Thu, 20 Feb 2020

Asked and Answered: Feb. 11

The Steelers
12 Feb 2020, 05:30 GMT+10

Let's get to it:

BURTON HARRIS FROM GREENSBURG, PA: Hiring Matt Canada as quarterbacks coach should help Mason Rudolph a lot. Will Canada have any input in helping with the offensive plays or does Randy Fichtner do it himself? How do you think Ben Roethlisberger would get along with Canada since he likes Randy Fichtner so much?

ANSWER: Matt Canada should be a big help throughout the offseason program, training camp, and the preseason not only to Mason Rudolph, but to whomever ends up winning the No. 3 spot from the competition among Devlin Hodges, Paxton Lynch, and J.T. Barrett. As for the game-planning, Coach Mike Tomlin often says that he "doesn't care where good ideas come from," and he encourages input. Canada's experience as an offensive coordinator at multiple colleges, including Wisconsin, North Carolina State, Pitt, and LSU certainly will be put to use, but when it comes to the actual play-calling during games I imagine it will be Fichtner communicating directly to the quarterback on the field. As for Ben Roethlisberger "getting along" with Canada, I cannot imagine it being an issue. Roethlisberger has participated in organized sports his entire life, and for someone like him being coached and being around a number of different coaches has become a way of life.

JOSEPH BURNS FROM SPRINGFIELD, IL: Aside from inexperience, in watching Devlin Hodges last season it seems his biggest weakness is arm strength. He struggles to throw long passes with authority. At his age, is it possible for a quarterback to increase arm strength, or is this as good as he'll get?

ANSWER: There might be some things that can be done to get a little more oomph on his throws, but for the most part what you saw from Devlin Hodges last year in terms of arm strength is what it's going to be. Consider arm strength similar to speed: it's possible it can be improved a bit, but a guy who runs a 4.8 in the 40-yard dash cannot be remade into a 4.3 guy.

GARY WHITAKER FROM COOLVILLE, OH: In recent drafts, the Steelers have taken Juju Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson. With that said do you see them taking another wide receiver in the fourth round of the draft?

ANSWER: I don't know about a specific round, but I do expect the Steelers to focus on offensive positions in the upcoming draft. And that would include adding a wide receiver at some point.

TYLER WENRICH FROM DENVER, PA: Do the Steelers gain any cap room from players like Sean Davis, Artie Burns, and Javon Hargrave leaving in free agency?

ANSWER: The only salary cap room gained by unrestricted free agents signing elsewhere comes from the original team not having to pay them anymore, but the real impact of UFAs leaving comes when compensatory draft picks are calculated.

BRIAN JONES FROM SHERWOOD, OH: How likely are the Steelers to try and trade for a first-round pick in the 2020 draft? They could really use help at the tight end position.

ANSWER: Any such move would require the Steelers to trade a future No. 1 pick, which they just did early in the 2019 regular season for a virtual sure-thing in Minkah Fitzpatrick, a move they hadn't executed in over 50 years. No chance, in my opinion, they trade another future No. 1 draft pick to make a first-round pick in the upcoming draft.

JC CHUTA FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, and Charlie Batch were an exceptional cast. Have Steelers ever had a better trio of quarterbacks on their depth chart?

ANSWER: I always have believed the best backup quarterbacks are the ones who never have to play, but the group you suggest certainly has pedigree. It's unusual for a team to carry three quarterbacks with starting NFL experience on its roster, and in the cases of Leftwich and Batch, both at one time were considered to be franchise quarterbacks by Jacksonville and Detroit, respectively. The issue that developed with Leftwich and Batch as they aged, however, is they became injury-prone to the degree they were unable to play when called upon. Frustration over the repeated injuries to both Batch and Leftwich is what convinced the Steelers to go the route of drafting and developing their own quarterbacks. Landry Jones was drafted with this in mind, as were Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph, as opposed to looking for them in free agency.

MYLES GARCIA FROM SAN JOSE, CA: With Ben Roethlisberger nearing the end of his career and Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges inconsistent, what quarterbacks have the Steelers targeted as a potential future solution?

ANSWER: That's not how it's done. How can a team identify a "potential future solution" when it doesn't know when its starting quarterback will retire and which players might be available in the corresponding NFL draft. If you think teams are scouting high school seniors or even college freshman or sophomores as potential picks a few years down the road, that's not happening. And besides it could end up being a gigantic waste of time because too many things can happen between now and then. Just use Tua Tagovailoa as an example. If a couple of years ago some NFL team was targeting him as its quarterback of the future, and then he has surgeries on both of his ankles and one of his hips, don't you think that could change things considerably? In the NFL, decisions are made when they have to be made, and the Steelers don't have to decide yet on who will start at quarterback after Ben Roethlisberger retires.

TYLER CARPENTER FROM UNION CITY, NJ: If Ben Roethlisberger is forced to retire, do you think there's a possibility that the Steelers could sign Tom Brady in the offseason?

ANSWER: No. No possibility. Not even with Rob Gronkowski as a package deal.

JASON NORTON FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA: I had liked Eli Rogers since the first time I saw him at training camp. So happy he is doing well in the XFL. Do you know how long he is under contract for, and if he plans on making a return to the Steelers?

ANSWER: That ship has sailed, and even Eli Rogers admitted that for all intents and purposes when he said goodbye and thanked the Steelers via social media some months ago.

THOMAS FUDENS FROM MIDDLE ISLAND, NY: How are the bye weeks determined, and why does the Steelers' bye week always seems to fall early in the season?

ANSWER: The bye weeks are determined for each team by the NFL schedule-makers, and while teams may request certain specifics regarding their schedule the league makes sure everyone knows there are no guarantees that those requests will be filled. There are no bye weeks scheduled for any team until Week 4 of the regular season, and no teams are scheduled for a bye after Week 12 of the regular season. Your contention that the "Steelers' bye week always seems to fall early in the season" is incorrect. Starting with the 2019 season and moving backward, here are the dates of the Steelers' bye for the previous 10 years: Oct. 20, Oct. 21, Nov. 5, Oct. 30, Nov. 22, Nov. 23, Oct. 6, Sept. 30, Nov. 30, and Oct. 10.

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