Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 30

Let's get to it:

EVAN SMITH FROM GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MT: I was wondering if you have any comments on Pressley Harvin III's performance so far this year? It looks like he has taken a step forward in his second year as Coach Mike Tomlin likes to see – throughout the preseason at least – but no one seems to be talking about him.
ANSWER: I agree that Pressley Harvin III has taken steps forward in his second NFL season. There was a day toward the end of the team's stay at Saint Vincent College where he put on a show punting the ball – as I remember it he had at least six punts travel 60-plus yards and one went over 70 yards during one special teams period. College punters have adjustments to make in terms of how NFL special teams coaches/coordinators want the punt team to operate and also an adjustment in working with the NFL K-balls, which are so much harder and slicker than the ones these punters used in college. Also, Harvin was dealing with some sensitive family issues that included the deaths of his father and grandmother. I get the sense that he's in a better place mentally and has benefitted from his first lap around the NFL track. And you also should understand that no one talking about you is not necessarily a bad thing for an NFL player.

BILL JOHNSON FROM BETHLEHEM, PA: Hypothetically if the Steelers cut Mason Rudolph, what would the cap hit be this year and would there be any cap hit next year?
ANSWER: Cutting Mason Rudolph isn't happening, but I will humor you by answering the question. Should the Steelers cut Rudolph, they would be charged $1.04 million on their 2022 salary cap, and there would be no cap hit in 2023. Maybe more importantly, trading Rudolph would cost the Steelers the same $1.04 million on their 2022 salary cap.

BILL FERRUCCI FROM GREENSBORO, NC: During the Lions game, the Steelers kicked off and the returner ran it back outside the 40-yard line. There were offsetting penalties (Steelers facemask and Lions holding) on the return, yet the Lions began the possession on their 20-yard line. What is the rule on this? Why no re-kick?
ANSWER: Usually in the case of offsetting penalties, the down is replayed, but a few years ago the NFL determined that kickoffs are dangerous plays when it comes to the player safety initiative, and so steps were implemented to reduce the number of such plays per game. What you saw in the preseason finale vs. the Lions was an example of that.

DANIEL FRANDON FROM ORLANDO, FL: Back in the 1970s, we had five teams in our division. I cannot remember what teams those were. Can you enlighten me as to the names of those teams?
ANSWER: You're either mistaken or confused, because during the decade of the 1970s, the Steelers were a member of the AFC Central Division, which contained four teams – Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, and Pittsburgh.

MARK MADSON FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: I've been reading about the Steelers 1974 team, and it's really amazing the team came together after a bumpy start. An interesting story that never really gets told is that we had a middle linebacker in the early 1970s named Henry Davis, who was voted to the Pro Bowl after the 1972 season. He was all over the field in the Immaculate Reception game (just watched a replay of the game), and I know he got hurt late in 1973. Whatever happened to Henry Davis?
ANSWER: Henry Davis entered the NFL from Grambling as an 11th-round draft choice by the Giants in 1968, and after two seasons in New York he ended up with the Steelers in 1970. By 1972, Davis was a full-time starter in Pittsburgh. Davis' final season in football was in 1973, and his career was ended the following summer during training camp by a neck injury. Davis died in Baton Rouge, La., on June 11, 2000, at the age of 57. When the Steelers selected Jack Lambert in the second round of the 1974 Draft, he was projected to be an outside linebacker but was moved to middle linebacker after Davis' injury.

KYLE SHENKLE FROM DUBOIS, PA: What are the chances of Kenny Pickett being the starter for the 2022 season? Or what do you feel would be the best way to divide up playing time between him and Mitch Trubisky?
ANSWER: Coach Mike Tomlin has yet to announce his choice at quarterback for the 2022 opener on Sept. 11 in Cincinnati, my suspicion is that the choice will be Mitch Trubisky. Whichever quarterback is picked, Tomlin has said he will not have that guy on a short leash. "I don't want the 'starter' to think he's on a short leash," said Tomlin. "I want people to play to win and not to play not to lose whether it's the game, or it's a job. No, I want all of our guys, regardless of role and position to have a can-do attitude and to bring a spirit to work that is geared toward getting things done as opposed to the opposite." From that, my opinion is that Tomlin won't be vacillating between quarterbacks once a decision is made and the season begins unless the team's performance warrants a change.

ANDREW SCHERBIK FROM PORTSMOUTH, VA: Other than Kenny Pickett, which rookie are you most looking forward to see perform in a regular season game?
ANSWER: All due respect to Kenny Pickett, but the rookie I am most looking forward to seeing in the regular season is George Pickens. The guy put on a highlights show just about every day during training camp at Saint Vincent College.

RICH RAMIREZ FROM HUDSON, OH: If Calvin Austin III isn't healthy enough to start the season on the 53-man roster, do you think that allows the Steelers to keep both Tyler Vaughns and Miles Boykin?
ANSWER: If Calvin Austin III has to open the season on short-term injured reserve, he first will have to be included on the initial 53-man roster. That said, I believe Miles Boykin is on the team regardless of Austin's status, and I also would guess that Steven Sims is ahead of Tyler Vaughns in the pecking order. I emphasize that's my guess.

JIMMY ROTONDI FROM ORLANDO, FL: Do you think Derek Watt will get the opportunity to have more carries this year? I think he would be a better runner to bring in when we need to give Najee Harris a breather.
ANSWER: Based on what exactly makes you believe Derek Watt would be a good option when Najee Harris needs a "breather?" In 93 career NFL games, Watt has 20 carries for 50 yards – one carry for 1 yard with the Steelers). Watt is a blocking fullback and a special teams player. Not every player is all things.

ANGELO MORELLA FROM POLAND, OH: Every article I read about the offensive line issues mentions the linemen are really struggling with Coach Pat Meyer's scheme. Do you feel his schemes are not compatible with the linemen we have? It seems a little like hiring a 4-3 defensive coordinator who is trying to coach players who have played in the 3-4 defense.
ANSWER: What I believe is that there are too many members of the media who see themselves as experts in offensive line play and technique because they played there in high school, which is like me thinking I know about surgical procedures because I cut my own fingernails. I have no idea whether the techniques being taught by offensive line coach Pat Meyer are causing the issues we have seen along the offensive line this summer, and I have a strong suspicion that most of the critics don't either. When I had questions about offensive line play and offensive line techniques, I always sought the opinions of Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley, and now that Tunch is gone, I ask Wolfley and Max Starks. They have a show that airs five days a week for two hours a day (10 a.m. until noon) on Steelers Nation Radio. My advice would be to listen to them and maybe participate as a caller (since it's a talk show) if you're really interested in deciphering the intricacies of offensive line play.

TOM McCORMICK FROM FINDLAY, OH: As far as I know, the starting quarterback hasn't been officially named, but I am interested in knowing if you feel it was a fair evaluation. Mitch Trubisky started each of the preseason games, so did the other two quarterbacks actually get a fair shot at working with the full set of expected starters? I was of the opinion that it was Trubisky's job to lose, so I'm good with the apparent outcome, but still I thought at least Mason Rudolph would get the start for one preseason game.
ANSWER: I do not know enough of the intimate details of the quarterback competition, either from the perspective of the mechanics of the execution of it nor from the information gathering aspect of it to know for certain, but this is what I think.

The competition began in this order (in terms of how the candidates got onto the field): Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Kenny Pickett, strictly because there has to be a consistent order to begin practices and games and NFL coaches prefer guys with experience. Imagine how much video Coach Mike Tomlin watched of Trubisky even before the Steelers signed him as an unrestricted free agent. Tomlin constantly refers to game video as a "walking, talking resume," and if one guy can present evidence of what HE HAS DONE in the NFL, he will be viewed in the context of that resume until what he does on the field change that opinion. And then I believe Tomlin watches and keeps what he calls an "inclusive" attitude, meaning the veteran, or the No. 1 pick, whomever, has to maintain his status to avoid losing ground and also be better than the guy ahead of him in order to move up.

And then once the on-field stuff became a daily exercise at Saint Vincent College, all three guys handled themselves quite well, and even more importantly none set himself back by being injured or putting together a streak of poor performances in practice. Since Trubisky was the model of reliability (I cannot remember him so much as missing a drill), and he took care of the football and still made plays (especially down the field), the pecking order remained as was. Trubisky never faltered, and the guys behind him never played so well that they could overtake him. Competition for a starting quarterback job in the NFL isn't something where everybody gets a chance. A player either has to take the job or have it relinquished to him, and Trubisky never relaxed his grip.

There is definitive value in the fact Trubisky has a 29-21 record as an NFL starter and has a combined 92.5 passer rating in his two starts in the playoffs, and let me emphasize this – Trubisky didn't do anything wrong from the day the Steelers signed him. It's not that he never made a mistake, but mistakes become problems only if they're not corrected, and Trubisky was able to prevent that from happening. If this was a tennis match, none of Trubisky's competition hit enough winners to best him, and he didn't make enough unforced errors to help them. And again, he has a track record against NFL regular season and postseason competition. In professional sports, fair and equal are not synonyms.