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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 15

Let's get to it:

FREDDY JOE MELNICK FROM ALACHUA, FL: As I was listening to the radio rebroadcast of Super Bowl XIV between the Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams at the end of the 1979 season, there was no mention of Jack Ham. When the announcers set the Steelers defense, it was obvious that he was not playing. Why?
ANSWER: Jack Ham started the first 15 games of the 1979 season, and then he missed the regular season finale vs. Buffalo and all three games of the playoffs with an ankle injury. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Dennis Winston. Over the course of his 12-year career, Ham missed a total of 9 regular season games – 1 in 1973, 2 in 1978, 1 in 1979, 4 in 1981, and 1 in 1982 – plus 3 games during the playoffs – all of them in 1979.

MIKE PREBLE FROM BALDWINSVILLE , NY: Looking at the quality of quarterbacks in the AFC, the Steelers are lacking horribly at this position. Is there any talk of getting someone else to fill that gap?
ANSWER: If you have spent any time on social media or reading Asked and Answered, there is little talk of anything else.

SAM MIKHAIL FROM BETHESDA, MD: With the release of Mitch Trubisky, the Steelers only have Kenny Pickett on the roster at quarterback. If they plan to go to training camp with 4 quarterbacks, they will need at least 2 more arms if Mason Rudolph is re-signed. My thinking is they will probably acquire a veteran quarterback and draft a quarterback. How do you see the quarterback room filling out?
ANSWER: Since the Steelers have Kenny Pickett under contract for the next two years, and if Mason Rudolph is re-signed as you suggest in your submission, the Steelers would need exactly two more to go to training camp with four quarterbacks. Since it's highly unlikely they would spend two draft picks on quarterbacks and just as unlikely they would commit the salary cap space to add two veteran free agents, it is logical to anticipate at this stage and under the scenario you propose that they would sign one and draft one.

JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: How much will it cost the Steelers in dead money for releasing Mitch Trubisky?
ANSWER: The dead money charge to the Steelers salary cap for the release of Mitch Trubisky will be $4.6 million.

ANDREW SCHERBIK FROM PORTSMOUTH, VA: It was good to see Cam Heyward finally win the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. A well-deserved honor. What is the criteria to be nominated and also to win the award?
ANSWER: Each of the 32 NFL teams nominates "one player who has had a significant positive impact on his community." And then, a panel that includes the Commissioner of the NFL – currently Roger Goodell – plus Connie Payton, who is Walter Payton's widow, the previous year's winner, and a number of former players select the winner of the award from those 32 nominees.

DANIEL SOLOMON FROM CINCINNATI, OH: With the 50th anniversary of the Steelers first Super Bowl team coming up this year, I would like to learn about some of the lesser known players. Can you tell us a little about Gordon Gravelle, a pretty solid tackle as I recall?
ANSWER: Gordon Gravelle came to the Steelers as a No. 2 pick (38th overall) in the 1972 NFL Draft from BYU. During five seasons with the team, Gravelle played in 54 regular season games, with 32 of those being starts, with another 8 games played, including 6 starts, in the playoffs. Gravelle played right tackle for the Steelers, with Jon Kolb opposite him at left tackle and Gerry Mullins next to him at right guard. Gravelle was the Steelers' starting right tackle in Super Bowl IX against Minnesota and in Super Bowl X against Dallas. Following the 1976 season, Coach Chuck Noll decided to move tight end Larry Brown to right tackle, and Gravelle was traded to the New York Giants. Gravelle started every game for the Giants in 1977 and 1978, and then he split the 1979 season between the Giants and Rams, which was his final year in the NFL.

MIKE FOSTER FROM EWA BEACH, HI: Darius Rush was playing in the deep middle or center field late in the game vs. the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football after playing some outside cornerback, if I remember correctly. According to Pro Football Reference, he only dressed for 3 games and generated stats only vs. the Titans. Where can I look for his snap count info? Do you think he's in the mix to play outside cornerback, slot cornerback, and/or free safety in 2024? He was voted top defensive back at the 2023 Senior Bowl and had a great combine (4.36 in the 40, 35-inch vertical, and a 10-feet, 1-inch broad jump). With an off-season of practices and knowing the playbook he might be a factor. Where can I find snap counts and associated positions played in college to see if he has a history at free safety, slot cornerback, etc.?
ANSWER: Darius Rush was on the Steelers roster for 12 games during the regular season and for the Wild Card Round game in the playoffs. He was inactive for 8 regular season games and the one playoff game. On Nov. 23 vs. Tennessee, Rush played 30 snaps on defense and finished with 3 tackles and 1 pass defensed; on Nov. 26 in Cincinnati, he played 9 snaps on defense, and 3 snaps on special teams, and he wasn't credited with any statistics; and on Dec. 7 vs. New England, he played 0 snaps on defense, 17 snaps on special teams, and he wasn't credited with any statistics.

Rush (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) is under contract for 2024 at the very reasonable salary of $915,000, and at this stage of the offseason it's reasonable to expect him to be at training camp, where he will be able to compete for a spot/role in the secondary. My resource for snap counts is an NFL site that is not available to the general public, and I have no resource for finding snap counts for players during their college careers.

BRUCE BURSEY FROM JAMESTOWN, NC: It was fantastic hearing that Cam Heyward won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, because it was so deserving and overdue for all his work. When did it become required or popular for players to start charitable foundations?
ANSWER: Players are not required to start foundations, and my first memory of a player establishing one was Jerome Bettis' The Bus Stops Here Foundation, which was formed in 1997, the year after he was traded from the Rams to the Steelers. According to the Foundation's website, "The purpose behind the creation of this foundation is to provide inner-city youth with opportunities and resources to become healthy, confident, and productive individuals of the society. Jerome Bettis always wanted to lead by example. He believes in giving back to the communities and societies that made him capable of accomplishing the level of success and recognition he enjoys today. Bettis has a strong belief that not just his parents, extended family, and teachers, but various programs and multiple individuals influenced him and helped him shape his life. Now, he believes that it is time to return all that by making a real difference in the lives of the underprivileged youth of our society." In 2001, Bettis was voted the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

CARLOS ARVIZU from MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: On, both Mike Sullivan and Tom Arth are listed as quarterbacks coach. Will they share responsibilities, or what's going on?
ANSWER: I believe it's fair to say that things are still developing as far as Coach Mike Tomlin's staff of assistants and what the particular titles and responsibilities will be for each of them. Things will become more clear and defined as the offseason progresses, but I wouldn't get too concerned about those things right now.

EDSON NUNES FROM SÃO PAULO, SP, BRAZIL: The Steelers recently released three players. Apart from punter Pressley Harvin III, both right tackle Chuks Okorafor and quarterback Mitch Trubisky seemed to have some trade value. Can we assume that the move was because nobody wanted them, or that it was to save money, mainly because it was so soon on the offseason calendar?
ANSWER: Throughout the NFL, teams are paying attention to other teams and mining sources within the league to try to determine what moves teams might be making in terms of which players might be coming available. I imagine there was a pretty good idea around the league that Chuks Okorafor and Mitch Trubisky were going to get released, and so there probably was very little interest in offering the Steelers anything in return for guys who were expected to be on the open market very soon. There was no salary cap advantage to the Steelers for releasing them now as opposed to closer to the start of the new league year on March 13.

MATT VARGO FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: When it comes to futures contracts, are they limited to who can be signed? For example why wasn't Eric Rowe signed to one?
ANSWER: Players cannot be forced to sign futures contracts, and those usually are for guys with little NFL experience and little-to-no ability to move freely from one team to another on the open market. Eric Rowe is a 9-year NFL veteran who will be 32 years old in October, and he can become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. He may try to see what's available to him with other teams before making up his mind where he wants to play in 2024 and whether he wants to play in 2024. Rowe very well may end up back with the Steelers, but him signing a futures contract immediately after the season wouldn't have made a lot of sense for a player with his experience.