Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 6

Let's get to it:

I see big things coming from Bud Dupree this year. How much longer does he have on his rookie contract? Is there an fifth-year option?

ANSWER: As a first-round draft pick in 2015, Bud Dupree signed a four-year contract that binds him to the team through the 2018 season. Because he was a first-round pick, the Steelers have the right to exercise a fifth-year option, and I believe a decision on whether the team wants to do that would have to be made sometime in May 2018.

The Steelers are one of the few teams in pro sports to seldom retire jerseys, with only two numbers having been retired. But there are a few numbers that haven't been used for a long time, such as No. 12 and No. 58. Which other numbers are currently out of circulation? And besides Ben Roethlisberger's No. 7, are there any numbers you foresee being withheld when their current "user" retires?

ANSWER: Just for clarity, the jersey numbers the Steelers have retired are No. 70 and No. 75. The jersey numbers that have been taken out of circulation are Terry Bradshaw's No. 12, Franco Harris' No. 32, Mike Webster's No. 52, Jack Lambert's No. 58, Jack Ham's No. 59 after Todd Seabaugh wore it very briefly in 1984, and Dermontti Dawson's No. 63. There are three others where it might be too early to say definitively that they've been taken out of circulation but seem to be on that path: Jerome Bettis' No. 36, Troy Polamalu's No. 43, and Hines Ward's No. 86.

As for the current roster, after Ben Roethlisberger's No. 7, I believe it's a wait-and-see situation, because the criteria for this particular "honor" seems to be a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and there are situations/circumstances where even that isn't sufficient.

On April 3, a question was asked about players staying in shape during offseasons back in the 1970s. At that time, I was attending a college near Pittsburgh – Washington & Jefferson – and I used to work out in the college weight room during the summer months while working at night. About two-to-three weeks before training camp opened, about 15 or so Steelers would come to our weight room daily to work out. They were in pretty good shape already, but they were getting ready for camp. I remember Jon Kolb, Jim Clack, Mike Webster, and Gerry Mullins in particular. Thanks for all the good information you share to the good questions. I find myself in agreement with you just about all the time.

ANSWER: Thanks for adding some detail, but a word of caution: I wouldn't admit in public to agreeing with me. It could damage your reputation.

I first want to say thanks for this forum. Twice a week I get great information and a good belly laugh. I would like to know how you acquired your vast knowledge of football. Have you been a student of the game your whole life?

ANSWER: I was very fortunate that during my time with the Steelers there were many knowledgeable people who were willing to share what they knew to help me learn about the sport and the workings of the NFL, and credit also is due to my parents who raised me to use my ears more often than I used my mouth. Dan Rooney always has been willing to share what he knows, and one conversation I'll never ever forget is when he explained to me the method he used when interviewing head coach candidates.

Jim Boston, who died in 2003, started working for the Steelers as a ballboy in 1949, and he would go on to serve the team as equipment manager, assistant trainer, assistant ticket manager, business manager, traveling secretary, and chief negotiator. He was even known to help the grounds crew at Forbes Field.
He also was the Rooney family's consultant to the architects when Three Rivers Stadium was built and became the main link between the Steelers and the stadium operations staff once they moved in. He was a tremendous resource.

In chronological order, Tom Donahoe, Tom Modrak, Bill Nunn, and Kevin Colbert all were, and in Colbert's case, is still, very generous with time. I used to sit in Donahoe's office while he watched tape, and he would point things out to me in conversation. During OTAs and minicamp, I would just stand next to Bill Nunn on the balcony of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, or sit next to him under the makeshift tent the team had for him up on a hill overlooking the fields at Saint Vincent College, and the key in both of those situations was keeping my mouth shut and my ears open. I always believed that Nunn had a soft spot in his heart for me, because he began as a sportswriter for a newspaper and so did I. Riding in a car to Indianapolis for the Combine with Colbert behind the wheel is a five-hour class that is way more valuable than 90 percent of the stuff I had to take in college. Mike Tomlin is a man who never, ever has ducked any question; he always, always makes time; and his knowledge, insight, and candor have taught me a lot and helped me sound intelligent on more than one occasion.

From Myron Cope, I learned the value of reading and studying, and as a young newspaper reporter I recognized the value of just standing at Joe Greene's locker after games at Three Rivers Stadium and listening to him. Tunch Ilkin teaches me something every time we tape an episode of Chalk Talk. I relate all this now only as a way of explaining how special the Steelers are, and please believe me when I tell you that there are countless others I have worked with in the past and still work with today who have helped me along the way.

I relate all of this only as a way of recognizing and thanking those who helped me.

We live in Texas and were wanting to come to a home game for the first time this year. When do tickets usually go on sale, and do you call the stadium for ticket and  hotel information?

ANSWER: The Steelers will announce their individual game ticket sale shortly after the NFL releases the complete 2017 regular season schedule, which is expected to be sometime in the range of April 17-22. Traditionally the date of the individual game ticket sale has been in late May or early June. Please visit for more information on this sale once the NFL releases the schedule, but I can tell you now that the team does not involve itself in hotel accommodations.

I don't think there's any argument that Heath Miller was the best Steelers tight end of all time. But, if you could build a Steelers dream team of players in their prime, who would you choose between Bennie Cunningham and Eric Green?

ANSWER: I never was, nor am I now a fan of Eric Green as a player. He was frequently overweight, selfish, and the guy responsible for the Super Bowl rap video before the Steelers played the San Diego Chargers in the 1994 AFC Championship Game. Once that became public, the Super Bowl rap video became a rallying cry for the Chargers, who went on to upset the Steelers in that game at Three Rivers Stadium. During his time with the Steelers, there may have been no 'I' in team, but there definitely was an 'I' in Eric.

Do you know if the Steelers have any interest in T.J. Watt?

ANSWER: I'm sure they do, to some degree. But don't take that to mean I'm predicting him as the Steelers' first-round pick.

No question, but I just want to thank you for these segments. You are not only incredibly informative, but you have a pithy, humorous way of handling the questions. And I love the way you handle stupidity. Looking forward to many more months/years of this pleasurable experience.

ANSWER: Thanks for the kind words.

Check out what some of the Steelers have been posting to Instagram.

Did you notice, the farther we are from real football, the crazier and more "creative" the questions are?

ANSWER: My experience is that questions are often just as "creative" during the season. Unfortunately. And speaking of "creativity" …

Do you think Le'Veon Bell would be worth more to the Steelers if they traded him? Best back in football, and a receiving threat. A proven commodity, and he's only 25 years old. Trade Bell to Jacksonville for the first-round pick the Jaguars are going to use on Leonard Fournette. Then we could trade back a few times and get a few extra second-round picks.

ANSWER: I guess my failure is I just don't understand how a "few extra second-round picks" are more valuable than a 25-year-old running back who has been voted first-team All-Pro once and second-team All-Pro once.

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