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Asked and Answered: Aug. 29

Posted Aug 29, 2017

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

Let’s get to it:

CARLOS  RULL FROM MINNEAPOLIS, MN:
Will Ross Cockrell be the starting cornerback opposite Artie Burns on opening day?

ANSWER: In his news conference in advance of the preseason game against Indianapolis, Coach Mike Tomlin opened the possibility of a “two dogs, one bone” situation at right cornerback between Ross Cockrell and Coty Sensabaugh, so that bears watching. There also was some hope that rookie Cam Sutton would be in the mix there as well, but the amount of time he missed during training camp and the first half of the preseason likely has removed him from the equation, at least in terms of the opener.

BILL JANUS FROM HAINESPORT, NJ:
Do you think the Steelers will keep seven cornerbacks? Also do you think Will Gay could play safety in some different defensive schemes?

ANSWER: I think keeping six cornerbacks would be the maximum, and if that’s the case there will have to be someone among those six who can line up as a safety in certain situations. Will Gay would appear to be a good candidate for that.

ANDY  SCHERBIK FROM DELRAN, NJ:
I was telling a friend of mine that in the 1970s, the Super Bowl champions would play an exhibition game against a team of college all-stars. My friend doesn't remember these games. Can you provide us with details?

ANSWER: The following information was taken from Wikipedia: “The Chicago Charities College All-Star Game was a preseason American football game played from 1934 to 1976 between the National Football League champions and a team of star college seniors from the previous year. It was also known as the College All-Star Football Classic.

“The game was the idea of Arch Ward, the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune and the driving force behind baseball's All-Star Game. The game originally was a benefit for Chicago-area charities and was always played at Soldier Field, with the exception of two years during World War II (1943 and 1944) when it was held at Northwestern University's Dyche Stadium in Evanston, Il.

“The inaugural game in 1934, played before a crowd of 79,432 on Aug. 31, was a scoreless tie between the all-stars and the Chicago Bears. The following year, in a game that included University of Michigan graduate and future president Gerald Ford, the Bears won, 5–0. The first all-star team to win was the 1937 squad, coached by Gus Dorais, which won, 6–0, over Curly Lambeau's Green Bay Packers. The only score came on a 47-yard touchdown pass from future Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh to Gaynell Tinsley. Baugh's Washington Redskins lost to the All-Stars the next year, but he did not play due to injury.

“In the 1940s, the games were competitive affairs that attracted large crowds to Soldier Field. The college all-stars had the benefit of being fully integrated, since the NFL's league-wide color barrier did not apply to the squad. As such, black players such as Kenny Washington (who played in the 1940 contest) were allowed to play in the game. As the talent level of pro football improved (and the NFL itself integrated), the pros came to dominate the series. The all-stars last won consecutive games in 1946 and 1947 but won just four of the final 29 games. The Philadelphia Eagles fell in 1950, the Cleveland Browns in 1955, and the Detroit Lions in 1958. The last all-star win came in 1963, when a college team coached by legendary quarterback Otto Graham beat Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, 20–17.

“By the 1970s, enthusiasm for the game started to erode. Additionally, NFL coaches had become increasingly reluctant to let their new draftees play in the exhibition. Not only would they miss part of training camp, but the draftees would have been at considerable risk for injury (as early as 1949, these concerns had been raised, after Dick Rifenburg suffered a career-ending injury practicing for the game, effectively ending his professional career before it began and prompting Rifenburg's move into broadcasting). A player's strike forced the cancellation of the 1974 game; although the league went forward with the rest of its preseason, they needed access to as many rookies as possible for replacement players (both to replace the striking veterans and the players who defected to the World Football League) and could not spare any for the college all-stars.

“The finale took place in 1976 during a downpour at Soldier Field on July 23. Despite featuring stars such as Chuck Muncie, Mike Pruitt, Lee Roy Selmon, and Jackie Slater, the all-stars were hopelessly outmatched by the Pittsburgh Steelers, winners of Super Bowl X. The star quarterback for the College All-Stars was Steelers draft pick Mike Kruczek, out of Boston College.

“Late in the third quarter, with the Steelers leading, 24–0, high winds prompted all-star coach Ara Parseghian to call timeout. Fans began pouring out onto the field and sliding on the turf. With the rain getting harder, the officials ordered both teams to their locker rooms. All attempts to clear the field failed; the fans even tore down the goalposts. However, by this time the rain had become so heavy that the field would have been unplayable even if order had been restored.

“Finally, at 11:01 p.m. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and the Tribune announced that the game had been called. The news was greeted with jeers, and numerous brawls broke out on the flooded field before order was finally restored. Chicago Tribune Charities had every intention of staging a 1977 game. However, with coaches increasingly unwilling to let their high draft picks play and insurance costs on the rise due to higher player salaries, the Tribune announced on Dec. 21, 1976, that the game would be discontinued.

“In the 42 College All-Star Games, the defending pro champions won 31, the All-Stars won nine, and two were ties, giving the collegians a .238 winning percentage.”

As for the Steelers’ participation, they won both times they appeared in the game – by 21-14 in 1975, and by 24-0 in 1976. In each of those seasons, because of the College All-Star Game, the Steelers played seven preseason games during years in which there were only 14 regular season games.

JIM STRACK FROM BLOOMINGDALE, NY:
With Le’Veon Bell sitting out all this time, how long do you think it will take him to be at full tilt for the season? Will James Conner end up being the starter for the first game.

ANSWER: I have no idea how long it will take, but barring injury I see no realistic scenario in which Le’Veon Bell is not the starter against the Browns in Cleveland on Sept. 10.

BILL DOWDELL FROM COCOA BEACH, FL:
Do our personnel issues in the secondary warrant remaining patient with Senquez Golson to see if he can be part of the mix in the secondary?

ANSWER: Patience has a limit, and when it comes to NFL standards I believe three years is pushing it. Senquez Golson has practice squad eligibility and could theoretically develop that way, but can he stay healthy enough to practice even? It has been said often that a player’s best ability is availability, and Golson hasn’t shown any of that since he was drafted. It’s not his fault, but it is his reality.

DENNIS LONGAZEL FROM BOCA RATON, FL:
My brother and I were told by the Pro Football Hall of Fame that we could nominate a player for induction by writing a letter to them. All true Steelers fans should now start to bombard the Hall of Fame with letters nominating the great Donnie Shell. He deserves to be a member with his 51 interceptions and strong moral character.

ANSWER: That is correct. Fans are able to nominate players, coaches, and contributors to be considered for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and while I’m not trying to discourage your campaign, you also should understand that those letters and the number of them sent have no impact with the Board of Selectors, and those are the people who do the actual voting for election.

ALEX SUSHIK FROM KENT, WA:
Do you think it would be smarter to trade James Connor and a wide receiver like Sammie Coates or Justin hunter for a cornerback like Trumaine Johnson or someone else who's good?

ANSWER: I can guarantee you that no team that has a “good cornerback” is going to trade him for a rookie running back and a backup wide receiver.

JARED QUINN FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
The Steelers are (in my opinion) going to make some tough cuts at wide receiver. Are there talks about possibly making another trade involving one of the receivers, maybe to a team like the Jets? I'd expect more secondary help, but lower-round picks also could be expected if a trade was in the works. I see Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Eli Rogers as locks to stay. There are six others currently still on the roster. Who is most tradable of the rest?

ANSWER: You mention the Jets as a possible trading partner, and one thing to be considered is waiver priority. At this stage of the NFL calendar, waiver priority is determined by the teams’ 2016 records. Based on that, the Jets are No. 6 in waiver priority, which means only five teams – Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago, Jacksonville, and the Rams – would have priority over the Jets when claiming a waived player. I’m certain the Steelers will be exploring this alternative, but it’s not easy to pull off trades when everybody knows guys are going to be cut and therefore available to be claimed.

Based on your list, and I emphasize that it’s your list, the wide receiver with the most trade value is Sammie Coates, but I’m not trading him for a low-round draft pick.

JORDAN FERRINGER FROM ERIE, PA:
Looking at the upcoming preseason games I noticed the Steelers play the Panthers on Aug. 31.  Talking with my friend who’s a Panthers fan, we realized the Steelers have played Carolina every preseason for the last 10-15 years. Is this something the two teams have decided to do for fun, or is it up to the league?  Either way why would they do this?

ANSWER: Preseason schedules are set up by the league, but teams do have the ability to find a “partner team,” and provided there is agreement those teams can play each other each preseason on a rotating home-and-home basis. The Steelers chose to partner with the Panthers for several reasons. They’re in opposite conferences, which means they only play in the regular season once every four years, and then never in the playoffs until the Super Bowl; the trip from Pittsburgh to Charlotte is an easy one by air; and Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson became a close friend of Dan Rooney as soon as Carolina was awarded the franchise.

The Panther’s inaugural season in the NFL was in 1995, and the Steelers and Panthers have played each other in every preseason, except 1995, 1996, 2001, and 2002.

WAYNE WALAT FROM STAFFORD, VA:
A couple of times now I have noticed that you left Mel Blount's No. 47 off your list of uncirculated numbers. Who has worn No. 47 since him?

ANSWER: Since Mel Blount retired after the 1983 season, No. 47 has been worn by Steve Morse, Cameron Riley, Bruce Jones, Scott Shields, and most recently, Ron Stanley in 2006.

KELLIN KRETZSCHMER FROM OWENDALE, MI:
Do you know if there was a Chuck Noll (CHN) patch made? Like the decal the Steelers had on their helmets a couple years ago.

ANSWER: NFL rules only allow for teams to wear a decal on the uniform as a tribute to ownership. For players and coaches, the tribute on a uniform is limited to a decal. As a result, there were no Chuck Noll patches.

DAVE O'BRIEN FROM ERIE, PA:
If you were able to add one present day player from any team to the roster, without worrying about salary cap issues, who would it be?

ANSWER: Tom Brady. And then I would make him inactive every week, which certainly would render games against the Patriots less daunting.




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