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Asked and Answered: Sept. 7

Posted Sep 7, 2017

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

Let’s get to it:

VICTOR LEGARRETA FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO:
Mexican Steelers fans are very happy to enjoy the start of a new and promising season for our beloved team. We wonder why management did not make a special effort to retain a magnificent weapon like DeAngelo Williams proved to be last year?

ANSWER: I have answered this many times previously, but since we’re about to start a new season and the issue of the number of Le’Veon Bell’s carries is an issue, I decided to revisit this one last time.

At the start of the 2016 NFL season, DeAngelo Williams was a 33-year-old running back with 1,632 carries on his body, and the overall wear-and-tear seemed to catch up to him. During his first season with the Steelers, in 2015, Williams was a model of consistency and productivity. He played in all 16 games, started 10, and finished with 907 yards on 200 carries and scored 11 touchdowns. Last year, however, Williams had knee issues that forced him to miss seven complete games and he had a combined three carries in four other games on either end of that long string of inactivity, and there was an arthroscopic procedure done on his knee during that time as well. That was almost 11 games in which the Steelers were without their backup running back. Six of those were pretty much must-wins because they came after the four-game losing streak that had the team at 4-5 in mid-November. To put more numbers to it: Roughly during the time that Williams was unavailable last season, Bell carried 272 times, a total that covers nine regular season games and two playoff games.

For the Steelers to have signed Williams for the 2017 season would have been foolish in my opinion, because it certainly seems as though his body is breaking down – especially his knees. It wasn’t all that long ago when the Steelers were depending upon veterans to fill the role of Ben Roethlisberger’s backup, but too often Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich or Bruce Gradkowski would be injured almost as soon as they had to play in a game. That forced the Steelers into a different strategy, and since then they have gone younger with Landry Jones and Josh Dobbs to fill out the depth chart behind Roethlisberger. I see them doing the same thing at running back now behind Bell, with James Conner and Terrell Watson.

Oh, and as of this writing, DeAngelo Williams is still out of football.

JULIAN MILES FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
With the addition of J.J. Wilcox, which safety is possibly out of a job, because he's a starter. I'm thinking Mike Mitchell?

ANSWER: You’re wrong. The Steelers starting safeties are Sean Davis and Mike Mitchell.

PAUL ARGANBRIGHT FROM WHEELER, TX:
With the release of Knile Davis and Fitz Toussaint, who will be the Steelers return men?

ANSWER: On the depth chart released in advance of the opener in Cleveland, Antonio Brown is listed as the No. 1 punt returner, with Eli Rogers at No. 2; and JuJu Smith-Schuster is the No. 1 kickoff returner, with Artie Burns at No. 2, and Terrell Watson at No. 3. We’ll have to see if it unfolds that way in Cleveland.

MARK WAKELEY FROM DENTON, TX:
I was reading about the J.J. Wilcox trade and was looking over his defensive statistics. Listed was the acronym “CMB.” What does this stand for?

ANSWER: I don’t know which website you were consulting so I cannot say for sure, but my guess is that “CMB” stands for the combined total of unassisted tackles plus assisted tackles.

MIKE PARROTT FROM LINCOLN, RI:
If we are in win now mode, Super Bowl or bust, why do we trade a starting cornerback in an already iffy secondary for a draft pick?

ANSWER: Whine, whine, whine about wanting to play more man-coverage. The Steelers sign a guy who gives them a better chance at that and trades the guy who showed time and again that he couldn’t, a guy who had an awful preseason, who gave up big plays despite not going against the opponent’s starting quarterback, and now the question is why did he get traded? Really?

DAVE BARRICK FROM MIDDLEBOURNE, WV:
I, among many others, question Le’Veon Bell’s dedication to the Steelers. Knowing he is a huge part of what we want to do (Super Bowl), with his history maybe a trade would benefit us most. It would be a blockbuster trade that we should get two or three high-quality players plus draft choices, at least a No. 1 and a No. 2, maybe more. Thoughts?

ANSWER: Super duper idea. Why don’t you get right to work on that, and when you work out all of the details – the names of the “two or three high-quality players, plus draft choices, at least a No. 1 and a No. 2, maybe more,” I’ll run it by Kevin Colbert to see what he thinks. And will you also work out the salary cap implications, or do you want me to handle that end? By the way, since Le’Veon Bell “is a huge part of what we want to do (Super Bowl),” why in the wide, wide world of sports are you trading him?

MARC BOOKER FROM EAST BRIDGEWATER, MA:
Are surprised that the Steelers didn't target a veteran backup quarterback this offseason?

ANSWER: Ah, but they did. They re-signed Landry Jones to a two-year contract on March 9.

JOHN NOH FROM CAMPBELL, OH:
When did the NFL implement the penalty for kicking the ball out of bounds during kickoffs as the 40-yard line for the offense? What was the rule before this penalty?

ANSWER: When the change was made, I cannot tell you, but what I do know is the change was precipitated by Chuck Noll during the latter stages of his coaching career. It used to be that the penalty for a kickoff out of bounds was a 5-yard assessment and a re-kick. Noll campaigned for the rule change at least partly for expediency.

TIM RICOHERMOSO FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA:
While I know Heath Miller was the greatest tight end in Steelers history, beloved by Steelers Nation, and a shoe-in for the Hall of Honor, but I was wondering what was the perception of Heath by the rest of the league? Did he ever make All-Pro? Was he ever voted to the Pro Bowl? What are his chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

ANSWER: Heath Miller played in two Pro Bowls, and in 2013 he was No. 97 on the list of the NFL’s top 100 players. As for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Heath Miller’s career receptions (592) and touchdowns (45) just don’t move the needle in terms of attracting the attention of the Board of Selectors.

MARK ADKINS FROM ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, FL:
In the Sept. 5 edition of Asked and Answered, you were asked about Aaron Smith making the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I agree that he was an incredible part of the Steelers defense, but he will never be voted into the Hall of Fame. Does Casey Hampton ever make it?

ANSWER: I hate to be the guy who’s constantly running down players’ chances to get elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but getting through the doors in Canton requires statistics, big numbers, too. Valuable contributors to teams, the guys who play well against the run, and don’t make mental mistakes, and throw key blocks for the running backs aren’t the guys who get elected. They just don’t, and I’m not saying that it’s unfair as much as I’m saying that’s the way it is. There has to be something quantifiable about a player’s career, and what voters can wrap their heads around are statistics – big numbers of catches and touchdowns for tight ends instead of blocking ability; sacks and forced fumbles for defensive linemen instead of being part of a good run defense; interceptions for defensive backs instead of playing solid coverage and forcing the quarterback to go somewhere else with the football. Being voted first-team All-Pro, winning awards, always playing in the Pro Bowl. Those are the kinds of things that gain traction in the room when the Board of Selectors gathers the week of the Super Bowl. So, no, Casey Hampton does not make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in my opinion, based on how that voting has gone for decades.

NICK HEROLD FROM DELAWARE, OH:
What happened in regards to the long-snapper position? I thought the player drafted in the sixth round was a lock to make the team. Did he get injured or just beat out?

ANSWER: Trust me, there is no such thing as a sixth-round draft pick who’s a lock to make the roster as a rookie. Kameron Canaday won the job, fair and square. He was better. Not by much, but better over the course of the offseason, training camp, and four preseason games.

JOHN SOFIS FROM BRIDGEVILLE, PA:
Did Joe Haden play in preseason games? If so, how did he look as far as recovering from his injury? I guess we all are concerned about why Cleveland cut him.

ANSWER: Joe Haden participated in training camp, and he also played in each of Cleveland’s three preseason games before being released the day before the fourth. The Browns released Haden after he refused to take a pay cut.

HENRY WAKEFOOSE FROM BEDFORD, PA:
Is it too much to ask on game day to keep the cameras on the game and not on the side shows?

ANSWER: Why send this to me? Try the networks that cover NFL football, or the NFL office itself.




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