Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Jan. 5

Let's get to it:

JIM MILLER FROM BROKEN ARROW, OK: When a team signs an undrafted rookie (Jaylen Warren), is it a three-year contract, or is each individual deal unique? Does the team have any option they can exercise for an additional year? How long do the Steelers have this great looking young player?
ANSWER: While players drafted by an NFL team sign four-year contracts, which take them to unrestricted free agency, undrafted rookies sign three-year contracts, which take them to restricted free agency. The only rookie contracts that come with a team option for an additional year are the ones signed by first-round draft choices. Jaylen Warren, an undrafted rookie from Oklahoma State is under contract to the Steelers through the 2024 season based on the three-year deal he signed in 2022.

DALE GELLER FROM CAPE CORAL, FL: If my memory serves me correctly, Deshaun Watson's numbers against the Steelers aren't that great. Can you please either confirm or dispute my memory?
ANSWER: Since Deshaun Watson entered the NFL as a No. 1 pick of the Houston Texans in 2017, there have been three games where the Steelers have been scheduled to play his team, but only once did the matchup actually happen. In 2017, when the Steelers faced Houston, Watson was on injured reserve, and then on Sept. 22 of this season he was on the suspended list. The Steelers went up against Watson and the Texans on Sept. 27, 2020, and in Houston's 28-21 loss, he completed 19-of-27 (70.4 percent) for 264 yards, with 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, and a rating of 84.5. The Steelers sacked him 5 times, and Watson rushed for 5 yards on one attempt.

JIM PSZCZOLKOWSKI FROM FREDERICKSBURG, VA: I remember a pre-Noll era Steelers draft (I believe that Buddy Parker was the coach) where the first-round pick was a fullback from West Virginia who blocked for running back Garret Ford. His name was Dick Leftridge, and he was cut before the season started. Do you know why he was cut?
ANSWER: In some ways your memory is accurate, and in other ways it has failed you. The Steelers coach in 1966 was Bill Austin, and that year the team did use its No. 1 pick (third overall) on Dick Leftridge, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound fullback from West Virginia. Leftridge played for the Mountaineers during the same time Garrett Ford Sr. was becoming the first West Virginia player to top 2,000 rushing yards in a career and 1,000 yards in a single season. How much blocking Leftridge did for Ford I cannot say, but Leftridge was on the Steelers roster in 1966. Wearing jersey No. 31, Leftridge appeared in four games for the Steelers in 1966, and he finished with 8 carries for 17 yards and 2 touchdowns. That was his only season in the NFL.

ANTHONY PELLONI FROM PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Mike Tomlin never has had a losing season and continually has the Steelers in the playoff hunt each year. How has he never won a Coach of the Year Award?
ANSWER: I long have been in favor of the Coach of the Year Award being presented at the end of each Super Bowl to the coach of the winning team. I cannot give you an informed reason why Mike Tomlin never has been voted a Coach of the Year Award, just as I never could make any sense of Chuck Noll never winning the award during a decade of the 1970s that had him transform a perpetually losing franchise into one that won 4 Super Bowls over a six-season span and won Super Bowls back-to-back twice during that time.

TYLER LOWRY FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: During the game against the Ravens on New Year's Day, Baltimore got a first down on its last offensive possession on a completion to Mark Andrews where Minkah Fitzpatrick let him stand up before popping the ball loose instead of touching him down. I understand the player "gave himself up" but I think that takes away from the game. You are either down by contact or not. I'm curious about your thoughts on this play.
ANSWER: As you mentioned, you "understand the player 'gave himself up,'" and by rule that makes the play dead. All due respect, but whether you "think that takes away from the game" really has nothing to do with it because that's the rule. My only issue is that the enforcement of this rule requires judgment by the officials as to whether the player "gave himself up" and whether the standard for giving oneself up is the same for every player and is applied the same way in every situation. For example, as far as "giving himself up" is Tom Brady judged the same way as Justin Fields, and is the call made quickly enough by the officials to prevent any confusion on the part of the defensive players, so they have the ability to avoid making contact and drawing a penalty flag. Is it a quicker whistle for Brady than Fields, thereby protecting Brady more but exposing Fields more to the defense?

JOSHUA KARPER FROM DELAWARE, OH: I was elated the Steelers found a way to get the win last Sunday night in Baltimore. I was, however, very confused as to why the Steelers intentionally kicked off short right after cutting their deficit to 13-9. The short kick almost resulted in disaster. Why would special teams coordinator Danny Smith dial up a short kickoff late in a one-possession game when the Steelers had momentum?
ANSWER: Not everything that happens in every game is the result of a specific decision from the sideline. This is not a video game. Did you ever consider the possibility that Chris Boswell mis-hit the ball off the tee? Not even Tiger Woods in his prime drove the ball down the middle of the fairway every time.

FRANK FOGGIA SAULT STE. MARIE, ONTARIO: It seems odd that the ball is spotted by a sideline referee, who could at times be 10 yards behind the play's end. However, it does seem that it could not possibly be done any other way.
ANSWER: I agree that having the ball spotted down the field after a gain by an official who usually is at the line of scrimmage at the start of the play is at least odd, if not downright inefficient. And I couldn't disagree more that it couldn't be done any other way. The NFL is a billion-dollar business that still uses two sticks and a 10-yard piece of chain to measure for a first down. Really? In a sport that depends upon so much technology as an officiating tool, a link in a chain can be the difference between a first down for the offense, or a stop and a first down going the other way for the opponent? Sorry, but I'm not willing to accept there isn't a better way. It's done this way because that's the way the NFL wants to continue to do it. Not because it's the only way to get the job done.