Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 14

Let's get to it:

DANNY REDSHAW FROM VALDOSTA, GA: I can remember as a boy in the early 1970s we had Terry Bradshaw, Terry Hanratty, and Joe Gilliam on the team as our quarterbacks. I know Bradshaw was a first overall pick, but how did we acquire the other two, and can you tell us how the competition among the three played out to where Bradshaw became the eventual starter?
ANSWER: Prior to the 1969 NFL Draft, in which the Steelers held the fourth overall pick in the first round, their fans, and the entire City of Pittsburgh, wanted the team to spend it on Terry Hanratty, who was born and raised in Butler, Pa., 33 miles north of Pittsburgh, and was a starting quarterback at Notre Dame. Chuck Noll had other ideas and selected Joe Greene, but when Hanratty still was available when the Steelers were on the clock in the second round he was the pick. The 1969 Steelers finished 1-13, and while Dick Shiner was the primary starter, Hanratty started five games and appeared in eight as a rookie, while completing 41.3 percent of his passes, with eight touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and a rating of 41.7.

Terry Bradshaw was the first overall pick in 1970, and the Steelers chose him with the idea he was to be their franchise quarterback. Bradshaw started eight games as a rookie, and to say he struggled mightily to adjust to the NFL from Louisiana Tech is an understatement. Bradshaw completed 38.1 percent as a rookie, with six touchdowns, 24 interceptions, and a rating of 30.4. Over the next three seasons (1971-72-73), Bradshaw started 36 of the 42 regular season games, but in 1974 things changed because of the NFLPA strike in August of that year. While Bradshaw and Hanratty walked the picket line, Joe Gilliam, an 11th round pick from Tennessee State in 1972, reported to Saint Vincent College and wowed Noll with his accuracy and arm strength. When the strike ended, Bradshaw reported to camp and sustained a minor injury, and that sealed the deal for Gilliam to open the season as the starter.

Over the course of the 1974 season, which ended with the Steelers winning Super Bowl IX, all three quarterbacks started games, and they combined to complete 43 percent of their passes for 12 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, and a rating of 49.0. But over time that season, it became clear to Noll that Bradshaw was the man for the job.

PAUL HASSELL FROM JACKSONVILLE, FL: With the Steelers' free agent signings, what is the cap-space situation for the Steelers going into the draft? And is there any chance of signing any other free agents, even though the team prefers to build through the draft?
ANSWER: Here is what General Manager Kevin Colbert said about the team's cap situation on March 31: "We're in compliance, obviously, up to this point. We're tight against the cap. We understand that. We're comfortable with where we are. We're going to continue to look at players that might still be available we could possibly make fit. If we make somebody fit, does it mean we have to make some changes? Do some more restructures and all that? Sure. But right now, we're kind of in a holding pattern. We have better feel for what's left on the free agent market. Again, we're about halfway through our meetings and we're getting a real good feel—as good a feel as we can—about this draft. A lot of times that draft information is influential in what you still want to do in free agency. So, it'll continue to evolve."

My opinion is the Steelers are finished with free agency until after the draft – and by "finished" I'm not referring to the kind of signings that would be comparable to futures contracts or undrafted rookie deals, which in this current climate means adding former XFL players. After the draft, depending on how that goes for them, the Steelers may give free agency another look, not only to fortify areas of their roster they couldn't during the draft but also to take advantage of prices falling on the open market as the remaining players scramble for spots on teams' 90-man rosters.

NICK MOSES FROM SIMI VALLEY, CA: JuJu Smith-Schuster's production was way, way down last year, and I know that no Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu's own injuries certainly contributed to that. However I'm wondering if you think having to step into the No. 1 receiver role, and that role being too big for him, might also have been a factor?
ANSWER: What I think is that way, way, way too much is made of the concept of the "No. 1 receiver role," and you shouldn't be so quick to gloss over "no Ben Roethlisberger."

DAN ARMITAGE FROM RIVERVIEW, NB, CANADA: After seeing Bill Cowher endorse Jameson Winston, the first thing that came to mind is "Turnover Tommy" Maddox. What would your opinion of Winston be?
ANSWER: I wrote fairly extensively on this topic in a story headlined, "Labriola on Cam, Cowher's QB history," that appeared Friday, April 10 on In that, I made the point that in 42 games with the Steelers, Tommy Maddox threw 42 touchdown passes, but he also threw 40 interceptions, lost 13 fumbles, and was sacked 82 times. "To emphasize," I wrote, "that's 53 turnovers in 42 games. Kinda sounds like Jameis Winston." In fact, I may have been too harsh comparing Maddox to Winston, because in Winston's 72 career NFL games over five seasons, he has thrown 121 touchdown passes to go along with 88 interceptions and 23 lost fumbles, while being sacked 169 times. That's 111 turnovers in 72 career games, and his SEVEN pick-sixes in 2019 set an all-time NFL record.

JESUS ALONSO FROM ACUÑA, MEXICO: Who were the most recent Steelers to win Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year? And how many do we have in the Super Bowl era?
ANSWER: The most recent winner of the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award was B
en Roethlisberger in 2004 after he completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 2,621 yards, with 17 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, a rating of 98.1 and a 13-0 record as a starter. As for Defensive Rookie of the Year, the most recent winner was inside linebacker Kendrell Bell in 2001 after he had 82 tackles, nine sacks, one forced fumble, and one pass defensed. During the Super Bowl era, the Steelers voted Offensive Rookie of the Year were Franco Harris in 1972, Louis Lipps in 1984, and Roethlisberger. The team's Defensive Rookie of the Year Award winners were Joe Greene in 1969, Jack Lambert in 1974, and Bell.

DOUG HALAGICH FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: In an article, I was reading that LeSean McCoy said he is taking a wait-and-see approach on his next team. He said that "I want to go to a team that's a winning franchise that has all the right pieces waiting for me." Now I am not suggesting that at his (advanced) NFL age that he could be a feature back, but I do think he has some good plays left in his legs. Could you see a scenario where the Steelers add him to the roster, maybe late in training camp (if available)? Do you think that he could add anything to an offense that's very young at the skill positions (other than the starting quarterback)?
ANSWER: Allow me to begin this answer with some details: LeSean McCoy will be 32 years old in mid-July, he already has 2,950 offensive touches on his body, and he was a healthy inactive for Kansas City in Super Bowl LIV. The Steelers need to add dynamic weapons to their offense over the course of the rest of this offseason, in my opinion, and I don't see McCoy fitting that description at this stage of his career. Finally, running backs who aren't at the top of the depth chart typically must be capable of contributing on special teams to be active on game days, and I can't see McCoy being able to do that. Is there a scenario? This is the only realistic one I could envision: If the Steelers are hit with multiple injuries at running back during the training camp/preseason process that promise to take a couple of players out of the mix for significant stretches, then they might look to see who might be available as a veteran free agent.

ROBERT PURAT FROM NEWTOWN, PA: Thank you for giving us a chance to get away from the issues in our daily lives, and thank you also for your patience with some redundant and unrealistic questions or suggestions. Do you think the Steelers have shown or would have any interest in Terrell Suggs as a backup or situational pass rusher?
ANSWER: I once had a conversation with Coach Mike Tomlin about whether it was realistic for a player who was on one team for a considerable time being able to join, and then be productive, with his original team's bitter rival. That brought us to whether any Ravens could come to the Steelers and handle being in the "enemy's" locker room. Tomlin's opinion was that some guys might be capable of making that move but others couldn't, and that the difference likely would come down to the emotional attachment the player had with his original team, which also would indicate the degree of hatred he had for the rival. Terrell Suggs is one, I believe, who would rather retire than play for the Steelers.

NICHOLAS PELCHAR FROM PURCELLVILLE, VA: When growing up in a Pittsburgh suburb we saw our "same old Steelers" play at Pitt Stadium. You could get a ticket on any game day by walking right up to a ticket window at the stadium. We watched the Pirates at Forbes Field. Did the Steelers ever play games at Forbes Field?
ANSWER: The Steelers played their home games at Forbes Field from their opener of their inaugural season of 1933 through the final home game of the 1963 season, which was a 20-20 tie with the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 1. During the latter part of the period from 1933-63, the Steelers sometimes divided their home games between Forbes Field and Pitt Stadium during a particular season, and then they moved their home games to Pitt Stadium on a permanent basis starting with the 1964 season. They played their home games there until Three Rivers Stadium opened in 1970.

KARL SPIX FROM WAHIAWA, HI: I think when the Giants released Tuzar Skipper, the Steelers re-signed him. Can you please confirm if he did return to the Steelers, and if so, what are his chances of staying with the Steelers?
ANSWER: That is correct, and Tuzar Skipper currently is on the Steelers 90-man roster, and right now he and Ola Adeniyi are the primary backups at outside linebacker behind starters T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree.

JAY SIMMONS FROM DALTON, GA: Is J.T. Barrett the caliber of athlete who would have potential at another skill position on offense or special teams?
ANSWER: Really? You're going to exclude defense?