Let's get to it:
KEVIN McKINNEY FROM HIGHWOOD, IL: Which of the five Steelers who were nominated recently for the Pro Football Hall of Fame – Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Casey Hampton, Hardy Nickerson, and Gary Anderson – do you think has a shot? I've seen them all play, and all were great Steelers. Heath was probably the best tight end in team history, but I think Hines is the only one with a chance. What do you think?
ANSWER: Hines Ward is the only player among that list of five, in my opinion, who has a chance to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Heath Miller, Casey Hampton, and Hardy Nickerson simply do not have the statistics that the selectors use as a baseline when paring the list of nominees through the process that ends with a yay or nay vote on the day before the Super Bowl. Ward has 1,000 catches for 12,083 yards and 86 touchdowns, to rank 14th, 26th, and 16th all time in those categories, respectively. Plus, Ward was the MVP of Super Bowl XL. Miller and Hampton will go down as all-time great Steelers, important components of teams that won two Super Bowls and played in a third, but Miller finished with only 529 catches for 6,569 yards and 45 touchdowns and the fact he likely was the best two-way tight end in the league during his career is not something that will attract votes from the selectors, and Hampton was a run-stuffer who came off the field on third downs and finished with nine sacks in his career. Nickerson played 10 of his 16 seasons for teams other than the Steelers. And my personal opinion is that kickers don't belong in the Hall of Fame.
ROBERTO ROMERO FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: Why don't they use the other running backs? During preseason games, we had the chance to see other players doing a good job. We have barely seen them.
ANSWER: In those preseason games when you had a chance to see those "other running backs," it was likely the time of the game when they were going against backups or guys who were on their way to being cut. Najee Harris is the guy who is the Steelers' best hope to establish an effective running game this season. If the "other running backs" had that ability, the Steelers wouldn't have used their first-round pick on Harris.
DEANDRE RUCKER FROM HOUSTON, TX: Where is the ball placed when a team misses a field goal on fourth down?
ANSWER: When a field goal is missed in the NFL, the ball is placed at the spot of the kick where the kicking teams takes over with a first-and-10.
TIM HART FROM KENNESAW, GA: With the injuries to outside linebackers, would the Steelers consider bringing back Tuzar Skipper?
ANSWER: Tuzar Skipper was waived twice by the Steelers, once at the end of the preseason of his rookie year and the second time at the of the following preseason. Skipper currently is out of football. I believe that ship has sailed.
JD AKERS FROM NIXA, MO: Can you enlighten us on how the salary cap affects signing free agents after the season has started? For instance, if a team has little to no cap space and loses five players due to injury, what are the options?
ANSWER: All player salaries, including guys on the active roster, practice squad, and injured reserve count toward the salary cap. That's why I always caution readers not to overreact to reports about how much cap space the Steelers have, because a team never can spend all the way to the cap because of situations like the one you describe. That's also why not every player on the active roster is in uniform for every game, because if all players on the 53-man roster were in uniform on game days, and one team had five injured players and the other team had none, there would be a competitive disadvantage to the team with the injuries. There is no provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement to help a team that finds itself with holes on its roster and little to no room on its salary cap. That team would be out of luck.
JAY GREENBERGER FROM SOUTH PARK TOWNSHIP, PA: Perhaps it's just me, but it seems that too often on third-and-3 or third-and-4 situations Ben airs Roethlisberger throws the ball down the field instead of attempting a shorter, higher-percentage pass. Why don't they just go for the first down with higher-percentage quick passes in those situations?
ANSWER: Because that's what the defense is expecting, and often a defense will defend to the first down marker in such situations. That's what the Steelers defense was doing on a third-and-10 in the fourth quarter in the game vs. the Raiders on the play that ended up being a 61-yard touchdown to Henry Ruggs. Minkah Fitzpatrick was expecting Ruggs to break off his route at the first down maker, but instead of doing that Ruggs turned upfield and used his speed to create separation and give Derek Carr a chance to make a big play.
RALPH ROBINSON FROM MANSFIELD, OH: Given Ben Roethlisberger's age, what are your thoughts on having Dwayne Haskins inactive for both games so far? If Ben gets injured in a game, and then Mason Rudolph is injured, too, who would we put at quarterback? Also do most teams make their third quarterback inactive?
ANSWER: When it comes to Dwayne Haskins being inactive for the first two games of this regular season, I would contend Ben Roethlisberger's age is much less of a factor in that decision than Haskins' performance in the preseason finale against Carolina's starting defense. Yes, most teams make their third quarterback inactive.
RODNEY ANTONIOLI FROM MARMORA, NJ: With Tyson Alualu being placed injured reserve, what is the status of Stephon Tuitt? Any chance he can come off injured reserve soon, and is he in shape to play?
ANSWER: Stephon Tuitt is eligible to come off injured reserve after the Bengals game. Whether that happens as soon as he is eligible is to be determined.
ALEX CHATKEWITZ FROM PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL: What is the status of Stephan Tuitt? Any chance of him returning to the lineup?
ANSWER: While I do not believe at this point that Stephon Tuitt's injury is considered season-ending, I do not know that there is a specific timetable in place for his return.
CARLOS ARVIZU FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: I've seen Kendrick Green pulling to run-block on several plays, which I think is a lot to ask of a rookie center who played mostly guard in college. It hasn't worked great, but in your experience is it a matter of time and experience?
ANSWER: In my experience, it's a matter of ability. Just so you know, both Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson played guard in college.
JERRY KERSTETTER FROM MECHANICSBURG, PA: I read somewhere Ben Roethlisberger needed four touchdown passes to get into the 400 club. The article stated there are only eight other quarterbacks in that club. Can you tell me who they are?
ANSWER: If what you read had been written thoroughly and professionally, that "report" should've included that information. Ben Roethlisberger has 398 career touchdown passes, which means he needs two touchdown passes to get to 400 for his career. Once he gets to 400, he will join these seven quarterbacks, who all have 400 or more career touchdown passes: Tom Brady (590), Drew Brees (571), Peyton Manning (539), Brett Favre (508), Philip Rivers (421), Dan Marino (420), and Aaron Rodgers (416).