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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 20

Let's get to it:

RUSS PALLONE FROM TRINIDAD, CO: Settle a bet. Have any Steeler players (specifically the defensive line from the glory years) ever appeared on the cover of Time Magazine?
ANSWER: The cover of Time Magazine dated Dec. 8, 1975, presented an image of the four members of the Steel Curtain – ends Dwight White and L.C. Greenwood, plus tackles Ernie Holmes and Joe Greene.

JIM GRAVES FROM WATERTOWN, MA: I saw that Hines Ward was drafted on April 18, 1998. The Steelers selected him in the third round with the 92nd overall pick of that draft. Considering the career that Hines had with the Steelers, I was wondering if you could shed some light on which receivers were chosen before him that year, and why the Steelers scouts saw something in him that others missed?
ANSWER: There were 13 wide receivers drafted before Hines Ward in 1998, and only one of those 13 put together a better NFL career than he did. In the first round, the wide receivers picked were Kevin Dyson by Tennessee, Randy Moss by Minnesota, and Marcus Nash by Denver. In the second round, they were Jerome Pathon by Indianapolis, Jacquez Green by Tampa Bay, Patrick Johnson by Baltimore, Germane Crowell by Detroit, Tony Simmons by New England, and Joe Jurevicius by the New York Giants. In the third round, it was Brian Alford by the New York Giants, E.G. Green by Indianapolis, Jammi German by Atlanta, and Larry Shannon by Miami. And to be honest, I don't know that the Steelers necessarily saw something particularly special about Ward, because the team drafted wide receivers in the first round of each of the next two drafts – Troy Edwards in 1999 and Plaxico Burress in 2000.

PETE GAYDOSZ FROM CHARLESTON, WV: Before trading for a player such as wide receiver Allen Robinson, do the Steelers ask any of their players who may have played with that individual or have any personal knowledge about that player? As in this case, quarterback Mitch Trubisky played with Robinson in Chicago.
ANSWER: In this specific example, I am certain the Steelers would have sought Mitch Trubisky's opinion about Allen Robinson, since he was the Bears starting quarterback in three of the seasons (2018-20) Robinson was a starting receiver in Chicago. And in those three seasons, Robinson caught 255 passes for 3,151 yards (12.4 average) and 17 touchdowns, during which he played 2,679 offensive snaps. Not that Trubisky's opinion would have been a turning point either way in the final decision whether to pursue the trade, but his insight would have been viewed as part of the due diligence that's done in these situations. And I believe Coach Mike Tomlin has a level of respect for Trubisky's professionalism and understanding of the sport.

DWAYNE PLOSKI FROM GREENVILLE, VA: If you could choose the backup to Kenny Pickett, who would it be?
ANSWER: It's Mitch Trubisky, and that was determined a while ago. And I have been in favor of that role for him since midway through the 2022 regular season. I believe he can be very good at all facets of that job/role.

SAM MIKHAIL FROM BETHESDA, MD: Looking ahead to the draft, how often have the Steelers traded up in the first round? If I recall correctly, the most recent occurrence was back in 2019 when Devin Bush was drafted. When else did this occur and who was the player drafted?
ANSWER: The Steelers have traded up in the first round of an NFL Draft 3 times during the Super Bowl era – in chronological order, they did it in 2003 to pick Troy Polamalu, in 2006 to pick Santonio Holmes, and in 2019 to pick Devin Bush.

TODD REILLY FROM AUSTIN, TX: Are there any past drafts you recall where one mistake in Round 1 led to another mistake in the same round the following year? My example is in 1988. Instead of selecting running back Lorenzo White, Coach Chuck Noll drafted defensive end Aaron Jones. This led to the Steelers selecting Tim Worley instead of wide receiver Andre Rison in 1989.
ANSWER: While I do not specifically recall the Steelers having first-round interest in Lorenzo White, in 1989 the team did make a decision to pick Tim Worley over Rison. But for me, the more egregious error to come from the 1989 decision was that in 1990 the Steelers picked tight end Eric Green because new coordinator Joe Walton "needed" him for his offense, and with Worley having been a recent No. 1, the team was comfortable trading down with Dallas and bypassing a Florida running back named Emmitt Smith.

JOSH MATTHEWS FROM NEW YORK, NY: Is Heath Miller a future Hall of Famer?
ANSWER: He is not. Not enough stats and only one Pro Bowl. Heath Miller is the best tight end in franchise history and a deserving member of the Steelers Hall of Honor, but that doesn't mean he ever will get the votes necessary to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

JIM RICCO FROM NICHOLASVILLE, KY: What is the status of Benny Snell Jr.? I have heard little about the possibility of him returning to the Steelers.
ANSWER: Benny Snell Jr. became an unrestricted free agent on March 15, and he remains unsigned as of this date.

KEITH MILLER FROM CANTON, NC: Would you please list the Steelers players who have been voted Offensive or Defensive Players of the Year?
ANSWER: The Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award originated in 1972 and is given annually to the offensive player in the National Football League deemed to have had the most outstanding season. The winner is chosen by votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sportswriters who regularly follow the NFL. The 2022 winner was Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, and every winner of the award has been either a running back or a quarterback, with the exception of wide receivers Jerry Rice, Michael Thomas, Cooper Kupp, and Jefferson. No Steelers players ever have been voted the Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year. In 1978, Terry Bradshaw was voted the NFL Most Valuable Player, and for that season Oilers running back Earl Campbell was the winner of the Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award.

The Defensive Player of the Year Award is given by the Associated Press to the most outstanding defensive player in the National Football League at the end of every season. It has been awarded since 1971, and the winner is decided by votes from a panel of 50 sportswriters. Lawrence Taylor, J. J. Watt, and Aaron Donald are the only three-time winners of the award. Joe Greene, Ray Lewis, Mike Singletary, Bruce Smith, and Reggie White each have won it twice. The Steelers players voted the Defensive Player of the Year Award are:

1972 Joe Greene
1974 Joe Greene
1975 Mel Blount
1976 Jack Lambert
1993 Rod Woodson
2008 James Harrison
2010 Troy Polamalu
2021 T.J. Watt

JACK LATTA FROM PRESTONSBURG, KY: With news that the Washington Commanders appear to have been sold, it got me thinking: Do ownership groups ever come in with the idea of emulating the Steelers since the franchise has been one of the most successful in the sport for the last 50 years?
ANSWER: Typically, someone who has the financial means to own an NFL franchise is interested in putting his or her own mark on it once the transaction is completed and approved, but I believe it's germane to your question to point out that David Tepper (current owner of the Carolina Panthers), Jimmy Haslam (current owner of the Cleveland Browns), and Josh Harris (expected to close the deal to buy the Washington Commanders) all began in the NFL as part of the Steelers ownership group.

JOHN WASHINSKY FROM CLEMMONS, NC: Is there a rule that limits the number of players that the Steelers can invite to training camp?
ANSWER: Players without signed contracts are not permitted to take part in a team's training camp, and the NFL roster limit throughout the offseason is 90 players. Training camp is considered part of the NFL offseason for roster limit purposes.

BOB GAYDOS FROM SPRINGDALE, PA: Since voluntary workouts have begun, when do the mandatory workouts begin and are the dates set for practices at Saint Vincent College?
ANSWER: The only mandatory workouts of the offseasons happen during the three-day minicamp, which for the Steelers is scheduled for June 13-15. No decisions have been made yet as to when training camp will open and the practice schedule once it does open.

JACK L. KINCAID JR. FROM MASSILLON, OH: Bennie Cunningham, Eric Green, Mark Bruener, Heath Miller, and Darnell Washington. Would you be in favor of another Round 1 tight end? Washington can block, he can catch, he can run people over and is clearly a mismatch for nearly everyone. Is the allure of what that additional offensive threat might bring worth pick No. 17?
ANSWER: My opinion is that I am definitely not in favor of using the 17th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on a tight end. That's nothing against Darnell Washington, but I just believe there are other areas of the roster/lineup that are more worthy of such a premium pick in the first round.

JERAMY DALLAS FROM SODDY DAISY, TN: Being a recently minted Steelers fanatic thanks to my uncle and father, can you tell me a story about the team's logo being on only one side of their helmets?
ANSWER: It was 1948 when the Los Angeles Rams allowed running back Fred Gehrke, who came to the team as an art major from the University of Utah, to paint horns on their helmets – mainly because he offered to do it for free – and thus become the first NFL team to feature a logo on its headgear. As the NFL entered the 1950s, other teams copied this, but the Steelers instead featured each player's jersey number on both sides of a gold helmet. Later into the 1950s, the helmet numbers were removed, and then in 1962 owner Art Rooney Sr. was approached by Republic Steel, headquartered in Cleveland, to suggest the team use the Steelmark as a helmet logo.

The Steelmark is a symbol created by the American Iron and Steel Institute, and it's in the form of a circle that encloses three hypocycloids and the word "Steel." The hypocycloids are three different colors, which eventually came to represent the three elements used to make steel: yellow for coal, orange for ore, and blue for steel scrap. When the first batch of logos arrived, Rooney wasn't certain they looked all that good on a solid gold helmet. So, equipment manager Jackie Hart was instructed to start out by putting them only on one side of the helmet as a kind of visual test. The 1962 Steelers finished 9-5 to become the winningest team in franchise history and qualify for the Playoff Bowl, a postseason exhibition pitting the second-place teams from each of the NFL's two conferences.

Wanting to commemorate this "reward" of a spot in the Playoff Bowl, the Steelers switched to black helmets for that game and ended up liking how the logo popped against a dark background. Rooney's final step was to petition the American Iron and Steel Institute for permission to change the word "Steel" to "Steelers." The look was then complete and remains unchanged.