Skip to main content

Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: July 2

Let's get to it:

BRIAN MILLER FROM BRISTOL, TN: I just finished reading "Chuck Noll: His Life's Work" by Michael MacCambridge. I enjoyed the read and wondered if you had read it and if so, what were you thoughts?
ANSWER: Yes, I read – and thoroughly enjoyed – the Chuck Noll biography written by Michael MacCambridge. It was diligently researched and beautifully written. Below you will find a couple of snippets from the book review I wrote for, which appeared on Oct. 28, 2016:

"It's a love story.

"At its essence, that's what it is. You'll come for the football, of course. You'll come for his playing career under one of the coaching pioneers of the sport, and then for his own coaching career that had him at the helm of the franchise that would win more Super Bowls in a shorter span than any other franchise in NFL history. That's what you'd expect from a biography of Chuck Noll. But when you finish it, what sticks with you, what separates itself, is the humanity, the loyalty to family, and above all, the love for his wife.

"In 'Chuck Noll: His Life's Work,' Michael MacCambridge does a detailed and thorough job of using 400-some pages to paint a portrait of a man who was extraordinary in all things except the art of self-promotion. MacCambridge's Noll is the man behind the coach, the son who provided for his parents, the uncle who was there in all ways for his seven nieces and nephews. And a partner to the love of his life, Marianne.
* * *
"The book's final chapter deals with the diagnosis of Alzheimer's and the aftermath, and MacCambridge paints a poignant scene of Marianne telling Chuck what the doctor told her. "She took his hands in hers and delivered the news: 'The doctor says you have Alzheimer's disease' … Then he squeezed her hands tightly and looked back into Marianne's eyes, with the steady, determined gaze she'd seen so many times before. He had just one thing he had to tell her. 'I will … never … forget who you are,' he said."

"The Alzheimer's diagnosis never became public, but family, and some friends and former players, came to recognize that something was amiss. 'The pattern was set,' wrote MacCambridge. 'Chuck and Marianne stuck mostly with close friends and family. When others would call, she would talk about Chuck's back, but she would rarely bring him to the phone to talk to even his oldest friends and colleagues.'

"On Friday, June 13, 2014 – after an enjoyable dinner at home with Marianne – Chuck Noll went to bed. Marianne helped him into bed, told him she loved him, and when she came in to join him after cleaning up the kitchen, he had stopped breathing.

"MacCambridge chronicles the funeral and writes about its difficult aftermath:

'"For the first time in 57 years, there was no one to take care of, no chest to rest her head on, no breathing to align with hers. Through that lonesome night, she was consoled by one thought: Somehow, through the faded memories of that final decade, Chuck had answered her devotion with one last brave and honest deed of his own. He had kept his promise. He never forgot.'

"Told you. It's a love story."

MARK RICE FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: All the talk of Patrick Queen not being the same great player without Roquan Smith, I believe, can actually be turned around the other way. Queen was young and maturing, and got better each year, in turn making Smith look better by taking some load off his game. Do you know Smith's stats from Chicago? Because I am confident the Steelers got the better linebacker of the two in Queen.
ANSWER: Before we get to Roquan Smith's stats during his seasons in Chicago, I will make the point that it's totally irrelevant whether Patrick Queen is better than Roquan Smith, or if it's Smith who is better than Queen. What matters is how Queen fits in with the Steelers to make their defense a better and more effective unit, and how a better and more effective defense contributes to getting the Steelers into the playoffs while competing in the NFL's toughest division.

Anyway, Smith entered the NFL as the eighth overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft from the University of Georgia, and he played in 94 regular season games with the Bears, with 92 starts. In those games, Smith contributed 20 sacks, 9 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 47 tackles for loss, and 26 hits on the quarterback.

RAY FURMAN FROM AURORA, OH: I'm 73 years old and have watched a lot of football. Can you explain to me why T.J. Watt could win AFC Defensive Player of the Year but then lost NFL Defensive Player of the Year to Myles Garrett, who also plays for a team in the AFC?
ANSWER: I'm sorry, but I cannot explain that. All I can offer is that since both awards are determined by a vote, and it's not the same people voting for both awards, arriving at different winners is possible if seemingly implausible. And I suspect some obscure analytics were involved in some way.

TOM BRUZDA WILDOMAR, CA: In the June 20 Asked and Answered you wrote that the Steelers traded away their first-round pick only once since 1970. When was that?
ANSWER: The trade happened in 2019 when the Steelers traded their No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to Miami for Minkah Fitzpatrick.

CONNIE L. LEWIS FROM SANDY LAKE, PA: I think you have answered this before, but when is the cut-down to 53 players, and when are players added to the practice squad? Also, is there a set number of what positions are added, or does management decide by potential need?
ANSWER: By 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 27, all teams must cut their roster to 53 players. Then at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 28, the claiming period for players subject to waivers expires and then teams are permitted to establish a 16-player practice squad – 17 players if one qualifies as an International player. I once asked Coach Mike Tomlin how the practice squad is chosen, and if those players were the ones ranked just outside the original 53. This was his answer:

"They are guys with upside and potential, who are selfless and diligent workers. You can't be a high-maintenance practice squad guy. You have to be extremely reliable, you have to be where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there. You have to be a self-motivated man, you have to be a high energy guy, and you have to have good practice habits. It starts there for me. There are a lot of things that occupy a coach's attention once you get into the regular season, and guys who are not playing cannot be one of them."

MARK O'MALLEY FROM MANTUA, N.J.: Most Steelers fans hope a big-name wide receiver will still be acquired this year. While I believe General Manager Omar Khan, to some degree, might still be looking for a star wide receiver, there comes a time when a GM must decide, "Enough is enough. Our 2024 team is set. Period." At what point should Steelers fans finally accept that no star WR will be acquired this season? Start of Camp? End of Camp? Today?
ANSWER: I have no knowledge of whether the Steelers will acquire a "big-name wide receiver" at some point before the start of the 2024 regular season, but for fans who want to see that happen, there never will come a time when they accept it's not going to happen. Never. Period. And even if it doesn't happen, the complaint will be that it should've happened. That's the nature of fans.

BRUNO CONTORCHICK FROM YORK, PA: You listed 3 specialists as always being included on the initial 53-man roster. Punter, placekicker, and what area would be the third?
ANSWER: Long-snapper.