside linebackers on the 53-man roster, and when Highsmith very quickly showed he was too good for the practice squad, the final spot came down to Skipper vs. Ola Adeniyi. And when Adeniyi supplemented his 2020 camp performance with four tackles and forced two fumbles on special teams during the 2019 regular season, Skipper's fate seemed to be sealed.
TIM WILSON FROM WILMINGTON, DE: Why do you think Mike Tomlin continues to follow the path of using one primary running back and running him into the ground, rather than using the talents of the other backs in a semi-committee approach?
ANSWER: If you believe Mike Tomlin's approach to the workload of his team's primary running back is unique, I can tell you that you are mistaken. This idea of a committee only works if the other guys are as talented as the main guy, and that rarely is the case. It has happened on some teams – recent examples being New Orleans and Atlanta – but more often than not the feature back gets the bulk of the carries. There were two coaches who were part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2020, and here is how they handled that.
Let's begin with Jimmy Johnson, and we'll start with the 1991 season: second-year pro Emmitt Smith carried 365 times, and the back with the next most carries that season was Daryl Johnston with 17; in 1992, Smith carried 373 times, and the back with the next most carries was Curvin Richards with 49; in 1993, Smith carried 283 times, and the back with the next most carries was Derrick Lassic with 75; in 1994, Smith carried 368 times, and the back with the next most carries was Lincoln Coleman with 64; and in 1995, when Barry Switzer took over when Johnson and Jerry Jones had their falling out, Smith carried 377 times, and the back with the next most carries was Sherman Williams with 48.
Now, Bill Cowher: in 1996, Jerome Bettis had 320 carries, and the back with the next most was Erric Pegram, who had 97; in 1997, Bettis had 375 carries and George Jones was next with 72; in 1998, Bettis had 316 carries, and Richard Huntley had 55; in 1999, Bettis had 299 carries, and Huntley had 93; in 2000, Bettis had 355 carries, and Huntley had 46. In Cowher's final season, 2006, Willie Parker had 377 carries, and Najeh Davenport had 60. So it isn't only Tomlin who can be accused of running Parker until the wheels fell off.
NATHAN GEISLER FROM BOISE, ID: Looking at former Super Bowl rosters from the past, when and why did Larry Brown switch positions from being a tight end in Super Bowl IX and then to an offensive tackle in Super Bowl XIII and Super Bowl XIV?
ANSWER: The way Larry Brown tells the story, after starting at tight end in the Steelers first two Super Bowls of the 1970s, he sustained a knee injury in 1976, and with sports medicine not being as advanced then as it is now, Chuck Noll determined that Brown wouldn't be able to do the running and cutting as well as he had as a starting tight end, and so he proposed to Brown that he switch to offensive tackle. Ray Pinney started at right tackle for the Steelers in Super Bowl XIII, but Brown was the starting right tackle for the team in Super Bowl XIV. Jon Kolb was the starting left tackle on all four Super Bowl teams of the 1970s.
MATTHEW SEIFERT FROM SOMERSET, PA: Regarding Marcus Allen's position switch: I noticed he is listed ahead of Ulysees Gilbert so I was wondering if he is intended to be a true backup at the position or if he will be utilized as more of a hybrid safety/linebacker position and Gilbert will still be the running down backup should Devin Bush need a break.
ANSWER: A few things: First, the way the Steelers depth chart reads, behind Devin Bush it's Marcus Allen OR Ulysees Gilbert, which means that one isn't necessarily ahead of the other. And whether it's Bush, Allen, or Gilbert at the position, it's going to involve a lot of coverage, and so all three of those guys are hybrid linebackers in a way. And finally, there is no such thing as a running down in the NFL. Offenses won't allow a defense to get comfortable with whether the play is going to be a run or a pass, and so anything and everything has become fair game on early downs.
CHRIS WELBURN FROM GLASTONBURY, CT: Tell me otherwise, please, but doesn't J.C. Hassenauer being on the 53-man roster make it clear that he'll be the backup center because Stefan Wisniewski has to cover for David DeCastro? DeCastro was supposed to be the rock while this group pulled together after the retirement of Ramon Foster.
ANSWER: You may be taking this depth chart business too seriously, but I am confident that once the regular season gets underway, which for the Steelers is just a few days from now, Stefan Wisniewski will be the primary backup at all three interior offensive line positions, just as B.J. Finney was last season. Per the depth chart, Kevin Dotson is listed as the backup left guard, and if something happened to Matt Feiler, the Steelers would not insert a rookie who missed a chunk of training camp with an injury during a summer that included no preseason games to take that spot in the starting lineup.
JOHN MATTHEWS FROM GLEN ALLEN, VA: So, what was wrong with Jordan Berry?
ANSWER: If there was something "wrong" with Jordan Berry, the Steelers would've made a change regardless of who was available. I think the change was made only because someone like Dustin Colquitt was available, and what made Colquitt attractive to the Steelers was his consistency. Over 15 seasons in the NFL, kicking outdoors in Kansas City where there is real winter, Colquitt has been remarkably consistent, both in distance and directional punting. Plus, there just seemed to be too many occasions lately when Berry wasn't able to deliver a booming punt when the Steelers could've used one to get out of a hole and flip the field. And while this hasn't been mentioned as a reason for making the change to Colquitt, I also believe there is some hope he can help undrafted rookie punter Corliss Waitman, who has a powerful leg and was signed to the Steelers practice squad.
DEBORAH SILOS FROM BURLINGTON, NC: Will there be some form of replay for pass interference, now that the NFL has stopped it? Or will it revert back to the way it was?
ANSWER: Pass interference, called and uncalled, is no longer subject to replay review. Thank God.