Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 14

Let's get to it:

TERRY HALDEN FROM LETHBRIDGE, ALBERTA, CANADA: I seem to be one of the few fans who do not have a low opinion of the abilities of Mason Rudolph. If my memory is correct, the Steelers picked him in the third round, because they saw him as a value pick at that stage of the draft. Do you know why Rudolph dropped in stature that year?
ANSWER: I only saw one of Mason Rudolph's college games at Oklahoma State, and that was a win over Pitt in 2017 that was televised locally, and in that game he completed 23-of-32 (71.9 percent) for 497 yards, with five touchdowns and one interception. I also can tell you that in a comparison of college statistics, Rudolph had a higher completion percentage (63.2-62.4), more passing yards (13,618-12,303), more touchdowns (92-81), and fewer interceptions (26-32) than Kenny Pickett while playing 10 fewer games. And as you mentioned, Rudolph entered the NFL as a third-round pick, while Pickett is being touted by many as being the most NFL-ready quarterback available in the upcoming draft.

As for how Rudolph was perceived in the run-up to the 2018 NFL draft, this was the evaluation of NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein that appeared on NFL.com at that time: "Pocket quarterback with good size who has shown consistent improvement as a passer. Rudolph is more of a downfield, play-action passer than a quarterback who can win with precision and arm strength. He's a capable field reader who has the ability to operate with timing, which will be important since his arm can be dull at times. Rudolph could be an early backup with the potential of becoming an average to below average starter in the league."

Listing Rudolph's strengths, Zierlein wrote, "Great size and stands tall in the pocket giving him his true height as a passer; Does a good job of letting routes develop and wide receivers clear traffic; Slides in pocket for clean launch points and is rarely a static target for rushers; Keeps eyes trained downfield when sliding around pocket; Got rid of the ball quicker and cut his sacks this year; Willing to throw in front of safeties and attack over top of linebackers in intermediate portion of field; Has steadily improved each season and showed full command of the offense this year; Saw 10 percent of his drop-backs turn into 25-plus yard completions; Puts air under his deep throws and gives receivers a chance to make plays; Reads safeties and moves to his progressions accordingly; Ran zone reads around end zone and finished with 17 rushing touchdowns during career; Willing to drop his head and go get what he needs."

As for Rudolph's weaknesses, Zierlein wrote: "Over-strides at times; Rarely drives lower body through the throw causing ball to sail and float; May not generate enough velocity to beat ball-hawking corners who strangle passing windows; Field-side outs will be a challenge; Needs throws to stay on schedule; Needs to throw with better timing and placement on comebacks and outs; Defaults to off-platform throws when he has time to step and deliver; Ball placement and decision making can run askew when forced to scramble from pocket; Ball will come out wobbly at times; Inexperienced as rollout passer; Benefitted from ball-winning targets downfield; Wasn't asked to get through many progressions in the offense; Has had ball security issues as a starter."

In conclusion, one NFC regional scout told Zierlein, "If you spoke with 10 different scouts, you would get at least four different opinions about him. I've just seen too many of those system quarterbacks struggle to make it in the league, so I'm hesitant to buy in. He has gotten better this year."

GARY SCOTTON FROM MANTUA, OH: During the Bill Cowher era it seemed like the Steelers were able to find quality outside linebackers later in the draft. Jason Gildon was a third-round pick, Joey Porter was a third-round pick, Greg Lloyd was a sixth-round pick, Clark Haggans was a fifth-round pick, and Chad Brown was a second-round pick. Who was the Steelers' linebacker scout during those drafts? They had a good eye at finding some quality players in the third round and later. It seems to me like the organization has struggled in keeping this pipeline of talent coming in recent years.
ANSWER: As a point of clarification, the Steelers don't assign scouts to handle specific positions; scouts typically are deployed to handle certain areas of the country during the initial wave of information gathering, and then others get involved as needed as the draft draws closer. Anyway, the difference in acquiring 3-4 outside linebackers during the Bill Cowher era (1992-2006) was that fewer teams were using the 3-4 as a base alignment, there was much less use of sub-package defenses, and NFL offenses still viewed first and second downs as running downs. As an example, during the 1993 NFL Draft, which was the one where the Steelers used their second-round pick (44th overall) on Chad Brown, there were no pass-rushing linebackers picked in the first round at all, and in fact NFL teams often had to make projections at the position because a player such as Gildon actually played in a three-point stance at Oklahoma State. It's not so much that the Steelers aren't as good at finding these kinds of players as much as it's many more teams are in the market for the same kinds of players nowadays.

ALAN MANNON FROM PROCTORVILLE, OH: Given the impact of penalty calls at critical moments in a game, what do you think about letting a coach use a challenge on a penalty call to have it reviewed? Not sure of the actual numbers but is seems like many games have an instance that when replay is shown the call was wrong. With the speed of the game and the impact of the call why not allow a review of the call if challenged?
ANSWER: The solution is better officiating, not more replay. Remember that disaster of a season – thank heavens it was only one season – when a rule was instituted to allow pass interference calls and non-calls to be subject to replay review? Did. Not. Work. I repeat this anecdote every time this issue of more replay is proposed in this forum, but since I continue to get these submissions, I will continue to repeat this anecdote. Back in the mid-1980s when the NFL first passed the rule allowing instant replay to be used during games as an officiating tool, Chuck Noll was asked what he thought about it. Noll was unapologetically opposed, and then when one reporter came back to him with something along the lines of "but it's designed to get the call right." Noll responded, "But what if it doesn't?" Instant replay doesn't, and it hasn't. Adding more of it just exacerbates the problem.

WADE LAUDERMAN FROM HARTSVILLE, SC: If the Steelers were to sign Tyrann Mathieu, would they allow him to wear the jersey No. 32 that Franco Harris once wore?
ANSWER: Allow me to begin with an anecdote. It was the offseason in 1994, and the Steelers had signed unrestricted free agent fullback John L. Williams, who had entered the NFL as the 15th overall pick of the 1986 draft by Seattle and had spent the previous eight seasons with the Seahawks. After Williams signed his contract, he was in Pittsburgh getting acclimated to the team. When it came time to be outfitted with a jersey number, Williams informed the equipment staff he wanted No. 32, which is what he wore in Seattle. The equipment staff told him that number wasn't available, and when Williams complained about it to Coach Bill Cowher, he brought the issue to Dan Rooney on Williams' behalf. After Rooney gave Cowher a quick "no," Williams was issued jersey No. 22, which is what he wore during his two seasons with the Steelers. So, to answer your question: No way does Tyrann Mathieu get No. 32, and I would be shocked if that number is issued to anyone in the future.

GEMETRIUS MCNEIL FROM INDIAN TRAIL, NC: Everyone thinks that the Steelers should sign another safety, but I think they already have two guys on the roster who can play the position. Both Tre Norwood and Cam Sutton have been referred to as a Swiss Army knife by Coach Mike Tomlin. Do you think one of these guys will start the season at safety?
ANSWER: I believe either Tre Norwood or Cam Sutton could play the strong safety position that's currently unmanned, but I doubt that's the Steelers preference. Both Sutton and Norwood have value in other roles, with Sutton having the ability and experience to be a starting cornerback. My guess is the Steelers' preference would be to address that position in a different way than moving Sutton or Norwood there, with re-signing Terrell Edmunds still a possibility.

BRANDON JOHNSON FROM FAIRMONT, WV: I'm in total agreement with you that the quarterbacks in this year's draft class do not merit the 20th pick by the Steelers. I think that the No. 1 pick will be used on either an offensive lineman, wide receiver, or strong safety, but I know the Steelers pick best player available and not on need. Is that your take as well?
ANSWER: There are a bunch of different ways the Steelers could go with their first-round pick if they decide not to spend it on a quarterback. In addition to the positions you cite in your submission, I would add defensive lineman to the list.

FELIPE RAMIREZ FROM CHIHUAHUA, MÉXICO: Do you think the Josh Dobbs signing by the Browns had more to do with the intel he may have been able to provide on the Steelers, than Cleveland seeing him as a potential backup quarterback?
ANSWER: The Steelers and Browns play each other twice a year (at least) every year. NFL Films has a huge library of game video on every team in the league, and every team in the league has access to any and all of those videos. Offensively this season, the Steelers are going to be a different group, primarily because Ben Roethlisberger won't be the starting quarterback for the first time since 2003 when Joshua Dobbs was 8 years old. I cannot say for certain that the Browns didn't sign Dobbs to pick his brain, but if they did and have no interest in him for any other reason, that's a sad commentary on their ability to scout opponents and manage their roster.

DUSTIN GEORGE ABOARD CVN75 USS HARRY S TRUMAN: Reading Asked and Answered while overseas on deployment definitely cheers me up. Hypothetically, if Stephon Tuitt does return, and we either sign Terrell Edmunds or Tyrann Mathieu for the opening at safety, what position group do you think we should target in the first round?
ANSWER: The Steelers aren't going to target a position in the first round, but rather they will use the 20th overall pick, in my opinion, to strengthen one of a number of areas on their current roster. Some of the areas I would consider would be defensive line, wide receiver, and cornerback. Even if Stephon Tuitt commits to returning, there's no way of knowing where he might be as a player after a full year of not practicing or playing, and age also is an issue at the top of the depth chart there with Tyson Alualu turning 35 in May, Cam Heyward turning 33 in Mat, and Tuitt turning 29 in May. And if the Steelers resolve the strong safety issue with a short-term (maybe a 1-year contract), then safety could work its way into the mix as well.

RYAN YEDLINSKY FROM LANSING, KS: I am so sad to hear about Dwayne Haskins, and my heart is broken for his family. That's all I can say.
ANSWER: There's really nothing else to say, and there are many who share your feelings.

JENNY GROVE FROM SEATTLE, WA: Very saddened and very shocked about Dwayne Haskins' death. Every once in a while, a terrible tragedy occurs that leaves everyone asking, "Why?" Dwayne's death is one of those tragic, unexpected, and unexplained things. I feel so very sorry for that talented young man and his wife and family. Hopefully, the family will get some closure. We will keep them all in our prayers. We will never forget Dwayne.

DIANA BARNETT FROM KEARNEYSVILLE, WV: I am heartbroken for Dwayne Haskins' family, his friends, teammates, coaches, and all who knew and loved him. I can't shake his loss, so much life was ahead for him. All are in my prayers.

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