Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 11

Let's get to it:

BEN FIELY FROM MEADVILLE, PA: Do you think the addition of Eric Ebron will be just as beneficial for the Steelers as was the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick early in the 2019 season?
ANSWER: I believe the Eric Ebron signing has a chance to have a positive impact on the offense by adding another weapon for Ben Roethlisberger and allowing the Steelers to be more effective and creative with formations and personnel groupings. But comparing Ebron to Minkah Fitzpatrick is unfair to Ebron. Fitzpatrick was a first-team All-Pro safety in his first season with the team and a top 10 talent when he was a part of the 2018 NFL Draft. He also was the missing ingredient for a defense that had lacked a ball-hawk defensive back ever since Troy Polamalu retired. I liked the Ebron signing, and if he stays healthy he can be a significant addition to the 2020 Steelers, but Fitzpatrick is a player who'll be on the field for virtually every defensive snap, and opponents will have to account for him on every one of those. Let's not place unrealistic expectations on someone before he even plays a down in a Steelers uniform.

RODGER SHAFFER FROM PLUM, PA: Last year we saw a decline in the play of the offensive line. To what would you attribute that?
ANSWER: Every offensive position was impacted negatively by the loss of Ben Roethlisberger, the offensive line included.

JOSEPH PARHAM FROM PHILADELPHIA, PA: Do you think the Steelers' current running backs can produce the way the backs did in 2004-05 did, with Duce Staley, Jerome Bettis, Verron Haynes, and Willie Parker?
ANSWER: Not a fair fight. The group from 2004-05 included one future Hall of Fame player, one two-time Pro Bowl player, and a veteran, established NFL starter. The only member of the current group of running backs with any appreciable experience is James Conner. As of right now, there is no comparison between the two groups.

MICHAEL BESOZZI FROM BRIDGEPORT, OH: Bud Dupree is playing on the franchise tag this season. With the salary cap being an issue, and with the uncertainty of the salary cap in 2021 being an issue with all teams, do you think there is any chance Pittsburgh would trade Bud Dupree for some early draft picks in next year's draft?
ANSWER: Hahahahaha. No. The Steelers are trying to win a Super Bowl this season, and trading Bud Dupree for picks in the following year's draft doesn't get them any closer to that goal.

ANDREW CLAY FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: With your connections, can you get someone to take and post a video of T.J. Watt vs. Derek Watt during the backs-on-backers drill? That would be great.
ANSWER: If there had been training camp at Saint Vincent College this summer, fans in attendance for the first practice in pads and for the Friday Night Lights practice at Latrobe Stadium would've had a chance to see that live, but the rules regarding what can be videotaped during a Steelers practice prohibit the taping of drills during the competition period, and backs-on-backers is a drill during the competition period.

BURTON HARRIS FROM GREENSBURG, PA: With what is going on with COVID-19, do you think the Steelers would change their policy and conduct contract talks during the season?
ANSWER: The reason the Steelers instituted the policy of ending all contract talks at the start of the regular season was because they wanted all focus to be on the regular season once it began. That has nothing to do with COVID-19, and so I don't see why that could or should be a mitigating factor in contract negotiations this year.

DAVID HORCHAK FROM CHERRY TREE, PA: In baseball a team trading a player can agree to pay a portion of his salary. Can an NFL team trying to trade a player agree to take on part of his guaranteed salary or future cap hit?

DAVE STEWART FROM VALRICO, FL: If I understand the camp schedule/restrictions it looks like a lot more coaching and conditioning and less pads and contact. Do you think that will lead to more or fewer injuries during the season?
ANSWER: This is a question where any answer offered is a pure guess. Here's my guess: I hope it's fewer, but I suspect it will be more.

DEAN KOSTLICH FROM ATLANTA, GA: Kordell Stewart was a gifted athlete and when he was given the reigns as the starting quarterback, the expectations were high. I felt that his career as starting quarterback was derailed a bit by the constant change in the offensive coordinator position during his run, thereby not allowing him to ascend as he otherwise could have. Crucial mistakes in the AFC Championship Games of 1997 and 2001 certainly didn't help.
ANSWER: Kordell Stewart didn't play well in either the 1997 nor the 2001 AFC Championship Games, and his three interceptions in each of those losses were important to the outcome. But just as important to the outcome in the 2001 version were the special teams gaffes – a mindless penalty on a punt that forced a re-kick that then was returned for a touchdown; and then having a field goal blocked and returned for another touchdown – that accounted for a 17-point swing in what ended up being a 24-17 final. And in the 1997 version, the Steelers had handled the Broncos, 34-24, in a regular season game during which Jerome Bettis had pounded Denver's porous run defense for 186 yards on 36 carries (5.1 average) and Stewart rushed for two touchdowns, but when it came to playing for a spot in the Super Bowl, the Steelers abandoned their running attack late in the first quarter and saw a 14-10 lead become a 24-14 halftime deficit because they effectively put Stewart in a passing battle with John Elway. In the NFL, winning with a running quarterback requires a total commitment on offense to utilizing that player's unique skills (as the Ravens did with Lamar Jackson in 2019 being a recent example), but the Steelers never quite got there. And then Stewart wasn't able to develop into a traditional NFL quarterback.

PAUL PATTERSON FROM BADEN, PA: Will you list the players' names and their jersey numbers of those Steelers who are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and whether their jersey numbers have been assigned to players on the current team?
ANSWER: OK, here's a listing of the Steelers Hall of Fame players in chronological order of their inductions, along with a brief history of their respective jersey numbers:

• Johnny "Blood" McNally wore No. 15, which has been worn by 10 players since his time with the team, including quarterbacks Ed Brown and Mike Kruczek. On the current 80-man roster, no one is assigned No. 15.

• Bill Dudley wore No. 35, which has been worn by 22 players since his time with the team, most notably by John Henry Johnson, who was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1987. Also to wear No. 35 were Delton Hall, Fred McAfee, and Dan Kreider. On the current 80-man roster, Alexander Myres is wearing No. 35.

• Bobby Layne wore No. 22, which has been worn by 13 players since his time with the team, most notably Rick Woods, Larry Griffin, Duce Staley, William Gay, and current starting cornerback Steven Nelson.

• Ernie Stautner wore No. 70, which became the first jersey in franchise history to be retired when it happened during a halftime ceremony in 1964.

• Joe Greene wore No. 75, which became the second jersey in franchise history to be retired when it happened at halftime of a game vs. the Ravens on Nov. 2, 2014.

• John Henry Johnson wore No. 35, which also was worn by Hall of Famer Bill Dudley.

• Jack Ham wore No. 59, which was worn by Todd Seabaugh in 1984. That was the only time No. 59 was issued to a Steelers player since Ham retired.

• Mel Blount wore No. 47, which was worn by five players since his time with the team, and none since 2006. No one on the current roster is assigned to No. 47.

• Terry Bradshaw wore No. 12, and no one has worn that number since he retired.

• Franco Harris wore No. 32, and no one has worn that number since he retired.

• Jack Lambert wore No. 58, and no one has worn that number since he retired.

• Mike Webster wore No. 52, and no one has worn that number since he retired.

• Lynn Swann wore No. 88, and 15 players have worn that number since he retired, with Darrius Heyward-Bey being the most recent. No player on the current roster has been assigned No. 88.

• John Stallworth wore No. 82, and nine players have worn that number since he retired, the most notable of whom were Yancey Thigpen and Antwaan Randle El. On the current roster, wide receiver Amara Darboh has been assigned No. 82.

• Rod Woodson wore No. 26, and three players have worn that number since Woodson left as an unrestricted free agent after the 1996 season, with the most notable being Deshea Townsend and Le'Veon Bell. On the current roster, running back Anthony McFarland was assigned No. 26.

• Jack Butler wore No. 80, and 14 players have worn that number since he retired, with the most notable being wide receiver Plaxico Burress. On the current roster, wide receiver Saeed Blacknall was assigned No. 80.

• Dermontti Dawson wore No. 63, and no one has worn that number since he retired.

• Jerome Bettis wore No. 36, and no one has worn that number since he retired.

• Kevin Greene wore No. 91, and five players have worn that number since he left as an unrestricted free agent after the 1995 season. The most notable of those are defensive end Aaron Smith and current defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt.

• Troy Polamalu wore No. 43, and no one has worn that number since he retired.

• Donnie Shell wore No. 31, and six players have worn that jersey since he retired.