Let's get to it:
RON GONZALES FROM LAKEWOOD, CO: I read your response in a recent Asked and Answered about the Steelers declining the fifth-year option on Terrell Edmunds' contract. Where does that leave him as far as free agency and our rights to him?
ANSWER: The Steelers still hold the rights to Terrell Edmunds until 4 p.m. on March 16, 2022, when he can become an unrestricted free agent. The Steelers could re-sign him at any point up until then, or even after Edmunds hits the open market; they could use the franchise or transition tags on him, and the deadline for that is 4 p.m. on March 8. Basically, the Steelers are in the same situation with Edmunds as they would be with any veteran whose contract is set to expire with the start of the 2022 league year.
MICHAEL JOHNSTON FROM BOZEMAN, MT: Kendrick Green's measurables are very good: Pro Day 4.88 in the 40-yard dash, a 35.5 vertical, 25 reps on the bench press, 9-11 in the broad jump. Obviously, lots of upside, and I like his effort/tenacity. All of these measurables are as good or significantly better than Maurkice Pouncey's Combine showing. How long does it typically take an offensive lineman to become a quality player or even a force in the NFL?
ANSWER: There is no such thing as a typical timetable for a rookie offensive lineman "to become a quality player or even a force in the NFL." That's just one of the things that makes the draft such an inexact science. About measurables, General Manager Kevin Colbert long has said, "The two things you cannot measure are hearts and smarts." And a player's intelligence and his heart often are the two qualities that separate the guys who become quality players from the guys who turn out to be busts. I believe that an accurate assessment of Kendrick Green's future as an NFL player cannot accurately be done until he has had some time in a professional weight-training program to get stronger, because that seems to be the No. 1 area where improvement is most necessary.
KEITH MILLER FROM CANTON, OH: Have the Steelers ever consistently started four rookies on offense before?
ANSWER: In 1970, the Steelers started four rookies on offense – quarterback Terry Bradshaw, wide receivers Ron Shanklin and Dave Smith, and tight end Dennis Hughes. And in 1971, they started four rookies on defense – defensive end Dwight White, outside linebacker Jack Ham, and safeties Mike Wagner and Glen Edwards.
DAVE FRANCIS FROM OKLAHOMA CITY, OK: Thank you for the sack stats. People also need to remember how many times teams pass now vs. the days of the 1970s dynasty. It's hard to get sacks when the opposing team is running the ball 85 percent of the time. I'd like to see stats for tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Is the best stat for T.J. Watt's Defensive Player of the Year campaign the difference in the performance of the Steelers defense when he plays vs. when he doesn't?
ANSWER: Not to be overly cynical, but I just don't know how deep a dive the voters take into the candidates' various statistics during the NFL awards season. If there's one statistic that I believe would clinch the award for T.J. Watt, it would be breaking Michael Strahan's record of 22.5 sacks in a season.
TIM GAYDOSH FROM MOUNT AIRY, MD: As detailed in the Dec. 23 Asked and Answered, the sack totals from those early days of the NFL (pre-1982 before sacks became a recognized statistic), especially the freakish numbers Deacon Jones put up, are more impressive, not only because of the number of games but also because of the nature of the game back then. Nobody was dropping back 40 times a game back then so, while I'm not one to go calculate it, the sacks per drop back/attempt had to be ridiculously off the charts.
ANSWER: I'm with you 100 percent on that. As an example, Deacon Jones posting (unofficial) totals of 26 sacks in 1967, 24 sacks in 1968, and 173.5 sacks in 191 career games during the 1960s and 1970s are incredible feats that speak to his greatness as a defensive end. And I'm not one to calculate it, either.
One quick Deacon Jones anecdote that exhibits the kind of intimidating force he must have been in his prime, and the absolute disdain he had for "pretty-boy" quarterbacks throughout his life:
Some years ago, there was a roundtable discussion among about a half-dozen Hall of Fame players that I believe was televised either by ESPN or NFL Network. At one point, the issue came up regarding how the NFL has made things tougher on the defense with rules changes and the way the game is officiated, and Steve Young started to make a speech about how offense is what drives the popularity of the sport, how offense is behind the explosion of interest in the NFL, and how fans pay to watch offense. Jones interrupted him, fixed him with a stare that could have bucked the knees of a professional football player 30-some years earlier, and snarled, "They'd pay to watch me put you in the hospital."
That's why when the subject of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history is brought up, I often wonder how most of the guys traditionally on that list nowadays would have fared had they played in an era when the most important part of their job was knowing where guys like Deacon Jones were at all times and understanding the referee wasn't going to be there to bail them out if they didn't.
MICHAEL DICKIE FROM ABILENE, TX: What do you think the probability is that James Washington will be back with the Steelers next year?
ANSWER: That's a tough one. My opinion is that the Steelers aren't as deep and talented at wide receiver as many thought coming out of training camp, including me, and maybe even as the Steelers believed. Diontae Johnson clearly is the team's best wide receiver; and JuJu Smith-Schuster can become an unrestricted free agent in March. I think James Washington could enhance his status among the Steelers receivers by what he does in these final three games of the regular season, but then it becomes a question of whether Washington wants to re-sign with the Steelers even if the team is interested in re-signing him.
JC CHUTA FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: In the third quarter of the win over the Titans on Dec. 19, after having scored a touchdown, Ben Roethlisberger was filmed walking into the tunnel and then seen seated on the steps with his head down. I have not heard of what might have happened, other than CBS' Tony Romo speculating on a Tim Tebow moment. Has anyone asked Ben about it?
ANSWER: During Ben Roethlisberger's regular media session during the week leading up to the game in Kansas City. he was asked about that. This was his answer: "Oh, that was a misconstrued photo. It was not even close to what people think. And I don't need to get into what it was, but it was not a moment of thinking about anything. It's just a classic, someone got a shot of something that was nothing that everyone thought it was."
MAX PENNELL FROM HARRISBURG, PA: Looking at the Steelers remaining three games of this regular season, how many wins do you believe it will take for them to win the AFC North or secure a Wild Card berth in the playoffs?
ANSWER: Please understand this is a guess, but I believe the Steelers' best chance to get into the playoffs is by winning the division, because by the end of the regular season Indianapolis, the Chargers, and Buffalo will be impediments to securing a Wild Card spot. Progressing from there, I think the Steelers have a decent chance to win the AFC North if they can get to nine wins, because the tie then could work in their favor because if any or all of the other division teams are at nine wins, they would all have at least seven losses while the tie would mean the Steelers would finish with only six losses.
KEVIN MCDEVITT FROM WHITEHALL, PA: One of the things for which I am most thankful this year is that I got to have breakfast with Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley, a table for six at J&J's Diner this past spring. I had gotten to know Tunch from several fan events, and while he was struggling a bit at the time, I had no idea it would be the last time I would see him. I've heard this part of the Immaculate Reception call 1,000 times: "Out of nowhere came Franco Harris, riding a white stallion, down the field …" Can you tell me who made this call, and his history with the Steelers?
ANSWER: The radio play-by-play announcer for the Steelers at the time of the Immaculate Reception was Jack Fleming, and that was his voice you have heard "1,000 times." Fleming first was known as "The Voice of the Mountaineers" for the work he did as West Virginia University's football and basketball announcer during the periods of 1947–1959, 1962–1969, and 1974–1996. Fleming was the Steelers radio play-by-play announcer from 1965–1993 when he worked alongside Myron Cope, who was the color analyst.
CAROL YASTER FROM BLUE BELL, PA: I don't have a question, but I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy Asked and Answered. I have learned a lot from your answers, and sometimes they are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, which is a very good thing. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, and Happy Holidays to you and yours.
JOE ASHER FROM TAMPA, FL: No question this time. Just wishing you, your staff, and all your families the merriest of Christmases. Thanks for all you do.
JAMES PHEASANT FROM ENFIELD, CT: No question. Just a great, big thank-you for all you give to us on this forum and wishing you and your family a very blessed Christmas.
ANSWER: To Carol, Joe, James, and all of the other people who took the time to send along Holiday wishes, I want to thank you for that and for your kind words. Finally, I want to take this opportunity to wish all loyal readers of Asked and Answered a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, and Safe 2022.