Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 15

LATROBE, Pa. – Let's get to it:

As a Steelers fan here in Patriots territory, I would like to know who you see as our biggest threat this year in the AFC North Division?

ANSWER: While I am aware of the rash of injuries the Baltimore Ravens have sustained already, and that quarterback Joe Flacco has a back issue that could prevent him from being the starter at the beginning of the regular season, I still see Baltimore as the primary threat in the AFC North. It always seems to come down to the Steelers vs. the Ravens.

I like many am not crazy about Landry Jones. And while I'm not saying rookie Joshua Dobbs should be the backup, but did Ben Roethlisberger get any playing time in any NFL games as a backup before he had to come in for the injured Tommy Maddox?

ANSWER: Not in any regular season games, because the 2004 opener was against Oakland, and the Steelers won that day, 24-21, with Tommy Maddox taking all of the offensive snaps. Then the next week – in Baltimore against the Ravens – was when Maddox was injured. Ben Roethlisberger took over that afternoon, and the rest is history.

How is Colin Holba, our new young long-snapper doing?

ANSWER: OK, but not up to Greg Warren standards yet. He had one sub-par snap in the preseason opener against the Giants, as did first-year pro Kameron Canaday.

I'm a fan of Anthony Chickillo and hope he can make a bigger contribution this year. Are you seeing anything in camp that would lead you to believe he'll be more involved in the outside linebacker rotation this season?

ANSWER: Rather than what I see, here is what Coach Mike Tomlin said in answering a question about how young players can rise up the depth chart:

"I'm thoughtful about the competitive situations I put these guys in. Some of the repetitions are varsity, and some of the repetitions are junior varsity. If you dominate enough JV reps, I'm going to get you varsity reps, which means I'm going to pit you against a known, capable, veteran guy, and how you do in those situations will determine whether you continue to get varsity reps. There are a lot of reps going on all over the practice field, whether it's receivers vs. defensive backs, or unit vs. unit, and I try to make it simple. You get a young guy dominating in some lower groups, in a way that Anthony Chickillo has during the course of this camp, you try to get him in the varsity game and see how he performs under those circumstances. The guys can relate to that, the guys understand that, the guys know what varsity reps are and what JV reps are. They can relate to that analogy, so the guys not only want the varsity reps, but they want to do well with those reps."

And in the first depth chart released by the Steelers for the 2017 preseason, Chickillo was No. 2 at left outside linebacker behind Bud Dupree, with Arthur Moats at No. 3.

Players participate in the annual home run derby.

Did Bruce Gradkowski ever play a regular season down for the Steelers?

ANSWER: In 2014, at the end of a 37-19 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 21, Bruce Gradkowski came into the game late and took a knee twice to close things out. Then in the 2014 Wild Card Round against the Baltimore Ravens, Gradkowski came in after Roethlisberger was injured and completed 2-of-3 passes for 22 yards.

With rookie contracts usually being for four years and Senquez Golson being hurt for his first two seasons and not being on the active roster for a regular season game, do those seasons count toward his contract or do we still have him for this year and three more?

ANSWER: Senquez Golson was on the injured reserve list in both 2015 and 2016, and those seasons count on the rookie contract he signed in 2015. The only time a player's contract doesn't count is in the situation of a year-long suspension. Golson is under contract through the 2018 season.

How may players can be dressed for a preseason game? I know that there are some limits for a regular season game, but I'm unclear if that's the same for a preseason game.

ANSWER: During the preseason, there is no limit to the number of players a team can dress for the game, and there also is no need for an inactive list.

I know Joe Greene has six Super Bowl rings, but I read recently that he is one of four people, not including members of the Rooney family, with a ring from all six Steelers Super Bowl championships? Who are the other three?

ANSWER: Bill Nunn, the long-time scout who was responsible for finding so many of the players from the Historically Black Colleges who were so integral in the winning of those championships; Geraldine Glenn, who served the Steelers in a variety of ways, including a long stint as the team's ticket manager; and Bob McCartney, who currently serves the team as Director of Video and Facilities.

While watching the preseason game vs. the Giants, I noticed that Malik Golden was wearing No. 30. Isn't that James Conner's number? How can that be?

ANSWER: Because of the combination of 90-man rosters, the NFL's rules on which position players can wear which jersey numbers, and the Steelers taking several numbers out of circulation as a tribute to players who wore them in the past, there are not enough numbers to outfit everyone. Which means there are several instances of double-numbers during the preseason. You pointed out the one example – Malik Golden and James Conner both wearing No. 30 – and in fact, there are nine other examples of double numbers currently on the Steelers' roster. What they do, however, to make it less confusing is that in the instances of double numbers, one is given to a player on offense and the other to a player on defense.

When does training camp officially end? Was it the same length of time back in the 1970s?

ANSWER: The final practice in pads is scheduled for Friday. Back in the 1970s, training camps were much longer, because there was no rule governing when teams could open training camp – as there is today, with a team not allowed to open training camp more than 15 days before the date of its preseason opener – and the Steelers regularly played six or seven preseason games through the 1970s, where teams play only four now. Dick Hoak, who served the Steelers as both a running back and then as the running backs coach, told me once there were summers when the Steelers would go to training camp shortly after the Fourth of July.

Have the Steelers ever held a "walk-on" tryout event where they let athletes not in college or the pros try out for a spot on the team? I watched the movie "Invincible" the other night and got to wondering. I'm way too old and even in my prime couldn't play at the pro level, but I was curious.

ANSWER: I cannot speak to what transpired during the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and the pre-Chuck Noll 1960s, but since Noll was hired in 1969, the answer to your question is: no.

I went to school with someone named Mihalik some years ago. That was in Johnstown, Pa. Is Brian from that area?

ANSWER: According to the Steelers 2017 Media Guide, Brian Mihalik attended Avon Lake High School in Avon Lake, Ohio.

Is there a deadline for Le'Veon Bell to sign his tender to be eligible to play this season? If so, what is it?

ANSWER: Yes. The deadline is Nov. 14.

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