Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Dec. 22

Let's get to it:

DONALD HUMPHREYS FROM SPRINGFIELD, IL: Love the column, especially the shade you throw at "questionable" questions. Given that we do not have a first-round pick in next year's draft, who would you rank as Pittsburgh's best second-round pick since 1970?
ANSWER: Since 1970, the Steelers have drafted three Hall of Fame players on the second round of an NFL Draft. In chronological order, they are Jack Ham in 1971, Jack Lambert in 1974, and Dermontti Dawson in 1988. Any of the three can be justified as the best No. 2 pick, because each player re-defined the position as it had been played in the NFL, My personal choice would be Jack Ham, and the basis for my choice is that Ham – an outside linebacker – routinely covered wide receivers and running backs and finished with 32 interceptions and 21 fumble recoveries for a total of 53 takeaways. To put that into perspective, Troy Polamalu finished his career with 32 interceptions.

And in 2013, Ham was voted to the Hall of Fame's 50th Anniversary Team. On that team, there were just three linebackers selected, Ham and Lawrence Taylor were the outside linebackers, and Dick Butkus was the middle linebacker. Of Ham, the Hall of Fame wrote: "Smart, instinctive, great football IQ. Ham was a sure tackler who could diagnose plays very quickly, and he was also able to handle the quickest of backs in coverage. The 1970s was the decade when running backs really started to get involved in the passing game, eventually giving rise to the third-down back. Ham could handle them all. It is said that, from zero to 10 yards, Ham was faster than any other Steelers player. There were those within the organization who felt that he was the club's best player. Ham certainly belonged in that conversation with 'Mean' Joe Greene, as he also played an integral role on the four Super Bowl-winning teams of the 1970s. Ham's 53 career takeaways remain the highest figure ever by a non-defensive back."

WILL TITMAN FROM ATLANTIC CITY, NJ: Regarding the playoff picture, am I wrong in believing that if the Steelers win this week and the Titans lose, the Steelers lock up that final seed?
ANSWER: Yes, you are wrong. The Steelers cannot clinch a playoff spot this weekend, no matter what happens.

GREG SOUTHWOOD FROM MIAMI, FL: When it comes to the offense's struggles, what fans do not realize is that when you don't have the horses you are going to struggle. Just like the defense did the last few years. I like the young skill players getting all of these reps and developing their skills. Do you think the Steelers will keep this core of skill players and not bring others in for competition next year? Thanks for answering my question and as always great job with Asked and Answered.
ANSWER: What I would expect is that the Steelers will allocate their cap money and their premium draft picks to positions other than running back and wide receiver, but standing pat at either of those positions isn't a good idea. Competition is good for everyone, and it's never a good idea to allow young, unproven players to become complacent.

DOUG COPPELER FROM FAYETTEVILLE, NC: I just read an article about the Immaculate Reception. Having been born a few years after it happened, I always thought the controversy was whether the ball hit the ground before Franco Harris caught it. The writer made the point that if the ball had hit the Frenchy Fuqua instead of the Jack Tatum, and then Franco caught it, the play would have been ruled dead. Can you expand on this?
ANSWER: Yes, at the time of the Immaculate Reception, there was an NFL rule on pass plays prohibiting two offensive players from touching the ball in succession. In 1972, a pass from Terry Bradshaw that hit Frenchy Fuqua would then have had to be touched by an opposing player before another Steelers player (Franco Harris) could complete the play and make it a legal catch. But it always seemed to me that the laws of physicals confirmed the pass was legal, because the ball would've had to hit Jack Tatum to bounce so far back toward the line of scrimmage. As you know, that NFL rule has been changed.

MICHAEL ANGELO FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: I long have believed that Andy Russell, L.C. Greenwood, and Donnie Shell belong in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. Do you have an opinion?
ANSWER: I agree that Andy Russell, L.C. Greenwood, and Donnie Shell are deserving of enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I have written stories in the past making that case. Of the three, Shell has the best chance to be elected because he already has been announced as one of the finalists in the Seniors category in the Hall of Fame's special Centennial Class as part of the NFL 100 celebration. For just 2020, the Hall of Fame will induct a 20-person class to include five modern-era players, 10 seniors (a player who has been retired for more than 25 seasons), three contributors, and two coaches who last coached more than five seasons ago. I believe Russell's candidacy has been hurt by two things – a relative lack of statistics because so much of his career happened during the 1960s when those things weren't tracked as diligently as they are today, and the fact Jack Ham and Jack Lambert already are enshrined and voters are reluctant to have all three members of the same starting set of linebackers in Canton. The most puzzling situation for me has to do with Greenwood, the most productive pass rusher of the Steel Curtain, which is one of the most celebrated defensive lines in NFL history. The others – Minnesota's Purple People Eaters (Alan Page and Carl Eller), and the Los Angeles Rams Fearsome Foursome (Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen) – each have two.

ARON LAYCOCK FROM RACINE, WI: Does Terry Bradshaw have more Super Bowl rings than Troy Aikman, and are his career stats better?
ANSWER: Terry Bradshaw quarterbacked the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories, and Troy Aikman quarterbacked the Cowboys to three.

As for the statistics, Bradshaw completed 61.9 percent of his career passes for 27,989 yards, with 212 touchdowns, 210 interceptions, and a rating of 70.9. In 19 playoff games, Bradshaw completed 57.2 percent of his passes, with 30 touchdowns, 26 interceptions, and a rating of 83.0.

Aikman completed 61.5 percent of his career passes for 32,942 yards, with 165 touchdowns, 141 interceptions, and a rating of 81.6. In 16 playoff games, he completed 63.8 percent, with 23 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, and a rating of 88.3. I'll leave it up to you to account for the differences in the rules and style of offense from the 1970s when Bradshaw played to the 1990s when Aikman played.

JACKSON LATTA FROM PRESTONSBURG, KY: I love your column, but I can't get past how many people write to you speculating about the futures of Devlin Hodges, Mason Rudolph, or some other quarterback du jour. Are you surprised that more people aren't putting this season into perspective and fully appreciating just how fortunate the Steelers have been to have Ben Roethlisberger for these last 17 seasons, and counting?
ANSWER: When it comes to sports fans, and what interests them, or angers them, or what they choose to appreciate vs. expect vs. complain about, little surprises me anymore.

JACOB MCBETH FROM CHEYENNE, WY: The offense seems highly disorganized at times – multiple receivers in the same spot, not "clocking" the ball when ordered from the sideline, etc. What will it take to lessen this sloppy play?
ANSWER: Nothing more than an experienced, veteran, proven quarterback running the show. Young players need time to develop. Here's a little fun fact about that: On the days when Ben Roethlisberger is given the day off at training camp, practices routinely run up to 15 minutes late because of the extra time spent getting in and out of the huddle, getting the play called correctly, lining up properly, etc. This is the Ben Roethlisberger effect. Appreciate him while he's here.

ANDY MOTTO FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: What are the chances of you doing an Asked and Answered without getting any dumb quarterback questions? Happy Holidays to you, and I hope that you keep doing such a patient (and great) job.
ANSWERS: Apparently, the chances aren't very good. See below.

**RICH MARSILI FROM EVANSTON, IL: Should the Steelers be looking at Cam Newton or Eli Manning for a one year deal? Just to help bridge the gap until Ben Roethlisberger is back to 100 percent.

ROSE CUMPTON FROM MIDDLETOWN, PA: Why don't the Steelers look up Tim Tebow? He would be a great backup quarterback with experience.**

JIM SMYDER FROM MOUNT PLEASANT, PA: Is Cleveland the best 6-8 team in the history of the NFL?
ANSWER: That's one that should be posed to ESPN's Dan Orlovsky, who on March 13 labeled the Browns a "Super Bowl contender." For the record, Orlovsky is the former NFL quarterback who once ran out of the end zone for a safety because he didn't know where he was on the field. I'll leave it to you to decide whether there's any link between not knowing where you are and not knowing what you're talking about.

VINCE PERRY FROM TAIPEI, TAIWAN: Is it just me or did the tone of your answers in the latest Asked and Answered change? You seem too cheerful. Maybe too much eggnog. I liked the old Bob. What happened?
ANSWER: The Elf on the Shelf always has an eye on me. Once Santa doesn't bring me what I want for Christmas, everything will go back to "normal."

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