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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 25

Let's get to it:

My question is something that has been bothering me for some time. Looking over the NFL draft in 1983, why did the Steelers pass on Dan Marino? The defense was in good shape, and Terry Bradshaw was retired. The Steelers really needed a quarterback at that time, and they knew Dan from the workouts at Pitt. With Dan Marino the Steelers could possibly have won a couple of more Super Bowls.


ANSWER: Your facts are all wrong. At the time of the 1983 draft, Terry Bradshaw was not retired, and the Steelers defense was coming off a playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers in which it allowed 479 yards of offense in a 31-28 loss. In that game, San Diego averaged 5.0 yards per rush, Dan Fouts passed for 333 yards, and the Chargers converted 64 percent on third down.**

With that cleared up, there were two basic reasons behind the decision to spend 1983's No. 1 pick on Gabe Rivera instead of Dan Marino. The first was that Chuck Noll perceived the time had come to rebuild the Steelers following the decade of the 1970s that included four Lombardis over a six-season span, and since the first time he had built the Steelers into a championship team it was done with defense first, Noll believed that was the way to go about the task the second time.

The other issue at play was that the Steelers didn't believe Bradshaw was at the end of his career. Yes, he was going to be 35 at the start of the 1983 season, but in the seven seasons between 1976 when he was spiked into the Cleveland Stadium turf by Joe "Turkey" Jones and the 1982 strike-shortened season, Bradshaw had missed only three starts. In 1982 – again, a nine-game season because of the players' strike – he led the league with 17 touchdown passes, his 1,768 yards would've projected to 3,143 yards over a full season, which would have represented the third-highest total of his career, and his 52.9 completion percentage was the sixth-highest of his career.

During the offseason following 1982, Bradshaw opted to have surgery on his throwing elbow, he decided to have it done in Shreveport, La., and the Steelers were neither consulted nor notified. Maybe a more accomplished surgeon with more experience in sports orthopedics changes the course a little bit, or even if the surgery was done perfectly but with the Steelers' knowledge of what was entailed and the prognosis for recovery, maybe picking Marino would've taken on a higher priority. But that didn't happen, and so the Steelers drafted Rivera, a 6-foot-2, 293-pound nose tackle with uncommon pass rushing ability. Rivera had two sacks through the first six games of his rookie season and was coming on before being involved in a car accident that left him in a wheelchair.

Certainly in retrospect, not drafting a quarterback who would go on to first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame deserves to be considered a huge mistake, but I am simply clearing up some of your incorrect facts and explaining what was Noll's thinking at the time.

Do you have a gut feeling that the Steelers have an idea of know who they would like to draft in the first round, or do you think they're still undecided? Depending on who's available when they pick, of course.

ANSWER: What I can assure you is that come Thursday, April 27, the Steelers will have their draft board in order, and by in order I mean the players will be listed, best to worst, in order of the grades assigned to them as a result of this entire evaluation process. Because they have the 30th overall pick, there will be 30 players they would feel comfortable taking on the first round, and then when the time comes they will pick their board. I'm sure there are some guys they hope will fall to them at No. 30, but I don't know who those players are, and if anyone tells you they know who those players are, they either are guessing or lying.

A photo gallery of images spanning the life and career of Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney.

No question, just a heartfelt thanks for including all those stories about Dan Rooney. Condolences to you and the entire organization for the loss of such a legend. Being transplanted to Cleveland and listening to all the people around here extolling the virtues of Mr. Rooney and how they all respect him tells of just how amazing a person he was.

Should the Steelers draft Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman? He seems to be Jon Gruden's favorite quarterback in the draft, and who can argue with Chucky?

ANSWER: Chucky, as you refer to him, is now in the entertainment business, and the ESPN series that Jon Gruden does every year at draft time in which he goes one-on-one with the eligible quarterback prospects is very entertaining. But I'm going to give you a list of names of the quarterbacks Gruden had at Tampa Bay, which was his final NFL coaching job, and rest assured that when Gruden worked for the Buccaneers, he was in complete charge of the quarterback personnel: Brad Johnson, Brian Griese, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, and Tim Rattay. Those names, to me, are a strong argument that Gruden talks a better quarterback game now than he was able to execute as an actual NFL head coach. And one more thing: the only reason for the Steelers to draft Nathan Peterman would be if they were looking for a backup to succeed Landry Jones.

A cool Mr. Rooney story: About 18 years ago I was able to get field passes for a day at training camp. My family was sent to an office by the security guard to pick up our passes, and when we walked in the office, to my surprise, Mr. Rooney was sitting in a chair and invited us to come in. He asked us several questions about our kids, spent several minutes with us, and thanked us for coming. He let my kids sit on his lap and take a few pictures. He offered to walk us down to the field. It was a great experience, and I will never forget his hospitality.

In a recent Asked and Answered, there was a question about trading back-end picks for a higher pick in a future draft. It sounded silly if we tried to get a top pick, but what if we traded a No. 5 and a No. 6 in this draft for a fourth-round pick in next year's draft? Then, with compensatory picks available to be traded, traded two No. 4s for a third-round pick in the following year's draft? Kind of like creep up the scale of drafts until one year we found ourselves with multiple third-round picks. It sounds weird, but if a team likes a kid in a spot, and we could give that up for a future pick in a higher round, why not? Today, without the draft, we have a Super Bowl team. Why not use the draft in our favor to stockpile picks in the future?

ANSWER: I disagree that this Steelers team is a Super Bowl team in its current configuration, without the benefit of adding talent and/or depth via the 2017 draft. And here's something I was told by Dan Rooney, "The problem with scouts sometimes is that they're trying to win the draft, when the whole idea is to win the Super Bowl." You are trying to win the draft.

The man who saved the franchise: That's Dan Rooney. So often we hear how the Steelers have had only three coaches since 1969, and 1969 is when Dan Rooney hired Chuck Noll. The hire was important, but it came with a change in philosophy. Noll was given an opportunity to build a team, and that opportunity came from an ownership willing to let it happen. Seeing how stability impacted the team then made it easier to be patient with future coaches.

The man who saved the franchise, Part II came when Dan Rooney hired Bill Nunn. And like the Noll hire, that triggered a change in philosophy as well. Scouting the historically black colleges was about more than finding athletes. As a kid growing up in the 1970s, racism was still everywhere. I heard friends and neighbors use the N-word, and maybe they didn't know what they were saying, but many probably grew into it. I wasn't raised that way in my house, but I was exposed to it certainly.

Growing up in Michigan, the Detroit Lions of that era didn't offer much hope for a 5-year old. I adopted the Steelers then and never looked back. Because Dan Rooney hired Bill Nunn, many of my heroes were black. Growing up wanting to be Joe Greene or John Stallworth makes an impact on a kid when he later becomes an adult, and it's natural to him to say hello to a man in a checkout line, or help a homeless guy on the street, even if he is a different race.

Would you find it a good idea if the Steelers attempted to trade to get Brock Osweiler from the Browns as a potential replacement when Ben Roethlisberger retires?

ANSWER: In fact, the only thing that prevents this from being the worst idea I've heard in the last month is the one presented in the next question.

We've been talking a lot about the heir to Ben Roethlisberger, but there does not appear to be any legitimate candidates in this draft. Why not sign Johnny Manziel? He has the talent. Maybe his head is on straight. Why not give him a chance?

ANSWER: Please be careful crossing the street. And remember, don't run with scissors.

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