Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: July 19

Let's get to it:

I find it amazing that the Steelers have had only three head coaches since 1969. Chuck Noll had a Hall of Fame quarterback in Terry Bradshaw to guide the team to four Super Bowl victories. Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin were able to win their Super Bowls with a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger. Yet, Cowher came very close to winning a Super Bowl with Neil O'Donnell. I have often wondered how close Pittsburgh came to retaining O'Donnell after the Super Bowl loss. The loss of a franchise quarterback sent the Bill Cowher era into a period of rebuilding, and I wonder if O'Donnell had remained in Pittsburgh whether there would have been a much different end to the Bill Cowher era, because it's possible the Steelers then never experiment with Kordell Stewart.

ANSWER: Let me approach this chronologically. When Bill Cowher was hired in 1992, the Steelers roster contained two veteran quarterbacks with starting NFL experience – Bubby Brister and Neil O'Donnell. After a training camp/preseason competition that was extremely close, Cowher chose O'Donnell as the starter. Back then, under coordinator Ron Erhardt, the Steelers offense was heavily dependent on the running game, and Barry Foster would set a franchise record with 1,690 yards rushing in 1992. The arrival of Chan Gailey as the wide receivers coach under Erhardt and Cowher, coupled with the rapid decline of Foster's production, had the offense trending more toward the pass during the 1995 season ending in Super Bowl XXX, but it was O'Donnell's three interceptions in that Super Bowl that turned the tide in Dallas' favor.

After that season, the New York Jets, in one of their typically desperate moves during free agency, dangled a five-year, $25 million contract in front of O'Donnell, and he did the prudent thing. He took it and left the Steelers. But in the 1995 draft, the Steelers had picked Kordell Stewart in the second round, and they had picked him as a quarterback. And understand that at some point during the process Cowher had to have been in favor of this.

In 1996, after a camp/preseason competition among Jim Miller, Mike Tomczak, and Stewart, Cowher picked Miller to start the opener in Jacksonville, but he pulled him after only one half and Tomczak became the starter. Stewart took over as the starter in 1997 and held the job for the most part until being yanked for Tommy Maddox in the third game of the 2002 season. Then it was Maddox until he was injured in the second game of the 2004 season and replaced by Ben Roethlisberger. It's true that none of the quarterbacks Cowher coached – until Roethlisberger's arrival – were made of championship-winning timber, but it's also true he had a loud voice when it came to the makeup of the rosters that contained those quarterbacks.

Love all the information you provide, and of course your sarcasm. Since Kevin Greene played for four different teams in his career, will he have to pick what team he wants to represent him when he's enshrined?

ANSWER: This kinda violates one of the cardinal rules of Asked and Answered, which is to avoid answering versions of the same question over and over and over and over and over again. I break the rule here, because it gives me an opportunity to reiterate that the Steelers will honor Kevin Greene at halftime of the Oct. 2 game vs. Kansas City at Heinz Field and what it will mean to him to have it happen.

"There is no way on God's green earth that I would be at this point of my life if it weren't for teammates like Rod Woodson, my hunting brother at linebacker Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown, Jerry Olsavsky, Joel Steed, Darren Perry, and my brother Carnell Lake," Greene told Teresa Varley of "I could go on and on.


Kevin Greene and his wife Tara visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

"And Steelers Nation, the fans I loved to play for. The entire Steelers organization and Mr. (Dan) Rooney, who was so good to me, are all so special. I wouldn't be here without those who invested in me and helped me along the way. I had eight really fine years with the Los Angeles Rams, but when I came to Pittsburgh, that organization, the coaching staff, the players I mentioned, they really kind of put me on the map. They put me on the stage. I am indebted to Steelers Nation. I hope they knew that when I was playing for them, I gave them everything I could, everything because that place meant so much. I played as hard as I possibly could for them. It was a joy playing for Steelers Nation. The Steelers are a huge part of where I am today."**

And now, one more time: the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducts people by categories – player, coach, contributor – and not by team. Kevin Greene will be enshrined in Canton as a player.

If the Miami Dolphins had defeated the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Divisional Round in 1974 (the Sea of Hands game), would the Steelers have hosted the 1974 AFC Championship Game?

ANSWER: It wasn't until 1975 that the NFL scheduled playoff games based on the records of the participants. From 1970-74, the host cities in the playoffs were determined by a rotational system. That's why in 1972 the Steelers hosted both the Oakland Raiders and then the undefeated Miami Dolphins in the playoffs, because it was the AFC Central Division's turn with the scheduling priority. In 1974, the postseason scheduling priority belonged to the AFC West (Oakland), but had the AFC East Dolphins defeated the Raiders in the Divisional Round, then the No. 2 priority would have gone to the AFC Central (Steelers) for the Championship Game. Yes, it would've been Dolphins at Steelers in the 1974 AFC Championship Game.

I have often heard of OTAs and minicamp described as football in shorts, and I also have heard coaches saying versions of "we won't really know anything until the pads come on." If that is the case, barring injuries, what would get a player cut during OTAs or minicamp?


ANSWER: Jobs cannot be won during football in shorts, but it is possible for players to show that they don't belong in the NFL. It could be measurables, such as a guys being too slow for his position, or it could be an inability to learn and retain the portions of the playbook being taught at the time.**

Is it possible we see Javon Hargrave on the field this year?


I recognize that most of the NFL emphasizes the left tackle position as a top priority, but the Steelers have their highest drafted players at center and on the right side of the line. It seems to work for us, but I just wondered why left tackle seems to be less important to our success as a team?

ANSWER: Just because the starting left tackle isn't a No. 1 draft pick doesn't mean left tackle isn't an important position. The starting left tackle on the Super Bowl XL winning team was Marvel Smith, a second-round pick. Max Starks started there in Super Bowl XLIII, and he was a No. 3 pick. Mike Adams was a No. 2 pick in 2012, but it turned out seventh-round pick Kelvin Beachum was a better player. Just because a guy was a high draft pick automatically doesn't make him the best guy for the job.

Willie Fry from Notre Dame. When did the Steelers draft him? What was his position? Which years did he play? What was his jersey number?

ANSWER: Willie Fry was a No. 2 pick in the 1978 NFL Draft, the 49th pick overall. He was listed as an outside linebacker in 1978 and a defensive tackle in 1979, but he missed both of those seasons with torn tendons in both hands and a separated shoulder, respectively. His career ended before the start of the 1980 season. Since Fry never appeared in a regular season game for the Steelers, he never really was issued a jersey number. Fry, who worked on Wall Street after his time with the Steelers ended, died of a heart attack on July 10, 1998 in New York City.

I've heard that a random NFL outsider was saying the Steelers will have a top-five secondary. Is that true?

ANSWER: Since I would qualify you as a "random NFL outsider," and you mentioned it yourself in the question, my answer is: yes.

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