Let’s get to it:
MICHAEL PITCHFORD FROM ALBUQUERQUE, NM: It seems like the Steelers play the Chiefs every year. What is it about this matchup that is so appealing to the league, the schedule-makers, and/or the networks? While we have faired well against them in recent years, I for one would like to see some of the other AFC teams on the schedule.
ANSWER: In the 18 seasons between 2001-18, the Steelers have played the Kansas City Chiefs 12 times, just to put a number to “every year.” There are three ways the Steelers and Chiefs can face each other: during the normal scheduling rotation system that calls for every team in a division to play every team in another division in its same conference, and so that means the AFC North teams are scheduled to play the AFC West teams every four years. The second way is the rotational system where each team in a conference has two games against conference opponents in a different division that’s based on where the teams finished in their respective division standings the previous season. The third way is in the playoffs. Everything with the schedule is done by formula; teams aren’t matched by the league’s broadcast partners.
FRED EVANS FROM BANFF, ALBERTA, CANADA: Where is Landry Jones? The Bills could surely use him.
ANSWER: According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Landry Jones was among a group of players who worked out for the Dallas Cowboys yesterday. In the story, Clarence E. Hill Jr. wrote, “Jones could be a veteran option at backup quarterback behind starter Dak Prescott. That position could become more critical with the team using Prescott as a runner more this season than in past, thus risking him to injury. It’s no secret that current backup Cooper Rush struggled during training camp and the preseason. Third-string quarterback Mike White is a developmental rookie prospect.”
TIMOTHY HERD FROM CHARLEROI, PA: On the free kick following a safety, if the ball goes out of bounds where is it spotted? On Sunday, should our returner have let the ball go out of bounds after the penalty?
ANSWER: If the free kick following a safety goes out of bounds, the receiving team has the option of taking the ball 30 yards from the spot of the kick or at the spot where the ball went out of bounds. In the specific incident you reference, the Chiefs were kicking from the 25-yard line, and according to the play-by-play, the ball was fielded by Ryan Switzer at the Steelers 15-yard line. Had Switzer opted to allow the ball to go out of bounds, and if the ball had gone out of bounds at the spot where he fielded it, the Steelers would have had the option to take possession of the ball at their own 45-yard line. As it was. Switzer returned the kick 15 yards, and the Steelers offense took over at their own 30-yard line.
MATTHEW POWNALL FROM FORT MYERS, FL: Do teams have salary caps for coaches contracts? Also, are there caps for how much a team can pay for signing bonuses? If not, what’s to stop teams from putting an extreme amount of money into bonuses to have cap room to sign big name players?
ANSWER: Coaches’ salaries do not count on each NFL team’s salary cap, but signing bonuses and all other bonus-type payments – roster bonus, performance bonus, workout bonus, as examples – all do count toward the final total on the cap each year.
MICAH RIDENOUR FROM ELKINS, WV: The defense looked terrible against the Chiefs. In your opinion do you think this is a fixable coaching problem, or we just don't have the talent?
ANSWER: The only thing I am completely comfortable saying about that is if it’s truly an issue of lack of talent there is no such thing then as a coaching fix. Not in the NFL, because there are too many good players on each and every team.
REED OVERAND FROM MONONGAHELA, PA: If/when the Steelers lose Le’Veon Bell to free agency after this season, I could only assume we would be in line for a compensatory draft pick, possibly in the third round? Would we receive that in the 2019 draft or in 2020?
ANSWER: The system for the determination and awarding of compensatory draft picks is a complicated formula that never has been revealed entirely, but it is said to take into account the number of unrestricted free agents a team loses vs. how many it signs, how much the departing players earn with their new teams vs. how much the additions are paid by the current team, among other factors. To use your description, “if/when” Le’Veon Bell leaves the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent, it would behoove fans to hope he gets the biggest contract possible, because that only will help the Steelers get a higher compensatory pick. And the pick, whatever it might be, would be for the 2020 NFL Draft.
DARRELL MURPHY FROM LAKE RIDGE, VA: Do you recall if there were ever talks during Dan Marino's career to bring him home to Pittsburgh as a quarterback? I thought at one point he wanted to play for the Steelers.
ANSWER: At the end of Dan Marino’s career – I believe in was in 2000 – Bill Cowher, the Steelers coach at the time, reached out to him to gauge his interest in maybe playing the position for the Steelers for a season or two. Marino declined the overture.
CARL LEFTWICH FROM LEXINGTON, KY: If a player signs a new contract with a huge sum guaranteed, but the player blows out his knee walking out of the building after signing the contract, is he still awarded the guaranteed money? Is there any protection for the team?
ANSWER: If it’s a signing bonus, that money is paid upon signing the contract. Period. And outside of an insurance policy, there is no protection for the team.
KEVIN BAILEY FROM ORANGEVILLE, ONTARIO, CANADA: If and when Le’Veon Bell signs the franchise tender, would he be required to take a team physical before he takes the field?