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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 30

Let's get to it:

JEFF SMITH FROM CHARLESTON, WV: Have the Steelers ever signed a player who wasn't drafted, who then went on to be an All-Pro? Who do you feel was the Steelers best performer who was not drafted and signed after the draft?
ANSWER: Rick Gosselin has been covering the NFL for 50 years, he is the Dallas representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and also serves on the Hall of Fame's sub-committee charged with selecting the individuals chosen to be nominated for induction in the Seniors category. Bluntly, Gosselin knows more about the NFL Draft and the Pro Football Hall of Fame than anybody.

He recently picked an all-time Undrafted Free Agent Team. It was a 53-player roster of undrafted free agents, and the players on it included 51 Pro Bowlers, 21 Pro Football Hall of Famers, 21 all-decade selections, six members of the NFL's 100th Anniversary Team and five members of the NFL's 50th Anniversary Team. It is a thorough representation, too, because Gosselin built it the way an NFL roster would be built today – "starting with three quarterbacks and finishing with a special-teams ace and long-snapper." He even picked 5 players for a practice squad.

Four Steelers made Gosselin's all-time Undrafted Free Agent Team, and I believe in his ability to do this better than anyone else could, so here they are:

• Willie Parker, 1 of 3 HBs, along with Priest Holmes and Paul Lowe.
• James Harrison, 1 of 4 OLBs, along with Rufus Porter, Bob Swenson, Paris Lenon.
• Jack Butler, 1 of 6 CBs, along with Dick "Night Train" Lane, Willie Brown, Emmitt Thomas, Dave Grayson, Everson Walls.
• Donnie Shell, 1 of 4 safeties, along with Emlen Tunnell, Willie Wood, Cliff Harris.

As for a pick of the Steelers' best-ever undrafted rookie, I would select with one of the four who made Gosselin's team. Which of the four is the best is left to each individual reader of Asked and Answered. I urge anyone interested in an expert analysis of the NFL and its history to follow Gosselin on X (@RickGosselin9) in order to see links to what he writes. It's worth your time.

RICK BRASKO FROM McKEES ROCKS, PA: I was watching the first round of the NFL Draft, and I noticed that the players who were selected but not physically in Detroit to acknowledge the selection still had a hat for the team that picked them already on hand. How does the process of presenting the player with the hat take place?
ANSWER: Those players' agents are given a full set of NFL licensed draft hats in advance, and then whichever team ends up selecting that individual, there is a hat already on site for the player to wear for the television cameras. The NFL Draft has become a television show, with Thursday night's program viewed by an average of 12.1 million people across ESPN, NFL Network, ABC, ESPN Deportes and digital channels. That number represented a 6 percent increase over viewership of Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft (11.4 million) and the highest Round 1 viewership since 2021. With that kind of interest and the revenue that interest generates, it has been decided that it's well worth it to have a full complement of hats on hand so the picked player can wear the correct team hat for the cameras.

SHAWN BITTNER FROM JACKSONVILLE, NC: I loved the results of the 2024 draft. Way too early to tell, but I think the Steelers got some good players who will make an impact in 2024. With the three picks of offensive linemen, we have more bodies than roster spots. How many players at offensive line positions do the Steelers typically keep on the 53-man roster? Any thoughts on what that might look like?
ANSWER: For the 2023 regular season opener against San Francisco, the Steelers had 9 offensive linemen on their 53-man roster plus 2 more on the practice squad. Currently, there are 16 offensive linemen on the team's 90-man roster. As for your last question, as you wrote in your submission: "way too early to tell."

GRANT SPELLERBERG FROM CUTLER BAY, FL: I know there are no guarantees in the draft. That being said, I was wondering if there are any records showing the "safest" position picks. For instance is an offensive lineman more likely to make the cut as opposed to a quarterback?
ANSWER: I'm sure those kinds of statistics/analytics exist, but I would question how accurate they could be because of the variables involved. Here is one of the variables I would point out: An offensive lineman drafted would figure to have a better chance to make the cut than a quarterback for the simple reason there are 5 offensive linemen on the field at a time vs. only 1 quarterback, and those discrepancies would be reflected in roster spots allocated to the respective positions. The answer to everything isn't, nor should be, determined by arithmetic.

CHRIS HANN FROM SARASOTA, FL: Most people I have spoken with believe the three diamonds on the Steelers helmet symbolize the three rivers. I was explaining to a friend that's incorrect. Could you please explain what the diamonds symbolize and what the colors mean?
ANSWER: First of all, those are not diamonds on the Steelers helmet; those are hypocycloids. Here's the story, and I hereby deputize you to educate those who believe they are "diamonds" symbolizing "the three rivers."

It was 1948 when the Los Angeles Rams allowed running back Fred Gehrke, who came to that 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. Gehrke's artwork made the Rams the first NFL team to feature a logo on its headgear.

As the NFL entered the 1950s, other teams copied this, but the Steelers of that era 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 arrived, Rooney wasn't certain they looked all that good on a solid gold helmet. 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 they also qualified for the Playoff Bowl, a postseason exhibition pitting the second-place teams from each of the NFL's two conferences.

Wanting to commemorate this achievement, the Steelers switched to black helmets for the Playoff Bowl 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 orange hypocycloid to red and change the word "Steel" to "Steelers." The look was complete and remains unchanged.

RONNIE CAP FROM YANKTON, SD: How did Ray Seals get his start in the NFL if he did not go to college?
ANSWER: You are correct – Ray Seals did not attend college. After graduating from Henninger High School in Syracuse, NY, Seals was a cook, a security guy, a bouncer, and a doorman at the Hotel Syracuse while he was playing football for the semi-pro Syracuse Express, a part of the Empire Football League. Four years after graduating from high school, Seals got himself into the training camp of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive lineman who had the quickness and athleticism to be a factor in the pass rush, Seals won a spot on the Buccaneers roster. Seals would play 5 seasons for the Buccaneers, and then as one of the initial group of players who became unrestricted free agents and would sign with other teams, he signed with the Steelers in 1994. He would play 2 seasons with the Steelers (he missed a third with a season-ending shoulder injury that happened in a preseason game), and 1 with the Carolina Panthers. In 90 career NFL games, 62 of which were starts, Seals recorded 32 sacks and forced six fumbles; 15.5 of those sacks and 3 of the 6 forced fumbles came in his 29 games with the Steelers.

JEFF LINTON FROM MORRISVILLE, PA: When I was in high school in the 1970s, I had a football coach by the name of Val Jansante, and he played for the Steelers. I've always wondered about his career. Can you tell me a little about him?
ANSWER: You must have attended high school at either Central Catholic in Pittsburgh, or Mon Valley Catholic in Monongahela, Pa., or Bentworth High School in Bentleyville, Pa., because Jansante was a teacher and head football coach at each of those schools after his NFL career. Jansante (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) was a 10th-round pick in the 1944 NFL Draft, but because of World War II he didn't play pro football until the 1946 season. For the Steelers, Jansante was an offensive end who played 65 regular season games, with 48 of those being starts, and in those he caught 155 passes for 2,350 yards (15.3 average), and 14 touchdowns.

DAVID WEHR FROM KIHEI, HI: After the 2024 Draft was completed, the Steelers signed a group of undrafted free agents (UDFA). My last scan of these UFDAs showed 8 signings. What are the restrictions on these signees in dealing with other NFL teams? Are there any restrictions on how many UDFAs a team may sign?
ANSWER: Once an undrafted player signs a contract with an NFL team, he is bound to that NFL team for the duration of his contract or until he is waived by the team that signed him. There is no more "dealing with other NFL teams." Teams are permitted to sign as many undrafted free agents as they choose, providing their roster never exceeds the 90-man limit, and the salaries of their top-51 player contracts do not go over the salary cap.

TOM McCORMICK FROM FINDLAY, OH: I realize it isn't guaranteed that any given draft pick will make the 53-man roster. I also realize I can get a custom-made Steelers jersey with my name on the back, but I would like to get a replica of Mason McCormick's jersey. How does the Steelers organization determine which jerseys are available for purchase?
ANSWER: It's not the Steelers who decide that. Nike, as the official uniform provider to the NFL since 2012, makes the decision on which jerseys will be manufactured in large enough quantities to be sold in the replica category. Typically, Nike would not choose the jersey of an offensive lineman who was drafted in the fourth round (119th overall) to be manufactured in quantity, and unless that player became an All-Pro, it's unlikely to happen ever. McCormick might not even have his own number through the end of the preseason, because to stay in compliance with the league rules regarding which positions can wear which numbers, teams have an offensive player and a defensive player share the same jersey number until final roster cuts are made in late August.