Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 8

Let's get to it:

PAUL GROSSOEHME FROM WASHINGTON, PA: Is there a reason Steelers quarterbacks aren't wearing the Guardian Caps at camp practices?
ANSWER: The primary reason would be that there is no hitting of quarterbacks allowed during training camp practices. N-O-N-E. And Coach Mike Tomlin never has – and I would guess never will – have any wiggle room within that personal rule. There's another issue involved with Kenny Pickett, and that is his decision to try a new helmet that bills itself as being one that better protects quarterbacks from concussions. This new helmet is the Vicis Zero2 Matrix, and it's said to be designed to give better protection to the back of the head. In an interview with The Athletic about trying this new helmet, Pickett said, "They said that was the best one for quarterbacks, so I said, 'Fine, give it to me.'"

GERRY MANDERING FROM SCALP LEVEL, PA: Did Tunch Ilkin play at Indiana State the same years as Larry Bird?
ANSWER: Tunch Ilkin played football at Indiana State from 1975-79, and then he graduated in 1980 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and was drafted in the sixth round (165th overall) by the Steelers in the 1980 NFL Draft. Larry Bird played three seasons at Indiana State – 1976-77, 1977-78, and 1978-79 – and was a first-round pick (6th overall) by the Boston Celtics in the 1978 NBA Draft. As an interesting side note, the cover of Sports Illustrated for its Nov. 28, 1977, edition featured a posed photo of Bird in his college uniform flanked by two Indiana State cheerleaders. The cheerleader on the left would become Mrs. Sharon Ilkin, Tunch's first wife who died on Feb. 6, 2012, following a long battle with breast cancer.

CARL ANDERSON FROM FREDERICKSBURG, VA: The Ravens have currently won 23 preseason games in a row. Is this a significant event, or just one of those interesting freak statistics?
ANSWER: Actually, the Ravens preseason winning streak began on Aug. 11, 2016, with a 22-19 victory over Carolina, and it currently is at 23 games in a row. I'll leave it up to you and the other readers of Asked and Answered to decide whether that's a significant event/streak, and I imagine it means something to the Ravens. Personally, it's not something I would get excited about.

MICHAEL WOLOZYN FROM OIL CITY, PA: Remind us again when the roster cuts will happen, please. The first cut-down occurs after the first preseason game, correct?
ANSWER: This summer, there will be only one roster cut-down. By 4 p.m., EDT, on Aug. 29 all teams must reduce their rosters to 53 players.

LAZARO BROITMAN FROM SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA: It was a tough day for me when I heard Cory Trice Jr. was placed on injured reserve and Monte Pottebaum retired. Here in Costa Rica we have the chance to watch many college games and Trice was in my loop as well as Pottebaum, an old-school fullback. Since Trice was placed on injured reserve before the season started, can he be given a chance to return to the team? If not, is his contract with the team still valid at the original terms?
ANSWER: Because Cory Trice Jr. was placed on the injured reserve list before rosters were cut to 53 players, he cannot return to the team at any point during the 2023 season. As a player on the injured reserve list, he will be paid his full 2023 salary as outlined in the contract he signed on May 12.

GEORGE WALKER FROM LITHONIA, GA: In the case of Corey Trice Jr.'s injury, are rookie players paid if they are hurt before the 53-man roster and practice squad is set? And if so, how is that money charged to the salary cap for the team?
ANSWER: Cory Trice Jr. signed a four-year contract that included a signing bonus of $84,436. For 2023, he receives that money, plus his first-year salary, which is $750,000. That money is applied to the Steelers' 2023 salary cap in the form of 25 percent of his signing bonus – $21,109 – plus the full $750,000. That's an example of the kind of unforeseen expenses that require a team to keep a cushion on their salary cap heading into a regular season.

BILL JOHNSON FROM CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA: Two promising rookies, Cory Trice Jr. and Alfonzo Graham, are unfortunately now injured. Trice went directly onto the injured reserve list, while Graham was waived/injured. Presumably Graham will clear waivers and then be added to the injured reserve list. Why did Graham have to go through waivers and Trice did not?
ANSWER: I believe the more likely scenario involving Alfonso Graham is that once his injury heals – or maybe even before that if the Steelers reach an injury settlement with his agent – he will be waived. My guess is that the difference comes in how the Steelers view the two players based on the time they had seen them in camp – the team is interested in holding onto Trice's rights but not so interested in keeping Graham.

MAURICIO CRUZ FROM MÉXICO CDMX, MÉXICO: More on the Immaculate Reception: Is it true that the referee who ruled the play as a legitimate touchdown – Fred Swearingen – was later the field judge who called the pass interference penalty on Cowboys defensive back Benny Barnes for tripping Lynn Swann in Super Bowl XIII?
ANSWER: The 6-man officiating crew for the Immaculate Reception was: referee: Fred Swearingen; umpire: Pat Harder; head linesman: Al Sabato; line judge: Royal Cathcart; back judge: Adrian Burk; and field judge: Charley Musser. The 7-man officiating crew for Super Bowl XIII was: referee: Pat Haggerty; umpire: Art Demmas; line judge: Jack Fette; head linesman: Jerry Bergman; back judge: Pat Knight; field judge: Fred Swearingen; and side judge: Dean Look. So based on that, the answer to your question is that, yes, Fred Swearingen was the referee for the Immaculate Reception, and as the field judge in Super Bowl XIII he called the pass interference penalty on Benny Barnes. But your characterization of Swearingen as the man "who ruled the (Immaculate Reception) as a legitimate touchdown" is not accurate.

According to multiple accounts, including the one in "Dan Rooney: My 75 Years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL," back judge Adrian Burk and umpire Pat Harder both saw the play as a legal touchdown right off the bat, and they relayed their opinion to Swearingen when the officiating crew first huddled to discuss the play immediately after it happened, while three other members of the crew told Swearingen they had not been in a position to rule. Swearingen then asked Jim Boston, a member of the Steelers staff who was on the field, whether there was a phone he could use to contact NFL Supervisor of Officiating Art McNally, who was watching the game from the Three Rivers Stadium press box. The phone was answered by Dan Rooney, who then handed it to McNally. According to McNally, Swearingen "never asked me about the rule and never asked what I saw. All he said was, 'Two of my men say that opposing players touched the ball.' And I said, 'Everything's fine then, go ahead.'" The played then was ruled a touchdown and came to be known as the Immaculate Reception.

OWEN O'CEALLAIGH FROM CORK, IRELAND: I'd love to have your thoughts on that Netflix program, "Quarterback." I'm really enjoying it, but what do I know?
ANSWER: You know what you enjoy, and I'm glad you're enjoying it. Those kinds of shows – "Quarterback," and "Hard Knocks" – never have interested me.

ED LYTWAK FROM ARLINGTON, VA: Regarding Friday Night Lights, T.J. Watt said, "We get pizza afterwards. It's always a fun night." Is the pizza from Jioio's or Falbo's, or both?
ANSWER: If it was my decision, which it decidedly is not, the pizza would be from Vallozzi's, because in my opinion, Vallozzi's has the best pizza in Westmoreland County.