Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Dec. 15

Let's get to it:

SAMUEL SANTILLO FROM CARSON CITY, NV: I can't think of another NFL coach who has done more this season with less than Coach Mike Tomlin. I think he deserves to be named NFL Coach of the Year. When was the last time a Steelers coach won Coach of the Year?
ANSWER: Allow me to start with this: there have been, and continue to be, many versions of the NFL Coach of the Year Award. United Press International handed out its version from 1955 until 1996; Pro Football Weekly handed out a Coach of the Year Award from 1968 until 2008; The Maxwell Club started giving out its award in 1989 and continues to this day; and The Sporting News began giving out a Coach of the Year Award in 1947 and it continues to this day, but there was no award given in 1954 and then also from 1957-60. The Associated Press began giving a Coach of the Year Award in 1957, and that one typically is viewed as the definitive one, just as The Associated Press All-Pro team is viewed as the definitive one honoring the league's best players by position.

You can decide which award is the most significant for yourself, but here are the Steelers coaches who won: Chuck Noll won the inaugural Maxwell Club Coach of the Year Award in 1989, but he never was selected for winning those four Super Bowls over six seasons in the 1970s; Bill Cowher won The Sporting News version in both 1992 and 2004: and Cowher also was voted the Associated Press Coach of the Year in 1992.

CHRIS HANN FROM SARASOTA, FL: Our defense really has come together with the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick, trading up in the draft for Devin Bush, and Bud Dupree having his best year. It is possible our defense has up to six Pro Bowl players – Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, Dupree, Joe Haden, Fitzpatrick, and Steven Nelson or Bush. What is the most Pro Bowl players the Steelers defense ever had in one season?
ANSWER: Six indeed would be an impressive number, but that wouldn't be the team's record. After both the 1975 and 1976 seasons, the Steelers sent eight of their 11 starters on defense to the Pro Bowl: After the 1975 season, It was Mel Blount, Glen Edwards, Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, and Mike Wagner. After the 1976 season, it was virtually the exact same group, with J.T. Thomas being selected instead of Russell.

BUDDY POWELL FROM FT. MYERS, FL: When do Kevin Colbert and his staff start working on a mock or hypothetical draft board for grading players by position who are coming out of college?
ANSWER: The work on the 2020 NFL Draft began in early August 2019.

JIM WOLFE FROM ARLINGTON, TN: What is the chance that either the Steelers-Jets game or Steelers-Ravens game gets flexed?
ANSWER: Because Steelers-Bills was flexed into the Sunday night time slot, that gives the Steelers six appearances in primetime this season, which is the maximum. There will be no kickoff change to Steelers vs. Jets on Dec. 22, because that is a FOX network doubleheader weekend, and Steelers-Jets will be televised by CBS. The only thing that can happen to Steelers-Ravens on Dec. 29 is moving it to a 4:25 p.m. kickoff, but any time changes for Week 17 haven't been announced yet by the NFL. And if the Ravens have clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC before that weekend, I wouldn't imagine the NFL would move that game from its scheduled 1 p.m. kickoff time.

KRIS HOOPER FROM NASHVILLE, TN: Curious as to why Vance McDonald is not a more integral part of the passing game this year? Especially with the absence of JuJu Smith-Schuster and last year's weapons, I would have thought he was prone to have a Gronk-like season.
ANSWER: There's one other absence you should take into consideration when it comes to anything related to the production of the passing game and the individuals within it: Ben Roethlisberger.

MATHEW MCKENNA FROM BROOKPARK, OH: Maybe it's just me, but I feel like the Steelers play better in their color rush uniforms. Would you be able to pull their record during these games?
ANSWER: The Steelers are 5-0 when wearing their color rush uniforms.

DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: Steelers fans are enjoying what you called a "championship caliber defense" this season. Regarding one of the most dominant defenses ever that did not win a championship, just how good were the 1976 Steelers?
ANSWER: The 1976 Steelers defense was dominant, and the numbers confirm that. When considering the statistics I'm about to list, remember that in 1976 an NFL regular season was made up of 14 games, not 16. The 1976 Steelers had 41 sacks, 22 interceptions and 46 total takeaways. The unit allowed 138 points (9.87 per game) and during a season-ending nine-game winning streak that brought the team from 1-4 to 10-4, the defense allowed 28 total points and posted five shutouts. Opponents averaged 3.2 yards per rush over the whole season, and also over the whole season the opposing quarterbacks combined to complete 42.4 percent of their passes, with nine touchdowns, 22 interceptions, and a rating of 45.2.

GEMETRIUS MCNEIL FROM INDIAN TRAIL, NC: James Conner has missed significant time due to injury both seasons as the No. 1 running back. I love the Benny Snell/Kerrith Whyte/Jaylen Samuels trio. Do you think that trio could be together for a while? They all bring different things and could share the physical toll.
ANSWER: During his seasons as the Steelers coach, Mike Tomlin has shown a preference for a primary running back, and so I'm going to assume that will be the way things continue to be handled. I'm not going to write off James Conner, nor am I inclined to anoint any of the other backs seeing playing time right now. Benny Snell, Kerrith Whyte, and Jaylen Samuels have done some good things during this current run for the Steelers, but the team isn't going to make the kind of decision you suggest until they have to make that decision. It's not that time yet.

MIKE CARLSON FROM BANGOR, ME: I may be the only one, but I thought Mason Rudolph played fairly well until his concussion vs. the Ravens. After that his performance plummeted. How's he holding up emotionally now that he's second string, and particularly, is his relationship with Devlin Hodges still solid?
ANSWER: At his most recent news conference, Coach Mike Tomlin was asked, "What have you seen from Mason Rudolph in his new role these past couple of weeks?" Tomlin's answer: "He has been extremely professional, not that I am surprised by that. His preparation has been really solid. He is doing all the things you expect a solid dude and solid professional to do."

DAN BRODEUR FROM SUGARLOAF, PA: I can't seem to buy into the Duck craze. I believe Mike Tomlin needed to sit Mason Rudolph when he did, but should we not try to continue developing him?
ANSWER: I can assure you the Steelers have not given up on Mason Rudolph.

RITA BYRD FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: I have obviously been delighted with the play of the defense this year. Is there is a reason why the most productive defender has seemed to change over the course of the year? At first it was Devin Bush, then Minkah Fitzpatrick, and now lately it has been Joe Haden getting the takeaways.
ANSWER: It's actually a good thing when different players take turns making big plays over the course of a season, because it indicates a well-rounded group that becomes difficult for an offense to avoid with specific game plans. It's not so much "who" but "how many," and the Steelers go into tonight's game vs. Buffalo with 33 takeaways, which leads the league.

PATRICK BRIGHT FROM WEXFORD, PA: Do you think the Steelers should pick up Terrell Suggs? Imagine him spelling T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree instead of Anthony Chickillo.
ANSWER: You do too much "imagining" already. Terrell Suggs is 37 years old. Apparently, you're "imagining" a much younger Suggs, because this version has one-half sack since Oct. 20.

JAMES BOWEN FROM MEXIA, TX: I believe it is time to move on from Roethlisberger and let Mason Rudolph or Devlin Hodges lead us from here on out . Ben is no Tom Brady or Drew Brees and hasn't done much these past years . Why do you constantly defend him?
ANSWER: Hahahahahahahahahaha. Ben Roethlisberger doesn't need me to defend him. His performance does an excellent job of that. To refresh your memory, in 2018 Roethlisberger completed 67 percent of his passes for 5,129 yards, with 34 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and a rating of 96.5.

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