Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 7

Let's get to it:

JOHN VINCENT FROM CONNEAUT, OH: What should the Steelers do with Mitchell Trubisky: cut him, trade him, or keep him?
ANSWER: I would be keeping him. From a football perspective, I believe it's important to have a veteran backup behind starter Kenny Pickett, who will be entering his second NFL season in 2023. Trubisky looked comfortable in a backup role in 2022, and having a young, inexperienced backup behind a young, still-developing starter doesn't seem wise to me. As for the financial considerations, Trubisky is due to count $10.63 million on the salary cap in 2023, and while that might seem on the extravagant side, when combined with Pickett being in the second year of his rookie contract, the Steelers would be committing $13.83 million in cap space to their top two quarterbacks, which is a very reasonable amount in today's NFL climate. Also, during his end-of-year media tour in January, Steelers President Art Rooney II told KDKA-TV, "I expect Mitch will be on the roster next year and be an effective backup if we need him. I think he showed that he can be that. We can win with him."

ERIC OLSON FROM DOWNINGTOWN, PA: There is always a lot of chatter about who calls the plays on offense, or how much control does the quarterback have, etc. What is the model on defense for the Steelers? How is that usually coordinated?
ANSWER: Teryl Austin is the defensive coordinator, and as such has a direct line of communication to the player on the field who's wearing the green dot on his helmet, which in 2022 usually was Myles Jack or Robert Spillane. And as with everything involving in-game procedure, Coach Mike Tomlin has input/veto power, which is also the way things operated during Bill Cowher's tenure as coach.

JOHN KUN FROM FREDERICK, MD: In the coverage of Tom Brady's (re)retirement, it said that he was voted All-Pro three times. I would have thought that it would have been more than three All-Pro selections in his 23 seasons, which supports your assertion that All-Pro is so much more meaningful than the Pro Bowl. Which Steelers player has the most All-Pro designations?
ANSWER: There have been many organizations that have selected All-Pro teams, but the one most recognized by the NFL is the All-Pro team selected by the Associated Press. When it comes to Associated Press first-team All-Pro recognition, it's a four-way tie among Steelers players. Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Dermontti Dawson, and Alan Faneca each were selected to the Associated Press first-team All-Pro team six times.

COREY HOLLAND FROM WAYNESVILLE, NC: When a player gets injured, how does it work legally? Meaning is it a form of workman's comp, does the team/club foot the bill, or are the players expected to pay?
ANSWER: In the NFL, injured players receive the salary stipulated in their contracts, whether they are able to play in regular season games or not. Also, teams are not permitted to cut injured players without coming to a financial settlement with that player or his representative. NFL players also have a comprehensive health care plan that covers treatment and rehabilitation, as well as allowing for the seeking of second opinions from doctors of the individual's choice.

MARK ALT FROM CHARLESTON, SC: What was the record and stats of Todd Blackledge while he played for the Steelers?
ANSWER: Todd Blackledge played for the Steelers in the 1988 and 1989 seasons. He appeared in 6 games, with 5 starts, and he had a 2-3 record in those starts. Blackledge completed 60-of-139 (43.2 percent) for 776 yards, 3 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, and a rating of 50.5. He also rushed 17 times for 45 yards (2.6 average) with 1 touchdown. Blackledge was sacked 8 times.

TIM POLASKI FROM ERIE, PA: Has the NFL ever been rumored to, discussed, or proposed moving the Super Bowl to a Saturday? That would allow some hangover helper time on Sunday.
ANSWER: There is a better chance of the day after Super Bowl Sunday being declared a holiday than there is of the Super Bowl being moved from its traditional airing to a Saturday.

LEN FINDLEY FROM COALPORT, PA: Do the Steelers have any interest in hosting the NFL Draft? Has there been any rumors or speculation on whether that is something that they are trying to do?
ANSWER: The Steelers have been and continue to be very interested in hosting the NFL Draft, and they believe Pittsburgh has many of the qualities that would make that possible and an enjoyable and successful weekend for both the NFL and its fans.

DAN TANNACITO FROM KEIZER, OR: As a former teacher of writing, I'm interested in your career in sports writing. What do you consider your most formative experiences?
ANSWER: I'm not going to bore readers with details of my past, but I will offer one suggestion to anyone interested in a career in this field. One of the best courses I took during my college career was "English as a foreign language." All of the students in that class, except me, were non-native English speakers, and the class was a fundamental and detailed exercise in learning and understanding English grammar. While I admit to taking the occasional liberties with the letter of the grammatical law during my career, that class and the professor who taught it laid a foundation for employing the language that has served me well in every job I have had.

JOSEPH RINALDI FROM LAKEWOOD, NJ: When contracts expire and players become free agents, how does that money affect the salary cap? With so many players hitting free agency how are we so tight against the cap?
ANSWER: Based on the structure of some contracts, there can be dead money assessed to a team's salary cap even after a player's contract expires, but as a general rule players set to become unrestricted free agents in a particular year do not count towards the team's salary cap that year. A much more significant reason for the Steelers' salary cap situation can be found in the multi-year contracts for current players that contain raises as the years progress. For example, Minkah Fitzpatrick's cap hit was $8.1 million in 2022 and rises to $18 million in 2023; T.J. Watt's cap hit has risen from $8.1 million in 2021 to $24.4 million in 2022 and will be $29.4 million in 2023; Myles Jack's cap hit rises from $4.8 million in 2022 to $11.3 million in 2023; Cam Heyward's cap hit has risen from $7.5 million in 2021 to $17.4 million in 2022 and will be $22.3 million in 2023; and Diontae Johnson's cap hit rises from $7.6 million in 2022 to $16.3 million in 2023. Those 2023 cap hits can be lowered by a restructuring of those contracts, but that's an example of why a team about to clear 19 contracts off its books can end up being close to the salary cap.

GLAUCIO CAFALCHIO FROM TAUBATE, SP, BRAZIL: With the departure of Chase Claypool and the return of Calvin Austin, do you think Steelers will be looking to add a wide receiver early in the draft, if a talented player is available?
ANSWER: At this early stage of the process, I would suspect the Steelers wouldn't be in the market for a wide receiver until the third day of the draft, which is when rounds 4-through-7 are conducted.

GEORGE BOWE FROM OSPREY, FL: How many months does it take to have your question answered? I sent in a question before the season started, and I am still waiting for an answer.
ANSWER: Not every question submitted is answered, nor does every question submitted deserve to be selected to be included in a particular installment of Asked and Answered,

JIM ANDERSON FROM TOLEDO, OH: Do you think that when the owners meet, they will make a rule that it is a personal foul penalty to hit the quarterback's throwing arm when he is in the process of throwing? Once Brock Purdy's throwing arm was hit in the NFC Championship Game, the game became one-sided and boring.
ANSWER: I never have been a fan of the idea of changing a rule or creating a rule to deal with a single, possibly isolated event, and that very mistake was committed when the NFL adopted the rule to allow pass interference to be subject to instant replay challenges in the aftermath of that NFC playoff game where a blatant pass interference penalty against a Saints receiver was not called. By the way, that rule turned out to be a disaster and was abolished after a one-season trial. I see this as a similar situation. In my mind, it would make just as much sense to pass a rule requiring an alleged offensive genius/strategist and media darling of a coach being banned from having a backup tight end assigned to block a defender who had 16 sacks and 5 forced fumbles during the 17-game regular season.

GARY O'SHELL FROM LYNCHBURG, VA: Bubby Brister was an all-out competitor with a great heart, and as I remember, he was really ascending when Tom Moore was the offensive coordinator. That stalled under Joe Walton, and Brister eventually was replaced by Neil O'Donnell. Could you shed some light on why that happened?
ANSWER: After the Steelers finished 5-11 in 1988, Dan Rooney prevailed upon Chuck Noll to make a number of changes to his staff of assistants, and the team rebounded to 9-7 and a win in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs in 1989. Offensive coordinator Tom Moore, however, continued to be the subject of outside criticism throughout 1989, and when Minnesota Coach Jerry Burns offered him the same job with the Vikings, Moore accepted and left the Steelers. Noll belongs on a very short list of the greatest coaches in NFL history, and the job he did to drag the franchise from the bottom of the NFL to a feared dynasty within an 11-season span is unprecedented and laid the foundation for the Steelers to be the storied franchise it remains to this day. But his decision to hire Joe Walton to follow Moore as the Steelers offensive coordinator was a disaster. Rather than nurture the Steelers offensive talent and try to fit in with the team's preferred style of play, Walton set out to change that style and replace many of the players who were implementing it. One of the players Walton sought to replace was Brister, and he eventually was successful in that endeavor during the 1991 season. I believe it's worth noting that Walton was out of the NFL after the 1991 season, while Brister played 8 more seasons for three different teams and was an integral member of Denver's back-to-back Super Bowl Championship teams as John Elway's backup. It's also worth noting that the starting quarterback for the final two regular season games of Noll's coaching career was Bubby Brister, and Noll picked him over a healthy Neil O'Donnell.