Let’s get to it:
ITHAN ZIMMER FROM EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ: When I was a kid in the 1970s, I was a fan of safety Glen Edwards and believed he was as tough as any member of those Steelers defenses. For those who believe Super Bowl IX was won in the tunnel, that was all him. Where did Edwards stand in the lineup with Mike Wagner and Donnie Shell? I recall Edwards as a starter, but was it at strong safety or free safety, and how long did he start during his time in Pittsburgh?
ANSWER: The way the story goes is that the Steelers and Minnesota Vikings were in the tunnel waiting for pregame introductions before Super Bowl IX. Glen Edwards, who attended Florida A&M, approached Vikings left tackles Charles Goodrum, who was a college teammate at Florida State, and tried to engage him in some friendly conversation. When Goodrum refused to acknowledge Edwards and exchange pleasantries, Edwards snarled and said something to the effect of, “OK, if that’s the way you wanna be, you better buckle up your chinstrap, because we’re going to kick your ass.” Edwards was a full-time starter alongside Mike Wagner from 1973-76. Wagner started only three games in 1977 because of injury, and Donnie Shell stepped into his spot at safety. Then before the 1978 season, Edwards was traded to San Diego, and the starting safeties for the Steelers were Wagner and Shell. Edwards was a free safety during his time with the Steelers, and Shell was a strong safety.
JAMES BITTS FROM LANCASTER, PA: Why is Jesse James not given more respect for his contributions as a tight end? I am a huge Penn State fan, and he did well there, but in my opinion he is underrated due to playing in the midst of sanctions there. All I hear is that this poor guy keeps getting leap-frogged on the depth chart. Jesse James has always been the model of consistency for our offense.
ANSWER: All I can tell you for certain is that the Steelers coaches don’t play favorites when it comes to utilizing players to help the team win. If they believed Jesse James was more valuable to the offense than another player, James would be utilized more than that other player. And let me point this out: the job of a tight end involves more than just catching the football; it also involves being a physical blocker and often doing that at the line of scrimmage against bigger people. While James seems to have improved somewhat in his ability to handle that part of the job, he’s not the butt-kicking presence the team long has sought from players at his position. And as you pointed out yourself, you are “a huge Penn State fan,” and I have a feeling that has influenced your judgment.
PAUL LUKACS FROM VIENNA, VA: Why won't the league consider increasing the practice squad by two-to-three players? How much does a single practice squad player cost the team?
ANSWER: It wasn’t all that long ago that practice squads were expanded from eight players to 10 players, and why is there a need for more? It’s not the cost of an individual practice squad player that’s an issue, but because all practice squad salaries have to fit under the salary cap, and because the salary cap is a number dictated by terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, spending more on practice squad players would leave less money for the guys on the 53-man roster. The pie would remain the same size, but there would just have to be more pieces cut out of it.
DWIGHT KEY FROM BELLINGHAM, WA: How come Damoun Patterson is not on the depth chart? And shouldn’t Joshua Dobbs be second-string at quarterback by this point?
ANSWER: Damoun Patterson indeed is on the depth chart – he’s currently listed behind Antonio Brown and Justin Hunter at one of the two wide receiver spots. And Joshua Dobbs isn’t the No. 2 quarterback because Landry Jones is the No. 2 quarterback, and Landry Jones is the No. 2 quarterback because the Steelers coaches – and Ben Roethlisberger, by the way – believe he is the best man for the job. We’ve been over this material thousands of times already. Start paying attention in class.
CHRIS GALLOWAY FROM FATE, TX: Is there a chance that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin change their mind and keep four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster?
ANSWER: You can answer your own question, because the answer to that one is the same as the answer to these two: Is there a chance you hit the PowerBall? How likely is it that you hit the PowerBall?
DAVID LUPREK FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA: With Landry Jones as a proven, experienced backup, and with the investment made in rookie Mason Rudolph (trading up in the third round), it seems possible or even likely that Josh Dobbs will be the odd man out. If he does end up being on the outside looking in, do you think Dobbs has shown enough to warrant any trade value?
ANSWER: I just think it’s unlikely that a team would be willing to part with a draft choice for a player who is going to be waived, unless said team sees Dobbs as more than just a No. 3 quarterback on its roster. And even if that happens, I can’t imagine the pick would be any higher than one in the seventh-round.
CJ CAVEZZA FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA: What was the reason the Steelers switched their jersey numbers to the current style?
ANSWER: When Nike became the official uniform provider for the NFL after the 1996 season, the company proposed changes to some of the teams’ jerseys. Their proposal to the Steelers was to add a logo on the front of the jersey, and switch the numbers from a block-style to a more rounded look. Dan Rooney approved, and so the changes were implemented.
JOSEPH AUSTIN FROM PORTLAND, ME: With Le’Veon Bell's career with the Steelers on the fence, when do you think is the right time for the team to look for another premium back? Or do we try to create a multi-back system, like New Orleans has?
ANSWER: Whenever that time might be, all I know for certain is that it’s not now. Not less than two weeks before the start of a season when Le’Veon Bell will be the Steelers starting running back.
TIM GAYDOSH FROM MOUNT AIRY, MD: In Asked and Answered on Tuesday, Aug. 21, you indicated that there was no rule against a team making its cuts early. Does the player's pay during training camp not fall under any kind of “protection” in the CBA?
ANSWER: NFL salaries are not guaranteed, unless specified in the player’s contract. And I can assure you such a stipulation isn’t included in the stipend players receive during the preseason.
VERN HESS FROM MONESSEN, PA: How did the Steelers franchise go from being 100 percent about smash-mouth defensive units to becoming softer on defense and with a loaded offense? They have no stars on the defensive side of the ball, but a stacked star-studded roster on offense.
ANSWER: Do you watch any football except old Steelers highlights videos? Because if you do, you should have noticed that the sport has changed. The sport has changed because the rules have changed. Illegal contact with receivers now is called closely, while Mel Blount was allowed by rule to have his hands on receivers all over the field until the ball left the quarterback’s hand. Offensive linemen now are allowed to extend their arms and grab the pass-rusher’s jersey as long as they keep their hands inside the frame of the chest. You can’t hit quarterbacks like you used to. You can’t hit wide receivers like you used to. Think of it as the dinosaur rule: adapt or become extinct. And not to disrupt your nostalgia with facts, but the Eagles won the NFC Championship and entered Super Bowl LII with the No. 4 defense in the league. And then in that Super Bowl, they allowed 29 first downs, 613 total yards of offense (500 passing and 113 rushing), 10.0 yards per pass play, a 50 percent conversion rate on third downs, they forced no punts, and had only one sack. The Eagles won, 41-33. That’s NFL football today. And one last thing: if you don’t think Cam Heyward is a star, you don’t know as much about football as you think you do.
DOUGLAS HILL FROM LITTLETON, CO: With the absence of Ryan Shazier, much has been written regarding the Steelers’ lack of depth at linebacker. Do you think it possible or even worth it for the Steelers to go after a marquee player such as Khalil Mack to help strengthen the linebackers?
ANSWER: Khalil Mack is under contract to the Oakland Raiders for the 2018 season at a salary of $13.4 million. He is holding out for more money and has refused to report to the Raiders unless he gets more. I don’t know that the Steelers even could afford Mack’s current contract under their salary cap, and even if they could the Raiders would have to be willing to trade him and then would require compensation. That’s not happening. Not in the real world, at least.