Let’s get to it:
AARON LITTLE FROM HUNTINGDON, PA: With Ryan Shazier being placed on the Reserve/PUP list for the second year in a row, what does this mean for his contract?
ANSWER: Ryan Shazier is currently working on a one-year contract that will pay him a reported $473,000, and as is the case with all players in the NFL, that number counts on the team’s 2019 salary cap. Based on the contract and Shazier’s years of service in the league, he can become an unrestricted free agent in March 2020.
ANDREW SPADE FROM LITITZ, PA: After watching the spectacular implosion that has been Antonio Brown with the Oakland Raiders, is there any chance Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert and Art Rooney II get any recognition for the leadership and professionalism that kept that from happening in Pittsburgh?
ANSWER: In some circles, Coach Mike Tomlin has been praised for his handling of Antonio Brown in that the player’s production was maximized while his misbehavior never reached the level it has in Oakland during just a single offseason. But in other circles, Tomlin, General Manager Kevin Colbert, and President Art Rooney II are blamed as a group for allowing Brown to become the distraction that he ultimately became. What’s interesting to me is that so many seem to be looking to place blame for the actions of a 31-year-old man on people other than that 31-year-old man.
RAY SENTELL FROM KNOXVILLE, TN: Why not use Josh Dobbs on some trick plays in the red zone? Utilize his speed.ANSWER: Here’s why not: In 2018, the Steelers led the entire NFL in red zone efficiency by scoring touchdowns on 73.5 percent of their possessions inside the 20-yard line. Trick plays are for teams that cannot succeed any other way, and besides that, since Mason Rudolph is the backup quarterback, Dobbs will be inactive on game days.
DANIEL DELLIBOVI FROM WESTMINSTER, CO: Where does all of the money from player fines go during the season?ANSWER: According to the website Operations.NFL.com, “The fines collected do not go to the NFL, but instead go to programs for former players. The Players Association and the league have agreed to donate fine money through the NFL Foundation to the NFL Player Care Foundation and the Gene Upshaw Players Association’s Players Assistance Trust. The Player Care Foundation, an independent organization dedicated to helping retired players improve their quality of life, provides programs and assistance with medical, emotional, financial, social and community issues. The Gene Upshaw Players Assistance Trust assists former players who are facing financial hardship due to unforeseen crisis, unaffordable medical situations and helps those who wish to go back to school to finish their undergraduate degrees. Since 2009, about $4 million a year has been used to assist former players.”
MARY COHN FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Last year's preseason made me worried as I did not see talent worthy of a Super Bowl run. This preseason, however, I really like what I'm seeing. Is the preseason a preview of how a team will do in the regular season?
ANSWER: Sometimes it can be, but other times it can provide a false prediction of how the regular season will unfold. Here are some examples: In 1970, the Steelers were 4-1 in the preseason, including a victory over the Oakland Raiders, and finished 5-9 in the regular season; they were 3-4 in the 1975 preseason and won Super Bowl X; they were 3-1 in the 1987 preseason and finished 5-11; and they were 1-3 in the 1995 preseason and finished as the AFC representative in Super Bowl XXX. Then there were the years where the preseason record seemed to be an accurate predictor of how the regular season would unfold: in 1972, they were 4-1-1 in the preseason and went on to win the first division championship in franchise history; in 1974, they were 6-0 in the preseason and won their first Super Bowl; in both 2005 and 2008, they were 3-1 in the preseason and went on to win Super Bowls XL and XLIII; and in 2013, they were 0-4 in the preseason and then opened the regular season at 0-4 before rebounding to finish 8-8.
GILBERT CRUZ from CITY TERRACE, CA: I have noticed when a player opts to go elsewhere via free agency you really don't hear about them as much as you do when they were Steelers. Which player in your opinion has been the most productive since leaving?
ANSWER: The one player I can cite as someone who left the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent and then went on to put together an outstanding career with his new team is Chad Brown. A 3-4 pass-rushing linebacker who was the team’s second-round pick in 1993 (44th overall), Brown signed with Seattle in 1997, and with the Seahawks he was voted to two Pro Bowls and made first-team All-Pro in 1998.
REED OVERAND FROM STAR JUNCTION, PA: When a player is waived/injured and ends up being released with an injury settlement, which number counts against the team salary cap?
ANSWER: Whatever the amount of the injury settlement is would be what counts on the original team’s salary cap.
TONY MAY FROM BIGLERVILLE, PA: Please explain why the schedule has the Steelers playing the Browns on Week 11 and then Week 13 in the second half of the season after our bye. You would think they would play one game against division teams during the first half of the season then play each team in our division one time in the second part of the season.
ANSWER: I’m sorry I cannot help you, because it’s not possible to explain why the NFL does what it does in so many areas of operating its business. But in the area of making the regular season schedule, there are a lot of factors the league considers, such as the wants and needs of its network partners. I’m just throwing out a guess here, but maybe the networks wanted the Steelers-Browns games later in the season to know for sure whether Cleveland was going to be a real contender so that it could flex the rematch into a primetime slot, since the first meeting between the teams will be a national telecast on a Thursday night.
ROBERT LONG FROM CLEARFIELD, PA: It's my understanding that a practice squad player can be signed by another team with no compensation to the original team; and when a team wants to activate a player from it's own practice squad that player has to first be exposed to waivers?
ANSWER: When a team signs a player off another team’s practice squad, there is no compensation due the team that loses that player, but the signing team must keep that player on its 53-man roster for three weeks. But a player who’s on the practice squad does not have to clear waivers to be signed to that team’s 53-man roster.
MATTHEW POWNALL FROM FORT MYERS, FL: Ola Adeniyi was not on the Steelers first injury report of the regular season. Is he recovered and practicing fully from his surgery already?
ANSWER: Since Ola Adeniyi was a full participant in the Steelers’ first practice of the regular season, it was not required to list him on any injury report or practice report. And then since Adeniyi was a full participant in every practice for the week leading up to the opener against New England, he didn’t have to be listed on the status report, because the NFL has done away with the “probable” designation.
JASON NORTON FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA: Is there going to be an "I'm right, he's wrong" this year?
ANSWER: Of course, you are referring to the should-be-award-winning Agree to Disagree, and the answer is that the new season already has premiered. You can look for each new episode of Agree to Disagree on Wednesday afternoons on Steelers.com, and if you’d like to watch the episode you missed, simply copy and past this link into your URL: https://bit.ly/2knAx88
WALTER DEMBEC FROM MERCER, PA: Did the Steelers sign Sutton Smith? They said on 93.7 The Fan that he signed a four-year contract with the Steelers.
ANSWER: The Steelers signed Sutton Smith to a four-year contract some time after drafting him in late April, but that contract was voided when they waived him on the final roster cut-down. Smith is currently out of football.
DOUGLAS KELLAR FROM WARREN, OH: I’m a little confused on our options for finding help at the tight end position. First, can the Steelers snatch people off other teams’ practice squads? Second, are you telling me there are no tight ends not currently in football worth bringing in? Lastly, are the Steelers currently holding tryouts for that position?
ANSWER: First, the Steelers can sign players from other teams’ practice squads, but those players are not required to leave their original team. Practice squad players have the option to stay where they are. Second, I’m not telling you that; the Steelers are telling you that based on how they’re proceeding. Lastly, not currently.