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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 3

Let's get to it:

MICHAEL FILAK FROM PLANO, TX: Are players allowed, if they so choose, to wear the Guardian Cap helmets in a real game? If not, what is the reasoning? I remember reading where James Daniels said he likes them.
ANSWER: Both the NFL and the NFLPA view the Guardian Cap helmet covers as something still in the experimental/research stage. The original decision to test them during training camp only came about after approval both from the league and the players' union, and so I doubt whether their usage in regular season games ending up to be an individual player's choice. And just to put things into context, it could be several years before the NFL has enough data to determine the full value of the Guardian Cap covers and whether they might be effective enough to wear in games, because one of the things testing has revealed is that the caps don't deflect off each other as easily as the hard helmets that create a glancing blow. That slightly increases the chances of a neck injury.

JON SEQUIER FROM PARIS, TX: Like many I'm still fascinated by the Immaculate Reception from the 1972 Raiders vs. Steelers playoff game. The replays show dozens of sideline photographers at the game. Undoubtedly one of them snapped a picture that would definitively show whether the ball hit the ground before Franco Harris caught it. Of all the research and analysis conducted, I've never heard of an appeal to those photographers to search for that picture. Do you know if anyone tried reaching out to them?
ANSWER: The enduring issue of the Immaculate Reception is whether the ball touched Frenchy Fuqua before it was caught out of the air by Franco Harris, because the NFL rule at the time prohibited two players from the same team from touching the ball without a player from the opposing team touching it in between. The laws of physics indicate the ball being launched back toward the line of scrimmage had to come from Jack Tatum's impact with it, and if Fuqua touched the ball as well, then Franco Harris' catch should have been ruled illegal by rule. There never was any legitimate controversy over whether Harris caught the ball before it touched the ground, because an NFL Films angle of the play clearly showed that he did.

RYAN MARSHALL FROM RALEIGH, NC: The thing/issue that intrigues me the most about the early stages of training camp has to do with Connor Heyward. I obviously love his pedigree and family story. With the addition of Darnell Washington at tight end and the re-signing of Zach Gentry, it seems to me Heyward has to be a tight end/fullback/special teams ace just to make the 53-man roster.
ANSWER: When it comes to the National Football League, there is no such thing as a sure thing, but at this stage of the process I cannot imagine a realistic scenario in which Connor Heyward is not on the 53-man roster, barring injury. During the non-padded portion of training camp, Connor Heyward has shown some nice skills as a runner and a receiver, and I don't believe either the physical requirements of the sport nor the ability to add to his value by contributing on special teams will be an issue for him at all.

KEN WAMSLEY FROM BIDWELL, OH: Just how fast was Ryan Shazier time-wise in the 40-yard dash?
ANSWER: During the NFL Scouting Combine, Ryan Shazier didn't run the 40-yard dash, but he measured 6-foot-1, 237 pounds, and he posted a 42-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump, and a 6.9-second time in the 3-cone drill. Then at the Ohio State Pro Day, Shazier ran the 40-yard dash and did it in 4.38 seconds.

DENNIS NEVINSKY FROM ERIE, PA: The Steelers keep bringing in no-name running backs to compete for the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. What are the chances that they sign a legitimate running back, such as Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliott, or Kareem Hunt before the season starts?
ANSWER: About the same as the chances that any one of those "legitimate" running backs would be willing to settle for the No. 3 spot on the depth chart and a salary commensurate with that role. Allow me to remind you, this is the real world in which the Steelers are trying to assemble a roster, not a video game or a fantasy league.

CHARLES DEMUMBRUM FROM MADISON, AL: I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, and the first games I remember watching on television were those Super Bowls. Could you shed some light on the offensive line of that era? We know about Mike Webster, but who were some of the other guys who were the unsung heroes who led Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier to those 1,000-yard seasons and protected Terry Bradshaw?
ANSWER: The Steelers have five offensive linemen who earned four Super Bowl rings during the 1970s – center Mike Webster, guards Sam Davis and Gerry Mullins, and tackles Jon Kolb and Larry Brown, even though Brown won two of his four rings as a tight end. Center Ray Mansfield, guard Jim Clack, and tackles Gordon Gravelle and Ray Pinney each won two Super Bowl rings during the 1970s. In my opinion, the Steel Curtain – the nickname that originally referred to the 4-man defensive line of tackles Joe Greene and Ernie Holmes and ends L.C. Greenwood and Dwight White – is arguably the most famous defensive line in NFL history, and that 1970s offensive line might be the most unsung group of 5 in Super Bowl history. That's why it was important to the members of the Steelers Hall of Honor selection committee to recognize those offensive linemen (Davis, Mullins, Kolb, and Brown) who were so integral to those championships but never will be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

JEFF WELLER FROM COLUMBUS, OH: There used to be a feature that you could "check in" at games on Steelers Nation Unite. Whatever happened to that, and is it ever going to return? It was an appreciated feature/opportunity.
ANSWER: That was discontinued some time ago, and I have heard of no plans to bring it back.

JAVIER MORI FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: Much talk that the AFC North is one of toughest divisions in the NFL and also contains some great in-division rivalries. How do you compare the old AFC Central with today's AFC North? I know the Houston Oilers were always so close but could never beat the Steelers in some tough playoff games.
ANSWER: There were several seasons during the mid-to-late-1970s where the AFC Central Division contained three teams that finished over .500, but since the playoff format at the time only allowed for one Wild Card team per conference, it was never a situation where the AFC Central Division sent as many as three of its members to the postseason. But I would argue that in 1975, the AFC Central clearly was the best division in football. The defending Super Bowl champion Steelers finished 12-2, the Bengals finished 11-3 with two of its losses to the Steelers, and the Houston Oilers finished 10-4 with two of its losses to the Steelers and its other two losses to the Bengals. The Steelers finished the 1975 season with a win in Super Bowl X, and the Bengals lost a Divisional Round Playoff Game to the 11-3 Raiders, who then advanced to the AFC Championship Game where they lost to the Steelers, 16-10.

ED FOISTER FROM LANCASTER, PA: Who is the all-time leading rusher in Steelers history, and which running back has the most touchdowns?
ANSWER: Franco Harris is No. 1 in franchise history with 11,950 yards rushing, and he also is No. 1 in rushing touchdowns with 91. Jerome Bettis is No. 2 in both of those categories, with 10,571 yards rushing and 78 rushing touchdowns.