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Asked and Answered: April 12

Posted Apr 12, 2018

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

Let’s get to it:

JOSHUA KELLEY FROM MILTON, FL
With the recent reports that the NFL will be scrapping the Color Rush uniform concept for the Thursday Night Football games, do you believe the Steelers will continue to wear their black-on black uniforms? And then potentially into future seasons? It seems most players and fans love the uniform concept.

ANSWER: The report you reference had FOX Sports Executive Vice President of Programming, Research and Content Strategy Bill Wanger saying at the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas a few days ago that Color Rush uniforms will no longer be used on Thursday nights. Wanger explained that hardcore fans don’t need gimmicks to watch, and based on the amount of money FOX paid the NFL for the broadcast rights to the Thursday Night Football package, fans of Color Rush are getting worried.

Personally, I doubt that NFL owners would allow one of their partners – in this instance, FOX – to dictate policy that possibly could adversely affect another NFL partner – in this instance, Nike, which manufactures and sells the Color Rush jerseys. Some of the Color Rush uniforms have been a strain for color blind fans, and others are somewhat offensive aesthetically, but I don’t believe FOX will be given the authority to eliminate the Color Rush uniform program. A more realistic end to this probably will find the NFL allowing each individual owner to decide whether or not to participate in Color Rush for the 2018 season.

As for the Steelers in particular, the Color Rush concept has been pretty popular with fans, and so I would guess that President Art Rooney II could opt to continue with the program in some way, at least for the 2018 season.

KYLE DAVIS FROM DAVENPORT, FL:
From reading past editions of Asked and Answered, I am confused on your opinion of the defensive tackle position, because I have seen you say the team should not spend even a third-round pick on one, but you have also stated multiple time that Joe Greene is the best player in Steelers history. Do you now believe that players like Greene or Casey Hampton can no longer contribute to teams like they used to, or is it just that you haven't seen a defensive tackle prospect who is good enough to turn the team’s good defense to a great one?

ANSWER: First of all, my opinion had to do with what fans refer to as “run-stuffers,” who typically are at most two-down players, if that anymore. Joe Greene had 66 sacks in a career that ended with him as a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee. Sixty-six sacks is not the work of a “run-stuffer,” so let’s eliminate him from this conversation. When Joe Greene was in his prime, opponents averaged 34 rushing attempts per game; when Casey Hampton was a rookie, opponents averaged 27 rushing attempts per game; and last year Steelers opponents attempted passes on 53 percent of their offensive plays.

The game is changing, and opposing offenses no longer have any qualms about attempting 50 passes in a game, or throwing the ball on 20-plus plays in a row, and so defenses have to be able to adapt without being forced to change personnel. A defensive lineman who is solely a run-stuffer doesn’t have much value anymore because he won’t be on the field much anymore. Mike Tomlin has estimated that the Steelers are aligned in their base 3-4 defense less than 33 percent of the time, and that’s why my opinion of a run-stuffing defensive lineman is not as high as it used to be.

You mention the position of defensive tackle a few times in your question, and so I ask you if you know who plays defensive tackle for the Steelers now? It’s Cam Heyward, and he had 12 sacks last season. There still is value in the defensive tackle position, but the skill-set a player must have to be a valuable defensive tackle in today’s NFL has changed.

BLAKE DAVIS FROM GARDNER, KS:
What will our tight end depth chart look like at the beginning of the 2018 season? Are we looking to draft one, trade for one, sign one from free agency, or roll with Jesse James, Vance McDonald, and Xavier Grimble?

ANSWER: You do understand there is no way to answer that now, right? My preference would be that the Steelers not use one of their 2018 draft picks on a tight end. As for the makeup of the depth chart at tight end, I would predict that the top of it will be made up of Vance McDonald and Jesse James. As for the third spot, it could come down to a competition between Xavier Grimble and Jake McGee. And don’t discount McGee’s abilities as a blocker in this competition.

JOHN YELICH FROM WILLIAMSBURG, PA:
Are the Steelers till interested in the tight end from Penn State? We still need a long term solution at that position.

ANSWER: Tight end is not the kind of position, as I see it, that needs a “long-term solution.” I believe the Steelers would be capable of competing for a championship in 2018 with Vance McDonald, Jesse James and either Xavier Grimble or Jake McGee as their tight ends. To clarify, “the tight end from Penn State” is Mike Gesicki.

MICHAEL MICKLOW FROM MOORESVILE, NC:
Do you think Keion Adams will be able to contribute this year? Coming out of the 2017 draft, I thought this kid was a steal. After missing the season due to injury, how might he help us this year?

ANSWER: Keion Adams’ first priority this summer will be to stay healthy enough during training camp and the preseason to get enough repetitions to have a chance to win a spot on the 53-man roster.

TOM HERSHBERGER FROM COLORADO SPRINGS, CO:
In your opinion who were the top five players for the Steelers in a forgotten era, the 1950s? Though there were not a lot of victories for the team, there were many tough guys who played their hearts out.

ANSWER: I’ll take a stab at this, even though I’m not quite old enough to have seen any of these guys in their primes. And I’m going to expand the list from five to 10, so as to have a better chance at not leaving anyone out who is deserving:

Listed alphabetically: DB Jack Butler, HB Lynn Chandnois, MG/MLB Dale Dodrill, QB Jim Finks, HB Ray Mathews, DE Bill McPeak, TE Elbie Nickel, LB Jerry Shipkey, DT Ernie Stautner, T Frank Varrichione.




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