Let's get to it:
Phase One of the Steelers offseason workout program is underway.
RALPH GOLDSTEIN FROM MANHATTAN BEACH, CA:
Because there is a random element to the draft, do the Steelers ever end up drafting someone that they haven't really talked much to?
ANSWER: There is one famous instance where that happened, where the Steelers drafted someone – and on the first round at that – whom they didn't talk to. It happened in 1987, and the Steelers held the 10th overall pick in that draft following a 6-10 finish in 1986, and because they had a cornerback depth chart that included the likes of John Swain, Harvey Clayton, Chris Sheffield, Lupe Sanchez, and Donnie Elder, to say the team needed cornerbacks as the 1987 NFL Draft began was an understatement.
The top cornerback prospect that year was Rod Woodson, and even with the Steelers' obvious and desperate need at the position, Chuck Noll told Tony Dungy, who had played safety for the Steelers and at the time was the team's defensive coordinator, not even to bother making a scouting trip to West Lafayette, Indiana, where Woodson attended Purdue, because Noll was that certain Woodson would be gone before the Steelers had a chance to make the No. 10 overall pick in the first round.
But then the Cleveland Browns and the St. Louis Cardinals intervened.
When the draft began on April 28, 1987, the first four picks went pretty much as expected: Tampa Bay selected Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde; Indianapolis picked Alabama linebacker Cornelius Bennett; Houston picked Miami fullback Alonzo Highsmith; and Green Bay took Auburn running back Brent Fullwood. (Highsmith and Fullwood wouldn't put together careers deserving of these draft positions, but they were considered to be among the top prospects heading into it.)
Then came Cleveland, and because they had a hole in their linebacking corps following the surprise trade of Pro Bowl player Chip Banks, the Browns sought to fill that hole immediately by selecting Duke linebacker Mike Junkin. Before observers could get over the shock of the pick, the Cardinals followed by taking Colorado State quarterback Kelly Stouffer.
That put the Steelers in play for Woodson, because Detroit, picking seventh, was known to covet Washington defensive end Reggie Rogers; and Philadelphia, picking ninth, had its eye on Miami defensive tackle Jerome Brown. And so when Buffalo used the eighth overall pick of the first round on Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan, the Steelers had the best cornerback prospect in the entire draft fall into their laps.
BRYCE KYBURZ FROM AUSTIN, TX:
In your recent article that was headlined, "Labriola on why 2018 isn't a repeat of 1983," you failed to mention Aaron Smith as one of the best Day 3 draft picks. Aaron was the 109th pick in the 4th round in 1999. Is there a specific reason he was left off your list?
ANSWER: Yes, there was a very specific reason that Aaron Smith wasn't included. The period in Steelers draft history I was referencing was from 2000-15, which was pointed out in the column. As you mentioned, Smith was drafted in 1999.
FRANK FERRI FROM COZUMEL, MEXICO:
What about Big Daddy Lipscomb, Lou Cordileone, and Brady Keys? Sorry if I misspelled any of those names.
ANSWER: Your spelling was better than your recollection of when they played for the Steelers. The question in the April 12 edition of Asked and Answered had to do with Steelers players from the 1950s, and Lou Cordileone played here in 1962-63, Eugene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb played for the Steelers in 1961-62, and Brady Keys played for the Steelers from 1961-67.
MARK XESS FROM MANASSAS, VA:
"Some of the Color Rush uniforms have been a strain for color blind fans, and others are somewhat offensive aesthetically." Seriously? The NFL reviewed concerns from color blind fans? Wow. And who exactly decided that other uniforms were not aesthetically pleasing?
ANSWER: One of the first Color Rush Thursday night games pitted the Buffalo Bills vs. the New York Jets. The Bills wore all red, and the Jets wore all green. Fans who are color blind either couldn't watch the game or were plagued with headaches if they tried, and they made their situation known to the NFL and possibly to the networks televising the game. Fans who are color blind count in the Nielsen ratings, too. As for who decided some Color Rush uniforms were not aesthetically pleasing, it didn't take a fine eye for fashion to realize how hideous the Redskins' all-mustard-yellow versions were.
CHARLES CELANO FROM HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA:
Will defensive line coach Karl Dunbar try and work Dan McCullers into the rotation this year? Dan continues to get a bad rap year after year, yet previous reports show when he plays a fair amount his snap count vs. tackles is usually very respectable.
ANSWER: I'm not going to criticize Dan McCullers as a means of answering this question, but you are mistaken if you believe he hasn't been playing because of "a bad rap." Karl Dunbar will take a shot at trying to develop McCullers into the kind of defensive lineman who deserves to get a helmet on game day. First things first.
JOHN DELUCA FROM THORNTON, PA:
When did the Steelers stop playing the Cleveland Browns on Saturday nights?
ANSWER: For eight straight seasons – from 1963-1970 – the Steelers played in Cleveland on Saturday nights during the regular season. The games were hugely popular with fans and regularly drew crowds in excess of 80,000 people, and the Steelers were 1-8 in those games. Once Chuck Noll was hired, and he found his team was playing a Browns team that was a consistent contender on the road on a short week to see a few tickets, that practice was stopped.
GERRY MANDERING FROM SCALP LEVEL, PA:
As far as you know, did the Steelers give any consideration to drafting Reuben Foster over T.J. Watt last year? Thanks goodness they didn't take Foster.
ANSWER: Thanks for bringing that up, Gerry. I wonder where all of the personnel geniuses are now who were emailing me after last year's draft about how foolish the Steelers were for passing on Reuben Foster and picking T.J. Watt. Any of you guilty parties out there care to reveal yourselves?