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Asked and Answered: April 20

Posted Apr 20, 2017

Another installment of Bob Labriola answering your questions about the Steelers and the NFL.

Let’s get to it:

AARON VANNATTER FROM LOGAN, WV:
We re-signed Ross Cockrell, but some of the fans I’ve talked to don’t like the signing. I thought he played well and is a strong No. 2 cornerback and will only get better at 24 years old. Was it a good signing?

ANSWER: The Steelers gambled with Ross Cockrell when they offered him an original-round tender as a restricted free agent. The original-round tender meant that if Cockrell had presented the Steelers with a signed offer sheet from another team, the Steelers would have had the right to match the offer or receive a fourth-round draft pick – which is how Cockrell originally entered the NFL with Buffalo – as compensation. For a team with so few cornerbacks, that move was seen as something of a gamble by the Steelers, but the gamble recently paid off when Cockrell signed the tender, which means he is under contract here for the 2017 season at around $1.8 million. It’s very likely the Steelers will look to upgrade their talent at cornerback during next week’s draft, but having Cockrell for at least one more season – and at a reasonable salary – is good news.

CARL HERBERT FROM BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM:
If a player is extended an offer sheet, is the team obliged to keep that player or can he then still be cut at training camp? Obviously I understand the impact on salary cap, etc., but my thinking is, what would stop a team from signing someone to prevent a division rival from signing him, and then that team could cut him when the other team’s roster is full. I appreciate that this may be a dumb question, but in my eyes NFL contracts are more complicated than understanding women.

ANSWER: There is nothing in the rules that would prevent the machinations you describe, but my experience is that teams don’t operate that way. In the NFL, it’s much more about building your own roster into the most talented and diverse group it can be, as opposed to wasting your own roster spots trying to sabotage another team.

DONALD GRAHAM FROM TAMPA, FL:
Dan Rooney will always hold a very special place in my heart. Back in 1996, I lost my only son to a tragic auto accident. My son was an avid Steelers' fan as I am. I thought it would be a nice gesture to have a Steelers' logo put on his brass headstone plate. The plate maker said the only way he could do that was if the Steelers gave me permission. So I wrote a letter to Dan Rooney and asked for his permission. He wrote a most wonderful letter back to me expressing his condolences for my loss and gave me his permission. I have never forgotten that wonderful gesture. Please pass along my sincere condolences to his family and let them know Dan will always hold a special place in my heart.

DONN SCOTT FROM POMPANO BEACH, FL:
There is a lot of debate about the moniker, America's Team. What is the real truth? Some say that the name was originally offered to the Steelers and Art Rooney Sr. Can you offer any clarification on the matter?

ANSWER: The moniker, America’s Team, was the brainchild of NFL Films in the late 1970s, and the Steelers were approached first with the idea that it would be the title of their annual highlights film. But Art Rooney Sr. decided that the Steelers weren’t America’s Team, but instead the Steelers were Pittsburgh’s team. His response to NFL Films was in keeping with what happened in the days immediately following Super Bowl IX, which marked the first championship in franchise history. Walking through the lobby of the team’s offices inside Three Rivers Stadium, Art Rooney Sr. overheard the receptionist answering the telephone with, “World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.” She was instructed to stop that, and the Steelers never have publicized their own success in such ways ever since.

RICK REGAN FROM ANDALE, KS:
Does B.J. Finney have a long-term contract, and if not do you think the team will keep him?

ANSWER: B.J. Finney does not have a long-term contract, because he entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie, but I also believe Finney has improved to the degree where he will enter this training camp as the No. 1 backup in the interior of the offensive line. The No. 1 backup in the interior of the offensive line can be assured of a spot on the 53-man roster as well as a helmet on game day. Finney still has to work to make the team, but as of today the job is his to lose.

JIM REICH FROM YARDLEY, PA:
I never met Dan Rooney. However, I have been a Steelers fan since about 1946 when I would listen to Joe Tucker doing the play-by-play of their games on the radio. My early years as a fan were pure torture as the Steelers were perennial losers. It was easy to become a cynic in those days. In 1969, one of Dan Rooney’s first moves was hiring Chuck Noll. I attended the Dapper Dan dinner shortly after the hire and Joe Gordon, an old friend, was introducing Chuck Noll around the room. Chuck Noll, I thought, another bum in the line of Joe Bach, Walt Kiesling, and Bill Austin. Then, Noll's first draft choice was a guy named Joe Greene from North Texas State, a guy and a school I never heard of. Another bum, I thought, in the line of Dick Leftridge and other first-round busts. It just goes to show how wrong a guy like me can be.

DANIEL TOKAR JR. FROM OAK HARBOR, OH:
As a Michigan fan, which player in the draft would you take if available at 30: Jabrill Peppers, Taco Charlton, or Jake Butts?

ANSWER: Jake Butts is a tight end, and I don’t care if you know all of the words to “Hail to the Victors” backwards, there is no rational person who ever could advocate for the Steelers picking a tight end in the first round. Of the other two – Taco Charlton or Jabrill Peppers – I’m going with the pass rusher.

CHRIS GALISZEWSKI FROM HICKORY, NC:
I had the privilege of covering Steelers training camp one summer while interning with 93.7 The Fan. Naturally, Mr. Rooney was there a lot, which was cool enough in its own right just to be in his presence. However, on one occasion while I was on the sidelines at Saint Vincent, I noticed a man walking toward me out of the corner of my eye. I didn't think anything of it at first, but as he got closer I looked up and saw it was Mr. Rooney. I thought to myself, no way is he coming over to talk to me, but there was nobody else around. Low and behold, not only did he want to talk to me, but he knew my name. I've met several professional athletes, and during my internship had conversations with guys like Andrew McCutchen, Jason Grilli, James Harrison, Heath Miller, and others, but nothing prepared me for meeting Mr. Rooney. He thanked me for being there and supporting the Steelers (even though I was working), and we chatted about the Steelers and my future plans. Here's a guy who didn't have to care about some twentysomething intern. He could have just kept walking and gone about his daily business, or talked to someone more important. I will never forget that moment. Thank you for allowing me to share this encounter with one of the greatest men I have ever had the pleasure to speak with.

AL DOWNEY JR. FROM KNOXVILLE, IA:
I’ve been a Steelers fan for over 40 years, and to my fellow fans: Please STOP talking about drafting a tight end. On another matter, it's a risk taking an injured player, but how do you feel about cornerback Sydney Jones, who is certain he will play this year?

ANSWER: There might be a time during the draft when picking Sidney Jones would be a gamble worth taking, but an Achilles injury is never a minor thing, especially for a player who plays a position where speed and quickness and change of direction are so important. If my medical people signed off on Jones’ progress, I would consider it.

MICHAEL RICKLEY FROM BRUNSWICK, MD:
My condolences to the team on the passing of Dan Rooney. Did he ever pass along to you any words of wisdom that you apply to your day to day life that you would care to share with us fans?

ANSWER: When I was first hired to be the editor of Steelers Digest, Dan Rooney told me, “When we stink, you have to tell the truth, so that when we tell people we’re good, they’ll believe us.”

KYLE DOOLITTLE FROM GRENADA, MS:
Do you think there is a viable long term quarterback for us on an NFL roster somewhere, or do you think our future is definitely in the draft?

ANSWER: Look around the league at the recent franchise quarterbacks, and there are only two who come to mind – Brett Favre and Drew Brees – who weren’t drafted by the teams they came to lead. And please don’t try to give me the Eli Manning-Phillip Rivers situation, because those guys were swapped before the draft even ended. The future at quarterback is almost always in the draft.

ROBERT ZOTZ FROM ARMSTRONG, IA:
This pains me to say because I totally believe in the Steelers draft philosophy/mentality. However, what if we broke the norm/tradition and traded our back-end picks to get one higher pick. One would think this higher pick has a better chance to be an impact player next year than later round picks, so this approach is more likely to yield a starter. I know this is a terrible long-term strategy, but we could be looking at a short window with our elite franchise quarterback so let's gets aggressive for one year and get quality over quantity. Yes, Antonio Brown was a sixth-round pick, but that was like winning the lottery.

ANSWER: Two major problems with this “strategy:” The first is that what team would be stupid enough to trade a premium pick for a bunch of back-end picks? And how did this very strategy work out for Mike Ditka when as the coach of the New Orleans Saints he his entire draft for a single No. 1 pick that he then used on Ricky Williams? It’s neither a good idea, nor is it a realistic one.

PAUL DONEN FROM DEERFIELD BEACH, FL:
Putting a positive spin on the situation, let’s assume Martavis Bryant is reinstated. This would change the number of snaps for Sammie Coates. Thus the question: does Coates have the size and strength to be converted to a tight end?

ANSWER: I thought we were moving Sammie Coates to cornerback. Can you people please make up your mind.

ETHAN VOLK FROM FRANKTON, IN:
How did you even get this Asked and Answered job?

ANSWER: At the time, it seemed like a better alternative than serving my sentence on a chain gang.




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