Let's get to it:
RILEY HANN FROM TAMPA, FL: The past few years have marked a shift in Steelers philosophy with more rookies contributing early on as opposed to sitting behind established starters. Who are some of the most impactful rookies in Steelers history?
ANSWER: I disagree with your premise that there has been a shift in team philosophy regarding when rookies get onto the field. What has gotten rookies on the field more quickly for the Steelers in recent seasons is not a change in philosophy but is reflective of a roster that has been in transition. As to your question, I will start by reminding you that the NFL held its first draft in 1936, and the Steelers have participated in each one every held, and so when you ask a draft-related question that includes "Steelers history," you're talking about a lot of drafts. To keep this simple and preserve my sanity, I'm going to give you three players who made significant contributions in their rookie seasons after being first-round picks of the Steelers.
• In 1942, Bill Dudley was the Steelers' first-round pick from the University of Virginia, and during his rookie season he led the NFL in rushing with 162 carries for 696 yards (4.3 average) and 5 touchdowns. Dudley is the last Steelers running back to lead the NFL in rushing, and he would do it for a second time in 1946. Dudley was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 1966.
• In 1969, the fourth overall pick in the draft – a defensive tackle from North Texas State named Joe Greene – would win the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, be voted to his first of 10 Pro Bowls, and change the course of a franchise. Greene was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 1987.
• In 2004, a Miami (Ohio) quarterback named Ben Roethlisberger came to the Steelers as the 11th overall pick and after taking over for injured starter Tommy Maddox during the second game of that regular season, he posted a 13-0 record as a starter and guided the team to a 15-1 record which was the best regular season in franchise history. When he retired, Roethlisberger was one of only 12 quarterbacks in NFL history with multiple Super Bowl wins. Roethlisberger will become eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2027.
ITHAN ZIMMER FROM EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ: While the Steelers played poorly in all three phases last Sunday, what is your opinion of the offensive and defensive play-calling?
ANSWER: There was nothing, no aspect of the team's performance against the 49ers that was not below the line and deserving of criticism. Nothing.
KEN WAMSLEY FROM BIDWELL, OH: Fan wise after Week 1 not happy at all. Do you think the play-calling of Matt Canada is going to take center stage again?
ANSWER: Criticism of the play-calling began before halftime of the game, I'm sure. But if you're hoping for some sort of public flogging, I can tell you that's not going to happen. That never has been how the Steelers conduct their business.
DUSTIN COVAULT FROM VIRGINIA BEACH, VA: After a slow start last year, and an offense that averaged fewer than 20 points per game during the late season surge, and after gaining a total of 1 yard halfway through the second quarter during the opener, at what point, in your opinion, should Matt Canada have to answer for this poor offensive performance?
ANSWER: Not to nitpick, but over the last nine games of the 2022 season (when the Steelers posted a 7-2 record), the Steelers averaged 20.9 points. I understand the general frustration over the loss to the 49ers, but as I mentioned in the above submission, the Steelers don't conduct their business in public.
MIKE FEDERICO FROM COLLIERVILLE, TN: After Sunday's drubbing by a very good 49ers team, what facet was most alarming to you? All credit due to San Francisco for being a very good team, but the Steelers were outdone in every facet of the game. Wave your magic wand and tell us the most glaring failure that you would fix first.
ANSWER: The most disappointing aspect of the 30-7 loss to the 49ers was that, as you wrote, "the Steelers were outdone in every facet of the game." There Is no magic wand, and no way to fix what went wrong during the entirety of that game besides hard work.
JOHN WASHINSKY FROM CLEMMONS, NC: I don't think that I have ever watched a season opener at home that was so disastrous. Since the start of the Chuck Noll era, has opening day at home ever been so bad?
ANSWER: I often find myself reminding fans that the Steelers have been in the National Football League for over 90 seasons, and that encompasses a lot of history. You limit your question to the Chuck Noll era, which began in 1969, and so here are a couple of examples: In 1989, Noll's Steelers opened the season at Three Rivers Stadium against the Browns and lost, 51-0, which remains the most lopsided loss in franchise history. In 1997, Bill Cowher's Steelers opened the season at Three Rivers Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys and lost, 37-0. I attended both of those games, and I can assure you they were every bit as frustrating and disappointing as what happened on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium.
LORENZO CASO FROM CAMBRIDGE, MA: I've never seen Acrisure Stadium with so many wearing the visitor's colors as I did for the game against the 49ers. I believe it effectively weakened the homefield advantage. What happened? Can such a thing be prevented?
ANSWER: What happened was that the people who owned those seats in the lower two levels of the stadium put their tickets up for sale and they were purchased by 49ers fans. The only way such a thing can be prevented is if that doesn't happen, but that has to be the decision of the owners of those tickets. There's nothing the Steelers can do to prevent the resale of tickets.
PAUL GROSSOEHME FROM WASHINGTON, PA: I read in the Sept. 5 edition that Kwon Alexander mentioned that the Steelers don't allow defensive players to wear jerseys single digits. Am I mistaken, or didn't Melvin Ingram wear No. 8?
ANSWER: You are not mistaken. That "policy" went into effect after Melvin Ingram.
RONNIE CAP FROM YANKTON, SD: I am a big T.J. Watt fan, and I know he has had multi-sack games during his career. It got me thinking/wondering as to who has the record for most sacks in a game (once they were recorded that way) in both the NFL and Steelers history. Am I right in my thinking that back when Chad Brown played inside linebacker for us he had a four-sack game?
ANSWER: The NFL record for sacks in a game by a single player is held by Kansas City's Derrick Thomas, who had 7 in a 1990 game against Seattle. For the Steelers, the record for sacks in a game is held by Joe Greene, who had 5 in a Dec. 10, 1972, game in Houston against the Oilers. Chad Brown and L.C. Greenwood are tied for second place on the Steelers' list with 4.5 sacks; Brown got his as an outside linebacker on Oct. 13, 1996, vs. the Bengals, and Greenwood got his on Nov. 25, 1979, vs. Cleveland. There is a four-way tie for fourth with 4 sacks in a game among T.J. Watt on Jan. 3, 2022, vs. Cleveland; Joey Porter on Oct. 14, 2001, vs. Tampa Bay; Jerrol Williams on Dec. 22, 1991, vs. Cleveland; and Edmund Nelson on Sept. 16, 1984, vs. the Rams.
ERIC GERRITSEN FROM MIDDLETOWN, NJ: Love your work. I've been going back and reminiscing/watching the early/mid 1990s Steelers games the past couple of years. What happened to Barry Foster when he went to Carolina? Why did he leave in the first place?
ANSWER: Barry Foster came to the Steelers as a fifth-round pick (128th overall) in the 1990 NFL Draft after being a wishbone fullback at Arkansas. When Bill Cowher was hired in 1992, Foster turned in his best season when he led the NFL with 390 carries and posted a franchise single-season record of 1,690 yards rushing (4.3 average) and 11 touchdowns. Foster missed 7 games because of injury in 1993, and then 5 more games with injury in 1994, while regularly complaining publicly about his contract. On May 30, 1995, the Steelers traded him to Carolina for a sixth-round pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, but the Panthers cut him when he reported to training camp because he failed a physical. Foster never played in the NFL again.