Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 15

Let's get to it:

ROB SWAGERT FROM RAINBOW CITY, AL: I just read that the Buffalo Bills will allow full capacity at home games for the 2021 season, but all fans in attendance must be vaccinated. Do you know where the Steelers stand on this, and if that decision is made by state government or Steelers ownership?
ANSWER: Steelers President Art Rooney II has said on a few occasions now that he's optimistic that the team will have its traditional training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe and that Heinz Field will be full for the 2021 season. But optimistic doesn't mean certain, especially in the time of COVID.

Here is what Rooney said on March 31 about whether he was still optimistic about a training camp at Saint Vincent College and a full Heinz Field in the fall:
"I am. I'm still optimistic about that, but obviously we still have a way to go here. Hopefully the vaccination programs still stay on schedule and we get to a point this summer where we're closer to back to normal, and in the fall we can have full stadiums. A way to go yet, but that's what we're hoping for."

And this about whether vaccinations for COVID could be a requirement for fans to attend training camp and then games at Heinz Field:
"'Strongly encouraged' is the phrase I would use (regarding vaccinations) for all of our employees, including players. And the same for fans. That's something we're still going to be waiting for guidance on from public authorities. There is discussion, and there are places right now that are requiring a vaccination card for admission. I know there is discussion about that, both at a federal level and at a state level, and whether there are going to be policies that will be agreed upon, we'll wait and see how that goes. We're waiting for more guidance. Our position on it is we're not taking a position right now on requiring people to be vaccinated until we get to see more of the developments regarding federal policy and state policies."

TIM WHEELER FROM MELTON MOWBRAY, UK: What's your read on the signing of Josh Dobbs: Just an extra training camp arm or competition for Dwayne Haskins for the No. 3 quarterback job?
ANSWER: Both. Joshua Dobbs is intelligent, has football smarts, is familiar with the Steelers offense and the personnel, and has been in enough NFL training camp competitions to make a representative showing. His presence is going to force Dwayne Haskins, in my opinion, to work for a roster spot, where the addition of an undrafted rookie as a fourth quarterback possibly could have allowed him to think he can coast and still end up with a spot on the 53-man roster. Also, it would behoove Haskins to watch and learn from Dobbs, and maybe even mimic his work habits and daily approach to the profession.

MEMET SRATT FROM NEW YORK, NY: With the signing of Josh Dobbs as the fourth quarterback on the roster, will this finally end all questions and speculation that the Steelers will draft a quarterback this year?
ANSWER: I doubt it, but what it does end definitively is me addressing the issue of whether the Steelers will draft a quarterback in 2021 anymore.

EFRAIN MANTILLA FROM MORELIA, MEXICO: Are Joshua Dobbs and Devlin Hodges still with the Steelers? If not, have they signed with other teams?
ANSWER: There have been multiple reports that the Steelers have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with Joshua Dobbs, and that should become official with the signing of the contract very soon. Devlin Hodges currently is one of four quarterbacks on the roster of the Los Angeles Rams, along with Matthew Stafford, second-year pro John Wolford from Wake Forest, and first-year pro Bryce Perkins from Virginia.

TOM DUNN FROM BELLEAIR BLUFFS, FL: Among Steelers President Art Rooney II, Coach Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert, who gets the final say on draft day? For example, with the 24th pick, Mr. Rooney wants an edge rusher, while Tomlin and Colbert each want a different running back. Who wins?
ANSWER: That's not the way it works with the Steelers. During the weeks and weeks of preparation for the draft, they come up with a board that ranks all of the players in the order in which they would select them. During the ranking process, all of the various scenarios are discussed and hashed out, such as what if two running backs and an offensive tackle are ranked close to one another and all are available when it's the Steelers' turn, which player do they select. That way, once it comes time for the team to be on the clock, there really isn't that much discussion/arguing taking place before the pick is made.

ROY PERRIN FROM FUQUAY VARINA, NC: Now that Alan Faneca and Bill Nunn finally have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who are the next Steelers who should be inducted?
ANSWER: I still believe Andy Russell and L.C. Greenwood are deserving of consideration for the Hall of Fame, but the recent retirement of Julian Edelman has for some unknown reason thrown his name into consideration by some factions of the media as being deserving of a bust in Canton. All I have to say about that is Edelman isn't even deserving of serious consideration until Hines Ward is inducted.

DAVE ZIPPARO FROM ROCHELLE, IL: When will Heath Miller be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and after he is eligible, do you think he will be voted in at some point?
ANSWER: Heath Miller retired after the 2015 season, and so he is eligible now for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While he was a great member of the Steelers and the best tight end in franchise history, Miller doesn't have the kind of statistics that merit the Hall of Fame.

JOSHUA CAMPBELL FROM CINCINNATI, OH: With Vince Williams coming back, will he be the starter again, or do you see them starting the younger Robert Spillane?
ANSWER: I would imagine that if the Steelers perceived Vince Williams to be the clear-cut starter alongside Devin Bush, they wouldn't have released him in the first place and turned him loose to sign with any team in the league. I believe Williams can still have a role on the defense, and I also don't want to make it sound as though Robert Spillane is a lock to be the starter because there's still a training camp and a preseason between now and the start of the 2021 regular season.

RICHARD DURBIN FROM MASSILLON, OH: Lots of talk about the Steelers needing a running back. Hypothetical: if you could add any former Steelers running back (in his prime) to the current team, who would it be?
ANSWER: There are two choices: Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis. Both would be assets on the field and in the locker room, and both have skills that stand the test of time. Forced to choose, I would go with Harris, because he carried an offense that had little else going for it to Super Bowl championships after the 1974 and 1975 seasons. In 1974 and 1975, Harris averaged 4.8 yards per carry, and in the 42 regular seasons games that made up the 1975-77 seasons, he scored 35 rushing touchdowns. But if for some reason I can't have Harris, I would be extremely happy to "settle" for Bettis, who in 31 games during the 1996-97 regular seasons averaged 99.9 yards per game and rushed for 18 touchdowns.

STEVEN LINDSEY FROM MATTESON, IL: I believe the newly added 17th regular season game is the last game of the season for all teams. It is a home game against an NFC team of equal division finish (2020 season) for all AFC teams and an away game for all the NFC teams against an AFC team of equal finishing place. The following season the AFC will be the visiting team and the NFC will have the ninth home game. I do not know if the extra game will be the last game after this coming season. Do I have that correct?
ANSWER: No. The 17th game is not necessarily the last game of the regular season for the teams involved. In fact, it's unlikely to be the last game because the NFL prefers to schedule intradivision games on the final weekend of the regular season in an attempt to avoid situations where one or both of the teams have nothing to play for. Everything else you wrote about that 17th game is correct.

GREGORY FORBES FROM MARIETTA, GA: It seems to me that Ben Roethlisberger had his biggest successes during his career in situations where he extended plays by shuffling in the pocket, shaking off would-be sackers, and giving receivers time to break wide open. Turning him into the quickest-release quarterback in the NFL seemed to be a recipe for failure, especially given the nature of our receiving corps. Whose idea was it?
ANSWER: It seems to me that expecting a player who is 39 years old to do the things he did when he was in his 20s is a recipe for failure. This is the NFL, and the receivers are paid, often a lot of money, to be able to get off the line of scrimmage, win the individual matchup vs. the opposing defender, and get open in a timely fashion. Oh, and then to catch the ball when it hits them in the hands. If they are incapable of doing that, it's time to get different receivers, not to ask the quarterback to visit the Fountain of Youth.

KARIM GANDARA FROM CANCUN, MEXICO: What in your opinion is the best defensive play in the Steelers history, and what is the most memorable pick-six?
ANSWER: The Steelers have completed 88 seasons in the National Football League, and you're asking me to pick one defensive play as the best in 88 seasons. Sorry, but that's impossible. At least it is for me.

FEDERICO JIMENEZ FROM QUERETARO, MÉXICO: I know you hate questions about drafting a quarterback because Ben Roethlisberger is still the starter, and drafting a quarterback to develop behind him is not a good idea. But my question, and believe me I am just trying to get my facts right: When Roethlisberger was drafted, Tommy Maddox was still the starter, but then he got injured and Roethlisberger took over and the rest is history. Wouldn't that be the same situation if the Steelers drafted a quarterback this year?
ANSWER: Here's the difference: Tommy Maddox wasn't Ben Roethlisberger. Maddox never, ever was going to quarterback the Steelers to a Super Bowl, let alone do it three times and win two, and anyone who thought Maddox was of that caliber was delusional. Maddox never, ever was going to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Roethlisberger most assuredly will. It didn't take more than a couple of weeks into training camp before it became obvious, even to someone with my non-existent ability as a "scout" to see that Roethlisberger already was better than Maddox, that Roethlisberger already was the best quarterback on the depth chart.

Also, in 2004 the Steelers were picking from the top three prospects at the position, and their respective NFL careers strongly suggest they got the best quarterback in that class. That would not happen in 2021, and just as it was delusional back then to believe Maddox was a legitimate franchise quarterback capable of winning multiple Super Bowls, it's just as delusional now to think there is some realistic scenario in which the Steelers put themselves in a position to draft that caliber of a quarterback in 2021. So instead, the smart thing to do is to continue to work to put the best team around him you can by using premium draft picks to accomplish that, and try to contend every year he is completing over 65 percent and throwing for 33 touchdowns. Which he did in 2020. And as one final bit of comparison, in 2003 – the season before the Steelers used a No. 1 pick on Roethlisberger, Maddox completed 57 percent and turned the ball over 22 times, with 17 interceptions and five fumbles.

MARK GARVEY FROM HOUSTON, TX: Would taking two running backs in the draft be a strong commitment to the run or overkill?
ANSWER: The Steelers are a team that uses one individual as the primary running back, as the bell cow. Drafting two would be overkill.

JAMES PRUSACK FROM GRANTSVILLE, WV: Can you give us an update on Devin Bush?
ANSWER: During a conference call with Steelers Nation Unite members in late February, Devin Bush said, "Rehab is going good. I am on schedule. I am feeling stronger week by week. I am trying to get ready physically for next year, especially for camp. I am just staying positive about things and doing everything I can possible to make myself one of the best players next year."

ED BURGH FROM NIPOMO, CA: It appears the Steelers and many of the other NFL teams are in need of an offensive lineman or two. Are there enough quality offensive linemen in this year's draft to fill all the needs?
ANSWER: Offensive linemen are in high demand every year, and that's why they are picked early during the draft and why they are so expensive to sign during free agency. I believe another factor in this is that every team in the NFL plays five at a time, so in any given year there is a need for 160 starting caliber offensive linemen.

CAMERON MAXIM FROM BURLINGTON, NC: Do the Steelers need to get a third tight end, or do they only really need two?
ANSWER: The way it works in the NFL is that you better have more than what you specifically "need," because injuries happen.

SHAWN O'BRIEN FROM AUSTIN, TX: Do the Steelers still host past Super Bowl-winning team reunions?
ANSWER: Yes, and my guess is that there would have been a 15-year reunion of the 2005 team that won Super Bowl XL last fall, especially with Bill Cowher and Troy Polamalu having been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But COVID messed that up because there were significant restrictions on the number of people permitted inside Heinz Field for games.

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