Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: July 20

Let's get to it:

WILLIAM HEISE FROM SUMTER, SC: After watching the highlights of John Stallworth I was wondering as far as you can remember who would you say was the best pair of wide receivers the Steelers had?
ANSWER: I would go with Lynn Swann and John Stallworth as the best pair of wide receivers in franchise history. Both of them are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and each of them owns four Super Bowl rings. Swann was the MVP of Super Bowl X, and with 3 catches for 115 yards and touchdowns of 28 and 75 yards in Super Bowl XIII, and 3 catches for 121 yards with a 73-yard touchdown and a 45-yard great catch to set up the touchdown that iced the win in Super Bowl XIV Stallworth had a case to be the MVP of either one of those Super Bowls. In my opinion, picking any pair beside Swann and Stallworth is overthinking the issue.

KEITH WIMER FROM BOARDMAN, OH: Assuming the Steelers' offense improves this season, particularly in the most important aspect, which is scoring points, what in your opinion would the catalyst be? Better play from the quarterback position? A more reasoned approach by Matt Canada? A revamped offensive line?
ANSWER: Football is the ultimate team sport, and I believe that makes anything associated with the sport – be it progression or regression – a function of more than a single factor. But I also believe that football as it's played on the professional level is a game where quarterbacks are the most important and impactful players on the field. Based on that, I would point to better and more consistent play from the quarterback position being the major factor, but not the only factor, in the Steelers having an improved offense in 2023.

JOE ASHER FROM TAMPA, FL: Sometimes when I watch a game I'm baffled at the second half turnaround. In all your years, what is the most drastic and effective "second half adjustment" you've seen from either the offense and/or the defense for the Steelers?
ANSWER: On the subject of halftime adjustments, I will refer you to what Peyton Manning had to say on the subject. "I don't know if I ever made a halftime adjustment during my entire 18-year career. I think that's the biggest myth in football, the halftime adjustments, right? You go in, you use the restroom, you eat a couple of oranges, then the head coach says, 'All right, let's go!'"

ANDY GLEASON FROM SPRING HILL, FL: Living in the Tampa Bay area, I am a proud owner of a custom-made Tony Dungy Steelers jersey. So few people around here know that he won his first ring with the Steelers way back in 1978 when he led the team in interceptions. Seeing that the game against Dallas turned into a high scoring affair, do you think maybe he shouldn't have been benched for the big game?
ANSWER: Tony Dungy, a second-year pro who had entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 1977, was converted to defensive back by the Steelers and he led the team during the regular season with 6 interceptions in 1978 as you pointed out. But I think you're allowing your fondness for Dungy to cloud your judgement. The first thing to consider is that in 1978, Dungy was very new to the safety position, and it's likely he was evolving in that role as the Steelers' coaching staff also was adjusting to the recent rules changes that had opened up the passing game. Also, the team's starting safeties in 1978 were Donnie Shell, who would go on to complete a Hall of Fame career, and Mike Wagner, who would finish his NFL career with 48 takeaways – 36 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries – in 119 games over 10 seasons. And with respect to Super Bowl XIII, the Steelers went into the game seeking their third Lombardi Trophy, and their starting secondary included three players – Mel Blount, Shell, and Wagner – who owned a combined 6 Super Bowl rings at the time, plus rookie Ron Johnson, the team's No. 1 pick in the 1978 NFL Draft. Finally, Dungy was not "benched" for Super Bowl XIII. Dungy played in the game and finished with 2 tackles and a forced fumble; Shell started and was credited with 8 tackles and a pass defensed; and Wagner started and was credited with 4 tackles.

BRIAN ALEXANDER FROM ROCHESTER, NY: Who are the top 5 Steelers offensive linemen, past or present, who have given up the fewest quarterback sacks over their careers? (Let's say with at least 50 career games with the Steelers.)
ANSWER: The "sacks allowed" statistic is another one of those that is not compiled or verified by the NFL, and even services such as Pro Football Focus cannot be trusted to "compile" such statistics because there is no way for those evaluators to know definitively who was responsible for allowing a sack because that can vary based on the original play-call, the blocking assignments called at the line of scrimmage, whether the routes were run correctly, whether the receivers were where they were supposed to be when the quarterback was supposed to deliver the ball, etc. In conclusion, there is no such thing as an accurate assignment of responsibility for sacks, except when it's done by the individual team's coaching staff, and those are not made public.

GARY KIMMEL FROM ALTOONA, PA: I understand Joey Porter Jr. wants first-round money even though he was picked in the second round. If he does not sign for the pay scale slot for the second round, what are the Steelers options as far as him not playing this season?
ANSWER: I want to begin with a warning that you not assume what you "understand" to be true about Joey Porter Jr.'s contract situation to in fact be true, because there is a lot of speculation going around at a down time for NFL news during the run-up to the opening of training camps. And in the case of unsigned rookies, it's much more about the player's options than the team's options, because the Collective Bargaining Agreement rules governing such issues were written and ratified to discourage holdouts. If I were to guess, it would be that Porter ends up signing a contract commensurate with being the first pick of the second round, and that he ends up doing it in time to report to training camp on time for the first practice.

RICHARD SNYDER FROM SAN PEDRO, CA: Reading the articles about Steeler training camps from the 1970s has been enjoyable. The photos of players in numberless jerseys reminded me something about Coach Chuck Noll. Didn't he explain the purpose for the numberless jerseys being that he believed the players should remain anonymous and let their actions on the field speak for themselves? Can you elaborate on the reason for the blank jerseys?
ANSWER: Chuck Noll once explained the purpose of having players wear numberless jerseys at training camp as a way for coaches to learn the players based on their movements/actions on the field, but I have a suspicion it also had to do with holding information as close to the vest as possible. Having the players wear numberless jerseys during training camp would prevent opponents from gathering information, both in terms of how players might be fitting in within the context of the offensive and defensive schemes, but also to make it difficult for opponents to gather useful information about players once it came time to start reducing the roster and teams were scanning the waiver wire.

ROD KEEFER FROM EDMOND, OK: Despite his general disdain for preseason depth charts, do you know when Coach Mike Tomlin is required to publish the first 2023 edition?
ANSWER: There should be something on about the release of an initial depth chart during the first week that the Steelers are in training camp.

ISABELLA POPOVA FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: I hope to visit the Hall of Honor Museum soon, but for now I have a question: Acrisure Stadium previously had a display of memorabilia from Steelers greats in the Grand Concourse. Does that still exist, or has everything been moved out from there?
ANSWER: The area to which you are referring within the stadium always has been known as the Great Hall. That still exists, and it still contains memorabilia and exhibits featuring the franchise's history. But the more detailed and extensive exhibits and displays are located in the Hall of Honor Museum.