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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 22

Let's get to it:

GIO CALABRO FROM EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, NJ: I agree with your assessment that Joe Greene was the most pivotal player drafted by the Steelers, and that he changed the team's trajectory in the 1970s. I was only 2 years old when he was drafted, and I know he played at a small school in Texas, but can you summarize his college stats?
ANSWER: Joe Greene played his college football from 1966-68 at what then was called North Texas State, and there were not a lot of detailed defensive statistics kept in that era. As an example, sacks were not a recognized statistic in the 1960s, and not even the major college programs compiled and archived tackle statistics. This is from the National Football Foundation website on his college career: "In (Greene's) 29 games at defensive tackle, North Texas State held the opposition to 2,507 yards gained on 1,276 rushes. A per carry average of less than 2 yards per attempt. His collegiate coach, Rod Rust, said of the 1968 consensus All-America, 'There are two factors behind Joe's success. First, he has the ability to make the big defensive play and turn the tempo of a game around. Second, he has the speed to be an excellent pursuit player.' A pro scout said, 'He's tough and mean and comes to hit people. He has good killer instincts. He's mobile and hostile.'"

THOMAS FUDENS FROM MIDDLE ISLAND, NY: What input if any does a team have in determining dates and times of their home games and deciding their bye week?
ANSWER: Teams can, and often do, make requests to the NFL regarding their schedules, but it's important to understand that these "requests" are not always granted. As a recent example, the Steelers requested that their 2022 home game vs. the Raiders be scheduled as close as possible to Dec. 23 because of the 50th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception; the NFL had the Raiders in Pittsburgh that season on Saturday, Dec. 24. Another annual example is the Jaguars are always scheduled to be away from Everbank Field on the weekend of the Florida-Georgia game because that college football rivalry has been played in Jacksonville since 1933. Other times teams from the East have requested their West Coast trips be scheduled back-to-back to lessen travel burdens, and I'm sure there are a number of other considerations from teams the NFL takes into account when making up the schedule. But again, submitting a request doesn't mean it will be granted.

GREG NELSON FROM BELLBROOK, OH: Rumor had it that Mike Munchak was returning to the Steelers with Arthur Smith. How true is that?
ANSWER: What is Asked and Answered's rule about rumors? They're not worth the cyberspace they occupy.

JOHN DIEUGENIO FROM CHARLEROI, PA: As of Feb. 20, Mike Vrabel has not landed any coaching job. I would think the Steelers would want to add someone like him to their coaching ranks, similar to the Brian Flores move a couple of years ago. Is there any bad blood between Vrabel and Coach Mike Tomlin or the Steelers, or do you think there is another reason they may not want to add another quality coach?
ANSWER: Did you ever consider that Mike Vrabel might not be interested in being an assistant coach in 2024, or that he isn't interested in the type of position that might be available with the Steelers, who already have a defensive coordinator in Teryl Austin? Steelers fans have this strange notion that their favorite team has control over these types of scenarios, whether it be "adding" a coach, or "bringing back" an unrestricted free agent, or being able to manipulate a trade that's most favorable to them. And here's another factor fans fail to consider: In the NFL, coaches' contracts are guaranteed, and Vrabel signed a 5-year extension with the Titans in 2021, which means they owe him money through the 2025 season. For Vrabel, his estimated salary for 2024 is $9.5 million, which he will receive whether he's working or not.

RODGER SHAFFER FROM PLUM, PA: Who is eligible to be signed by a new team, and who has to wait for the beginning of the new league year on March 13?
ANSWER: Unrestricted free agents-to-be cannot sign with a new team until the start of the new league year, which is at 4 p.m. on March 13 because their contracts do not expire until then. Players who have been released by their teams – examples for the Steelers would be Mitch Trubisky, Chuks Okorafor, and Pressley Harvin III – can sign with new teams at any time.

KEN MAULDIN FROM CLYDE, TX: I remember all the praise for General Manager Omar Kahn on the free agent signings last year, but it seemed by the end of the year that the reason those players were available showed up through injuries and such. Are you able to show what those free agent signings were doing by the season's end?
ANSWER: Because the 2023 season seemed to include an endless series of signings even through the regular season, this list will include just the names of the major players acquired during the time leading up to the start of the regular season:

• OLB Markus Golden: rotational reserve
• G-C Nate Herbig: reserve OL who was active for all 17 games, with 2 starts
• CB-S Patrick Peterson: played 1,096 snaps on defense
• ILB Elandon Roberts: played in 16 regular season games; 581 defensive snaps
• G Isaac Seumalo: 17 starts, 1,040 offensive snaps
• DL Armon Watts: 273 snaps in 15 games
• NT Breiden Fehoko: practice squad
• ILB Kwon Alexander: injured reserve
• ILB Cole Holcomb: injured reserve
• S Keanu Neal: injured reserve

COLIN JON FROM VENICE, FL: I know it seems like everyone is on the Mason Rudolph bandwagon, and I agree that he did a great job in relief at the end of the season. I hope we also don't forget 2019, and that he was benched for an un-drafted quarterback (Devlin Hodges). What were Mason's stats in 2019?
ANSWER: In 2019, Mason Rudolph appeared in 10 regular season games after Ben Roethlisberger injured his throwing elbow, with 8 starts in which the Steelers were 5-3. He completed 176-of-183 (62.2 percent) for 1,675 yards, with 13 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, and a rating of 82.0. He was sacked 15 times and rushed 21 times for 42 yards.

SAM MIKHAIL FROM BETHESDA, MD: Which team had the greatest run of all time? Many say determining that is an exercise in futility, but I submit the Steelers of the 1970s. My argument is simple: The number of players from those teams who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (10). Does any other team even come close?
ANSWER: Those Steelers teams that won 4 Super Bowls over 6 seasons in the 1970s sent 10 players to Canton (Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Mike Webster, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Donnie Shell) plus Coach Chuck Noll. All of those players, plus Noll, won 4 Super Bowl rings.

During the 1960s, the Green Bay Packers won 3 NFL Championships before the Super Bowl was "invented," and then the first 2 Super Bowls for a total of 5 championships. The Packers have 12 players, who were part of at least 1 of those championships, in the Hall of Fame, plus Coach Vince Lombardi. Those players include: FB Jim Taylor, T Forrest Gregg, QB Bart Starr, MLB Ray Nitschke, CB Herb Adderley, DE Willie Davis, C Jim Ringo, HB Paul Hornung, DB Willie Wood, DT Henry Jordan, OLB Dave Robinson, and G Jerry Kramer. I'll leave it up to you to decide which team had the greater run. My opinion is the best way to compare teams from different eras is to divide it up by decades. The Steelers were the team of the 1970s, the Packers were the team of the 1960s, and I would offer the Chicago Bears as the team of the 1940s.

JOHN CURLEY FROM CHAPTICO, MD: Are there protections similar to a Non-Disclosure Agreement in place for the team when players are released? With the quarterback, for example, having an intimate knowledge of the playbook, the play-calling, and various other scenarios, I can imagine it could be devastating knowing those teams will play twice in the following year.
ANSWER: You sound like a lawyer. How would the NDA ever be enforced, because with all of the game video available and advanced statistics and analytics, how could it be determined whether the "knowledge" was obtained through hard work and video study vs. having an ex-player singing like a canary? And if a quarterback has such an intricate/extensive knowledge of the playbook and tendencies and play-calling, he probably wouldn't have been released.

DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: I have been a fan of the Steelers, and football in general, for 50 years. However, I never played the game on an organized level, so there are terms that I still don't understand. For example, a question was asked online about how hard it is going to be to find Cam Heyward's replacement because he plays a 5-technique. The answer given online was that Cam is a 3-technique. What are these numbers referring to?
ANSWER: Those numbers refer to where the defensive player lines up once the offense gets into formation for the next play. And then where that player lines up dictates his assignment for that play within the scheme of the defense. For example, a 0-Technique is a defender who lines up on the center's nose; a 1-Technique is a defender who lines up on the center's outside shoulder; a 2-Technique is a defender who lines up directly over the guard; a 3-Technique is a defender who lines up between the guard and the tackle; a 4-Technique is a defender who lines up directly over the tackle; and a 5-Technique is a defender who lines up on the tackle's outside shoulder. Then the player's responsibility on the next play is based on his alignment and the defensive play-call.

BOB DAVIDSON FROM CARNEGIE, PA: What number are the Steelers likely to retire next? Jack Lambert or Mel Blount?
ANSWER: What about Jack Ham? Or Terry Bradshaw? Or Troy Polamalu? A case can be made for any of the players I mentioned, plus others I did not. That's why it deserves to be such an infrequent occurrence.

TOM McGWTTIGAN FROM OLNEY, MD: Did the Steelers at one time have a quarterback named Kent Nix?
ANSWER: Yes. Kent Nix played college football at TCU, and he signed with the Packers in 1966 after going undrafted. He spent the 1966 season on the Green Bay taxi squad. He returned to the Packers for training camp in 1967, but when he fell behind on the depth chart to Bart Starr, Zeke Bratkowski, and Don Horn, he was traded to the Steelers in late July for a fifth-round pick in the 1968 Draft. In his 3 seasons in Pittsburgh (1967-69) Nix played in 46 games with 18 starts, and the team had a 4-14 record in those starts. He completed 301-652 (46.2 percent) for 3,644 yards, with 23 touchdowns, 49 interceptions, and a rating of 44.3 Nix also rushed 31 times for 130 yards (4.2 average) and 2 touchdowns.

THOMAS LANZERATH FROM GRUENSTADT, GERMANY: Are the earnings from ticket sales by the home team shared with the visiting team and/or the NFL? How does this work during the playoffs?
ANSWER: In the NFL, all ticket revenue is collected, put into a big pool and each team in the league gets 1/32nd of the total. During the playoffs, the NFL collects the money and disperses it directly to the teams involved in that round of the playoffs.

LORI STULMANIS FROM FEASTERVILLE, PA: After reading a question about fans visiting Saint Vincent College for Steelers training camp, your response was spot on: Yes, it's possible to get players' autographs at the end of a practice, but the true thrill for fans, as it was for me and my husband, should be the experience of seeing the Steelers practicing up-close. The incredibly fan-friendly Steelers organization also supplies exhibits and games for fans of all ages along with the opportunity to purchase Steelers paraphernalia. But just sitting on the bleachers as if we were at a high school football game and watching current and future Steelers superstars have fun on the field was well worth the trip. We've traveled to Latrobe 4 or 5 times over the years to enjoy their practices.
ANSWER: Hope you're able to make it this summer, too. It'll be here soon enough.