Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 5

Let's get to it:

GLAUCIO CAFALCHIO FROM TAUBATÉ, BRAZIL: Do you believe Dwayne Haskins' contract should be extended if he wins the primary backup quarterback spot from Mason Rudolph? He's showing something, and I'd hate to see a third quarterback leave and ultimately be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after winning championships for other teams (Johnny Unitas and Len Dawson cases hurt me, and I wasn't even born at the time).
ANSWER: What's the speed limit in Brazil because you are going way too fast. We are just now at the eve of the preseason, and it is going to be in these preseason games when the Steelers will get a better idea of what they have in Dewayne Haskins. Admittedly, Haskins has had his moments in the controlled environment of training camp practices, and Coach Mike Tomlin even said in a news conference in advance of tonight's game that Haskins has "grown by leaps and bounds. He does a good job of communicating with coaches, with players, gaining an understanding of what we're trying to do schematically and his role in it, gaining a rapport with the receivers specifically, trying to do the things that we want him to do in the drill work that we do. We've made an emphasis that drill work is football-like but not necessarily football, and so we have certain things that we emphasize under those circumstances. I think he's done a nice job of that."

The key to Tomlin's assessment is when he said, "We've made an emphasis that drill work is football-like but not necessarily football." Where Haskins struggled in Washington and ultimately was waived came because of what he was unable to do in the unscripted moments, when he had to react and adapt to the opposing defense at game speed, when he had to be poised in the face of the adversity inherent in every NFL game. Let's see if he can correct those things and then perform them consistently over a period of time before suggesting he can be the backup quarterback in 2021, let alone making any comparisons to Unitas and Dawson. Laying that on Haskins at this stage is completely unfair to him.

RICHARD MATOR FROM CANAL WINCHESTER, OH: I'm reading that T.J. Watt is now holding out of training camp being this is his last year on his rookie contract and he's only going to be paid $10 million this year. Why does a player have the right to hold out at all if he's technically still under contract? He says he is trying to protect himself from injury.
ANSWER: T.J. Watt has been at every training camp practice, meeting, walk-through, meal, everything. In fact, I'm watching him on the field as I'm writing this, and he's going through morning walk-through even as I berate myself for responding to this drivel. But I refuse to allow this to go unchallenged. He has told every media outlet that has asked he won't hold out and that he's not going to get into any discussions about his contract status. Watt hasn't said anything about "trying to protect himself from injury." Please refer all future submissions about things you've "read" to the Pittsburgh Department of Public Works, because that's the agency contracted to handle garbage in the city.

ALONSO GOMEZ FROM PUEBLA, MEXICO: I am a little worried about Minkah Fitzpatrick's contract extension. Steelers President Art Rooney II talked to the media about T.J. Watt's contract extension, but there is no indication or rumor about the negotiations with Minkah. Do you have any insight on that situation?
ANSWER: My insight would fall under the heading of "first things first." T.J. Watt is entering the option year of his rookie contract in 2021, which means if no extension is signed, he could become an unrestricted free agent in March 2022. Minkah Fitzpatrick won't reach the option year of his rookie contract until 2022, which means he cannot possibly become an unrestricted free agent until March 2023. I don't have any worries about the Steelers losing Minkah Fitzpatrick, and I'm a guy who admittedly lives in his fears. And please don't fall into the trap that so many other fans do by confusing rumors with facts.

SCOTT BLASKO FROM OCEAN CITY, MD: I recently read that Bill Cowher left a beer in his old office for Mike Tomlin for when he took over as the Steelers coach. That beer is still there, and Tomlin recently stated he's saving it for the next head coach. Any idea what kind of beer it is?
ANSWER: Iron City, a beer that was brewed in Pittsburgh at the time Bill Cowher retired as the Steelers coach after the 2006 NFL season.

DANA FISHER FROM ROCKPORT, ME: I haven't heard much about Alex Highsmith. Could you give a little insight as to how training camp is going for him so far? And will we see much of him in the Hall of Fame Game tonight vs. the Dallas Cowboys?
ANSWER: You must have an awfully busy schedule because I appear on "Training Camp Wrap-Up," which is hosted by Missi Matthews, and provide a practice report each day the team holds a practice at Heinz Field. "Training Camp Wrap-Up," presented by UPMC Health Plan, is streamed live on Steelers.com and the Steelers Official Mobile App and is your go-to program to see and hear all that happened during Steelers practice. If you are unable to watch it live, all episodes can be viewed On-Demand on the Steelers YouTube Channel. On the first day the Steelers practiced in Pads, which was Wednesday, July 28, I dedicated just about my entire practice report on how good Alex Highsmith looked and what he did so well throughout the session. I have highlighted Highsmith's performances at subsequent practices as well. My opinion is that a case can be made for Highsmith as having one of the best camps of any of the defensive players.

KIMON MICHAELS FROM LOS GATOS, CA: When a player is placed on the waived/injured list during training camp, does any resultant settlement count against the team's salary cap for the year?
ANSWER: Yes, and situations such as that are one of the reasons why I try to caution fans about misunderstanding reports about how much salary cap space the Steelers might be reported to have. Because there are a lot of things such as waived/injured, and being placed on injured reserve, etc., that unexpectedly crop up and then have to be accounted for on a team's salary cap.

TODD WESNER FROM ALTOONA, PA: With the league adding a 17th game to teams' schedules, some teams will have an extra home game and others an extra road game, which to me, seems unfair. How is the league going to address this year to year?
ANSWER: The 17th regular season game always will match one team from the NFC vs. one team from the AFC. One year, all of the 17th games will be played at the home of the AFC teams, and then the next year all of the games will be played at the home of the NFC teams. Not unfair at all.

ALEX NESTURRICK FROM ODESSA, TX: Have the Steelers met the NFL threshold for vaccination?
ANSWER: The Steelers are above 90 percent in terms of player vaccinations, and they are at 100 percent vaccinations when it comes to staff.

TIM SIVERD FROM SOUTH HILL, NY: What do you think led Vince Williams to retire? I thought he would still be an asset.
ANSWER: I have no direct knowledge of why Vince Williams decided to retire but based on the timing of his announcing his decision, my guess is that he just didn't have the same love of the game anymore. Football, especially on the professional level, is a physically and mentally demanding full-time job. It's possible Williams just didn't want to go through the work required to get his body through a ninth NFL season. And a former sixth-round draft choice who crafts a nine-year NFL career as an inside linebacker cannot be a go-through-the-motions type of individual.

DAVE AGOSTA FROM LITTLETON, CO: Recent questions concerning uniform numbers made me curious. I was browsing a historical list of all Steelers jersey numbers and noticed that for No. 72, Joe Greene (1969) was included. His No. 75 was listed as (1969-1981). Did Joe Greene start with No. 72 and switch for some reason?
ANSWER: When the Steelers opened training camp in 1969, a returning veteran defensive tackle named Ken Kortas, a starter for the previous two seasons, was wearing No. 75, and Joe Greene had not signed his rookie contract yet. So, when Greene signed and reported, he was issued a different number, and it was No. 72. When Kortas was traded before the regular season opened, No. 75 became available, and Greene took it.

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