Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 15

Let's get to it:

NATE GEISLER FROM BOISE, ID: Looking at the quarterback situation, it looks like the starting job is going to Kenny Pickett over Mitch Trubisky. After watching the "America's Game" story of the 1974 Steelers they talked about the quarterback battle between Terry Bradshaw and Joe Gilliam. What was the biggest quarterback battle during the era of Hall of Fame Coach Bill Cowher? Understandably, before last season Coach Mike Tomlin always had Ben Roethlisberger on his roster.
ANSWER: There were several quarterback competitions during Bill Cowher's tenure as the Steelers' coach, but Cowher did not vacillate between quarterbacks once he made a decision, and the competition, with the accompanying decision, typically took place before the start of the season. In 1992, Cowher had a competition between Bubby Brister and Neil O'Donnell; in 1996, it was a three-way competition among Mike Tomczak, Jim Miller, and Kordell Stewart; in 2000, there was a brief and ill-fated flirtation with Kent Graham as the starter before going back to Stewart; in 2002, Stewart was benched a month into the season and replaced with Tommy Maddox. But Cowher never really went back-and-forth with quarterbacks over the course of a season the way Chuck Noll did in 1974 when he started all three of the quarterbacks on the roster – Gilliam, Bradshaw, and even Terry Hanratty – during a regular season where the Steelers ended up winning Super Bowl IX based on the running of Franco Harris and a dominant defense.

SHAWN BITTNER FROM JACKSONVILLE, NC: Understanding that there isn't a defined number for any position, how many players at each position do the Steelers typically keep on the initial 53-man roster going into the season?
ANSWER: I want to emphasize that this is my opinion, and I offer it with an addendum that I WILL NOT attach names to these numbers in a response to a subsequent submission in Asked and Answered. Quarterbacks: 3; running backs: 4; tight ends: 3; wide receivers: 6; offensive linemen: 9, for a total of 25 players. Defensive linemen: 7; linebackers: 8; defensive backs: 10, for a total of 25 players. Specialists: 3. Which adds up to the required total of 53. And it's also important to understand that there will be players who can count at a different position group instead of what might seem obvious, such as putting Connor Heyward with the running backs instead of the tight ends.

RICK KUNKO FROM ZANESVILLE, OH: When a player is brought in for a "workout." what is involved in that process?
ANSWER: This can vary sometimes from player to player on an individual basis, but it typically would include a general on-field workout with scouts that is catered to the individual's position – as an example a quarterback working out would involve throwing the football, a wide receiver working out would include catching the ball, etc. – plus there would be measurables recorded, such as height, weight, speed. There also could be a physical scheduled to reveal any recent injuries, or to gauge the progress of any rehabilitation for previous injuries. Sometimes these workouts are done in an information gathering mode, and other times they can be more focused and in-depth in cases where the team is looking to sign a player at a specific position to fill an immediate hole in the roster.

ED HERNAN FROM AUSTINTOWN, OH: In today's game, where I believe the offense gets so many advantages, why is it still legal for an offensive player to stiff arm a defensive player in the facemask? Do you ever see a time where this becomes a penalty on the offense?
ANSWER: It already is a penalty on the offense. It is not legal for an offensive player to stiff-arm a defensive player in the facemask if the stiff-arm includes the offensive player grabbing onto the facemask. In the third quarter of the preseason game against the Buccaneers in Tampa last Friday, wide receiver David Moore was penalized for that very act when he grabbed James Pierre's facemask during an attempted stiff-arm.

URIEL VERAZZI FROM LAREDO, TX: In the Aug. 11 preseason game against Tampa Bay, Anthony McFarland on offense and Kwon Alexander on defense both suited up wearing No. 26. Is that an exemption because of the 90-man roster or is it allowed during the regular season as well?
ANSWER: There is an allowance made for players on the same team to wear duplicate numbers, provided one plays offense and the other plays defense. Once the roster is cut to 53 players as teams prepare to enter the regular season, there are no more duplicate jersey numbers allowed.

MARK FOREMAN FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA: I'm sure I won't be the only one to point this out, but Mike Webster was also on that 1975 team to bring the count of Hall of Fame players to 10.
ANSWER: Not only were you not the only one, but you were one of close to 50 to point that out. And for you and all the others who sent submissions to that effect, the original question posed was concerning whether the Steelers ever had four players on the roster who would go on to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and so my answer was designed to point out a situation where they had more. The question was not about how many future Hall of Fame members were on the 1975 Steelers roster, because if that had been the question, the answer should have included Webster along with Bill Nunn and Dan Rooney and Chuck Noll. I believed it was sufficient to cite an example of a situation where there were more than four without realizing the reaction to not listing every single person.

MATTHEW CONFER FROM SALEM, OH: With the good depth the Steelers have along the offensive line, what can we reasonably get for guard Kevin Dotson in a possible trade?
ANSWER: There's a lot of time and a lot of football left before a decision should be made that the Steelers have "enough" depth along the offensive line to entertain a trade for a guy who started every regular season game and played every offensive snap during the 2022 season, but I'll play along. Kevin Dotson will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023, has never been voted to a Pro Bowl, and if there is a belief around the league that Dotson will be waived when rosters are cut to 53 in late August, there may not be much of a market for someone who has just one year remaining on his contract and could be claimed on waivers. On the other hand, there are a lot of mediocre-to-bad offensive linemen in the NFL, which might add to the attraction of a guy who has started 30 regular season games over the past three seasons and has 2,085 offensive snaps on his resume over that period. This is a guess, and I emphasize "guess:" a conditional third-day draft pick, and since Dotson entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick, I would speculate the round to be the sixth or seventh. But it only takes one team willing to overpay, as the Bears did for Chase Claypool.

ROBERT RICHARDSON FROM MODESTO, CA: How have former Steelers quarterbacks drafted by the team fared when they departed for other teams?
ANSWER: Some of those "departures" weren't necessarily the players' decisions, and this answer reflects just an off-the-top-of-my-head list and not some all-encompassing 90-season analysis. Johnny Unitas – ninth round in 1955 – and Len Dawson – first round in 1957 – both are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Bubby Brister – third round in 1986 – ultimately became a valued backup on the Denver Broncos teams that won back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1990s. Others, such as Neil O'Donnell – third round in 1990 – posted a 16-23 as a starter after leaving the Steelers, and Joshua Dobbs – fourth round in 2017 – has appeared in only two regular season games since the Steelers first traded him to Jacksonville in 2019.

PATRICK BRIGHT FROM PUNTA DEL AGUA, MENDOZA, ARGENTINA: Isn't it apparent that Mason Rudolph is better than Mitch Trubisky? I cringe every time I see Trubisky in there, and I'm hopeful when I see Rudolph. Shouldn't that be enough evidence for the Steelers to switch them on the depth chart?
ANSWER: Ah, yes, making personnel decisions based on a fan's feelings. I might choose to go with the Magic 8-Ball myself.

DENNIS SLEEGER FROM YORK, PA: Watching the preseason game vs. the Buccaneers last Friday, I was not impressed with Mitch Trubisky. I think Mason Rudolph would be a better No. 2 QB then Mitch. What are your thoughts?
ANSWER: My initial thought is to get down on my knees and say a prayer of thanks that you have nothing to do with Steelers personnel decisions.

JEFF ELINOFF FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: If Mitch Trubisky does not have a good preseason, what is the possibility of him being cut and Mason Rudolph being the backup quarterback to Kenny Pickett? If so, what would eb the salary cap savings?
ANSWER: When the 2023 regular season opens, barring injury, Mitch Trubisky will be the No. 2 quarterback and Mason Rudolph will be No. 3. As a result, I have no interest in appeasing you on the potential salary cap impact question.

JASON BRECHT FROM ANAMOSA, IA: Maybe I have just missed it, but in reading some of the practice reports, specifically on 7-Shots, I have not noticed Mason Rudolph getting any reps. In past years it seems, the top 3 quarterbacks got reps, even if only 1 snap went to the No. 3 quarterback. Just wondering if I am correct on this and if so, why no reps for Mason?
ANSWER: I recall Mason Rudolph getting snaps in 7-Shots during the acclimation period – the padless practices that opened training camp until the pads went on for the Tuesday, Aug. 1 session – and my memory of those instances is that he didn't distinguish himself, and since then those repetitions have been allotted to Mitch Trubisky for the most part since the first day of August. Not getting a lot of reps is life for the No. 3 quarterback on a team's roster, and Rudolph is being viewed by the Steelers as the No. 3 quarterback.