Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 15

Let's get to it:

DAVID POLLARD FROM WARRINGTON, UK: John Stallworth won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1984 after his 11th NFL season. How does Joe Burrow win the same award at age 25 and after playing only two seasons?
ANSWER: The NFL Comeback Player of the Year is awarded "typically to a player who shows perseverance in overcoming adversity from not being able to play the previous season, such as an injury, or for playing well in comparison to the previous year's poor performance." This award is a year-by-year consideration; longevity is not a consideration.

BETH GOLLMAR FROM DECATUR, GA: Do you think Kendrick Green will be able to bulk up a bit and turn into a decent guard? I'm surprised they stayed with him at center when he was so obviously overmatched at the position.
ANSWER: I cannot predict whether Kendrick Green will be able to turn himself into a quality NFL starter at center, but what I can tell you right now is that Green already is working with Maurkice Pouncey this offseason in an effort to do just that. My suggestion for fans is to be patient through the rest of this offseason, and then we all can judge Green and what his best NFL position will be once training camp begins in late July. And also understand this: while fans, outside analysts, former players, and anyone else who can manage to get themselves behind a microphone might believe Green has a better chance to succeed at guard than center, Coach Mike Tomlin is not in that group. And because Green is working with Pouncey, and that Pouncey has agreed to help Green with the transition from guard to center, it seems to me that many of the principals involved are committed to this even if others are not.

JOHN BRAGG FROM FAIRMONT, WV: I see that the Steelers are interviewing "outside candidates" for the GM position, like they did for the defensive coordinator opening. I am wondering, though, when interviewing these outside candidates, does the interview skew towards: "We like to do things this way … can you do that?" Or is it more: "How do you think things should be done?"
ANSWER: I believe it's two different conversations when it comes to hiring a new assistant coach vs. hiring a new general manager. Football is constantly evolving, and so it's reasonable to be more open to new ideas when it involves the coaching staff – but the concept of "new ideas" doesn't automatically translate to "wholesale changes" either. Using the defensive coordinator situation as an example, because the Steelers have been a 3-4 base defense since Chuck Noll instituted the switch during the early-1980s and they have drafted, signed and currently have a roster full of players who fit that scheme, the idea of changing over to a 4-3 in a single offseason because a candidate for the defensive coordinator opening wants to do that wouldn't be something that interests them nor would it be practical. But a change to the kind of coverage the defense employs on third downs in the red zone, as an example, is a different matter altogether.

Here is what Steelers President Art Rooney II said about the process the team will employ in the search for a general manager to replace Kevin Colbert, "I think a GM has a lot of responsibilities these days. We'll be hiring somebody who can fill all those responsibilities, which include No. 1 being a talent evaluator in putting our draft together … Having said that, we're looking for somebody who fits with the way we're structured and our culture, and we're not really planning to change our own structure here, so it would have to be somebody we feel can fit that culture and that role."

In other words, this was the way Dan Rooney described things back in 1992 when the Steelers went in search of someone to replace Chuck Noll: "We're not looking for a savior. We don't need saved."

BRENT BROWN JR. FROM STONE MOUNTAIN, GA: With Ben Roethlisberger retiring, the Steelers could have a number of quarterbacks competing for the No. 1 spot. Considering minicamps, OTAs, and training camp, how many quarterbacks could the Steelers have in the building before the ability to evaluate them is impacted?
ANSWER: Bill Cowher once held a three-way competition for the starting quarterback job in training camp and the preseason in 1996, and he said then and he has said since that three quarterbacks is too many for such a competition because of the division of repetitions in practice and playing time in preseason games. During the training camp/preseason process, it's important for the candidates for the starting quarterback job to get a chance to play with and against top competition, and coaches are reluctant to over-use their front-line players at that time of the NFL calendar. Cowher's opinion, at least, is that the most efficient way to conduct a competition for the job of starting quarterback would be to have two players vying for the job once the preseason games begin.

ROBERT ZEWE FROM ERIE, PA: Do you know of any talks or interest about bringing Mike Munchak back to coach the offensive line? I would love to see Munchak back in Pittsburgh. I think his coaching could really improve this young offensive line.
ANSWER: I believe any reunion between the Steelers and Mike Munchak is going to boil down to the same family issues that initially convinced Munchak to accept the job on the Denver staff in the first place. After the Broncos interviewed Munchak for their head coaching opening a few years ago and ended up hiring someone else, Munchak accepted the job of offensive line coach there because his daughter, her husband, and child lived in Denver. A former first-round draft pick as a player who went on to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame before beginning a long career as an NFL coach that included three seasons as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, Munchak is at a point in his career when he can accept or reject jobs for personal reasons if he so chooses. I believe the Steelers would welcome Munchak back in a heartbeat, but Pittsburgh hasn't gotten any closer to Denver than it was before.

CHARLES TRIANCE FROM RALEIGH, NC: Devin Bush had a great rookie campaign and played well until injured, yet so many fans seem to consider him a bust. I understand the implications of the huge trade up to bring him in, but is it not a little early to think that move was a huge mistake? Bud Dupree was called "Bud the Dud," until he started to produce years later just as his contract was expiring. Is Bush that bad, or is he still recovering?
ANSWER: My personal opinion is that it's too soon to give up on Bush, and that's based on a combination of the investment made to acquire him and the way he produced for the entirety of his rookie season. You ask, "Is Bush that bad, or is he still recovering?" That's a question that only can be answered definitively based on how he performs on the field, and as of now I do not see the Steelers moving on from Bush until he's given a chance to use this offseason to prepare instead of to rehabilitate . The one similarity between those who believe Bush is a bust and those who believe the severity of an ACL injury should buy him another year is that the members of both groups are guessing.

DJ KLAKAMP FROM ERIE, PA: You mentioned in a prior Asked and Answered that the Steelers may look to sign a veteran running back in the offseason to add depth to the position. Being from Erie, I would love to see James Conner return. Are the bridges burned between James and the Steelers?
ANSWER: Football as it's played on the professional level may be an emotional game, but it's best for teams and players not to approach the business of professional football in an emotional way. Both James Conner and the Steelers now are better off apart than they would be if they tried to get back together.

ANTONIO PELUSO FROM WHITBY, ONTARIO, CANADA: When the Steelers traded Melvin Ingram to the Chiefs, I thought they were to receive a conditional sixth-round pick in this year's draft. Were the terms of that condition met?
ANSWER: In the sixth round of the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft, the Steelers do not have their own pick, because that was part of the trade bringing Joe Schobert from Jacksonville, and they will have a pick in Kansas City's slot as the result of the trade of Melvin Ingram.

MIKE PARASKA FROM SUFFOLK, VA: If a prospective draft pick refuses to play in his college bowl game, do you think that it negatively impacts their evaluations from NFL teams?
ANSWER: General Manager Kevin Colbert has said that if everything else was equal the Steelers would favor the guy who didn't skip his college's bowl game, but my experience is that it so very rarely comes down to a situation where "everything else was equal." My belief is that at some point during the evaluation/grading process a pecking order gets established in the vast majority of cases, and so the college bowl game issue already has been factored into the evaluation in a subtle way.

MICHAEL BARBOSA FROM GILROY, CA: Currently how many picks do the Steelers have in the 2022 draft?
ANSWER: Here is the breakdown of the Steelers' picks in the 2022 NFL Draft: In Rounds 1-2-3, the Steelers will pick in their scheduled slot. They currently have no picks in Round 4-5, but there is some speculation they could re-coup a No. 4 once the NFL gets around to awarding compensatory picks. In the sixth round, they will pick in Kansas City's slot because of the Melvin Ingram deal; and in Round 7 they have two picks – their own and one from the Jets.

LEVI LICHTMAN FROM BROOKLYN, NY: Although I'm rooting for Mason Rudolph to be the starter, hypothetically speaking what do you think of this trade: Mason Rudolph, Chase Claypool, and the Steelers' No. 1 pick for Jimmy Garoppolo and Deebo Samuel. Then trade James Washington for a high draft pick to recoup your lost No. 1 pick, sign a decent backup quarterback, and let's see.
ANSWER: Allow me to take a moment to remind you that Asked and Answered lives in the real world.

BARBARA BOYCE FROM MEDFORD, OR: Just wanted to tell you that my husband and I really enjoy your columns and Asked & Answered. I was born in Pittsburgh and cheer for the teams that wear black and gold. Thank you for the information you provide and especially the humor when needed. We always learn something from your answers.
ANSWER: Thanks for the kind words.

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