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Asked and Answered: Oct. 31

Posted Oct 31, 2017

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

Let’s get to it:

JONATHAN MASON FROM RICHMOND, VA:
Who was the last Steelers rookie wide receiver to make an immediate impact like JuJu Smith-Schuster?

ANSWER: As a rookie in 1984, Louis Lipps caught 45 passes for 860 yards (19.1 average) and scored nine receiving touchdowns, including one that covered 80 yards. He also set a franchise record with 53 punt returns for 656 yards (a 12.4 average) and brought one back 76 yards for a touchdown. He had three carries on reverses for another 71 yards, and added a 36-yard rushing touchdown. On the season, Lipps tied John Stallworth with 11 touchdowns scored on the season. He was voted NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press.

Bringing it closer to the present, I offer you Antwaan Randle El in 2002. He finished third on the team (behind Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress) with 47 catches for 489 yards (10.4 average) and he scored two receiving touchdowns. He also returned 42 punts for 347 yards (8.3 average) and 32 kickoffs for 733 yards (22.9 average) and brought one back 99 yards for a touchdown. He also had 19 carries for 134 yards (7.1 average).

Randle El was more recent, but Lipps was the most dynamic Steelers rookie receiver in my lifetime.

DANIEL WILLIAMS FROM DANIEL ISLAND, SC:
Do the players get the week off on the bye week?

ANSWER: The Collective Bargaining Agreement mandates that players be given four full days off during their team’s bye week. Coaches typically opt for the Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday option, and then things return to normal the following Monday.

SONIA MILLETT FROM FORT MILL, SC:
Easy question for you. Where can I find out who gets the actual game ball? I look for this every week and can't find it unless it's a story like Joe Haden got the game ball after the opener because coming from Cleveland he had never won a regular season opener. Steelers.com keeps us up on the Steelers Digest Player of the Week, but the winner of the game ball is not on the website. Why is that?

ANSWER: Easy answer for you. While some coaches award game balls after every victory, maybe even multiple game balls after every victory, Mike Tomlin does not. I asked him recently about the happenings in the locker room after a game, and when I brought up the issue of game balls, he said, “It’s organic. It’s much like weighing the options of throwing the challenge flag. You know it when you’re there. If someone is deserving of a game ball, it’s generally something you’re aware of.” In other words, Tomlin doesn’t award game balls after every victory. In fact, the awarding of game balls is a rare enough occurrence that if a player gets one, it’s because of a special occasion or a special contribution.

DAVID SHAFFER FROM HARRISBURG, PA:
Sunday night in Detroit there was a play, I think in the second quarter, where Vince Williams was tackling Matthew Stafford and Stafford threw the ball away. I saw this as intentional grounding, but no foul was called? What gives? The ball hit Williams on the arm, and so does that nullify intentional grounding?

ANSWER: Yes, because once it hit a defensive player shortly after it came out of the quarterback’s hand, there is no way to determine if he was throwing it in the area of an eligible receiver.

TONY SILVA FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
San Francisco 49ers fans were scratching their heads when the Steelers traded for Vance McDonald. They pointed out he “regularly dropped easy passes.” Jesse James seems to be quite apt at catching almost anything thrown his way. So why is Mike Tomlin favoring McDonald over James?

ANSWER: I love how you make assumptions and then state them as fact. You know a lot of 49ers fans personally, do you? They told you he “regularly dropped easy passes,” did they? Another thing: There is only one current Steelers player who catches almost everything thrown his way, and his name is Antonio Brown. I am extremely skeptical of those “facts” you put forth, but even if all of that gorgonzola you’re spreading is true, let me point out to you that you’re making the mistake of believing that a tight end’s primary job in the Steelers offense is to catch passes.

BRANDON NELSON FROM ROCHESTER, MN:
I was planning on surprising my son by taking him to his first Steelers game, and I was wondering if it is possible to purchase pregame on-field passes? Also, where would be your recommendation to buy tickets for a Steelers home game?

ANSWER: There are a couple of ways to obtain pregame on-field passes for Steelers home games, but both of them require the luck of the draw. Pregame on-field passes are not for sale.

The first way is by joining Steelers Nation Unite, and if you’re not familiar with it, the following is a description: “Steelers Nation Unite is the official home of Steelers Nation that recognizes fans for their year-round dedication and support. Our fans are an integral part of the Steelers organization and this program is a way of showing our appreciation to the best fans in the NFL. Steelers Nation Unite will provide fans new opportunities to interact with the Steelers and connect with other fans around the world in exciting ways. Those 13 years and older are eligible to join the program.”

All of the pertinent information about Steelers Nation Unite can be found by going to Steelers.com, and on the homepage, just above the main nav bar you will see a link for “STEELERS NATION UNITE.” Click on “JOIN FOR FREE to get the process started. If you cannot find that link, simply go to your browser and type in steelersnationunite.com, and it will take you directly there. Since it’s a rewards program, there are points to be earned to qualify for the drawing for pregame on-field passes, and all of that is explained on that website. If you need additional help/information, on the bottom of that homepage there are links for “FAQ” and “CONTACT US.”

The other way to get on-field passes is by participating in the team’s 1ST-IN-GOAL promotion, which offers scratch-off cards to the first 25,000 people to enter Heinz Field on the day of a game. All of those scratch-off cards award various prizes, including pregame on-field passes. More information on this program can be found by going to the Steelers.com homepage, going to the “FAN ZONE” dropbox, and under the category “Promotions” you will see 1ST-IN-GOAL. Click on that for more information.

As for tickets, go to Steelers.com, and on the top nav bar you’ll see a link for TICKETS. Click that, and it takes you into Ticket Exchange, which is a way for current season ticket holders to re-sell their tickets. There also is Stub Hub, because all Steelers home games are sold out. Good luck.

ITHAN ZIMMER FROM EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ:
Who are the "emergency" players on game day? Specifically, who would come in at quarterback, kicker, offensive line if there were significant injuries?

ANSWER: It’s a secret, and I promised not to tell.

DAVID NELMES FROM MONMOUTHSHIRE, WALES:
This Thursday I will be 52 years old. I was born and raised in a house numbered 52. This season it is Super Bowl LII. If we win the Super Bowl it will be Lombardi Trophy No. 7. Five-plus-two equals seven. Coincidence? The stars are aligning, are they not?

ANSWER: Makes as much sense as anything else I came across in the Asked and Answered queue on Monday morning.

MICHAEL WHITEHEAD FROM LYNCHBURG, VA:
Are the coaches tested for performance-enhancing drugs?

ANSWER: No, but I have suggested that some of the people submitting questions to this forum be tested for hallucinogens.




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