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Asked and Answered: April 5

Posted Apr 5, 2018

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

Let’s get to it:

ALLAN SKERTCHLY FROM CDMX, MEXICO:
Do you know if there's going to be a Steelers Camp in Mexico City, as there was in 2017? If so, by any chance do you know the date?

ANSWER: There are plans for a camp in Mexico, but the date and the specific site have not been determined. When details have been finalized, those details will be posted on the Steelers’ Spanish twitter account (@acereros). Expect that to be known some time after the draft, which takes place on April 26-28.

ROBERT TAMBURO FROM PORTLAND, OR:
Can the Steelers still change the exclusive franchise tag to the non-exclusive version between now and the July 16 deadline to come to a long-term agreement with Le’Veon Bell?

ANSWER: They cannot.

PATRICK CHARLES FROM CROWLEY, TX:
Do you think the Steelers should have used a transition tag on Le’Veon Bell, let him test the market, then decide whether to match any offer. Find out his true market value, or get a pick for him.

ANSWER: Use of the transition tag only allows for the original team to match any offer sheet the player signs. There is no draft pick compensation associated with the transition tag.

MARK DIGIOVANNA FROM SAN JOSE, CA:
I know you have no say … but if you were picking and had decided that inside linebacker was our biggest area of need, and in Round 1 and both Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch were available to us at the 28th pick, who are you picking and why please?

ANSWER: I don’t know enough about either of those two prospects to make an intelligent choice. Just being honest with you.

DAVID FILICKO FROM ABERDEEN, MD:
What happened to John Huarte and Terry Hanratty, both Heisman winners, after Terry Bradshaw beat them out?

ANSWER: There are some bad facts in your question that I need to correct. While John Huarte and Terry Hanratty were both starting quarterbacks at Notre Dame, only Huarte was a Heisman Trophy winner, and he won it in 1964. Terry Hanratty’s senior year in college was in 1968, and the Heisman Trophy winner that year was a running back from USC named O.J. Simpson.

Also, while Hanratty was a second-round pick by the Steelers in the 1969 NFL Draft, John Huarte, in 1965, was drafted by both pro football leagues: he was the 12th overall selection of the AFL’s New York Jets, and the 76th pick of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, He signed with the Jets, but was beaten out for the starting job by fellow-rookie Joe Namath.

In Pittsburgh, Hanratty never was a full-time starter. He shared the job in 1969 with Dick Shiner, and then became a backup when the Steelers used the first overall pick of the 1970 NFL Draft on Terry Bradshaw.

Hanratty was placed on waivers by the Steelers in September 1976 and picked up in October by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As the backup quarterback to Steve Spurrier, Hanratty made a handful of appearances, and his sole start came in Week 13 against the Steelers. Hanratty was replaced in that game by Spurrier after attempting four passes: one was intercepted, two were incomplete, and one was caught for a 1-yard loss. Hanratty retired after the 1976 season.

PAUL THORNTON FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.
With the addition of Morgan Burnett and the loss of Ryan Shazier for 2018, is it possible the Steelers will deploy more three-safety sets like they used to with Will Allen, Mike Mitchell, and Robert Golden?

ANSWER: Decisions about personnel groupings, such as the one you suggest, wouldn’t be made until the roster had been assembled and the coaching staff had seen some practices to gauge what they had on defense. Maybe not even until the start of the regular season.

KURT CARMEL FROM LUTHERVILLE, MD:
Should Le’Veon Bell move on, what could the running back dynamic look like? Does James Conner or Fitz Toussaint assume the role of starter, or do the Steelers look at other options? Are there any practice squad prospects or draft possibilities? I’ve seen mocks that have the Steelers picking Derrius Guice in the first round, but as a lifelong fan, I just don’t see that happening, so what else could there be?

ANSWER: General Manager Kevin Colbert has said definitively that Le’Veon Bell will be part of the Steelers in 2018, so the question you are asking has to do with 2019. There are way too many variables that could happen between than and now, including a long-term agreement between the Steelers and Bell, even to consider the many potential possibilities.

MATTHEW POWNALL FROM FORT MYERS, FL:
If I remember correctly, you said James Conner didn’t get more time on the field last year because of his lack of blocking ability. Is that something that can be improved upon this offseason so that we have two overall dynamic backs?

ANSWER: First, allow me to clarify something about James Conner’s blocking: I don’t perceive his limitations in that area as a rookie were anything more than inexperience, both in terms of the demands of the position at the NFL level and in the way defenses can choose to attack the quarterback. Running backs in high school and college often do nothing except run the football, and the really good ones rarely if ever are asked to step up and pick up blitzing linebackers to prevent the quarterback from getting broken into pieces. Conner is tough enough and willing enough to handle the blocking aspect of the position, but he just needs to learn it and be able to execute it at game speed. That will come with time. The other issue with Conner not getting more playing time last season was the fact Le’Veon Bell was in the midst of putting together a season that ended with him being voted first-team All-Pro for the second time in his career.

WILLIAM CROSS FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA:
"How does using a first round pick on a running back, any running back, help the team win a super bowl this year?" Maybe that running back has a great season?

ANSWER: A great season doing what? Standing on the sideline watching Le’Veon Bell play, because if you believe a rookie is going to come in and replace Bell in the starting lineup you are delusional. The job of running back at the NFL level is way too multi-faceted for a rookie to come in and supplant a first-team All-Pro – the pass protection responsibilities alone can take more than a year to master and playing the position for the Steelers means a back better be on his details when it comes to protecting Ben Roethlisberger. And you would be just as delusional if you think Bell is going to sit out and miss out on all or half of a $14.54 million payday.

TROY STEWAR FROM BRIGHTON, CO:
I’ve been a Steelers fan for 40-plus years. Living in Colorado all I hear about on the radio is the Broncos. Is there a dedicated Steelers station I can listen to?

ANSWER: Go to Steelers.com, and as you scroll down the home page – just underneath the main photo on the page, you will see an icon for SNR, which stands for Steelers Nation Radio. Click on that icon, and you will be listening live to a 24-hour radio station dedicated to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Simple as that.




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