Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 19

Let's get to it:

STEFAN PISOCKI FROM WILMINGTON, DE: Having lived in mortal fear of trying to tackle Craig "Ironhead" Heyward when he and I were playing high school football in North Jersey, I have closely followed his son, Cameron, and his career with the Steelers. I think he was one of the best picks the team has made in the last few decades, because he has been a leader and an example for younger players. Is there any way you imagine him being considered for the Hall of Fame when his career is done?
ANSWER: I believe it's worth noting the Steelers got Cam Heyward with the 31st pick of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and it's unusual for a defensive lineman of Heyward's caliber to be available that late in the round. Another Heyward factoid: Only two interior defensive linemen in Steelers history have been voted Associated Press first-team All-Pro more than once. The first one is Joe Greene, and Cam Heyward is the other. As far as the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I believe it's way too early to speculate one way or the other about Heyward's candidacy. He will play the 2021 NFL season as a 32-year-old, and his current contract runs through the 2024 season, when he will be 35. The fair way to approach this would be to wait and see where Heyward is statistically when he decides to retire and also how many more times he was voted first-team All-Pro. If forced to make a guess now, I would tend toward the pessimistic, though, because I believe the Steel Curtain to be one of the greatest defensive lines in modern league history and a foundational piece in the Steelers winning four Super Bowls in six seasons, and yet only one of them (Joe Greene) is in the Hall of Fame. Cam Heyward will be considered, because he's a lock to be nominated, and that will put his name in front of the voters, at least in the initial rounds of the voting.

DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: Do teams actually believe they have an advantage when it's hot and the Steelers are forced to wear their home jerseys on the road? I'm curious as to how well that strategy worked over the years.
ANSWER: Since teams continue to do it, there must be something about making the Steelers wear their black jerseys on the road in hot weather that those home teams believe gives them an advantage. Does it work? I find it difficult to believe that an NFL game can be won or lost based on the color of the teams' respective jerseys.

AARON WALKER FROM NEWPORT NEWS, VA: If you were the head coach, and from what you've seen so far:
1. Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins as the backup quarterback? 2. James Pierre or Cam Sutton as the starting cornerback opposite Joe Haden? 3. Alex Highsmith or Melvin Ingram as the starting outside linebacker opposite T.J. Watt? 4. Kendrick Green or J.C. Hassenauer as the starting center? 5. Pat Freiermuth or Eric Ebron as the starting tight end?

ANSWER: 1. Dwayne Haskins has had a solid summer and I believe he has shown enough to deserve a spot on the 53-man roster, but Mason Rudolph did nothing to lose the backup quarterback job. 2. James Pierre and Cam Sutton are not competing against each other. Pierre is competing against the many candidates to replace Mike Hilton at slot cornerback. If one of those candidates grabs the slot position, Sutton will start outside; if not, Sutton will slide inside and Pierre will move up to the spot Sutton now holds. 3. Alex Highsmith has been one of the best players in camp throughout the summer, and Melvin Ingram will benefit from being a versatile, rotational guy who is asked to deliver about 20-25 high-energy snaps per game. 4. After practice on Aug. 17, Coach Mike Tomlin was asked whether "Kendrick Green was 'the guy?'" Tomlin said, "You could surmise that but there will be no bold announcements." 5. Tight ends are utilized in personnel packages in the NFL, and so the position is similar to wide receiver in that guys are coming on and off the field on almost every play. In a short time, I believe Pat Freiermuth will be the team's main guy at this position, but the rookie isn't quite there yet.

DENNIS ELLENBERG FROM ENOLA, PA: Who did the Steelers lose during free agency and where did they go?
ANSWER: The Steelers opened the 2021 free agency period with 19 unrestricted free agents. The following is the complete list, along with each player's current team:
Tyson Alualu: Steelers
Zach Banner: Steelers
Jordan Berry: Steelers
James Conner: Cardinals
Jordan Dangerfield: Unsigned
Sean Davis: Colts
Joshua Dobbs: Steelers
Bud Dupree: Titans
Jayrone Elliott: Unsigned
Matt Feiler: Chargers
Jerald Hawkins: Unsigned
Mike Hilton: Bengals
Danny Isidora: Texans
Cassius March: Steelers
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Steelers
Cam Sutton: Steelers
Alejandro Villanueva: Ravens
Avery Williamson: Unsigned
Chris Wormley: Steelers

DENNIS RIBBLETT FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA: Do you think it would be possible to hear what questions are being asked when Coach Mike Tomlin does a postgame or post practice media session? It would be really nice to know what question he is answering.
ANSWER: I agree with you. It's important to hear the questions at one of these pressers/briefings in order to understand the context of what Coach Mike Tomlin is saying. What I can tell you is that during the last two years, things have changed in the way these news conferences and briefings are allowed to be covered because of COVID and the NFL's protocols regarding the global pandemic. It used to be that Tomlin and the media all were close together, and in that setting with all of the microphones and recorders in use and the people all so close together it wasn't difficult to pick up the questions as well as Tomlin's answers. Now everyone is socially distanced, and all of the electronic equipment is placed on a stand or a table in front of Tomlin, and so those microphones only pick up the sound of his voice and not necessarily the people asking the questions, who now could be up to 10 yards away depending on the setting. Personally, what I do when I attend one of these sessions is to place my recording device on the table in front of Tomlin, then I take my seat which has to be at least 6-feet away from him. To make sure I know what question is being answered in what way, I write down the questions in the order in which they are asked. Then when I go through the audio, I match it with my notes on the questions asked and put it all together that way.

AARON BREEZE FROM FRESNO, CA: In an effort to show support for Tunch Ilkin during his fight with ALS, I am trying to find a Tunch Ilkin No. 62 jersey to wear this season. I haven't had any luck and it looks like I might have to just order a custom one online. Two questions, firstly, do you happen to know where I can find a Tunch jersey? Did the Steelers only utilize the classic home and away jerseys with the block numbers during the 1980s and early 1990s when Tunch played?
ANSWER: In terms of pre-made jerseys, the top-selling models rarely feature players who were offensive linemen, and so my belief is you're going to have to order a customized No. 62. And yes, the era during Tunch Ilkin's Steelers career, the team wore jerseys that featured the block-number style.

CRAIG MADER FROM MECHANICSBURG, PA: I have a suggestion. Before anyone asks another position switch question, they should have to watch video of Tim Tebow trying to play tight end. A top athlete, in great condition, with all the drive and desire in the world, and he failed. It ain't easy.
ANSWER: As they say in church basements: "Bingo."