Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 8

Let's get to it:

TONY SOBRASKY FROM COCONUT CREEK, FL: I would like some insight from you on this one. Why would the team release Devlin Hodges? He seemed to do OK for us last year, considering he was a rookie third-string quarterback. Does Josh Dobbs bring something Hodges doesn't? And finally, why didn't he get signed to the practice squad at least?
ANSWER: It's really not complicated. The Steelers waived Devlin Hodges because they believe Josh Dobbs is a better quarterback and they were able to get him when they made a waiver claim on him. The NFL doesn't grade on a curve, and so a player doesn't have his performance mitigated because he was a "rookie third-string quarterback." The role the Steelers were looking to fill was that of the No. 3 quarterback, and while your assessment was that Hodges "seemed to do OK last year," the Steelers obviously believe Dobbs has better physical skills to play the position at the NFL level, and as a legitimate rocket scientist he certainly is intelligent enough. Plus, Dobbs has more experience in the Steelers system and in the NFL than Hodges. Time will tell if the Steelers' assessment and then the decision they made as a result was the correct one, but the reasoning behind it should be obvious. And just to update you on the current status of the practice squad, Hodges was added to the Steelers' early Monday evening. That move gives them four -- three on the 53-man roster, plus Hodges on the practice squad.

DAVID ZIPPARO FROM ROCHELLE, IL: I was looking at the initial 53-man roster and saw wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud won a spot over Ryan Switzer. I know things this year in camp were different from a media standpoint, so we weren't able to get much perspective on players, but why was he chosen over Switzer?
ANSWER: My impression is that Ray-Ray McCloud can give the Steelers more on special teams, both as a returner and also on the coverage units. The Steelers have been wanting/needing to improve their return game, and at some point the only way to do that is to identify one and then keep him on the roster. Ryan Switzer was solid in his decision-making as a returner and his hands were reliable, but there really wasn't anything else that made him a special returner once he had the ball in his hands. McCloud showed some burst in live special teams sessions during camp at Heinz Field, plus he also got some work on the coverage units. I think the hope is that McCloud can be more of a playmaker as a returner, because the Steelers knew the limitations Switzer had in that area.

JEFF ELINOFF FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: I am happily surprised that defensive lineman Carlos Davis made the roster and not the practice squad. I remember reading that he is very fast for his size. Was that what impressed the coaches? Did his twin brother make it too?
ANSWER: Seventh-round pick Carlos Davis made the Steelers initial 53-man roster, and I expect this season to be a developmental one for him. In fact, with the exception of injuries, Davis figures to be inactive for most games in 2020. After the draft, General Manager Kevin Colbert said that both of the Davis twins – Carlos and Khalil – had excellent football smarts, and that Carlos was a developmental type player who ran a 4.79 in the 40-yard dash at 320 pound. A big man who can run and was continuing to improve throughout his college career is the best kind of seventh-round pick, and so it didn't surprise me at all that he would be kept on the active roster. And Khalil Davis made the Tampa Bay 53-man roster.

STEPHEN MIHALOV FROM TAMPA, FL: I was more surprised to see the Steelers cut Dan McCullers than I was to see them cut Ryan Switzer. Do you think rookie Carlos Davis outshined him, or was it just time to cut him based on performance.
ANSWER: My guess is there were a few reasons why the Steelers released Dan McCullers, who by the way subsequently was signed to the practice squad: McCullers was to begin his seventh season in the NFL, was due to earn $1.5 million in 2020, and he really hadn't developed into more than a one-dimensional part-time player. On the practice squad, McCullers is due to earn $204,000 for the season, according to reports, and so the Steelers saved $1.3 million on their cap that maybe they used to help get Cam Heyward signed. In Carlos Davis, I believe the Steelers see a young player who has potential and might develop. At this stage, McCullers is who he is as a player.

DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: I always hoped that Daniel McCullers would turn out to be a diamond in the rough. I remember several teammates gushing about how good he was in practice with statements like, "When Big Dan decides he is going somewhere there is no stopping him." Yet he seems to have had a very unspectacular career with the Steelers. What are his final stats as far as games played, tackles, sacks, and how much money did he make over his Steelers career?
ANSWER: In his six NFL seasons, Dan McCullers played in 73 of a possible 96 regular season games, with three starts. He totaled 41 tackles, including four tackles for loss; 2.5 sacks; one pass defensed; and four hits on the quarterback. He played 605 snaps on defense, plus another 236 on special teams, with the most playing time on defense coming in 2016 when he played 182 snaps. According to reports, McCullers has earned $4.43 million in salary during his NFL career.

SCOTT RANDALL FROM CONWAY, SC: If James Connor can't stay healthy, how do you see the running back rotation happening through this season? If we can't run the ball effectively, then Ben Roethlisberger will have a rough welcome back because defenses will key on him.
ANSWER: Here's a news flash for you: Defenses are going to be keying on Ben Roethlisberger whether James Conner is healthy and a 1,000-yard rusher or not. A quarterback who passed for over 5,000 yards the last time he played a full NFL season is the No. 1 priority for every defensive coordinator on the Steelers' schedule. And here's something else you should realize: a quarterback like Roethlisberger will do more to help the running game than a running game will do to help Roethlisberger. That said, I understand and accept the need for the Steelers to be more effective running the football, but you're asking me to guess about something that may not even happen. As Bill Cowher was fond of saying, "I don't play the what-if game."

BOB SMITHE FROM BETHLEHEM, PA: I wanted to hear your thoughts about the Browns, Bengals, and Ravens having a small number of fans in the stands and at least right now, the Steelers not being allowed to have fans at Heinz Field.
ANSWER: If 6,000 people spread out in a facility that seats 70,000 can disrupt the Steelers' performance during a regular season game, the team isn't as mentally tough as it needs to be.

AARON WALKER FROM NEWPORT NEWS, VA: I hear constantly that Terrell Edmunds in on the hot seat. Granted he is very lackluster in splash plays but is there any truth to this being a make-or-break year for former first-round pick Terrell Edmunds?
ANSWER: I will not argue that Terrell Edmunds has room to improve, nor would I disagree with any assessment of his play that points out he needs to contribute more splash plays, more takeaways. But labeling 2020 as a make-or-break season for him is taking things to the extreme. What does the person who believes 2020 is make-or-break for Edmunds mean by make-or-break? That it's the last chance for him to earn a second NFL contract? That he's going to get cut? That he's going to lose his starting job? That he either makes the Pro Bowl this season or he never will? It should be understood that Edmunds enters this season, his third in the NFL, having started 31 of a possible 32 games, that he played 93 percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie and 96 percent of the defensive snaps as a second-year pro, and that over the course of his first two seasons he also played another 290 snaps on special teams. In two seasons, Edmunds has missed around 116 defensive snaps over 32 games, and so the Steelers must think he doesn't stink to be putting him out on the field so much. At least it seems that way to me.

NEIL GLASSER FROM MANALAPAN, NY: Two minutes left in the game, and your team is losing by four points. Your offense has the ball on its own 25-yard line, and Ben Roethlisberger is out. You can choose one from these replacements: Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges, Josh Dobbs, Landry Jones, Charlie Batch, or Mike Kruczek. Who do you go to?
ANSWER: Well, Mike Kruczek is 67 years old, Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier are both retired, and so is that entire 1976 Steelers defense. Charlie Batch is 45. Landry Jones is only 31, but he has had a couple of significant injuries recently. I choose Mason Rudolph, provided the referee doesn't allow Myles Garrett to rough the passer, then rip his helmet off his head and use it to commit battery.