Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 22

Let's get to it:

NATHAN GEISLER FROM BOISE, ID: With the Super Bowl over and that game's most valuable player named, it reminded me of a story during the offseason after the 2002 season. Was it true the Steelers almost signed former Tampa Bay safety Dexter Jackson, who had recently been voted the most valuable player of Super Bowl XXXVII?
ANSWER: In the offseason following Super Bowl XXXVII, the Steelers were looking for a veteran safety in the free agent market, partly because Lee Flowers and Brent Alexander were getting old, and the defense had ranked in the bottom third of the league the previous season against the pass and on third downs. Shortly into the free agent period, the Steelers targeted Dexter Jackson, 26, who had a nice combination of size and ball skills, and at one point in the negotiations the team believed it had come to an agreement on a contract with his agent, Peter Shaffer. But Jackson instead signed with the Arizona Cardinals. In the aftermath, Schaffer said, "Dexter was all set to go to Pittsburgh, but you have to credit the Cardinals for showing the desire to get better as a team. The Cardinals stepped up and impressed Dexter with what they are trying to do as an organization." In other words, the Cardinals offered more money, and Jackson decided to take it. Rebuffed in free agency, the Steelers turned their search for a playmaking safety to the NFL Draft, and after Kevin Colbert worked a trade with Kansas City to move up to the 16th pick in the first round, the consolation prize turned out to be a guy from USC named Troy Polamalu.

VINCE SCOTTI FROM COLUMBIA, SC: In the last round of questions for Asked and Answered, Jack Butler's name was mentioned. Isn't he the one who nailed Giants quarterback Y.A. Title, which created that infamous picture of him bloodied and kneeling on the ground?
ANSWER: The game from which that famous photo came was played on Sept. 20, 1964, at Pitt Stadium, and the Steelers player who sacked Y.A. Tittle to create the iconic image was defensive end John Baker. Jack Butler's NFL career ended after the 1959 season. At 6-foot-6, 279 pounds, Baker entered the NFL from North Carolina Central as a fifth-round pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1958. He was traded to the Steelers from the Eagles in 1963, and he played five seasons in Pittsburgh. After retiring from football, Baker returned to North Carolina, and in 1978 he ran for sheriff of Wake County and won. He was repeatedly re-elected and held the position for 24 years, with one of his major accomplishments being that he instituted a way for incarcerated youth to continue their education. The man who took that famous photograph of Tittle was Morris Berman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

LONNY MACKEY FROM ORLANDO, FL: I was excited to hear that the Steelers were interviewing Louis Riddick for the open GM job. I enjoy his broadcasts, and his grasp on player evaluation seems to be top notch. Are the Steelers still interested?
ANSWER: I have no idea how the Steelers' interview with Louis Riddick went, nor do I have any information on whether there is any interest by the team or by Riddick at this stage of the process. But allow me to caution you about the potential pitfall in hiring someone for an NFL front office position because you enjoy his broadcasts on television. In 2001, Matt Millen left his job as a color commentator for FOX's NFL game broadcasts to take over as the Detroit Lions' CEO and de facto general manager. When first approached by owner William Clay Ford Sr. about the job, Millen reportedly said, "Mr. Ford, I really appreciate this, but I'm not qualified." Ford is reported to have said, "You're smart. You'll figure it out." In seven seasons, Millen's Lions' teams were 31–81 (with at least nine losses each season), and that .277 winning percentage was among the worst compiled by an NFL team over a seven-year period. The lesson here is: There is no accountability for being wrong about personnel or draft picks or how to run an NFL team when talking about it on television but doing that in the real world of the NFL is neither easy nor forgiving.

DENNIS MOSBY FROM NAPLES, FL: Through the years, I have observed the detail and the excellent research that typify your regular articles and the Asked and Answered feature. A vast knowledge of football is exhibited in this body of work. If asked, would you accept the job of Steelers GM?
ANSWER: Very kind of you to write glowingly of my work, but so much of what I learned came simply from keeping my mouth shut and my ears open when I was around people such as Dan Rooney, Kevin Colbert, Bill Nunn, Tom Donahoe, and Jim Boston. To be frank with you, I'm barely qualified to empty the trash in Kevin Colbert's office.

JIM GRAVES FROM WATERTOWN, NY: After watching some NFL veteran players on the Rams getting very emotional about winning the title, I had a thought. Cam Heyward has never won a championship either. How many years does Cam have left on his current deal?
ANSWER: Cam Heyward is under contract through the 2024 NFL season when he will be 35 years old.

LYLE BURTON FROM ORLANDO, FL: Is there any chance another team would be willing to give up their first-round pick to sign Dwayne Haskins as a restricted free agent?
ANSWER: When Washington waived Dwayne Haskins, any team in the NFL could have claimed him for nothing. Haskins cleared waivers and then was signed by the Steelers to a futures contract. Why would any team give up a first-round pick to sign someone it could have signed for nothing, especially when that player hasn't taken a snap in a regular season game since he was waived?

MARK DIXON FROM ETTERS, PA: I look forward to Asked and Answered every Tuesday and Thursday. Your sarcastic sense of humor is very much appreciated. What are futures deals and what type of players are signed to these types of contracts?
ANSWER: The full technical name for the subject of your question is a reserve/futures contract, and it's given out by teams to players who did not finish the regular season on an active roster. Examples of players eligible to sign a futures contract are those who ended the season on a practice squad, or those who weren't on an NFL roster at all the previous season, or those who were on an NFL roster at some point during the previous season but ended the season out of the league. The futures contracts these players sign go into effect on the first day of the new league year.

KEITH WIMER FROM BOARDMAN, OH: What were your views on the potential development of Devlin "Duck" Hodges? Would there be any chance he might be signed and invited to Steelers training camp and given another shot? I personally thought he was a plucky kind of guy.
ANSWER: With all due respect to Devlin Hodges, he lacks NFL caliber arm strength. He is too limited physically to play the position in the NFL and being "plucky" doesn't compensate for that.

JOHN SMITH FROM SURPRISE, AZ: I thought defensive lineman Carlos Davis looked like a promising prospect on draft day back in 2020, but I don't recall hearing his name even once during the 2021 season. What kind of season did he have, by the numbers?
ANSWER: Carlos Davis played 17 defensive snaps in the opener in Buffalo vs. the Bills, and he finished with one tackle. Injured in that game, Davis went on injured reserve and missed the next 12 games. He didn't play again until Dec. 19 vs. Tennessee. Davis finished with five tackles, including one for loss.

BRIAN HANFORD FROM SELINSGROVE, PA: I just don't see Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins being the solution at quarterback, nor do I see any veteran worth going after, which leaves this draft one of the most important since Ben Roethlisberger was selected in 2004. If they are forced to trade up, what is the most likely scenario in your opinion? Will they need to trade into the top 10 or will a smaller trade with the Chargers at No. 17 be good enough? I am guessing it's Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis or bust this year. Am I correct?
ANSWER: You're not only incorrect, but you're incorrect in so many different ways it's difficult to keep track of them all. I don't believe the Steelers share your opinion about Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins, and I believe even less that the team shares your opinion that "it's Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis or bust." The Steelers won't be "forced to trade up." It's not mandatory the team spends a first-round pick on a quarterback this year, nor is it mandatory they use any of their six draft picks on a quarterback this year. And just because you don't "see any veteran worth going after" has no bearing on whether the Steelers might have an interest in adding a veteran quarterback to the offseason competition.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS FROM CINCINNATI, OH: On the offensive line, why is a guard called a "guard?" Why is a tackle called a "tackle?" He does not tackle anyone. On the defensive line, the tackle is aligned in the interior of the line. So, why is the offensive tackle on the exterior of the line?
ANSWER: You have way too much free time. I suggest a hobby. But if you insist on pondering the mysteries of the universe, I would hope you could find something more significant than "why is a guard called a 'guard'?" Be better than that.

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