Let's get to it:
JOHN NOH FROM SAN JOSE, CA: It seems to be common knowledge that Jack Lambert started at middle linebacker as a rookie in 1974 because of injury. What never seems to be mentioned is who Lambert replaced. Can you enlighten me?
ANSWER: The team's starting middle linebacker in 1972 and 1973 was Henry Davis, who had entered the NFL as an 11th-round pick (288th overall) with the New York Giants from Grambling State in 1968. After the 1969 season, the Steelers traded quarterback Dick Shiner to the Giants in exchange for Davis and halfback Frenchy Fuqua. The Steelers starting middle linebacker in the 1970 and 1971 seasons was Chuck Allen, but by 1972 Davis had taken over the job, and he started all 28 regular season games in 1972-73 at middle linebacker, recorded two interceptions in each of those seasons and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1973. After being the Steelers' No. 2 pick in the 1974 NFL Draft, Lambert originally was slotted as a backup outside linebacker, where Andy Russell and Jack Ham were the returning starters. But when NFL training camps opened in 1974, the veteran players were on strike, and that development provided rookies like Lambert a lot of extra practice time, and then once the strike ended, Davis and Ed Bradley – then the first-team and second-team middle linebackers – were injured, and so the Steelers turned to Lambert. Davis' injuries were a concussion and an eye injury sustained in a preseason game vs. Philadelphia, and Bradley's injury was a sprained toe sustained the following week of the preseason vs. the Giants. At that point, it could be said that fate was responsible for Lambert playing middle linebacker, but linebackers coach Woody Widenhofer was very impressed with what the rookie from Kent State was showing at his "new position." In fact, there were reports at the time indicating Widenhofer believed Lambert would have surpassed Davis and Bradley on the depth chart in 1974 even if both had not been injured.
JIMMY CRUZ FROM TERRACE, CA: I have been a Steelers fan for a long time, and it seemed like our offense struggled to score last year, I think it starts up front, so do you believe our offensive line has gotten better since last year?
ANSWER: As I say to everyone who has been asking questions about whether a particular unit or individuals within that unit have improved since last season, all I can tell you at this point is that moves have been made in an effort to achieve that improvement. The Steelers added unrestricted free agents Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo, and then they traded up in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft to select Broderick Jones. In addition, all five of the players who started every game for the team in 2022 and showed improvement over that season – center Mason Cole, guards Kevin Dotson and James Daniels, and tackles Dan Moore Jr. and Chuks Okorafor – were retained. Now it all comes down to training camp and putting it all together on the practice fields when the pads go on.
H. FERNANDEZ FROM MONTERREY, MEXICO: Could you list the players already secured by contract for the 53-man roster for this coming season?
ANSWER: List the players under contract? I'll do it this way: As of Monday, July 13, the only player on the Steelers 90-man offseason roster who is not currently under contract for at least the 2023 season is second-round pick Joey Porter Jr.
RICHARD BRUNO FROM ORLANDO, FL: I believe safety tandems are often overlooked. When comparing Darren Perry and Carnell Lake, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmonds, and Donnie Shell and Mike Wagner plus others I may have missed, do you have a duo that you believe was the best in the modern history of Steelers football?
ANSWER: It's very difficult to compare players from different eras of football, and I believe that's especially true with a position such as safety. As just one example, the degree of physicality that was allowed/encouraged/expected from players in the 1970s now can and often will draw penalty flags during games. There also are other mitigating factors, such as the reality that Donnie Shell and Mike Wagner only played alongside one another for three seasons, and so it's not fair to judge that tandem on the totality of their respective careers in the NFL. And finally, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds are still active players in the NFL, and their time together in the same defensive backfield was relatively short by comparison. Rather than pick a pair of safeties, or attempt to rank them, what I believe is possible is to recognize the contributions the safety tandems you listed made to some very good defensive play.
THOMAS MASCETTI FROM LONG BEACH, NY: What do you believe to be the "most unbreakable" Steelers record? Five Hall of Famers to come from their 1974 draft? Fifteen regular season wins in Ben Roethlisberger's rookie year?
ANSWER: I typically don't view accomplishments/milestones in that way, but I'll play along. There would be two accomplishments in Steelers history that I don't believe ever will be surpassed: Four Super Bowl championships over a span of six seasons; and adding five Hall of Fame players during the 1974 NFL Draft and rookie free agent signing period. And I don't know that any NFL team ever will be able to match or exceed either of those accomplishments, either.
ROY CABIBBO FROM AMISSVILLE, VA: Not sure to whom I should be asking this question, but because I know I can send a question to you … you win. Will Men's Fantasy Camp be coming back? I miss that event.
ANSWER: As of now, there are no plans to bring back Men's Fantasy Camp.
JAMES BOSCO FROM WOODBRIDGE, VA: With an emphasis on making tackles, which two Steelers, at their respective defensive positions, hold the record for the most tackles in any given season?
ANSWER: Tackles are not a recognized NFL statistic, likely because they are determined at games by the home team's on-site stats crew and therefore can end up being highly arbitrary. As just one example, there is no verified total of tackles for Jack Lambert in existence, and so there is no such thing as a record for most tackles by Steelers players at their respective positions.
TIM SEANOR FROM SIMPSONVILLE, SC: I love to collect and purchase autographed Steelers memorabilia. I usually buy it from third-party vendors. Is there a program that the Steelers have where you can send in items to be signed directly and pay a fee to do so?
ANSWER: If you go to Steelers.com and click on the "PRO SHOP" link across the top on the far right, a drop-down NavBar will give you an option to click on "MEMORABILIA." Click on that and you will find what is available to purchase in the game-used and autographed categories. But in terms of fans sending in their own items to have them signed, such a program does not exist.
ROD KEEFER FROM EDMOND, OK: I realize it's too early to draw any conclusions, but is there anyone among the undrafted free agents who has impressed you so far?
ANSWER: I won't go so far as to use the word "impressed" because to this point it only has been football in shorts, but someone I will be watching during the early stages of training camp is Alfonzo Graham, a running back with some return ability who is listed at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. At Morgan State, Graham rushed for 1,652 yards (6.6 average) and 13 touchdowns, and he showed a knack for breaking big plays with his speed and ability to maintain his balance after initial contact. The key issue for Graham is going to be whether he can or will be willing to do the necessary pass-blocking that comes with being a situational running back in the NFL. That's what we'll learn during training camp.
GENE GREY FROM MORENO VALLEY, CA: What was the Steelers run-to-pass ratio in each of their 1970s Super Bowl seasons?
ANSWER: In 1974, the Steelers finished the 14-game regular season with 546 rushing attempts and 386 passing attempts; in 1975, those numbers over 14 games were 581 rushing attempts and 337 passing attempts; in 1978 when the NFL's regular season had expanded to 16 games, those numbers were 641 rushing attempts and 380 passing attempts; and in 1979, those numbers were 561 rushing attempts and 492 passing attempts.
ADAM FELDERMAN FROM TUCSON, AZ: I am making a special trip to Pittsburgh to see the Steelers play the Patriots in a game scheduled for Thursday, Dec 7, 2023. I have read the NFL flex scheduling procedures regarding the flexing of games. What do you think the chances are that this game will be flexed? I would hate to buy tickets and make a special trip if I can't see the game.
ANSWER: In your submission, you write that "I have read the NFL flex scheduling procedures regarding the flexing of games," but allow me to provide a recap for clarity. The resolution adopted by the NFL has some strict requirements. Thursday games can only be flexed between Weeks 13 and 17, with a four-week (28-day) notice required. Only two Thursday night games can be flexed per year, and the flexing of Thursday night games is being implemented in 2023 on a trial basis. In a story that appeared on NFL.com, NFL chief media and business officer Brian Rolapp said, "We have added an element of flexible scheduling to the Thursday Night Football package. We now on all of our television packages including Sunday afternoon will have some element of flexible scheduling, which we think is paramount to make sure we ensure an attractive and the most attractive schedule for our fans." Since the Steelers vs. Patriots game falls on Week 14 of the schedule, it meets the basic eligibility requirement to be flexed, but will it present itself as a sufficiently attractive matchup or a sufficiently unattractive matchup to become one of the two Thursday night games to be flexed, and what might be the other matchups during the Week 13-to-Week 17 window that might be more attractive? With all these unknowns, and with it being mid-July with the game scheduled for Dec. 7, I have no way of providing you with any credible insight into whether Steelers-Patriots will be flexed. All I can tell you is that I certainly feel for you and all other fans who might be impacted by the NFL's decision to allow the flexing of Thursday night games.