Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 8

Let's get to it:

LYN PERIARD FROM ONTARIO, CANADA:
I was following the Steelers' cuts, and I saw that Doug Legursky was cut and the next day was re-signed. Could you please make this make sense.

I can try. Let's start with this: In order to get Maurkice Pouncey on the IR/designated-to-return list, he first had to be included on the initial 53-man roster. Then according to the procedure, 24 hours after being on the 53-man roster, the Steelers could move Pouncey to IR/designated-to-return and replace him with another player. So the Steelers had to cut somebody they felt confident would come back to them. That's part one.

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Now, for part two: players with fewer than four accrued seasons of NFL experience must pass through waivers when their team cuts them, and any player who goes through the waiver system can be claimed by another team at which point he either signs with the team that claims him or he cannot play in the NFL. Players with four or more accrued seasons are referred to as vested veterans, and when they are cut vested veterans are free to sign with whatever team they choose – with the exception of a period of time that covers the final few weeks of the regular season and the playoffs but that doesn't apply to your question. OK, so by cutting Doug Legursky, who is a vested veteran and therefore not exposed to waivers and therefore can turn down any other offers because he knows the Steelers want him back, the Steelers were able to avoid exposing one of their younger players to waivers, where he could have been claimed and then forced to leave.**

An example to cite is Wesley Johnson, the team's fifth-round pick in 2014 who was learning to play center and guard after starting for four years at Vanderbilt as a left tackle. Johnson was a ninth offensive lineman kept on the Steelers 53-man roster at the start of last season because of the potential he was showing in terms of his versatility. Johnson was inactive every week, but still on the roster. With injuries having depleted their defensive backfield, the Steelers signed Ross Ventrone from the practice squad and waived Johnson the day before the Oct. 12 game in Cleveland with the idea of trying to sneak him through waivers and bring him back the day after the game. But since the New York Jets claimed Johnson, he had to go to there where he spent the rest of the 2014 season on their 53-man roster, and he's currently on their practice squad. If you substitute Legursky, a vested veteran, in for Wesley Johnson in the scenario I just described, Legursky could decline the Jets' offer, and the Steelers get to keep the player they cut.

So that's why Legursky was cut one day and re-signed the next. It was procedural.

NICK NICHOLSON FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
There seem to be more players waived/injured this year than in the past. Once a player has cleared waivers and reverts to the team's injured reserve list, must he receive an injury settlement, or can he stay on IR for the season and try again next year? If so, are any of this years casualties still on IR, and do any have interest by the Steelers for the future?

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Typically, the distinction comes in the designation used in the first place, whether the transaction listed was waived/injured or reserve/injured list. As of today, the Steelers have 12 players on their reserve/injured list: PK Garrett Hartley, T Micah Hatchie, WR David Nelson, QB Bruce Gradkowski, PK Shaun Suisham, WR Eli Rogers, Golson, ILB Jordan Zumwalt, TE Ray Hamilton, TE Cameron Clear, TE Rob Blanchflower, and Geathers.**

Of those 12, Hatchie, Rogers, Blanchflower, Zumwalt, Clear, and Hamilton all were waived/injured, which indicates the Steelers will not be interested in them once their injuries heal, and/or a settlement is reached. The other six – Suisham, Geathers, Nelson, Gradkowski, and Hartley – went to IR (reserve/injured), which is an indication the Steelers are interested in maintaining ties to them to varying degrees.

ROB ROYER FROM MILTON, PA:
How will the new seats at Heinz Field affect kicking field goals toward that end zone? Is the wind less of a factor now?

The answer to your question regarding the new seats in the south end zone will be answered over the course of the next four months as kickers experience this new configuration for the first time as the seasons change from summer to autumn and then from autumn to winter. There's really no sure way of predicting how the winds will change or whether they'll dissipate until there is some history established. I did have someone tell me that the new seats do change the depth perception for a kicker as he's attempting a field goal in that direction, because where it previously was a lot of open space behind the goal post now there is a structure there. Time will tell.

KEVIN FURMANEK FROM MORRIS PLAINS, N.J.:
Obviously the offense is stacked with talent, especially at the wide receiver position. Is there any way you see trading Martavis Bryant for an up-and-coming third or fourth-year defensive player (examples being a dominant defensive lineman, or a lockdown cornerback)? Or are the Steelers willing to give Bryant a second chance given his huge upside and just hope this defense can come together as is?

There is no way, no way, a team would trade an "up-and-coming third or fourth-year defensive player" for a receiver who is one failed drug test away from a 10-game suspension. It doesn't matter how talented that receiver is, or how committed he is to changing his life. Professional football is a show-me business, and there are way, way too many questions about Bryant's future right now for any team to be willing to make the kind of trade you describe.

ANDY GROSH FROM GREENCASTLE, PA:
If Josh Harris is not showing improvement as the third running back, could you see someone like Fred Jackson being signed to take that role? I would assume he's looking for a more prominent role being at the end of his career, but he would definitely be an upgrade for us.

Being fair to you, this question was submitted before the league-mandated roster reduction last weekend, but I still want to address a basic concept that you present. Yes, Josh Harris – and now Jordan Todman – will serve as DeAngelo Williams' backup during the term of Le'Veon Bell's suspension, but it's important to remember that Bell's suspension is for two games, just one-eighth of the regular season. When the suspension ends, this individual will be the No. 3 running back, behind both Bell and Williams. Someone such as Fred Jackson, with the credentials he has, would be looking for a better opportunity than being a No. 3 running back on a depth chart. And from the Steelers' standpoint, they want to stay away from adding a player who could become disgruntled, because all due respect to a guy like Fred Jackson – since his is the name you chose – he isn't going see many carries with players as talented as Bell and Williams ahead of him.

VICKI RIZZO FROM ST. CHARLES, MO:
I've been a Martavis Bryant fan since his college days, and I was happy that we got him in the draft. My question is, will they appoint a veteran player to kind of mentor/watch over him, or will it be a team effort to try to keep him on the straight and narrow. I'd sure hate to see all that talent go to waste. By the way, since we live close to St. Louis, our family will be at the Rams/Steelers game cheering them on to victory.

I'm not a specialist in this area, nor do I even pretend to be one on the Internet, but someone in Martavis Bryant's situation is going to need more than a veteran player mentoring him. Professionals, maybe in combination with trusted family members, are what's going to be required, and to be fair, a veteran player has so much on his plate in terms of his own family and his own preparedness to be able to watch over a teammate.

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