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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Jan. 18

Let's get to it:

GENE GREY FROM MORENO VALLEY, CA: What's in the light blue plastic bags that most players take on the planes to away games?
ANSWER: Food. The Steelers nutritionists create a menu for the players and coaches for each leg of every charter flight to road games during both the preseason, regular season, and postseason. Those spreads are laid out in the area where players check in and then screened by security before boarding the plane. Those blue bags are provided by the caterers to make it easy to transport the food from the check-in area across the tarmac and onto the plane.

DAN MELCHIOR FROM PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL: Is it true that L.C. as in Greenwood is the same as B.J. as in Hunnicutt in the television show M*A*S*H, where the initials do not stand for anything? By the way, L.C. should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
ANSWER: You are correct. According to L.C. Greenwood's obituary that appeared in The New York Times, "In 'About Three Bricks Shy of a Load,' Roy Blount Jr.'s book about the Steelers' 1973 season, Blount wrote that Greenwood initially told him that L. C. stood for 'Lover Cool' but later insisted that the letters did not stand for anything."

TONY FINCH FROM SALTILLO, MS: I love the Steelers' uniforms. I especially love that the organization doesn't change or even tweak them very often. I love the logo on only one side of the helmet, the wide black stripe on the gold pants, and that they don't switch to black pants on the road. I did like the block-style font for the jersey numbers that was used before Nike became the NFL's official uniform provider in 2012. What was the reason behind the change?
ANSWER: While Nike did become the official uniform provider for the NFL in 2012, the last time there were any changes made to the Steelers uniform was for the 1997 season when the team signed with Nike to provide its uniforms. I cannot give you the specific reason for the slight alterations to the presentation of the jersey except that Nike proposed the changes – adding a small logo on the front of the jersey and switching from block numbers to rounded numbers on the front and back – to Dan Rooney, and he approved them. That's the way things were done inside the Steelers offices in those days. If Dan Rooney gave his approval, it happened. If he did not, it did not.

JESSE HYDE FROM SHINGLEHOUSE, PA: My ears perked up listening to Cameron Heyward's postgame interview following the loss to Kansas City when he addressed the quarterback situation going forward. I believe he hinted at how we are planning to replace Ben Roethlisberger. When asked about the future quarterback situation, he responded, "We have a great scouting department." Did Heyward let the cat out of the bag that we will be looking to the draft to replace Ben instead of using Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins, or some other free agent?
ANSWER: The Steelers scouting department also is responsible for Mason Rudolph being on the team since he was a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the scouts also were involved in doing the pre-draft work that likely contributed to the eventual acquisition of Dewayne Haskins as well. I think you heard Cam Heyward say something that you wanted to hear and you interpreted it to fit your own personal narrative.

NIELS MUNK JENSEN FROM VIBORG, JYLLAND, DENMARK: As a European fan of the NFL, I don't have a feel for how NFL fans normally react in the USA. Now that our beloved Steelers have faltered in the playoffs, do Steelers fans tend to want division rivals (this year, the Bengals) to go far in the playoffs. Or is it more "if we can't win the Lombardi Trophy then no team in the AFC North should either?" Also, I really like that TV tells a story that at games fans of both teams can stand next to each other even in full "war paint." In European soccer, this often leads to fights, especially if it's a historic rivalry. Does TV paint a more romantic picture of how it is, or are NFL fans in-stadium nice to each other regardless of jersey colors?
ANSWER: The answers to all of your questions depend upon the particular fans and the particular rivalries. Back in the 1980s at the height of the hatred between the Steelers and the Raiders, as an example, a Steelers fan was beaten into a coma in the Los Angeles Coliseum by Raiders fans. And it also can depend upon the conduct of the particular fans and whether they're aggressive and/or obnoxious when in the presence of their rival fans. Coach Mike Tomlin said he explains to his young players the difference between fans of college football and NFL football this way: "In college football, fans go to the games and root for their team. In the NFL, fans go to the games and root against the other team." And that largely is the rule of thumb summarized quite nicely.

EUGENE McLAUGHLIN FROM DONEGAL, IRELAND: Maybe this has been asked before, but is there a specific reason the Steelers have a much smaller coaching staff than other teams? Most teams have many more positional or assistant coaches. Now more isn't always better, but a few teams with better records have larger staffs it would seem (although they just might have better players, too).
ANSWER: I have never heard a reason why the Steelers staff of assistant coaches is smaller than others around the league, but it very well could go back to the days when Chuck Noll was the head coach and took it upon himself to have a lot of interaction with players. That wasn't for any other reason than Noll viewed himself as a teacher, and he really enjoyed and valued the teaching aspects of the job. But in an effort to give you some kind of legitimate answer, I did some minor investigating and what I found on some of these teams' staffs puzzled me. Here is an example: One unnamed team that has a head coach whose specialty is offense and calls the plays himself during all of the games has nine assistants with the following titles: offensive coordinator, running backs/assistant head coach, assistant quarterbacks coach, offensive line coach, tight ends/passing game coordinator, three different people with the same title of offensive assistant, and a wide receiver coach. What do all of those guys do? And is it productive, repetitive, or are they tripping over one another trying to stay relevant? I'm not saying the way the Steelers do it is correct, but the size of some teams' staffs and the titles some of the individuals have seems a little over the top to me.

RONALD WALL FROM SHADY VALLEY, TN: During the game against the Chiefs, a Kansas City offensive lineman who reported eligible first threw a Steelers defender to the ground and then went out and caught a touchdown pass. Why is that not offensive pass interference?
ANSWER: Excellent question. Or maybe it could have been offensive holding. But it certainly seemed to be a penalty of some kind.

JERRY LUTZ FROM RED DEER, ALBERTA, CANADA: I'm almost positive that the scheduling of a Wild Card Round Game on a Monday night is due to revenue, but I don't understand how the NFL owners could agree to a playoff game where the winner is on a "short week" disadvantage for the next round of the playoffs. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Care to clarify this one?
ANSWER: There's really nothing to clarity, because as you stated in your question the scheduling of a Wild Card Round Game on a Monday night was done because of the money the broadcast partners were willing to pay for that. I saw an item explaining that 92 of the top 100 rated television shows from last year were all NFL games. That's the draw, and so television is willing to pay a premium for a product that delivers those kinds of ratings. And before casting NFL owners as the only faction involved that's interested in maximizing revenue, all monies earned as a result of the broadcast of games are split between the owners and players as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. So, the players are eligible to reap some of the financial benefits of that as well via bigger increases in the annual salary cap per team. There are no innocents here, make no mistake, not even the fans, who I'm guessing will tune into watch the game and make it a highly rated and therefore profitable endeavor for the networks as well.

AL WARNER FROM E. SPRINGFIELD, PA: Of the Bengals' eight consecutive playoff losses, a streak that was snapped by their victory over the Las Vegas Raiders last weekend, how many were at the hands of the Steelers?
ANSWER: Only two: the 2005 Wild Card Round Game that the Steelers won on the way to becoming the first No. 6 seed to win a Super Bowl, and the 2015 Wild Card Round Game, a.k.a., the Vontaze Burfict-Pacman Jones knucklehead game.