Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 4

Let's get to it:

GLAUCIO CAFALCHIO FROM TAUBATÉ, BRAZIL: Could you provide some information about Bill Dudley's career with the Steelers. I've read that he won an award equivalent to MVP and that he's in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but I never see him mentioned as one of the greatest players in Steelers history. Why is that?
ANSWER: The first reason why Bill Dudley is somewhat overlooked when it comes to the greatest players in franchise history is that his career bracketed World War II in the 1940s, and another reason is that he only played three seasons in Pittsburgh: 1942 and in 1945-46. In 1943-44 Dudley served in the military and saw combat in World War II. "Bullet" Bill Dudley was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 1942 and finished as the NFL's leading rusher twice in his three seasons with the team – 1942 and 1946. He rushed for 696 yards in 1942, and then in 1946, Dudley led the NFL in three distinctly different statistical categories: rushing (604 yards), punt returns (27 for 385 yards) and interceptions (10). That year he was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player. Dudley was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966. Dudley is the answer to this trivia question: Who is the last Steelers running back to lead the NFL in rushing?

JOHN MAIR FROM RIDGE, NY: I believe the Steelers will draft the best player available instead of going by need (like they always do). However, the only problem is that the best player available likely will be a wide receiver, and I believe the Steelers need more experienced guys at that position. Everyone is very young and bringing in a veteran on the cheap would be a better option in my opinion. Do you agree?
ANSWER: In theory, bringing in a veteran could be the way to go, but who will be available and what will they demand in salary? If it's not the right guy at the right price, it's not going to work. One of the underappreciated issues with the wide receivers in 2019 was the death of assistant coach Darryl Drake during training camp. Ray Sherman stepped up to help out, but he had to come out of retirement, and so the young receivers not only were inexperienced and would play all but six quarters of the season without Ben Roethlisberger, but they also were being coached by a man who knew very little about them and whose last exposure to the Steelers was in 1998, which at the time of Drake's death was 21 years ago. I believe the Steelers will be adding a wide receivers coach, and this time he'll have a chance to get to know the offense and the personnel over the months of the offseason rather than having to do all of that on the fly starting in mid-August. And there constantly are slight adjustments to that best player available philosophy, and the 2020 draft could find the Steelers making one with their second-round pick.

VINCENT TANANA FROM THROOP, PA: How likely are the Steelers to look to free agency to pick up a veteran wide receiver to mold their young corps of receivers? One player who comes to mind and has familiarity with Ben Roethlisberger is Emmanuel Sanders.
ANSWER: No chance of it being Emmanuel Sanders, in my opinion. In a recent interview with TheAthletic.com, Sanders said about a possible return to Pittsburgh, "I would love that, but me and Ben (Roethlisberger) don't have the best relationship. I believe that bridge is burnt." After signing with Denver as an unrestricted free agent, Sanders said Peyton Manning was a "far better leader" than Roethlisberger. Sanders went on to say, "This is the first time that I had a quarterback that stays every single day after practice."

JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: Congratulations to our Steelers Hall of Famer's Troy Polamalu, Donnie Shell, and Bill Cowher. The Hall of Fame website shows the Enshrinement Ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 8. Will all 20 members of the Centennial Class be enshrined in one evening?
ANSWER: No, and I offer this from Peter King, who is on the Board of Selectors: "I think with 20 people entering the Hall this year, it's a bit unwieldy. So the Hall will have two enshrinements: Aug. 8, the weekend of the traditional Hall of Fame Game, and another enshrinement on Sept. 17, a Thursday, and the 100th anniversary of the first pro football game ever. Not sure how it will be divided yet."

JARROD O'NEAL FROM CHICO, CA: Now that Donnie Shell finally is going to be inducted in Canton, who from the 1970s era do you think should be included next? L.C. Greenwood? Andy Russell? Or someone else?
ANSWER: Bill Nunn. Bill Nunn. Bill Nunn. In the category of contributor, Bill Nunn should've been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame ahead of Gil Brandt.

JASON PURDUE FROM BERLIN CENTER, OH: In the Jan. 28 edition of Asked and Answered, you wrote that "Five is the fewest number of picks in any draft in franchise history." However, according to NFL.com, the Steelers had three picks in 1936, 1937, 1946, 1960 and 1962. Is that correct?
ANSWER: In 1936, the Steelers made nine draft picks; in 1937, they made 10 draft picks; in 1946, they made 30 draft picks; in 1960, they made 14 draft picks, because Buddy Parker traded away six picks; and in 1962, they made 15 draft picks, because Parker traded away five picks. I cannot account for what appears on NFL.com.

CHELSEA BADEN FROM EVANS CITY, PA: What's your pick for the Steelers' second best draft class? Of course 1974 is the best, but I vote for 1969 as second, because that draft yielded Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, and Jon Kolb.
ANSWER: From 1969 through 1974, the Steelers drafted nine Hall of Fame players and added another as an undrafted rookie. In 1970, the Steelers picked Terry Bradshaw (Hall of Fame) in the first round, Ron Shanklin (led the team in receiving in 1970, 1971, 1972, and 1973) in the second round, and Mel Blount (Hall of Fame) in the third round, which certainly is a considerable haul of talent, but my pick for the second-best draft in franchise history was the Class of 1971. That group included just one Hall of Fame player – Jack Ham in the first round – but it also brought these players who won multiple Super Bowl rings: WR Frank Lewis (two rings), G Gerry Mullins (four), DE Dwight White (four), TE-OT Larry Brown (four), DT Ernie Holmes (two), and S Mike Wagner (four). The 1971 draft filled in a lot of key spots on a roster that would win four Super Bowls over six seasons.

KEN MAULDIN FROM CLYDE, TX: In the history of the Steelers, or since they started keeping sack statistics, was this season the highest combined total of takeaways and sacks?
ANSWER: It was not, and when adjustments are made for the difference in the number of games that make up a regular season, it's not that close. In 2019, the Steelers had 54 sacks, 20 interceptions, and 18 fumble recoveries for a total of 92. In 1974, in a 14-game season, the Steelers had 52 sacks, 25 interceptions, and 22 fumble recoveries for a total of 99. Projecting that total out to a 16-game season, it would come to 59 sacks, 29 interceptions, and 25 fumble recoveries for a total of 113. The other season in which the Steelers bettered the 2019 total was 1983 when they finished with 50 sacks, 28 interceptions, and 17 fumble recoveries for a total of 95. In 1978, a 16-game season, the Steelers finished with 44 sacks, 27 interceptions, and 21 fumble recoveries for a total of 92 to tie the 2019 total.

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