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Asked and Answered: May 16

Posted May 16, 2017

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

Let’s get to it:

CORRECTION: In a previous Asked and Answered, a reader submitted a question regarding whether any other NFL team had three successive coaches all win at least one Super Bowl, as the Steelers had with Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin. My answer of “no” was incorrect, as so many readers subsequently pointed out to me. Dallas, with Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson, and Barry Switzer also employed three successive coaches who all won at least one Super Bowl. Sorry for the mistake. My bad.

ELIZABETH WILLIAMS FROM FLINTSTONE, MD:
Thank you for Asked and Answered. I have learned so much, and I always have a smile, if not a giggle, as I read. What I am writing about is a favor. If you see Cam Heyward, would you thank him for sharing his birthday with us? So uplifting and so needed.

ANSWER: Your submission is in reference to May 6, when Cam Heyward celebrated his 28th birthday by hosting the Heyward House Birthday Bash. It started with him taking 12 kids from the LaRosa Boys & Girls Club shopping, where each child got a new pair of shoes. After that, Heyward invited children from KidsVoice, which is an agency that represents abused and neglected children living in foster homes or group homes, to join him and some teammates at a Pittsburgh area Dave & Busters.

“This is our favorite event of the year,” Scott Hollander, Executive Director of KidsVoice, told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “For Cam to take his birthday and turn it around and throw a party for our clients is special. We try to pick kids who don’t have parents in their lives, don’t celebrate their birthdays. For them to come out here and do this and celebrate their birthday with Cam and his teammates is special. They tell us they can’t wait to tell their friends at school the next day. That’s something they don’t get to say often.”

So instead of me relaying your thanks, I hope this serves as a better way to do that. I’m sure he would rather hear it from you, anyway.

CHRIS FITCH FROM FORT WORTH, TX:
What year does Troy Polamalu become eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? In my opinion, Troy is the second best defensive player in Steelers history behind Joe Greene.

ANSWER: Troy Polamalu will be eligible to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2020, and the voting for that will begin in 2019, with the final decision made by the Hall of Fame Board of Selectors on the day before Super Bowl LIV. Polamalu was a great player, certainly a Hall of Fame-caliber player, but my opinion is that you’re overlooking some other great Steelers defensive players – Jack Ham, Mel Blount, and Jack Lambert in particular – maybe because you’re too young to remember how transformative they were as players. Blount forced rules to be changed; Ham finished with the same number of interceptions as Polamalu (32), and he was an outside linebacker; and Lambert did things in coverage that no middle linebacker in NFL history had ever done, and he finished with 28 interceptions.

Again, Polamalu is a great player, but please don’t forget or minimize the contributions made by Jack Ham, Mel Blount, and Jack Lambert. They all were first-ballot Hall of Famers, and that’s something Troy Polamalu has yet to achieve.

TIM GAYDOSH FROM MOUNT AIRY, MD:
One of the things you usually hear about after the draft is players who aren't allowed to participate in team activities because exams aren't finished or classes aren't over yet or something like that. I haven't heard that about any of our draft picks this year. Are they all able to participate in all activities?

ANSWER: Yes. To explain, there is a rule prohibiting rookies – either drafted or undrafted – from participating in NFL workouts/practices/minicamps – until their school has held its graduation ceremony. None of the Steelers rookies attended a college that fell into that category. The only one who came close was Joshua Dobbs, but he accepted his diploma at Tennessee during ceremonies on Thursday, May 11 and then traveled to Pittsburgh that night to participate in rookie minicamp, which began on Friday, May 12 at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

KERI LAUNIUS FROM LEAGUE CITY, TX:
What are the dates for the upcoming OTAs, and are they open to the public?

ANSWER: The Steelers’ 10 OTAs are scheduled for May 23-24-25, May 30-31-June 1, and then June 5-6-7-8. OTAs are not open to the public.

PETE FERRARI FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
Are the stadiums in Cincinnati and Cleveland close enough that the Steelers drive up there on game day, or do they stay overnight?

ANSWER: There is an NFL rule requiring visiting teams to be on site the day before any scheduled game. There have been exceptions granted by the league for weather emergencies, but outside of that teams cannot travel to an away game on the date the game is to be played, regardless of kickoff time. The Steelers travel to Cleveland by bus, and they travel by plane everywhere else.

GENT RIVER FROM FT. MCCOY, FL:
When the Steelers draft a player, how do they rank or determine the order of which player(s) they want to sign first? I've noticed that the first three picks haven't been signed yet, but the last three have.

ANSWER: My experience is that contracts get done when they are able to get done. In the case of draft picks, the later-round contracts are typically more straightforward, and therefore easier. But because of the new CBA, there is rarely such a thing as a rookie holdout, because rookies can participate in the entire offseason program without a signed contract. It’s only when training camp arrives do all players have to have a signed contract to participate.

DALTON SNOOK FROM MOUNT UNION, PA:
Why do you think the Steelers passed up cornerback Jourdan Lewis from Michigan in the second round and picked JuJu Smith-Schuster instead?

ANSWER: I have no specific knowledge, but the obvious answer is that the Steelers had JuJu Smith-Schuster rated higher overall on their draft board than they had Jourdan Lewis. In an attempt to read the tea leaves, what I would surmise is that they saw Lewis as a slot cornerback who had a character issue. According to Pro Football Talk, “Lewis is facing a July trial on a domestic violence charge stemming from a March incident in Ann Arbor. Lewis is accused of dragging his girlfriend across a room by the neck and holding her down on the floor during an argument and has been charged with a misdemeanor. Lewis pled not guilty and said he was confident that the matter will be resolved in his favor.” And then last weekend, the Dallas Morning News had a story in its editions that Lewis was involved in another such incident in 2015.

JACOB PONDER FROM SANTAQUIN, UT:
When will the rest of the rookies get their official numbers?

ANSWER: All players on the 90-man roster have been issued jersey numbers. You can learn what those are by going to Steelers.com, clicking on the ‘Team’ icon on the top nav bar, and that will take you to the current roster.

JOEY ZUCCO FROM SPARKS, NV:
As of now, Josh Dobbs is wearing the No. 5 jersey. Last season it was Bruce Gradkowski. Is he no longer on the team? Was he released? Or is he just picking a new number?

ANSWER: Bruce Gradkowski is no longer employed by the Steelers. In 2014, he played in one game. He missed almost the entire 2015 season due to hand and shoulder injuries. The Steelers re-signed Gradkowski to a one-year contract on May 2, 2016. On Aug. 31, 2016, Gradkowski was placed on the injured reserve list after injuring a hamstring in the preseason opener. He was released on Oct. 7 and currently is out of football.

PETER DEWAR FROM MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA
Robert Griffin III is still a free agent. Couldn't he be a real asset for the Steelers?

ANSWER: Sigh.

RON MORZE FROM COLLINGSWOOD, NJ:
With Ben Roethlisberger contemplating retirement, would the Steelers entertain bringing in Colin Kaepernick?

ANSWER: Double sigh.

GEORGE (TOMMY) MCWILLIAMS FROM WINFIELD, PA
I've been doing some reading of Johnny Manziel. He seems to be living a better life. Why not give him a shot? How could one argue that he's of lesser value and ability than Joshua Dobbs or Landry Jones? This is a Heisman Winner we are talking about here.

ANSWER: And people wonder why I’m mean.




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