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Asked and Answered: Feb. 18

Posted Feb 18, 2016

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

Let’s get to it:

RICARDO DE LA PARRA FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO:
Thank you so much for this segment. You really crack me up and do a great job of keeping everybody on their toes with your sarcasm. With the NFL returning to Mexico, would the Steelers be open to playing a game here? I've been a fan my whole life and sadly never been able to watch a live game except a preseason game several years ago. I know some of the players come to Mexico every summer to do a minicamp for fans, so you already know there is a chapter of Steelers Nation south of the border.

ANSWER: When asked in late January about the possibility of playing a game in Mexico, Steelers President Art Rooney II said, “We are interested. Mexico is an area where we have a tremendous fan following, so we would love to get back down there and play a game sometime. I know the league is investigating the possibility of doing that. I haven’t heard recently how much progress they have made in really identifying a stadium that would work for us. I think that’s coming in the next few years, and hopefully we will be one of the teams that gets chosen to go down there.”

STANLEY PADGETT FROM GREENBELT, MD:
I want to know your thoughts of maybe moving Ryan Shazier to ROLB. Shazier is near the same size as the great Lawrence Taylor was, and we all know the speed the man had and how great he became as an OLB in the NFL. Taylor was 6-foot-3 237 pounds, and Shazier is 6-1, 237. Shazier is possibly the fastest linebacker currently in the NFL. Wouldn't Shazier make a great edge setter utilizing that speed as a pass rusher as Taylor did? Jarvis Jones so far has not worked out and is not worth the price tag for his fifth year option, so why not look within to fill his role and draft another inside linebacker? I have heard so many people suggest moving Shazier to safety, but that to me is just stupid. I think Shazier would be better off as an outside linebacker.

ANSWER: Back in the early-to-mid 1970s, middle linebackers in the NFL weighed in the neighborhood of 250 pounds – Dick Butkus was 6-3, 245, and Ray Nitschke was 6-3, 235 – and they were primarily run-stuffers. Then along came Jack Lambert, 6-4 and while listed at 220 pounds mostly started seasons at 215. Good thing you weren’t in charge back then, because Lambert was too small and would’ve been moved to another position, or not played in favor of another player who better fit into the box of your mind. On that same team, there was an outside linebacker named Jack Ham, and while a very capable player in his own right, what made Ham special and allowed him to revolutionize his position, were his abilities in pass coverage. No teams utilized outside linebackers in coverage against wide receivers, but Ham was capable and the Steelers incorporated that into their defense. At 6-3, Mel Blount was supposedly too tall to play cornerback. Your line of thinking gets him moved to another position. Then came the 1990s, and the Steelers’ center was a guy named Dermontti Dawson, an unparalleled athlete for the position at the time. Dawson was so quick and nimble that he was capable of pulling out from the middle of the line of scrimmage and getting in front of a running back to lead him around to the outside. But centers didn’t pull, and so Coach Padgett moves him to guard, because in his narrow vision of the sport it’s guards who pull.

Stop it. Stop trying to make something fit into what your concept of it happens to be at the exclusion of all other possibilities. I’m not predicting a transcendent, Hall of Fame career for Ryan Shazier, but how about giving it more than 15 minutes to allow him to develop and become accustomed to the sport as it’s played at the NFL level? Shazier won’t be 24 years old until early September, which means he still can develop physically as well as in the above-the-neck aspects of the game. Patience. Please.

MICHAEL SIMON FROM CANONSBURG, PA:
Just a comment, or as you like to say, “let’s get to it.” I have been a Steelers fan since the losing days. I remember the hiring of The Emperor (Chuck Noll) and the drafting of The Franchise (Joe Greene). And during all this time, my two favorite – and in my mind the most knowledgeable Steelers media people – were Myron Cope and you. I enjoy your sarcasm that’s directed at the multitude of uninformed people, and let me say it makes my day. Thanks for a great job.

ANSWER: Putting me in the same category as Myron Cope is humbling and a true honor. I mean that sincerely. Most fans remember Myron as a broadcaster and as the color analyst on the Steelers radio broadcasts who invented the Terrible Towel. But Myron Cope was one of the great freelance writers of his era. In 1963, he won the E.P. Dutton Prize for "Best Magazine Sportswriting in the Nation" for his portrayal of Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay. In 1987, on the occasion of the Hearst Corp.'s 100th anniversary, Cope was named as a noted literary achiever, a status also bestowed upon Mark Twain, Jack London, Frederick Remington, Walter Winchell and Sidney Sheldon. On the original full-time staff of Sports Illustrated, Myron was recognized by the magazine, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, for his profile of Howard Cosell as one of its 50 all-time classic articles. Only Myron and George Plimpton ever held the title of special contributor at that magazine. I’m proud of my abilities as a writer, but I couldn’t carry Myron Cope’s typewriter.

JOE NEILL FROM PARIS, FRANCE:
During contract negotiations, how much influence does a player have on his agent if he wants to stay with the Steelers and is willing to take less money? Is the agent only concerned with the amount of money or the total package?

ANSWER: Technically, the agent works for the player, even though it doesn’t always seem that way based on how negotiations proceed and then end up. A reality of this part of the business is that agents often use their existing clients to help them recruit new clients. Because of that, the agent wants the players he’s recruiting as future clients see him get big dollars for his current ones in the hope that influences them to sign on with him. Sometimes, agents don’t really have their current clients’ best interests in mind during the negotiating process, and too often, players don’t understand that they’re the ones who really are calling the shots.

STEVEN GILMORE FROM GAINESVILLE, VA:
Please help settle a disagreement between my brother and me. During the Immaculate Reception game, we sat in Section 636 at Three Rivers Stadium. Did Franco Harris run towards our end zone or away from us? I was only 9 years old that day.

ANSWER: If you indeed were in Section 636 at Three Rivers Stadium that day, then Franco Harris ran toward you.

JEFF BUSCH FROM FAIRFAX, VA:
In several 2015 mock drafts, it appeared the Steelers were one of the only teams eyeing a first-round cornerback and that Marcus Peters was going to be their guy. Three cornerbacks in the first 18 picks later, the Steelers had to look elsewhere. Is it time for the Steelers to move up in the draft to grab a top cornerback?

ANSWER: It amuses me when fans write, “Is it time for the Steelers to move up,” in a draft as if it’s their choice alone. When it comes to making a trade, it takes at least two to tango. In fact, in last year’s draft, the Steelers were trying to trade up in the first round to pick a cornerback, but the player they had targeted was Trae Waynes of Michigan State, but the Minnesota Vikings picked him before the Steelers could find a trading partner. Then in the second round, the Steelers also were trying to trade up for a cornerback, and this time their target was Jalen Collins of LSU. A deal couldn’t be worked out in that situation, either. Just because it didn’t happen, don’t think the Steelers weren’t interested in trying to make it happen.

DAVID BOLOCK FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
It is clear nobody wants to watch the Pro Bowl in its current format.  How about the NFL picks the team as they do now, but the game is played by the cheerleaders of the losers of the NFC and AFC title games (New England vs. Arizona this year).  For teams without cheerleaders, they could pick a team from their female fans. I believe viewership would go way up.

ANSWER: I would say I’d pass that along to Roger Goodell, but I don’t want any of the credit. You deserve every morsel for that gem.

COLE KEMP FROM TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA:
What's the stupidest question someone has ever asked you?

ANSWER: This one. Sometimes, it’s just too easy.


Asked and Answered Archive