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Asked and Answered: Jan. 25

Let’s get to it:

RICARDO BRADLEY FROM CINCINNATI, OH: Do you think it is time to make T.J. Watt the defensive captain, and was he even nominated for MVP of the team?
ANSWER: Both of those issues are totally up to his teammates. Players vote for captains before the start of the regular season, and as for the Steelers MVP Award, every player on the 53-man roster is eligible. There is no nomination process; it’s all at-large voting.

CARLOS ARVIZU FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: There were reports that next season the Steelers would play against the Chargers in Mexico City. Instead it was announced that the Chargers will play the Chiefs, which is a great matchup but not my favorite team. Do you if/why it changed? I assume the Chargers front office makes that call, is that right?
ANSWER: There was no change. Those initial reports were wrong. In scheduling international games, the NFL does consult with the designated home team about opponents to some degree, but the league makes the final decision.

DAVID MARR FROM BRANTFORD, ONTARIO, CANADA: Maybe you can tell me if the Steelers have ever had a locker room that seems to be out of control? Did Terry Bradshaw have such problems with Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, or Franco Harris?
ANSWER: First of all, I deleted all of your smarmy comments included with your basic question, because in this forum I’m the sarcastic one, and nobody else. I included this summation of the Steelers 1977 season in the Jan. 8 installment of Asked and Answered in response to a similar question, and I’m repeating it here in part to show you that you’re not as smart as you think:

I present the Steelers’ 1977 season: The year began with a trial in Texas for Ernie Holmes on a charge of cocaine possession. Then once training camp opened, instead of being at Saint Vincent College coaching the team, Chuck Noll was in California defending himself against a defamation lawsuit filed by Oakland safety George Atkinson based on Noll referring to him during a 1976 news conference as a part of the NFL’s “criminal element.” During that trial, under cross-examination by Atkinson’s attorney, Noll was forced to include Joe Greene, Mel Blount, and Glen Edwards as players who also were part of the criminal element because of their own dirty play. Five days later, on July 16, Blount reacted to this by threatening to quit the Steelers, and he eventually sued Noll for $5 million. On July 21, 1977, Jack Lambert decided not to report to training camp, because he was unhappy with the salary he was to be paid in the option year of the contract he originally signed in 1974 as a rookie from Kent State. On July 22, Noll was cleared of the charges filed by Atkinson, but the day was ruined by Edwards’ announcement that he also was unhappy with his contract. On July 28, Lambert’s agent upped the ante a little bit, and this was the headline on the lead sports story in the Pittsburgh Press: “Agent tells Rooney: Jack wants traded.” Late in August, Noll named the team’s captains for the upcoming season, and when word got to Lambert that he had been bypassed, he voiced his disappointment publicly. Noll fired back in the media that Lambert didn’t deserve to be a captain because he held out all through training camp. Backup cornerback Jimmy Allen quit the team in October, but changed his mind the next day and came back. A couple of days before a game in Denver, Edwards left the team because he was unhappy with the new contract he had just signed, and he returned after the loss. Noll slipped on a patch of ice in Cincinnati and broke his arm on the night before a game against the Bengals that the Steelers lost. And so it was that a team with a roster containing nine Hall of Fame players in their primes barely made the playoffs and then got smoked by the Broncos in Denver, 34-21, in the first round.

Then in 1991, there was this: It was the second season of the failed Joe Walton experiment, when Noll made one of the worst hires of his career by bringing Walton, who had been fired as the Jets coach, to be the Steelers offensive coordinator in 1990. By the end of the 1991 season, the Steelers had gone from a team that was a dropped pass away from a spot in the 1989 AFC Championship Game to one with an offense that had become so impotent that its leading rusher in 1991 would finish with 610 yards and its leading receiver would finish with 671. Late in a 31-6 loss to the Oilers in Houston that dropped the team to 5-9, Walton, who had lobbied hard earlier in the season to replace Bubby Brister with Neil O’Donnell at quarterback and ultimately got his way, tried to send Brister into the game to replace O’Donnell. Brister refused, and after the game told the media, “I don’t mop-up for anybody.” Noll intervened, overruled Walton, and returned Brister to the starting lineup for the final two games of the regular season, both of which the Steelers won to finish 7-9 and miss the playoffs for the sixth time over the previous seven seasons.

HENRY LACAYO FROM MIAMI, FL: Martavis Bryant was traded to the Oakland Raiders, and they cut him. Do you know where he is, and should the Steelers sign him?
ANSWER: The Oakland Raiders never cut Martavis Bryant. In mid-December, Bryant was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement from a previous ban for multiple violations of the league’s drug policy. In announcing that move, the NFL’s statement read, “Effective immediately, Martavis Bryant has been returned to the Reserve/Commissioner Suspended list indefinitely for violating the terms of his April 2017 conditional reinstatement under the Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.” I don’t know for certain that Bryant’s NFL career is over, but I’m confident that his Steelers’ career is over.

MICHAEL WASHINGTON FROM WEST COLUMBIA, SC: What are the chances of the Steelers moving on from Ben Roethlisberger to either Joshua Dobbs or Mason Rudolph, because Mike Tomlin eluded to Father Time with Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, Jerome Bettis, and Brett Keisel, and Ben had 18 turnovers – 16 interceptions and two los fumbles – last season.
ANSWER: Move on from Ben Roethlisberger? In 2019? No chance. None. And by the way, Jerome Bettis retired after the 2005 season, and Mike Tomlin wasn’t hired until 2007. Not to let facts get in the way.

DUSTIN DELEO FROM CANTON, OH: In your opinion what is more of a glaring need in free agency: a veteran safety or help at inside linebacker?
ANSWER: I don’t think that’s the correct way to approach it. You see who’s available in free agency and then make some determination as to who is signable, and then you go from there. Targeting one position over another could mean missing out on a good player who is signable and could improve the roster to help the team in 2019.

ROY PERRIN FROM FUQUAY VARINA, NC: What do you see as the biggest draft need for the Steelers for the 2019 season? Are the Steelers looking at whom to draft yet or do they wait for April to decide that?
ANSWER: Again, I understand the interest fans have in how the offseason is going to shape up and how the Steelers will navigate their way through it while trying to make the necessary improvements to the roster in advance of the 2019 season. But these questions truly cannot be answered now just because fans want answers now. What will be the Steelers’ biggest need come the 2019 NFL Draft? Well, maybe if I knew how free agency was going to turn out I could take a stab at that one. How are the Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown situations going to play out? And it’s safe to assume that those two outcomes could have a significant impact on any answer to your question, and those are only couple of the myriad moving parts to be considered leading up to April 25. And between now and April 25, which is the first day of the three-day draft, there is the NFL Scouting Combine, all of the college Pro Days, and pre-draft visits, so it really wouldn’t make any sense for a team to focus in on players they’re planning to pick in late April before all of those other events have a chance to take place. Patience.

JORDAN WELLINGS FROM SAVANNAH, GA: With all the recent news about Antonio Brown, how do you think the chemistry between Ben Roethlisberger and Brown will be different? Do you think that Ben will target JuJu Smith-Schuster more than Brown?
ANSWER: Right now, I’m not even completely certain Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown will be playing on the same team in 2019.

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