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Asked and Answered: June 13

Posted Jun 13, 2017

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

Let’s get to it:

KEITH  CLARK FROM BROOKLYN, NY:
They say the reason that the 1985 Bears did not repeat as champions is because defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan left to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. After the 1977 season, defensive coordinator Bud Carson left Pittsburgh for the same position with the Los Angeles Rams. The Steelers won back-to-back Super Bowls for a second time in 1978-79. Is it more about the coaches or the players in a situation like that?

ANSWER: In my opinion, it’s all about the head coach when it comes to a team being able to go back-to-back in professional sports. Chuck Noll was extremely adept in getting the message across to his players that winning a championship in one season meant nothing when it came to the following season. This quality of his, this ability to re-focus a group on the task at hand instead of allowing the people within that group to rest on their laurels, was put on display for the first time after the Steelers won Super Bowl IX to cap the 1974 NFL season.

A couple of months after bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Pittsburgh, Noll said, “This offseason has been pretty much the same as all the others. I’m not a big savorer. It was doing what we did that was the enjoyable part, not looking back on it afterward. Well, we had the best team in the playoffs last year. Now we want to have the best team in the regular season … to take care of the detractors.”

And Noll kept the message consistent through all phases of the process of getting the 1975 Steelers ready for the challenges of the upcoming season: “Intensity is the thing that set us apart from everybody else last year. We haven’t had it yet. We’ve been working on it, but it still hasn’t come. The problem is it has to come from everyone … from all 43 of the players at once. A lot of guys have been playing great … obviously what we’re talking about doesn’t apply to everybody. But everybody has to be of one single mind. We’re not. It’s just that simple.”

Back in those days, the defending champions of the NFL opened the following preseason with a game against a team made up of college all-stars, and while the Steelers largely dominated play – the all-stars rushed 18 times for 19 yards, with Walter Payton having 15 on 7 carries – an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown by Virgil Livers gave them a 14-7 lead.

“(Noll) reminded us at halftime that we were Super Bowl champions LAST year, and that this is a new season,” said Jack Ham after the Steelers came back to win, 21-14.

Noll’s assessment after that game was: “It was a good learning situation. The lesson is that you have to get ready against everybody, or you’ll get the hell kicked out of you. At least it was a good learning situation, because we got the hell kicked out of us and still won.”

And that was the first of seven preseason games the Steelers would play that summer, but Noll viewed it as significant in order to send a message to his team. This re-focusing started even earlier after the Steelers won Super Bowl XIII over the Cowboys to put themselves into a spot of being able to go back-to-back on two separate occasions.

In the locker room following that 35-31 victory that made the Steelers the first franchise to win three Super Bowls, Noll famously said, “I don’t know if we’ve peaked yet.” Upon hearing what his coach said, Jack Ham cracked, “I thought we were coming in for practice on Tuesday.”

ROBERT HENLEY FROM NEW CASTLE, PA:
Where is the Dave & Buster’s located that the Steelers recently attended.

ANSWER: It’s located in The Waterfront shopping center. The address is: 180 E. Waterfront Dr., Homestead, Pa., 15120.

AL  VIGEANT FROM NEWPORT, VT:
With the Steelers going 3-for-9 on two-point conversion attempts last year, do you think it would be best to be less aggressive depending on the score?

ANSWER: With Martavis Bryant back, and the Steelers potentially being able – barring injury – to deploy Bryant, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, plus two more players from a group including Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, and JuJu Smith-Schuster as options for Ben Roethlisberger, I would strongly consider being more aggressive.

TED VON FROM WAXHAW, NC:
My question is about game day in the season.  My son and I will be making a trip to see the Oct. 8 game, which is a 1 p.m. kickoff vs. Jacksonville.  When should we plan to get to Heinz Field to get the full pregame experience, plus of course, the game?

ANSWER: The Heinz Field parking lots open five hours before kickoff, and typically there are dedicated tailgaters in line waiting to get in for their preferred spots in the lot. The Steelers also have a promotion, called 1st-IN-GOAL, that rewards fans who arrive early on game days with free prizes and giveaways. The first 25,000 fans to enter Heinz Field each game will receive a scratch-off card revealing a prize. Hopefully that is helpful for you in planning your day.

JOHNNY NASMITH FROM DENVER, CO:
In last week's “Labriola on” you wrote, "Chad Brown, who would post 13 sacks and two interceptions during his only season at the position in Pittsburgh … " Was Brown an unrestricted free agent, and that's why he only had the one season with the Steelers?

ANSWER: No, as stated in the article, Chad Brown was the Steelers’ No. 2 pick in the 1993 draft. He played inside linebacker in 1993, 1994, and 1995 when the outside linebackers were Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd. Greene was replaced by Jason Gildon in 1996, and Brown also was at inside linebacker for the start of the that season, but when Lloyd tore a patellar tendon in the opener, Brown was moved to outside linebacker for the first time in the NFL and he responded with 13 sacks. Brown then left after the 1996 season as an unrestricted free agent and signed with Seattle.

GARY BAINES FROM HENAGAR, AL:
I live in Alabama and want to bring my wife to see the Steelers practice at training camp. What are the dates and times when practices are open in Latrobe?

ANSWER: If you go to Google and enter “Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 training camp schedule” the first like is to a story on Steelers.com that will provide you with all of the information you need.

DOUGLAS KELLAR FROM WARREN, OH:
OK, the way I understand it is that rosters are made up of 90 players until the third week of the preseason. So how will players’ jersey numbers go?

ANSWER: Actually, based on a rule change instituted recently, rosters will stay at 90 players through the conclusion of the fourth preseason game. If you check the numerical roster on Steelers.com, you will notice the team has issued a bunch of double numbers, meaning two players – one on offense and one on defense – wear the same number. That will be the case through the entire preseason from now on.

MIKE  FOSTER FROM EWA BEACH, HI:
Please encourage fans to go to the Friday Night Lights practices. Also, please encourage them to become Steelers Nation Unite members. In 2007 my wife and I spent part of our honeymoon attending training camp but missed Friday Night Lights. In 2008 I drove from Norfolk, Va., to Latrobe and got to meet/get autographs from Aaron Smith and LaMarr Woodley at the Friday Night Lights practice, so the drive is definitely worth it. In 2015, thanks to being a Steelers Nation Unite member, I got to meet/get autographs from Heath Miller, Steve McLendon, and Mike Tomlin. If my wife would allow it, I would go every year.

ANSWER: And my wife would be tickled to house-sit for you while you’re there.

JIM GLUNT FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
No question, just wanted to compliment your work. Enjoy your columns and spots on Steelers.com, and I learn from your insights. Also, I laugh at your sarcasm. Thank you.

ANSWER: You’re welcome.

BILL ROSENBERGER FROM CARROLLTON, OH:
The other day you were asked about the Titans being named after the state instead of a city.  You mentioned the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots. Don't forget the Minnesota Vikings and the Arizona Cardinals.  Some people should think before they speak.  I don't know how you stay sane during your imposed sentence.  Thanks for Asked and Answered. It sure helps us fans get through a long offseason.

ANSWER: I have found that speaking before thinking is a disease that afflicts many people. Starting with me.




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