Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 20

Let's get to it:

PAUL LUKACS FROM VIENNA, OH: Has the loss of Mike Munchak impacted the Steelers' ability to establish a solid running game? It appeared that the team struggled with in-game adjustments last year.
ANSWER: I have addressed this on many occasions, but fans either don't like my answer or don't believe I know what I'm talking about, and so I'm going to turn the platform over to David DeCastro, a two-time first-team All-Pro guard. These snippets were taken from a recent Zoom call with the Pittsburgh media:

Q. Did you guys notice a difference without Mike Munchak and his voice in the run game?
DECASTRO: Munch [Mike Munchak] was great. You can't really sugarcoat it. He was a great coach, smart. I just think the injuries really took a toll. Losing a quarterback like Ben [Roethlisberger], you lose a guy who allows you to have a passing game that really opens up the run. Yeah, maybe there's a factor of Munch. He's one of a kind. I'll vouch for him on that. We had a lot of factors going last year being the disaster it was on our side of the ball.

Q. Other than the injuries, what are other things you think you need to get back to in order to improve the run game?
DECASTRO: You guys love talking about the running game like it's the starting point of the offense. I just always try to tell you guys: It's a combination. You can't have a good running game without a good passing game, without an honest, balanced offense. If they can just stack the box and run a safety down and you can't throw over the top or you can't keep them honest, then it's easier to stop the run. We just weren't good at all.

NATHAN GEISLER FROM BOISE, ID: With most Super Bowl MVPs being offensive players, in your opinion who would have been your Steelers defensive MVPs in each of their six Super Bowl victories?
ANSWER: This is an interesting way of looking at the Steelers' six Super Bowl wins. If there was such an award as a Super Bowl Defensive MVP Trophy, and if I was around to have a vote for all six games this is the way I would've gone:

• SUPER BOWL IX: Dwight White. Not only did White drag himself out of a hospital bed (literally) the morning of the game after contracting pneumonia, but he started at defensive end and played the whole game. He finished with three tackles and gets credit for scoring the first points of the game by being the player to touch Fran Tarkenton down in the end zone for a safety. The whole front four was dominant against the Vikings, who finished with 17 rushing yards on 21 carries (.8 average), but White gets my vote for overcoming a week in the hospital to inspire his teammates by playing 60 minutes of championship football in what was at the time the most significant game in franchise history.

• SUPER BOWL X: L.C. Greenwood. White could have won the fictitious Defensive MVP Award in back-to-back Super Bowls after finishing the game with six tackles and three sacks, but his running mate at defensive end was just a little bit better. Greenwood finished with seven tackles and three sacks during a game in which the Steelers sacked Roger Staubach seven times, with all seven recorded by defensive linemen (Greenwood with three, White with three, and defensive tackle Steve Furness with one). Jack Lambert also deserved some consideration after finishing the game with 14 tackles, not including that one throw-down of Cowboys safety Cliff Harris.

• SUPER BOWL XIII: Jack Lambert edges out Jack Ham. This game ended in a 35-31 Steelers win with the teams combining for nine touchdowns, 39 first downs, 674 total net yards and a 58.1 percent (18-of-31) conversion rate on third down, and so it was in no way a defensive showcase. Lambert finished the game with 12 tackles, while Ham contributed 10 tackles and a pass defensed. While not in legitimate competition for the "award," Greenwood finished the game with six tackles and a sack, which means that in two Super Bowl victories over the Cowboys, he combined for 13 tackles and four sacks as a defensive lineman.

• SUPER BOWL XIV: Lambert. Not only did Lambert lead the team with 14 tackles, but his fourth quarter interception in Steelers territory protected what was a 24-19 lead at the time and spurred the offense on a drive that ended with a 1-yard run by Franco Harris for the final points in a 31-19 victory.

• SUPER BOWL XL: While Joey Porter in many ways was the defensive catalyst for the run through the AFC Playoffs, the key defensive performance against the Seahawks was turned in by Ike Taylor. The Seahawks offense managed 396 total net yards and seven of their 12 offensive possessions ended in Steelers territory, but Seattle converted just 1-of-3 in the red zone and scored just one touchdown. Taylor had seven tackles, and his fourth quarter interception at the Steelers 5-yard line ended another Seahawks threat with the score, 14-10, and four plays later the outcome was iced on a touchdown pass from Antwaan Randle El to Hines Ward.

• SUPER BOWL XLIII: Do we even need to talk about this game? James Harrison is the winner, and it should be by a unanimous vote. The only other contender would be LaMarr Woodley, who had four tackles and two sacks, including the sack-strip in the final seconds that was recovered by Brett Keisel to clinch the game for the Steelers.

JOHN BRAGG FROM FAIRMONT, WV: For whatever reason, I find a lot of interest in jersey numbers and who picks/gets what number when they change teams. I've heard a variety of "rules" for changing a jersey number. If Ben Roethlisberger wanted to change from No. 7 to No. 14, what would he have to do to get that accomplished?
ANSWER: If a player changes teams, there is nothing prohibiting him from changing jersey numbers and no conditions attached to him wanting to make such a move. You use Ben Roethlisberger as an example, so let's stick with him. If Roethlisberger decided upon coming back from surgery on his right elbow that he wanted to change his Steelers jersey from No. 7 to another number, he would have to pay for every Steelers No. 7 jersey in the NFL's merchandising inventory. For a player as popular and famous as Roethlisberger, that would be a gigantic price tag, which serves the NFL's purpose of discouraging such things.

RICHARD CANTRALL FROM LAKEWOOD, CO: Why did the Steelers release Christian Scotland-Williamson?
ANSWER: I have been preaching this from the start: It was completely unrealistic to expect someone, even a world class athlete in his own right, who never played football at any level to be able to win a spot on a 53-man roster in the league that's at the highest level of the sport. The skills to be a great rugby player don't necessarily translate to football, and here's just one example: Football is a sport played by athletes who must be explosive and powerful in short bursts (running and hitting); rugby is a free-flowing sport that values endurance more than explosiveness. Christian Scotland-Williamson worked hard and was committed, but he never was going to make himself into an NFL player.

BOB MCCANLESS FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Regardless of how Chase Claypool develops, do we have a receiving corps (if they remain healthy) that will allow the Steelers to challenge for the AFC title?
ANSWER: If Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy, yes. If he does not, no. It's all about the quarterback.

JAKE KENDRICK FROM LAUREL, MT: How many teams hired new coaching staffs, and will this present a large competitive disadvantage for them this season?
ANSWER: There are five NFL teams with new head coaches: Matt Rhule of the Carolina Panthers; Joe Judge of the New York Giants; Ron Rivera of Washington; Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns; and Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys. The way I see this unique season shaking out is that it's going to be an advantage for teams that have stability in their front office and coaching staff, that have a veteran roster and years of consistency in their philosophy of doing business. This really isn't the best situation for a coach to learn about unfamiliar players, or for players to learn about unfamiliar coaches and/or schemes. The teams that don't have those hurdles will be better able to be more focused on the challenges presented by a season played during a global pandemic.

JON BAKER FROM THOUSAND OAKS, CA: In this climate of COVID-19, what's going to happen to all of the quarterbacks who lick their fingers before they throw the ball?
ANSWER: I'm not an epidemiologist, nor do I play one on Asked and Answered, but I would imagine the smart ones will stop doing it.

SCOTT BAETE FROM SIOUX FALLS, SD: Can you tell me anything about a Steelers linebacker/fullback named Dino Gruntingrock? I believe he played a long time ago on some very bad teams and went to Bedrock A&M. His uniform number was 1,000 BC. He also kicked barefoot.
ANSWER: Dino Gruntingrock may have had a tryout, but he never actually made the roster or played in a regular season game. A Google search revealed that once he gave up football, he attended Starfleet Academy. His major contribution to society is that he's Luke Skywalker's real father. That stuff in the movie was factually inaccurate, simply an example of cinematic license to enhance the story. Also understand that I'm the resident smart-alek here. I don't need any help.

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