Let's get to it:
LEN OLDLAND FROM ERIE, PA: What's the difference between a player being released or being waived?
ANSWER: Players who are not vested veterans – those who don't have at least four years of service – are subject to waivers. This process means when a non-vested veteran has his contract terminated, he is waived and can be claimed by any other team in the NFL with the priority determined by won-loss records the previous season. As an example: I'm a second-year player who gets my contract terminated on Saturday when all teams must reduce their rosters to 53 players. The technical term is I have been waived, and for 24 hours any team in the NFL can claim my services under the terms of my contract at the time I was terminated. If more than one team claims me, I am awarded to the claiming team with the worst record the previous year. If I don't want to play for that team, I don't play in the NFL. A player who is released is a vested veteran who immediately becomes an unrestricted free agent and is able to sign with any team that's interested and can be paid any salary based on the terms and provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
JOHN VERDEROSA FROM ABINGDON, VA: I'm reading and hearing lots of good things about the Steelers corps of receivers. With so much talent to spread around, how do you see things shaking out for the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Ryan Switzer, Eric Ebron, and Vance McDonald?
ANSWER: It's impossible to predict precisely how things are going to shake out, because there are variables such as injury to take into consideration. But I believe this group will offer the quarterback plenty of options to attack all areas of the field while also preventing opposing defenses from being able to hone in on one or two players as the quarterback's go-to guys. And finally, I'm just happy that quarterback is going to be Ben Roethlisberger.
JOHN KOVALS FROM PEORIA, IL: Regarding your comments in a recent Asked and Answered on Renegade's impact being more about the fan reaction to the song than the song itself, as a season ticket holder who attends almost every game, I'll appreciate your view on my observation: Though I haven't kept statistics, I think we actually don't do so well in the first few plays after the song is played, particularly when playing a key rival. Your thoughts?
ANSWER: I know there are people who keep such statistics about the impact of "Renegade," and I also know I am not one of those who do, nor do I believe the song has any more impact on the team's play than me forgetting to wear my lucky socks. I'm going to stick with my initial opinion – that "Renegade" is a fun part of attending games at Heinz Field because it energizes the fans and creates an electric atmosphere inside the stadium. The song has no real value related to the team's play, but its value is solely in helping to provide a fun game day experience for the fans.
JOHN KRAJCOVIC FROM COLORADO SPRINGS, CO: I don't understand how every year the Steelers have little to no salary cap space. The Chiefs are able to retain their players with large contracts, the Ravens do it, the Browns do it. Bud Dupree's already talking like this is his last year here, is there no chance of signing him to a long term deal? Who are the Steelers paying so much money that they can't reward current players with new contracts?
ANSWER: The predictions of the Steelers problem with the salary cap in 2021 have to do with it dropping from $198.2 million per team to $175 million per team if the doomsday predictions come true. Up until this particular scenario, spurred by the revenue losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Steelers may not have had a lot of salary cap room each offseason, but it always seemed to turn out to be sufficiently manageable to get done what needed to get done. I don't believe it's fair to criticize a long-standing policy based on events created by a global pandemic that already is responsible for 184,000 deaths in the United States. And please, don't come at me with the Browns as an example for anything except changing coaches every couple of years and trying to set a record for most No. 1 overall picks in a draft over a 5-year span. And the Ravens won't be in such good shape once they have to pay Lamar Jackson, unless they get rid of him as they did with Joe Flacco once his salary got big; and soon (once Patrick Mahomes' new contract really kicks in), the Chiefs could find themselves in salary cap jail as well. It's the way the system was built – to enhance parity.
DRAYTON PETERSON FROM HAGERSTOWN, MD: I understand it would be speculation, but in this COVID-19 environment is their consideration to keeping a backup placekicker in one of those extra practice squad spots? I realize that "NFL quality" kickers don't grow on trees, but there always seem to be a few kickers available in emergencies.
ANSWER: There are a lot of things under consideration pertaining to how to utilize the 16 spots available on the practice squad, and while I'm not opposed to exploring that, here is something you should realize: Let's pretend the Steelers decide to go that route and find a decent placekicker who's without a spot on a 53-man roster and is willing to sign onto their practice squad. As soon as another team sustains an injury to their placekicker, they can simply sign the Steelers' practice squad kicker onto its 53-man roster, and the kicker would be beyond foolish not to accept that offer and leave the Steelers because of the money involved as well as the service the guy would earn toward his pension and toward free agency. If the Steelers didn't put an extra kicker on their practice squad and something would arise where they needed one in an emergency, they simply could take the one they liked best off another team's practice squad. I'm not advocating one way or the other, but those are the things that will be under consideration across the NFL in forming practice squads.
DONALD NOLAN FROM SEVIERVILLE, TN: In answering a question regarding the division of labor among the running backs within the Sept. 1 edition of Asked and Answered, you cited Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels, and Kerrith Whyte as players battling for the final roster spot(s) at the position. Trey Edmunds always seems to get lost in the conversation despite his contributions as a fill-in last year on offense and special teams. What does he have to do to have a legitimate shot at making the roster or practice squad?
ANSWER: Trey Edmunds absolutely, positively has a legitimate shot at making the roster. I was answering a question about what I "think," and as faithful readers of Asked and Answered have come to understand is that when I write about what I "think" it isn't necessarily the gospel. As an aside, this is one of the reasons I typically avoid those kind of crystal ball questions, because often I believe they are posed simply to give readers the pleasure of writing in after the fact and explaining how wrong I was.
JIMMY SUVOY FROM INDIAN ROCKS BEACH, FL: You responded to a question regarding shuffling offensive linemen in and out of the game by pointing out that continuity is more important to that unit than freshness. That makes sense. But wasn't Chuck Noll a messenger guard for the Browns? Meaning he ran in and out of the game on every other play to bring in the plays from Coach Paul Brown? And anticipating your answer, I suppose the radio equipped helmet has eliminated that need.
ANSWER: Yes, technology has eliminated the need for players to be used to relay plays from the sideline to the huddle, and even before technology, teams got away from this "messenger guard" practice by using hand signals from the sideline to communicate with the quarterback on the field. Of course, hand signals from the sideline became dangerous once the New England Patriots began their illegal shenanigans. But it always puzzled me why Brown, who had a Hall of Fame quarterback named Otto Graham, never believed he was capable of calling his own plays, like so many other quarterbacks of that era did – Johnny Unitas, Bobby Layne, Y.A. Tittle, and Bart Starr, among others.
NATHAN GEISLER FROM BOISE, ID: Help me understand something: the Steelers have a history of great centers. Ray Mansfield played from 1964-76, and Mike Webster played from 1974-88. Do you know who was snapping the ball to Steelers quarterbacks from 1974-76?
ANSWER: In 1974, the Steelers used their fifth-round pick on Mike Webster, and during that season, as well as in 1975, Ray Mansfield started 13 of the 14 games in each of those regular seasons. As a rookie, Webster played some guard as well. What Chuck Noll saw was that Mansfield, while the starter, was 33 years old for the 1974 season and 34 for the 1975 season, and even if he wasn't breaking down physically he was losing ground to the much younger and stronger Webster. So Noll began working Webster into the lineup, and it evolved into Mansfield playing the first and third quarters, and Webster playing the second and fourth quarters. This wasn't done to keep the two of them fresh as much as it was done to get Webster some game experience while also respecting what Mansfield had contributed and still could contribute as a veteran who was snapping the ball to a still young quarterback in Terry Bradshaw, who was 26 in 1974 but far from a mature, savvy NFL quarterback at the time.
TIM KING FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Why would people question my belief that Ben Roethlisberger is a 100 percent lock to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame based on his career so far? I know nothing is 100 percent when it comes to the Hall of Fame, but …
ANSWER: I love it when people answer their own questions. I just wish more would do it.