Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 2

Let's get to it:

AVRY BEN-DOV FROM SCRANTON, PA: I vaguely remember Amos Zeroeue as a Steelers player in my childhood. Can you shed some light on his time in Pittsburgh?
ANSWER: Amos Zereoue was one of three third-round picks (95th overall and a compensatory selection) by the Steelers in the 1999 NFL Draft, and he was with the team for five seasons. At 5-foot-8, 212 pounds, Zereoue played his college football at West Virginia where he rushed for 4,086 yards (5.2 average) and 40 touchdowns in 33 games. As a rookie in 1999, Zereoue served as a backup to Jerome Bettis and Richard Huntley; in 2000 Zereoue actually was the No. 4 running back behind Bettis, Huntley, and Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala; and in 2001 he moved up one slot on the depth chart, back to No. 3, when Huntley's time with the Steelers ended. Zereoue's big break with the Steelers coincided with Coach Bill Cowher's decision to bench Kordell Stewart and go with Tommy Maddox as the starting quarterback three games into the 2002 season. As the Steelers' offensive focus shifted away from Bettis' physical running and a down-the-field passing attack to one where the quarterback acted as the triggerman for everything, Zereoue finished that season with more carries than Bettis (193-187), more total touches (235-194), more yards from scrimmage (1,103-723), but fewer touchdowns (9-4). Then in 2003, Cowher decided on Zereoue as the starter over Bettis when the regular season opened, but Maddox was awful, with 17 interceptions, five fumbles, and a 75.3 passer rating while being sacked 41 times. Plus, Bettis ended up starting 10 games and finished with more rushing yards than Zereoue (811-433), more yards from scrimmage (897-743), and more touchdowns (7-2). And that 2003 season, in which the Steelers finished 6-10, was the last time the team ended a regular season with a losing record.

BRUCE BECKER FROM CLAREMONT, CA: I'm 18 years old and have been a fan since birth. Do you think the Steelers would trade into the first round or just stick with their current second-round selection at pick No. 49 overall?
ANSWER: I believe that for the Steelers to trade up into the first round of the upcoming draft, they would have to give up a No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, and the franchise is adamantly opposed to get into the business of trading away future draft picks. My prediction is they'll stay at No. 49 overall and do their best to use the pick to add an offensive playmaker.

RICK SANTRY FROM ALLENDALE, NJ: What type of player would have to be available at the end of the first round for the Steelers even to consider moving up into the first round? Playmaking wide receiver? Or is there a dynamic running back who could cause such a shock to Steelers Nation?
ANSWER: It would have to be a ball-hawking free safety who could take away the middle of the field, who could make plays on the ball and not just knock it down but intercept it, who would always be around the ball whether the opponent was running it or throwing it, and have the instincts and awareness to take the ball away – either by recovering fumbles or intercepting passes – and maybe score a defensive touchdown or two on the way to being a first-team All-Pro in his first season with the Steelers. Sound like anybody familiar?

All joking aside, here is what General Manager Kevin Colbert said on Tuesday about trading back into the first round of the 2020 draft: "We will never say we won't trade into any given round or trade out of one. I think it's highly unlikely that we could come up with any type of package to get back into the first round, and quite honestly, we are very comfortable not having a first-round pick, especially when it is in the form of Minkah Fitzpatrick replacing our first-round pick. Under the current circumstances (caused by the global pandemic), the uncertainty you might have not having all the information (on players) you have had in the past, I am a lot more comfortable knowing we got an All-Pro player with that pick. I am not real concerned about getting back in there because there is good depth in this draft. I feel good about who we can get in the second round and beyond."

DAN WEYAND-GEISE FROM CINCINNATI, OH: My family and I were on season ticket waiting list for nearly 20 years when we got the call last year. I really enjoyed the year and the game day experience at Heinz Field. Is mid- to-late April still a likely time for this season's schedule to be released?
ANSWER: Because of the unique situation gripping the world, I don't believe the NFL will be releasing its schedule around a week before the draft, as it has in the past. I don't know anything for certain, but I would guess a more likely time would be in the first couple of weeks in May. But then, that could change as well depending upon the status of the global pandemic.

DONALD ADAMS FROM RICHMOND, TX: Now that the league has approved the new playoff format, will the division winners still get a first-round home game even if a wild card team has a better record?
ANSWER: Yes. The division winners in each conference will be seeded 1-through-4. The No. 1 seed in each conference will get a bye, and the other three top seeds will host a game in the Wild Card Round. In my opinion, that's the way it should be, because winning a division deserves a reward.

JOE ASHER FROM TAMPA, FL: Tony Dungy was a Steelers player and went on to become a very successful coach. Was he the most successful former Steelers player who became a coach?
ANSWER: Tony Dungy was the only former Steelers player who went on to become a head coach of a team that won an NFL Championship – Super Bowl XLI – but I would contend that Dick Hoak also was a highly successful NFL coach who began as a player for the Steelers. Hoak was a Steelers assistant for 35 seasons under Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher, and he was an integral member of the organization during five Super Bowl championship seasons. And Hoak was a better NFL player than Dungy. I guess the answer to your question would come down to your definition of "most successful."

MICHAEL QUINN FROM WEST PITTSTON, PA: Why doesn't Jack Lambert participate in any Steelers or NFL functions? He is an all-time great, and I'm sure fans would love to see him.
ANSWER: That's a question only Jack Lambert can answer.

DAVID WAYNE FROM ATLANTA, GA: With the addition of Derek Watt, what is the status of Roosevelt Nix?
ANSWER: The Steelers released Roosevelt Nix on March 18.

TIM WHEELER FROM MELTON MOWBRAY, UK: In your opinion, were the deals that had Roosevelt Nix replaced with Derek Watt based in finances, capability, or durability?
ANSWER: My perception is that Derek Watt is a better and more versatile offensive player who is not dealing with a stubborn knee injury. Watt is a competent fullback who also can play H-back (also known as a "move" tight end), and he is very good on special teams. And he's not dealing with the kind of knee situation that landed Nix on the injured reserve list last season.

JERMONT BROWN FROM NASHVILLE, TN: It seems to me that a big factor for us to get back to the Super Bowl is to have a top ranked defense and top ranked rushing offense. What information can you provide on the Steelers for rankings in the categories of "defense" and "rushing offense" in our Super Bowl appearances?
ANSWER: We will begin with the six seasons that ended with the Steelers winning the Super Bowl. In 1974, the Steelers ranked second in the NFL in rushing and first in the NFL in defense. In 1975, they ranked second in the NFL in rushing and fourth in the NFL in defense. In 1978, they ranked 14th in the NFL in rushing and third in the NFL in defense. In 1979, they ranked second in the NFL in rushing and second in the NFL in defense. In 2005, they ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing and fourth in the NFL on defense. And in 2008, they ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing and first in the NFL in defense.

Now for the two seasons in which the Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl but lost. In 1995, they ranked 12th in the NFL in rushing and third in the NFL in defense. And in 2010 they ranked 11th in the NFL in rushing and second in the NFL in defense.

MIKE MARIC FROM VERNON, BC, CANADA: With the rookie wage scale in the CBA, has this changed the Steelers draft philosophy in recent years? Historically Steelers rookies tended to redshirt, but lately rookies have had a more immediate role. Put another way, do they weigh being NFL-ready a little higher now than in the past? And do they also draft for immediate need as opposed to future potential.
ANSWER: In the early rounds of the draft – the rounds that based on the current draft schedule are held on the first two days – the Steelers and most teams are looking for players capable of contributing either immediately or very soon after entering the NFL. There is still some picking of developmental prospects, but that usually doesn't happen until the later rounds, which typically are conducted on Day 3 of the draft. Because of the rookie wage scale and the fact all rookie contracts are for four years, with the team holding an option for a fifth year on all first-round picks, it makes financial sense to get draft picks on the field and contributing as soon as realistic so the team can take advantage of those low salary cap numbers. And in my opinion, this is especially true for quarterbacks. The era of drafting a quarterback to have him sit behind an established veteran for two, three, or more seasons before ascending to the starting lineup is over.

JOHN BRAGG FROM FAIRMONT, WV: As an example, if the Steelers sign a player to a three-year, $65 million contract with $35 million guaranteed, is the guaranteed money given in a lump sum or spread over the three years? If it's spread out, what happens if that player is cut after one season?
ANSWER: The date of payment of any guaranteed money in a player's contract is stipulated in the language of the contract, both in terms of when it's to be paid and how it's to be paid. And guaranteed means guaranteed, so if a player is cut, he still receives all of the money in his contract that is designated as "guaranteed."

DENNIS LUCK FROM LA CROSSE, WI: Would it be worth giving Jaylen Samuels a look at tight end? Or at least have a special package for him?
ANSWER: Again, allow me to remind fans that there's much more to playing tight end than running routes and catching passes. Jaylen Samuels is not physically constructed to be able to line up on the line of scrimmage and handle the blocking assignments that go along with being a tight end in the NFL. He can do his receiving out of the backfield and be effective that way.