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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 29

Let's get to it:

TODD GOODING FROM PORTAGE, MI: Who is responsible for finding Greg Lloyd leading up to the 1987 NFL Draft, and why is this class never mentioned as one of the best Steelers drafts ever?
ANSWER: Tom Donahoe held various jobs within the Steelers player personnel department before being promoted to Director of Football Operations at the same time Bill Cowher was hired in January 1992 to follow Chuck Noll as the team's coach. But back in 1987, Donahoe was one of the workaholics in the team's scouting department, and a videotape of the Heritage Bowl, a historically Black College All-Star Game, found its way onto his desk. Donahoe popped the tape into the VCR in his office and started to watch, and he quickly noticed this one player who was running all over the field, sideline-to-sideline, and seemingly making every tackle. After a little research, Donahoe learned that player was Greg Lloyd, a linebacker from Fort Valley State College. Lloyd was not invited to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine that year, and so Donahoe took a flight to Atlanta and then drove 2.5 hours to Fort Valley State to work out Lloyd. The Steelers used a sixth-round pick in the 1987 NFL Draft on Lloyd, and he joined a class that included Rod Woodson, Delton Hall, Thomas Everett, Hardy Nickerson, and Merril Hoge.

The Steelers' 1987 draft class is impressive, but it suffers in comparison to others in franchise history simply because it contained "only" one Hall of Fame player and contributed to no Super Bowl wins. When it comes to Steelers' draft classes, it's a high bar, especially because of the 1974 group that played such a big part in the winning of four Lombardi Trophies over a six-season span and included five players who ended up elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

KEN SCOTTEN FROM NEW PARK, PA: Is Marcus Allen in the Steelers' plans to play more snaps this year do you think? If so, how do you think they plan to use him, or what would be his primary responsibilities on the team this season?
ANSWER: It doesn't work that way, not with fifth-round draft picks anyway. Marcus Allen may have resurrected his career with the Steelers in 2020 with the move from safety to hybrid linebacker, but he still won't open training camp as a starter. Whatever playing time, whatever role, Allen ends up with in 2021 is going to have to be earned when the pads go on during training camp and then in the preseason. If he shows on the field that he is deserving of being more than a backup, then he will play more, but at this point I would say that it's no sure thing that Marcus Allen has a spot on the initial 53-man roster.

SCOTT MINNICH FROM HAGERSTOWN, MD: If you had the 24th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to make for the Steelers, would you trade it for any single running back from the past in his prime or any current NFL running back, who has not played for the Steelers?
ANSWER: Yes, I would trade the 24th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft for Jim Brown in his prime.

MIKE FOLEY FROM SADDLE BROOK, NJ: Regarding the question about whether or not Greg Lloyd deserves consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, you mentioned a torn patellar tendon and ankle injury that put the brakes on his trajectory to Canton. Wasn't the staph infection he sustained the major halt to his career?
ANSWER: Greg Lloyd developed a staph infection in connection to the ankle injury he sustained in the latter stages of the 1997 season.

KEVIN NEVERLY FROM WEIRTON, WV: Is there any particular player you would like to see the Steelers draft? And, is there any way that the Steelers can move up in the draft?
ANSWER: I am on record as saying that if the decision was mine, which it is not, I would use the 24th overall pick on Alabama running back Najee Harris. As for trading up, Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said, "Very doubtful we'll trade up. We really value those eight picks we have, five of which are in the top 140 players overall."

SAM STIER FROM CRESTWOOD, KY: What are your thoughts on the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year Award? Most Steelers fans think T.J. Watt deserved it.
ANSWER: You may be correct about what most Steelers fans thought, but most of the voters for the Defensive Player of the Year Award thought Aaron Donald deserved it, and they're the only ones who mattered. Besides, that's ancient history at this point.

JAMES PARKER FROM SPRINGVILLE, AL: Reading your comments on L.C. Greenwood reminded me of another unsung hero from a more recent Steel Curtain: Aaron Smith. With two Super Bowl rings on his resume, does Smith have a shot at the Hall of Fame? Also, what can you tell us about Smith's influence on Brett Keisel and the rest of that defensive line?
ANSWER: Aaron Smith was a critical part of a great defense, as well as being a great teammate, but the Hall of Fame Board of Selectors consider things such as statistics, Pro Bowl appearances, All-Pro selections, etc. Smith was voted to just one Pro Bowl and never was an All-Pro. It never was a secret that Smith always was willing to sacrifice his own statistics to do what was necessary to help the team win, which made him a perfect defensive end in a 3-4 alignment. I believe Smith's impact on his teammates never was more on display than during the trying time in 2008 after his then 4-year-old son, Elijah, was diagnosed with leukemia. During that time Smith and his family decided to participate in the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Light the Night Walk in Pittsburgh, and his Steelers teammates quickly joined the cause.

"This event has been awesome since we got involved back in 2008," said Brett Keisel in 2013 when he and his family were among the many who participated in the walk. "Elijah was a big inspiration for our football team back then and he continues to be today. To come out and support him and the Smith family is something we love to do. Aaron has done so much for us. We are all family, and it's just a little way we can give back."

SCOTT SHOEMAKER FROM WINCHESTER, VA: Are there any defensive players in the draft who if they fell to the 24th pick the Steelers would select over the top running back or top tackle prospects?
ANSWER: I hope not.

GRANT GEDDES FROM SPANISH FORK, UT: Are the Steelers considering grabbing a late-round quarterback? In the first few rounds the elites will be out of reach, but after that should they try to find someone to be the future of our team?
ANSWER: If you actually believe a late-round quarterback is going to be the future of this team, you are mistaken.

KEITH MILLER FROM CANTON, NC: I just read General Manager Kevin Colbert's analysis of the Steelers running game last year where he said the problem was much deeper than just personnel. Did he just throw Randy Fichtner under the bus?
ANSWER: When a team finishes last in the NFL in rushing and is totally incapable of converting short-yardage and goal-line situations by running the football, the problems go deeper than changing some personnel. That's just the reality of it. Kevin Colbert didn't say anything that knowledgeable football people didn't already know. And let's not forget, the decision on Randy Fichtner's contract was made in January, and Colbert's comments came on April 26.

BILL SPANEL FROM NEW PALESTINE, IN: Does the remaining salary cap space leave the team with any possible offer for the return of Steve Nelson despite the need to sign the draft picks and have their usual "cushion" going into the season?
ANSWER: My impression is that the Steelers have moved on from Steven Nelson and that he has moved on from them.

KEN WALDROP FROM ONTONAGON, MI: I know the Steelers have the philosophy of drafting the best player available. Is there a pick or picks back in the day that you remember had the Steelers fixated on an individual in the draft who they just weren't going to move away from?
ANSWER: Bill Nunn told me that Chuck Noll had become so enamored with John Stallworth during the pre-draft process in 1974 that he was determined to add him to the team, almost by whatever means necessary. Nunn said Noll was in favor of picking Stallworth in the first round, and had to be convinced that Lynn Swann's visibility as a USC wide receiver meant the savvy move would be to pick him first since Stallworth went to Alabama A&M and wasn't as well known. Then Noll also was in favor of picking Stallworth in the second round, but picking wide receivers back-to-back in 1974 didn't make sense based on the way offense was then being played in the NFL, and besides there was this linebacker from Kent State who sure looked like a fine prospect. But before Noll agreed to the selection of Jack Lambert in the second round, Nunn said Noll asked him directly if he could guarantee that Stallworth would still be available in the fourth round, because the Steelers had traded their third-round pick the year before to the Raiders for veteran defensive tackle Tom Keating. The savvy individual he was, Nunn said he promised Noll that Stallworth would still be available in the fourth round even though he admitted to having no idea if that was true. Sufficiently satisfied, Noll signed off on the Lambert pick, and Nunn said he had to sweat out every pick until the Steelers' turn in the fourth round, when they were able to get Stallworth.

MATTHEW POWNALL FROM LEHIGH ACRES, FL: I've been working roughly 60-plus hours a week in a nursing home since the pandemic started, and I just wanted to say it's always fun reading Asked and Answered when I have some down time. It keeps the offseason lively. Thanks for the posts and keep up the good sarcasm.
ANSWER: It's gratifying for me to know Asked and Answered provides you some respite and entertainment from the important work you do. I hope you are appreciated for that work.

KEVIN MCDEVITT FROM WHITEHALL, PA: My wife is an avid fan, and she recently asked what a "Mock Draft" was. I could not come up with a positive or informative response. The best I could do: NFL analysts and writers try to guess who each team is going to pick in the first round of a particular draft. They are seldom if ever correct, and there is no recourse or accountability for their actions. I am posing her follow-up question to you: Why does anyone care?
ANSWER: Your wife is a wise lady. And speaking for myself, I gave up caring a long time ago.