Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Dec. 7

Let's get to it:

KENNETH ASKEW FROM RALEIGH, NC: Thank you for answering all of our questions while providing so much information with wit and humor. Many Steelers fans are actively talking about wanting the team to replace Ben Roethlisberger. While I realize Ben's skills have been affected by age, fans have short memories and may not remember all of the victories the future Hall of Famer is responsible for providing to us. When Ben retires or is replaced as the starter, I want him to know that some is us appreciate his career. He will be missed.
ANSWER: For those fans who have forgotten, maybe Sunday's win over the Ravens at Heinz Field will help jog their memories. Because as good as the defense played, the Steelers don't win that game without Roethlisberger putting up 17 points in the fourth quarter.

TODD AMES FROM COBOURG, ONTARIO, CANADA: During television replays of the challenged and overturned Ray-Ray McCloud reception, it appears there was a missed defensive pass interference call in that the Baltimore defender had McCloud's left arm pinned and trapped against his body. When reviewing the reception via replay, are the officials able to look at the circumstances surrounding the play (the players involved) and call that missed penalty? If not, do you think they should be able to do so?
ANSWER: During a replay review, the referee is not permitted to rule on things beyond the specific scope of the challenge, in this case being whether it was a completed catch by McCloud. And no, I am not in favor of any more replay under any circumstances, and that play offers an example of why. Replay is only supposed to correct clear and obvious mistakes and going over the Ray-Ray McCloud reception took more than a couple of minutes of referee Scott Novak staring into the monitor and communicating with New York. If it took that long to decipher, then it wasn't clear and obvious and the call on the field should have been upheld.

PAT FLYNN FROM OAKDALE, PA: Which scenario makes more sense to you: Search for a franchise quarterback first and then draft/assemble the team around him, or draft/assemble capable players and then draft a franchise quarterback to give him the tools to be successful once he's on the team?
ANSWER: Just for giggles, here is a list of quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the previous four drafts. Wonder how many teams believed they were picking a franchise quarterback, and I wonder how many of those teams actually got one? 2018: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson. 2019: Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, Dwayne Haskins. 2020: Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jordan Love. 2021: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Mac Jones.

To answer your question, I'm drafting/assembling capable players first, because it's easier to find those than it is a "franchise quarterback." And as the Steelers proved in 1995, a team filled with good players and a middling quarterback can advance to the Super Bowl (and even win it if the quarterback doesn't give the game away with interceptions), but a team with a really good quarterback and bad players will accomplish nothing except getting the quarterback beaten to a pulp.

JOHN BRAGG FROM FAIRMONT, WV: Just about every week, I hear the announcing team(s) of NFL games talking about how, "They won the coin flip and deferred." They make it sound like it's a genius master stroke of strategy. How is the "defer" option different than the "old days" where you win the toss and either receive or elect to kick-off?
ANSWER: The first thing to know is that even in the "old days," the winner of the coin toss got to choose how to start the game – receive, kick-off, or defend a goal – while the team that lost the coin toss got to choose how to start the second half, with the choices being the same. OK, now for the purposes of this question, let's pretend you and I are the opposing captains at the middle of the field for the coin toss. If I win the toss and elect to defer, that means I am saving my choice of whether to receive, kick-off, or defend a goal for the start of the second half. If I win the coin toss and elect to kick-off to start the game, then you get to choose how to start the second half, which means doing it the old way means you could get the ball to start both halves. That's the difference.

PETER BUNGO FROM CORAL SPRINGS, FL: Do you think the Steelers will try to draft Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett? Mason Rudolph is absolutely not the answer at quarterback - he has an average arm at best and never will have the command needed to quarterback the Pittsburgh Steelers. What is your opinion on the quarterback situation?
ANSWER: My opinion on the quarterback situation as things stand right now is how comical it is that fans believe they are qualified to make such blanket statements as "he has an average arm at best and never will have the command needed to quarterback the Pittsburgh Steelers" and feel confident they are correct. I don't have a rooting interest in this; I don't know conclusively whether Mason Rudolph will be a capable starting quarterback if given the opportunity, or whether Kenny Pickett is a savior-in-waiting, or even if the Steelers are looking to spend a premium pick on a quarterback during the 2022 NFL Draft, but there is one thing about which I am pretty confident. And that is if we were back at the time when Landry Jones was the Steelers backup and Mason Rudolph was in college, I would be hearing from fans asking whether the Steelers would try to draft Rudolph. And before you scoff at fans wanting the team to draft Rudolph, here are his college statistics: in 42 games, he completed 915-of-1,447 (63.2 percent) for 13,618 yards, with 92 touchdowns, 26 interceptions, and a rating of 107.7 if calculated using the NFL's criteria. As a comparison, Pickett has played 52 college games and has completed 1,045-of-1,674 (62.4 percent) for 12,303 yards, with 81 touchdowns, 32 interceptions, and a rating of 92.9 if calculated using the NFL's criteria. At a different time, you would be writing to Asked and Answered and suggesting the Steelers look into an Oklahoma State quarterback with great college statistics.

MIKE FEDERICO FROM COLLIERVILLE, TN: On the Ravens' final offensive possession, T.J. Watt caused Lamar Jackson to fumble the ball behind the line of scrimmage, and the ball rolled out of bounds. Does that count as a sack?
ANSWER: On that play, T.J. Watt was credited with a sack and a forced fumble.

WESLEY PLANTHABER FROM HUNTINGDON, PA: You referenced the start of the 1989 season and the losses to Cleveland and Cincinnati by a combined 92-10 in a recent Asked and Answered. I think that was the year Chuck Noll was the talk of the league for the Coach of the Year Award. If memory serves me correctly, Coach Noll, the greatest coach of his time in my opinion, never did win the award. Am I correct on that?
ANSWER: You are not correct, and that's because there are several different versions of the NFL Coach of the Year Award. There is the Associated Press version, which is the most commonly referenced and recognized version; the UPI version, which was discontinued in 1996; the Sporting News version; the Pro Football Weekly version, which was discontinued in 2008; and the Maxwell Football Club version, which was discontinued in 2018. In 1989, Chuck Noll was voted the Maxwell Football Club Coach of the Year Award, the only time he was so recognized.

ROB JAMES FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: What happened at the end of Chuck Noll's tenure as head coach? He seemed to field mediocre team after team. When Bill Cowher got hired, the team seemed to play like a ball of fire. Did the game pass Noll by? Did his message get stale? With all due respect to Cowher, his career accomplishments pale in comparison to Noll's, yet he seemed to excel with the same players who largely had failed Noll.
ANSWER: Wow, this is something different. A submission to Asked and Answered implying that Bill Cowher won with Chuck Noll's players. And just to put some names to the players who were on the roster when Cowher was hired in 1992:

WRs: Ernie Mills, Jeff Graham, Dwight Stone
OL: Dermontti Dawson, Tunch Ilkin, John Jackson, Carlton Haselrig, Justin Strzelczyk
TE: Eric Green, Adrian Cooper
QBs: Neil O'Donnell, Bubby Brister
HBs: Barry Foster, Leroy Thompson, Warren Williams
FBs: Merril Hoge
DL: Gerald Williams
LBs: Greg Lloyd, David Little, Hardy Nickerson, Bryan Hinkle, Jerry Olsavsky, Jerrol Williams
CBs: Rod Woodson, D.J. Johnson
S: Carnell Lake, Larry Griffin, Gary Jones
PK: Gary Anderson

To summarize: Dawson and Woodson are Hall of Fame players; those two, plus Greg Lloyd, Carnell Lake, Barry Foster, Hardy Nickerson, and Gary Anderson all were first-team All-Pros; all of those seven players, plus Tunch Ilkin, Carlton Haselrig, Eric Green, Neil O'Donnell, and David Little made the Pro Bowl at least once; and Anderson, Bryan Hinkle, Little, Woodson, Lloyd, Foster, and O'Donnell were voted Steelers MVPs by their teammates. As is apparent, the talent cupboard was not bare when Cowher was hired. When Noll called it quits after the 1991 season, he had been the Steelers coach for 23 seasons and an NFL assistant for 9 season before that. He wanted to "get on with his life's work" to use his own words, and he proved it by walking away from football and never looking back.