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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 20

Let's get to it:

PAUL BUREK FROM FLOWERY BRANCH, GA: Can you help me remember how Chuck Noll was given the nickname "The Emperor"? Was it Myron Cope?
ANSWER: It indeed was Myron Cope who gave Chuck Noll that nickname, and as for how that came about, I will quote the appropriate passage from Cope's book, "Double Yoi!"

"The Steelers had returned from Miami where they had won their third Super Bowl championship, and the next day, on Monday at noon, they gathered for a public celebration in a downtown parklet called Market Square. Some 5,000 fans, almost all wearing black and gold, jammed into Market Square, some hanging from telephone poles. Two years before, the Steelers had won their second championship, prompting callers to my evening radio talk show to say, 'They're a dynasty now, aren't they, Myron? Come on, call them a dynasty.'

'"No,' I would reply. 'It takes three championships to become a dynasty.'

'"So now, the Steelers had won their third, and a large stage had been erected in Market Square. Players, coaches, and front office executives stood upon the stage, soaking up the public's adulation. I had been asked to be master of ceremonies. I faced the throng and cried out, 'Repeat after me!' I threw up my arms and shouted, 'All hail the Steeler Dynasty!'

"The crowds threw up their arms and roared as one, a thunderous voice that surely shook the windows of nearby office buildings: 'All hail the Steeler Dynasty!'

'"Gee,' I said to myself. 'This feels pretty good. This makes me feel like Julius Caesar.' I shouted, 'Every dynasty has to have an emperor. Repeat after me.' Again I threw up my arms. 'All hail the Emperor Chas!'

"This time, I thought a few windows may have shattered. In any case, from that day forward, Steelers fans called him the Emperor Chas, or simply the Emperor, or even more simply, Emp."

KEN WAMSLEY FROM BIDWELL OH: How many free agents-to-be are on the Steelers roster who need to be re-signed? And do you think Cam Hayward will return next season?
ANSWER: Dealing with your second question first, I cannot imagine a realistic scenario where Cam Heyward is not playing for the Steelers in 2024. The following players can become unrestricted free agents on March 13: nose tackle Montravius Adams, safety Kwon Alexander, wide receiver Miles Boykin, outside linebacker Markus Golden, safety Miles Killebrew, inside linebacker Blake Martinez, cornerback James Pierre, safety Elijah Riley, quarterback Mason Rudolph, cornerback Chandon Sullivan, inside linebacker Mykal Walker, cornerback Levi Wallace, and defensive lineman Armon Watts. 

BYRON BLEDSOE FROM EASTPOINTE, MI: Which Steelers players have had the most All-Pro selections?
ANSWER: Mike Webster was voted first-team All-Pro 7 times; Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Dermontti Dawson, and Alan Faneca each were voted first-team All-Pro 6 times.

DREWBOB ANDERSON TALLADEGA AL: As Mitch Trubisky leaves us, I was reading again that he was brought to Pittsburgh because of a good showing as a backup in Buffalo to Josh Allen. I finally looked up his statistics for that Buffalo year and they are certainly underwhelming. Was there something in particular that the Steelers saw and liked in Trubisky's six appearances with the Bills as a backup?
ANSWER: I have no idea where you read that, or who wrote it, but Mitch Trubisky's time as a backup in Buffalo was not the primary reason the Steelers signed him as an unrestricted free agent and gave him the first crack at the starting job after Ben Roethlisberger retired. Much more likely is that they found Trubisky's 29-21 record as an NFL starting quarterback, during which he completed 64 percent of his passes, with 64 touchdowns, 37 interceptions, and a rating of 87.2 to be attractive, or maybe that he was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2018, or maybe that he twice quarterbacked the Bears into the playoffs. And most likely of all, it was the combination of all of those factors.

HAROLD YOUNG FROM BONNEY LAKE, WA: Kudos to Cam Hayward for winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Also, now that Pressley Harvin III has been released, who do you speculate would be Chris Boswell's holder?
ANSWER: Whoever is the Steelers punter in 2024 will be Chris Boswell's holder. Being the holder for the placekicker is part of the job description for the punter in the NFL.

STEFAN PISOCKI FROM WILMINGTON, DE: I had heard somewhere that ex-Steelers linebacker Devin Bush had 17 tackles in Seattle's loss to Pittsburgh this season. I could not believe this, because I made it a point to watch him on the All-22 broadcast on NFL+. Isn't there a better statistic to determine the effectiveness of middle linebackers?
ANSWER: A previous submission based a question on something he "read somewhere." Now you come to me with something you "heard somewhere." When individuals don't know what they read or heard, or where they read it or heard it, it leads me to doubt a lot of what follows. I have explained several times that tackles are credited by the home team's on-site stats crew, and the irregularities/favoritism often showed in how those numbers are compiled is part of the reason why tackles are not an official statistic recognized by the NFL. For the record, the Seattle stats crew credited Devin Bush with 5 tackles and 13 assists in the Seahawks' 30-23 loss to the Steelers on Dec. 31 at Lumen Field. One final note: I have seen on-site stats crews award a defensive player with an "assist" for doing little more than being in the same general area where the tackle was made.

ELI GROTBERG FROM WIMBLEDON, ND: What caused the Steelers to move to the AFC after the NFL and the AFL merged?
ANSWER: The final season in which the NFL and the AFL competed as separate leagues was 1969, and for the 1970 season the 16 NFL teams would merge with the 10 AFL teams to form a new 26-team NFL that would be split into two 13-team conferences – the AFC and the NFC – which would require 3 NFL teams to move into the new AFC. In 1969, the Steelers were in the NFL's Century Division (Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St. Louis, New York Giants), and Baltimore was in the Coastal Division (Baltimore, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco, Atlanta). With the opening of Three Rivers Stadium in 1970, the Steelers were entering a new era in franchise history, and Art Rooney Sr. was amenable to moving to the AFC provided his team would be placed in the same division as Cleveland, because a natural rivalry had developed between those two teams and those cities. Baltimore was intrigued with the idea of moving into a new division – AFC East – that was more geographically reasonable (Baltimore, Boston/New England, New York Jets, Buffalo) and also would include a natural rivalry with Miami, which was led by former Colts coach Don Shula. Once Rooney convinced Browns owner Art Modell that a division including Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Paul Brown's Cincinnati Bengals created obvious natural rivalries, the framework was set for the NFL-AFL merger and the creation of the AFC and the NFC.

STEVE LETTIE FROM MORRISTOWN, NJ: I was surprised to see punter Pressley Harvin III get released. I know he's had a few ups and downs, but I thought he was a very good punter. Was he just a cap space cut, or did I miss something more?
ANSWER: Pressley Harvin III's inconsistency just became too much and too frequent of a problem for Coach Mike Tomlin. During the 2023 season, Tomlin, who rarely calls out players in a public forum, three times mentioned that the punting was not good enough. At his season-ending news conference on Jan. 18, when Tomlin said, "I'll acknowledge that Pressley wasn't consistent enough, particularly down the stretch," I believed it was just a matter of time before the Steelers moved on from him.

BURTON HARRIS FROM GREENSBURG, PA: With Arthur Smith getting the offensive coordinator job, will he have a voice as to who will be the starting quarterback, or does Mike Tomlin pick him by himself?
ANSWER: In the NFL, the head coach may listen to the offensive coordinator's opinion on which player should be the starting quarterback, but that decision is always, always made by the head coach. Chuck Noll picked the starting quarterback, and it was Noll who benched Terry Bradshaw in 1974 for Joe Gilliam and then Terry Hanratty, and it was Noll who went back to Bradshaw when he lost faith in Gilliam and Hanratty. Bill Cowher picked Neil O'Donnell to be the starting quarterback in 1992; Cowher picked Jim Miller to open the 1996 season as the starter after a three-way competition with Kordell Stewart and Mike Tomczak, and then it was Cowher who benched Miller after the first half of the opener and replaced him with Tomczak. It was Cowher who decided to bench Stewart in the fourth game of the 2002 season and replace him with Tommy Maddox; it was Cowher who decided to open the 2000 season with Kent Graham as the starter. My point is that in the NFL it's ALWAYS the head coach's decision when it comes to the starting quarterback.

WES PLANTHABER FROM HUNTINGDON, PA: I was glad to learn from Asked and Answered about how restricted free agent compensation worked. It is surprising at times the things I learn that I didn't even realize I didn't know. I will be recovering from The Big "C" surgery for a big section of the offseason and will read and look forward to every article you write.
ANSWER: Thanks for the kind words, and good luck on your recovery. I'll be rooting for you.