Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 2

Let's get to it:

ED BLAKE FROM SHREVE, OH: When the Steelers won one game in 1969, who was the starting quarterback? Also, were they that bad?
ANSWER: In 1969, which was Chuck Noll's first year as the Steelers coach, there were two quarterbacks who started games during that 1-13 regular season. The first was Dick Shiner, who was in his sixth NFL season in 1969, having come to the Steelers in 1968 after stints in Washington and Cleveland. He was 1-8 as the starter that season. The other quarterback was rookie Terry Hanratty, Noll's second-round draft pick from Notre Dame, and his record as a starter in 1969 was 0-5. The 1969 Steelers were bad, very bad. Shiner completed 46.4 percent of his passes on the season, and Hanratty completed 41.3 percent. To put those numbers in perspective, decent high school quarterbacks complete 50 percent of their passes. The 1969 Steelers averaged 16 points a game and allowed an average of 29 points a game. Their losses weren't all blowouts, but the mark of a bad team is that it finds ways to lose instead of finding ways to win, and the 1969 Steelers found a way to lose 13 straight games after a 16-13 victory over Detroit in the opener.

NATHAN READING FROM CARY, NC: I've read that the Steelers are in a tough spot with the salary cap, because of lower league revenues that are making the cap lower than expected. To my salary-cap-uneducated thinking, it seems like that would cut both ways: It makes it harder for us to keep free agents, but also makes it harder for other teams to take our free agents away. Is there something about the Steelers current situation that makes the lower cap hit us harder than it hits other teams?
ANSWER: Yes, it hits the Steelers harder than some other teams because not all teams spend to the cap every year and so those teams start out with a surplus of cap space. Fourteen teams – nearly half of the league – will go into the new league year projected to be over the cap, which means those teams are going to have to cut players to trim salary just to be compliant. The Steelers are in that group.

JOHN PADDOCK FROM INDEPENDENCE, MO: How do you think free agency will play out this year, with the reduced cap and perhaps fewer teams than normal being able to be aggressive? While I think there is almost no chance JuJu Smith-Schuster or Bud Dupree find themselves squeezed out from the top tier, as free agency wears on do you think there will be more opportunity to find some potentially great deals on solid players who wouldn't normally be available because so many teams are facing a tough cap situation?
ANSWER: This is tough, because I cannot ever remember a year in which the salary cap dipped so significantly from the previous year, and there really wasn't any warning or time to prepare because the COVID-19 pandemic was the cause of the revenue decrease. Because this is unprecedented, predicting the future becomes a true guessing game, and I don't have a feel for which way the wind will be blowing in another month. It would seem reasonable that there might be some bargains later on in the free agency period, but even that might not help a team like the Steelers, who would seem to be looking at a situation where they could be deep in cap jail by the start of the new league year. And having no money to spend doesn't help even if there are bargains.

CAL SABO FROM AKRON, OH: Who all decide what the salary cap number is?
ANSWER: Simply put, the NFL salary cap is determined by owners and players sharing designated gross revenue according to a formula negotiated and ratified in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Auditors from the NFLPA and the NFL go over the financials and come up with the number.

BOB WALKER FROM BRENTWOOD, TN: What's Mike Munchak doing these days? Any chance the Steelers get him back to coach the offensive line?
ANSWER: Mike Munchak is the offensive line coach of the Denver Broncos, and he accepted that job in order for him and his wife to be closer to their daughter, Alex, who lives in Denver with her husband and young daughter, Emilia. Munchak has said repeatedly that the move was made for family reasons.

RAY HEATON FROM COTTAGE GROVE, MN: How much cap relief can we reasonably expect if they renegotiate Ben Roethlisberger's contract? Then would there be a huge cap hit the following year?
ANSWER: I am not a salary cap expert, and I don't play one on Asked and Answered. Any renegotiation/restructuring of Ben Roethlisberger's contract is going to have to be agreed upon by the Steelers and Ryan Tollner, who is Roethlisberger's agent. Once that is done, the terms of the deal and the salary cap ramifications will become known. Until then, all I can tell you is to be patient and beware of "reports" claiming to list the details in advance.

TONY VACCARE FROM HANOVER, PA: With Ben Roethlisberger reported to have said he doesn't care about the money, he just wants another shot to win a championship, is it possible/likely that his contract could be restructured to a one-year contract for what the cap hit would be if he were cut (approximately $22 million)? If so, would that leave the Steelers free of cap implications from his contract if he were not to return in 2022?
ANSWER: As I wrote in the previous answer, I am no capologist, nor are the majority of the media members who would be willing to offer an answer/guess to your question. All I can do is tell you how I'm approaching this: I'm going to wait until the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger come to an agreement on the amount of his compensation for 2021 and then see how the structure of the contract impacts the team's salary cap this year and possibly in future years.

MARK REYNOLDS FROM COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, UT: As an old-time fan who actually watched the Steelers win their first four Super Bowls in the 1970s, I have been disappointed with the NFL's continuous selling out for more offense, starting with and including the first wave of rule changes in 1978. It seemed to me that the NFL's popularity was growing just fine. Do you know what drove them to those decisions?
ANSWER: A determination was made that offense sells, that the majority of fans were more interested in watching a game that ended 31-28 instead of 13-10. Fans of a particular team with a dominant defense might love a battle of great defenses, but blockbuster television ratings are achieved by getting people to watch who don't necessarily have a rooting interest in a particular game. Based on the explosion of ratings that put NFL games atop the annual list of most-watched programs on television, the focus on more offense seems to be working. Whether the league has gone too far can be debated, but people are watching NFL football more than anything else currently being offered.

RANDY HOFFERT FROM NEW HOLLAND, PA: Is there any chance the Steelers consider trading T.J. Watt for, say, two first-round picks? I have seen several crazy suggestions of this on NFL rumor mills.
ANSWER: This is what Steelers President Art Rooney recently said about T.J. Watt: "In terms of T.J. Watt, it's a good problem to have. We're obviously going to do what we need to do to make sure he stays on the team into the future."

PAUL PEACHEY FROM LITITZ, PA: I read that General Manager Kevin Colbert's contract is year-to-year and expires after the draft. Wouldn't it make sense to expire before then if a new general manager ever takes over?
ANSWER: In the NFL, contracts for coaches expire at the end of a season, and those for general managers and others involved in the player personnel end of the business expire after the annual draft. The reason for that is that since draft preparation begins in August, individuals under contract cannot take information gathered for one employer to another employer and use it there.

SAMUEL VAUGHAN FROM CANTON, OH: What's your take on the Steelers possibly trading T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and their next three first-round draft picks for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson?
ANSWER: My take would be that I'm sure I have heard stupider suggestions, but none of them currently comes to mind.

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