Bob Labriola is currently away on vacation. Below are some notable submissions – and Bob’s answers – from the 2019 offseason.
GREG THOMAS FROM ATLANTA, GA: Do you think the offense will be more balanced this year, rather than Ben Roethlisberger throwing 40-50 times a game?
ANSWER: Balance is a nice thing for an offense to be able to achieve, but sometimes game circumstances intervene, and in those cases I would hope the Steelers would be able to adapt their plan to those situations. If an opponent has an awful pass defense, as an example, what’s the point of running the ball a certain number of times just to be able to say at the end of the game there was a 50-50 balance between runs and passes? Or in the situation of falling behind early and having to catch up. I believe in the importance of an offense having the ability to run the football, but I see that ability as being most important in certain areas of the field and at certain times of the game, more so that having the same number of rushing attempts and passing attempts on the final stats sheet.
ANDREW SCHERBIK FROM DELRAN, NJ: I know that the Steelers have retired two jersey numbers – Ernie Stautner’s No. 70 and Joe Greene’s No. 75. Why is that? If they do retire another number, I think it should be Mel Blount's No. 47.
ANSWER: Your contention that No. 47 should be the next jersey to be retired is one of the arguments for refraining – at least for a while – from adding to that exclusive club that so far counts only Ernie Stautner and Joe Greene as members. There are nine players from those great teams of the 1970s who are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Rooney family appreciates each of them. Mel Blount certainly would be a good choice, but so would Franco Harris, Jack Ham, and Jack Lambert. And that list doesn’t even include Terry Bradshaw. Where to start? Where to stop? Should it only be players from those 1970s teams? Mike Webster? What about Jerome Bettis? My personal belief is this conundrum is one of the reasons behind the Steelers coming up with the idea of a Hall of Honor as a way to identify and memorialize forever the great players and key contributors in franchise history. Because retiring all of those jersey numbers just isn’t practical, primarily because of the rules the NFL has regarding which numbers certain position players are eligible to wear.
AARON CONYERS FROM NASHVILLE, TN: How would you feel if the team picked up Dez Bryant? Do you think he would fit well with the team on and off the field? Would he help the offensive production?
ANSWER: If this is an attempt at a joke, be advised that you missed April Fool’s Day by about six weeks.
MICHAEL WELLS FROM DELAWARE, OH: Do you think the Steelers would consider signing Dez Bryant?
ANSWER: Do you really think that’s a good idea, a couple of months after trading Antonio Brown, to add a receiver who has shown me-first tendencies to this point in his career? Really?
MIKE REIBMAN FROM MERRICK, NY: I saw that Ryan Shazier was placed on PUP this week. I have also seen announced that his salary was "tolled" for 2019. In layman's terms, what does this mean for both the Steelers and Ryan Shazier for the 2019 season?
ANSWER: What it means for Ryan Shazier is that he is out for the entire 2019 season, but he will be paid a salary as a player, which entitles him to the health care and benefits available to all NFL players, and he will be a part of the team on a daily basis even though not an on-field participant.
ROY PERRIN FROM FUQUAY VARINA, NC: When will the players’ jersey numbers be issued and settled? I was looking at the roster and several players have no numbers yet, or they have the same number as another player. Will that be settled on the field or are there occasions when two players keep the same number?
ANSWER: The rookies will be assigned jersey numbers next weekend in advance of rookie minicamp, and the only player whose number will not change is Devin Bush’s. He will wear No. 55. As for the others, some will be issued a duplicate number, meaning they’ll be sharing it with another player. Once the final cut-down is made to 53 on Aug. 31, there could be some switching of numbers because players aren’t permitted to have duplicate numbers come the regular season.
TIM SIVERD FROM SOUTH HILL, VA: Prior to The Chuck Noll era what was the Steelers best season?
ANSWER: Chuck Noll’s inaugural season was in 1969, and prior to that the Steelers had two seasons in which they finished four games over .500. Those came in 1947 when they were 8-4 under Coach Jock Sutherland, and then in 1962 when they were 9-5 under Coach Buddy Parker.
BUDDY POWELL FROM FT. MYERS, FL: Does any other team have more people – players, coaches, and contributors – in the Pro Football Hall of Fame than the Steelers?
ANSWER: The Pro Football Hall of Fame lists players, coaches, and contributors by franchise, and in the case of an individual whose career was spent with more than one franchise, he is categorized as being a primary member of one of those franchises. As recent examples of this, Rod Woodson is listed as a member of the Steelers franchise, while Kevin Greene is listed as a member of the Rams franchise. So based on this criteria, the Steelers have 21 members of their franchise enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The franchise with the most inductees is the Bears with 28, followed by the Packers with 25. Then come the Steelers, the Redskins (20), the New York Football Giants (19), the Rams (18), the Cowboys (17), and then the Browns, Raiders, and 49ers all are tied with 16.
NOAH LANG FROM NEW YORK, NY: If Ben Roethlisberger is injured during a game, and Coach Mike Tomlin thinks Mason Rudolph will perform better against the opponent than Joshua Dobbs, can he put Rudolph in even though on the depth chart Rudolph is the No. 3 quarterback and Dobbs is listed as the backup? Is there anything to distinguish the two?
ANSWER: On game days, the Steelers will have only two quarterbacks active and in uniform – the starter and the backup. The No. 3 quarterback typically is inactive, unless there is a minor injury situation with either the starter or the backup. When the regular season rolls around, the depth chart at quarterback is determined by which two of the three quarterbacks are in uniform.