Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 17

Let's get to it:

DREWBOB ANDERSON FROM TALLADEGA, AL: The question and your answer about the three quarterback situation in 1974 got me to thinking: I was 19, and I recall being mighty confused by the switching in and out of the quarterbacks by Chuck Noll during the season. But of course we were just getting used to having high expectations. Looking at the quarterback rating (which didn't exist then), it was arguably Terry Bradshaw's best season. But I recall a lot of ups and downs. Can you refresh this old brain with the events that caused the shuffle?
ANSWER: By the end of the 1973 season, Terry Bradshaw was established as the Steelers starting quarterback, and the only six games he didn't start during the 1971-73 seasons were because of injury. But when training camps opened in 1974, there was a players' strike, and while Bradshaw stayed out with most of the veterans, Joe Gilliam reported and caught Noll's eye with his powerful right arm. In time, the veterans reported to camp, but when Bradshaw was injured toward the end of that summer, that convinced Noll to open the season with Gilliam as the starter. The Steelers quarterbacks called their own plays at the time, and when Noll became frustrated with Gilliam's reliance on the pass at the expense of the running of Franco Harris, he made a change to Bradshaw. But then it became an issue of inconsistent performance that had Noll making several in-season changes at the position.

Anyway, your memory of Bradshaw's overall performance that season isn't supported by the statistics. For that season, Bradshaw completed 67-of-148 (45.3 percent) for 785 yards, with 7 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and a rating of 55.1. Gilliam completed 96-of-212 (45.3 percent) for 1,274 yards, with 4 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and a rating of 55.4. Terry Hanratty completed 3-of-26 (11.5 percent) for 95 yards, with 1 touchdown, 5 interceptions, and a rating of 15.4. When you look at those numbers, the Steelers were fortunate to have a fullback in Harris who rushed for 1,006 yards and averaged 4.8 per carry as part of a rushing attack that accounted for 2,417 yards and 19 touchdowns to go along with a defense that recorded 52 sacks and 47 takeaways in 14 games. When you think about the quarterback play that team had to overcome, it's rather amazing that the 1974 Steelers finished the regular season with a 10-3-1 record and then allowed only 3 offensive touchdowns in three postseason games.

DIOSCO NAVARRO FROM CIUDAD DE MÉXICO, MÉXICO: What is happening with the second pick in the last draft – cornerback Joey Porter Jr.? Very worrying not to see him in the first preseason game.
ANSWER: You can stop worrying. Joey Porter Jr. sustained a minor injury during the last padded practice before the preseason opener against the Buccaneers in Tampa, and that's why he didn't play in that game. Porter has since returned to practice and is expected to play on Saturday against the Bills at Acrisure Stadium.

WILIAM ROTHENBACH FROM ABINGDON, MD: In your opinion, are T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick having Hall of Fame caliber careers? What more do each need to do to improve their chances of selection in the future.
ANSWER: That future is too far away to venture anything but a wild guess, and I prefer not to guess about something as prestigious as being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

JOSHUA CAMPBELL FROM CINCINNATI, OH: I was looking at the Media Guide on the other day and came across the all-time roster that lists all the guys who have played for the Steelers. What I can't figure out is what qualifies a player to make the all-time roster? Is it playing in a game or simply making the 53 man roster.
ANSWER: The first thing to realize is that the concept of the 53-man roster is only a recent development, because when we're talking about franchise history, that covers 90-plus seasons in the NFL. Currently, what is involved in being placed on the franchise's all-time roster is making the team, which would mean earning a spot on the 53-man roster. Making the roster, regardless of the number of players on it, generally would count regardless of the era, but it's also important to understand that such record-keeping was occasionally spotty going back to the 1930s, and 1940s, etc.

JEFF WILLIAMS FROM BEDFORD, PA: Do the Steelers ever announce which former great will be in attendance inside the champions club signing autographs on gamedays? It is so cool meeting some of these legends whose football cards adorned my wall growing up.
ANSWER: The Steelers have a few "meet & greet areas" around Acrisure Stadium on gamedays, and as for the PNC Champions Club specifically, PNC Champions Club season ticket holders will receive an email notification about autograph opportunities prior to gameday.

MARC SIMON FROM NAPLES, FL: When Kenny Pickett was injured last year and Trubisky played I thought he looked extremely capable and played better than he did when he was the starter at the beginning of last season, when he was benched. In your opinion, who gives the Steelers the better chance to win this year – Pickett or Trubisky?
ANSWER: There is a significant difference in the two jobs you reference – NFL starting quarterback and NFL backup quarterback – and in my opinion Mitch Trubisky is best suited to be the backup quarterback on this Steelers team. That's why he was signed to a contract extension during the offseason to serve in that role.

KLINT SIMMEL FROM HOLT, MI: In reading Asked and Answered religiously, I believe you wrote on a couple of occasions that only three tight ends will make the 53-man roster. I can't see the Steelers cutting Darnell Washington. Does that mean Zack Gentry is the odd man out?
ANSWER: Whenever I may have written about three tight ends being on the 53-man roster, I also may have written there would be four running backs on the 53-man roster because I have been counting Connor Heyward among the running backs. But maybe the best way to explain it would have been to write that there will be 7 players kept at the tight end and running back spots. Then you could count Heyward at either position, but the key point is that he will make the team and have a significant role on offense.

JOHN SIMONETTI FROM EASTON, PA: It looks like Connor Heyward not only is going to be a tight end but the fullback as well. Does he need to change his number?
ANSWER: He does not, because as you mention he will be playing both positions, and tight ends often line up in the backfield.

FABIO DIMITRI FROM GUADALAJARA, JAL, MEXICO: Your response to a question in the Aug. 15 Asked and Answered about quarterback competitions during the Bill Cowher era, I recalled the first time I ever saw a Steelers game on television. It was a Monday night during the 1991 season, and the Steelers played the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Bubby Brister was having a bad game and was eventually replaced in the game by Neil O'Donnell, who helped erase a 20-0 deficit to forge a tie before the Steelers lost, 23-20. Was O'Donnell the starter for the rest of the season after that game?
ANSWER: The 1991 season was Chuck Noll's last as the Steelers coach, and after that loss to the Giants, Neil O'Donnell started the next eight games. When the team went 2-6 during those eight games, Noll gave the job back to Bubby Brister, who quarterbacked the Steelers to two wins in their final two games to finish 7-9 on the season.

DAN MCNEEL FROM MANCHESTER, NH: You seem to answer a LOT of questions based on fans watching television and then assuming since they have done so they've seen as much of any particular player as have the coaches. Would you please remind the fans just how small a percentage of actual time a starter is seen by fans even during a regular season primetime game?
ANSWER: You just did it for me. Thanks.