Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: July 22

Let's get to it:

JOE WERNER FROM WEST HENRIETTA, NY: I have a vague recollection of an incident during the 1980s when a disgruntled fan drove his car into an empty Three Rivers Stadium and then drove around one of the concourses before crashing into a concession stand. Did something like this actually happen, or am I just imagining this? Keep in mind I would have been about 10 years old or younger when this allegedly happened.
ANSWER: There is nothing wrong with your memory, and you're referring to one of the iconic, weird moments in the history of Three Rivers Stadium. It happened on Dec. 4, 1987, and it made national news. The following is Bill Plaschke's account of it that appeared in the Los Angeles Times:

"True story. A guy drives his car off the road, onto the sidewalk and through one of the gates at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. He drives underneath a runway and runs into a 70-pound vat of nacho cheese. Appetizers for everyone. He backs up and drives along the outer ramps until he reaches the third level. He parks and gets out. He runs down to the football field. When the cops find him, he is at the 50-yard line, kicking imaginary field goals.

"First thing (the cops) ask (the driver), what kind of mental anguish could have led you to this? What horrible thing could have made you want to act like this? The man says it was (Steelers quarterback) Mark Malone."

At the time of the assault on the vat of nacho cheese, the Steelers were 7-5 and tied for first place in the AFC Central and appeared to have a solid chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 1984 when Malone had quarterbacked the team to the AFC Championship Game. The Steelers lost that game, 45-28, in Miami to Dan Marino's Dolphins, even though Malone had passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns. The Steelers finished the 1987 strike-shortened season out of the playoffs with an 8-7 record.

ROBERT HUTZENBILER FROM WILTON, ND: Are all of the Steelers practice fields at their facilities artificial turf or real grass?
ANSWER: Heinz Field is natural grass. There are three practice fields the Steelers utilize at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, with both of the outdoor fields being natural grass and the indoor field being artificial turf.

BURTON HARRIS FROM GREENSBURG, PA: When it comes to the final cut do Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert have much input or do Mike Tomlin and the coaches make the final decision?
ANSWER: When it comes to the final cutting of the 90-man roster, it's much more about Coach Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert than it is about the assistant coaches or others in the personnel department. And allow me to remind you that President Art Rooney II's opinion always matters, in every facet of the organization.

MICAH RIDENOUR FROM TUNNELTON, WV: Was Melvin Ingram III brought in with the intention to start over Alex Highsmith, or do you think this move is intended more for depth?
ANSWER: I think the Steelers aren't going to go into this situation with any preconceived notions, and instead they can allow things to play out on the practice fields during training camp. It should be remembered the Steelers spent a third-round pick on Alex Highsmith during the 2020 NFL Draft, and I doubt Coach Mike Tomlin is interested in doing anything to stunt Highsmith's growth and development. But also, the best players will play. At this point, my guess is that Highsmith will start, and Ingram will fill in with snaps on both edges of the line of scrimmage as well as in any specialty package that calls for three outside linebackers to be on the field at once. And with Ingram in the fold, there is the possibility that the Steelers could decide to utilize that three-OLB package even more than they did last season.

JACK FOSTER FROM ROUNDUP, MT: After reading several articles about David DeCastro being cut by the Steelers, they all mentioned that he needed surgery on his ankle(s) again. I couldn't decipher if he did have those surgeries and was recovering, or if it still needed to be performed? If he needed the surgery and hadn't gotten it yet, I totally understand why they cut him.
ANSWER: After the Steelers cut David DeCastro, Jim Wexell did an interview with him, and one of the questions asked was: "Did the need for a third (ankle) operation came up just recently?"

DeCastro said, "Yes, just recently. I gave it some time. I didn't start working out on it until the month before. I let it rest, but I got the MRI at minicamp and was waiting on the doctor's opinion on what to do at minicamp. He came back and said I needed surgery."

Based on what DeCastro said to Wexell, the surgery had not been done by the time the Steelers released him.

MARK WAKELEY FROM DENTON, TX: With seven running backs (including fullback Derek Watt) currently on the roster I would think two of them might need to be extremely good on special teams to make the roster. How many running backs do you figure the Steelers will keep?
ANSWER: I agree with you about running backs at the bottom of the depth chart needing to be standouts on special teams to earn a spot on the 53-man roster, but the same thing applies to wide receivers, linebackers, and defensive backs in a similar situation with respect to their positional depth chart. At this point, my guess would fall in line with what the Steelers have done with this position in recent seasons – three running backs, plus fullback Derek Watt. But I reserve the right to be wrong about that number based on what happens during the preseason.

BRIAN MILLER FROM BRISTOL, TN: With the signing of the latest free agents, to your knowledge has there been any talk of possibly bringing back Steven Nelson if he would be inclined to do so?
ANSWER: I believe the Steven Nelson ship has sailed.

KEVIN SUNDE FROM MOREHEAD, KY: With Tunch Ilkin stepping down from the Steelers Football Network broadcast team to focus on his health (and I am one of many who will miss him greatly), and with preseason games quickly approaching, have the Steelers decided who, if anyone, will be joining Bill Hillgrove and Craig Wolfley on the broadcast team?
ANSWER: Last year, the broadcast team for the Steelers Football Network included Bill Hillgrove doing the play-by-play, with Tunch Ilkin as the color analyst, and Craig Wolfley and Missi Matthews as the sideline reporters. With Ilkin having announced his retirement to focus on his treatment for ALS, there has yet been no announcement from either the Steelers or flagship station WDVE-FM on how the radio booth will be configured for the 2021 season. The Steelers preseason opener is on Thursday, Aug. 5 against Dallas in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton.

ALEX NESTURRICK FROM ODESSA, TX: Have The Steelers met the NFL threshold for vaccination?
ANSWER: On June 24, Ed Bouchette of The Athletic reported that more than 85 percent of the Steelers players were fully vaccinated.

JIM ANDERSON FROM TOLEDO, OH: Will the NFL be committed to the schedule this year? That is, no games will be rescheduled due to COVID-19?
ANSWER: I believe that's the plan, but I cannot say for certain how the league might react to things that might happen months from now. I do think the incentives the NFL has put in place for teams that come to training camp with a high percentage of their players and staff being fully vaccinated were designed with that in mind.

DON ADAMS FROM BUENA PARK, CA: When do the Steelers have to have Kendrick Green signed to his rookie deal? Will he be able to participate in training camp if a deal is not reached by then?
ANSWERED: Your submission was received on July 20, and so I'm confident you have heard the news that Kendrick Green has signed a four-year contract, and as a result he will be able to participate in the first practice of camp, which is a padless workout today at 1:30 p.m.

MARK COHEN FROM GIBSONIA, PA: Has it been announced if Bob Pompeani and Charlie Batch, who handle the television broadcasts of the preseason games on KDKA-TV, will be in Philadelphia and Charlotte for the Steelers road preseason games?
ANSWER: The NFL wants all broadcast teams, both radio and television, both preseason and regular season, to be doing the games on site.

DAVID SAVOLAINE FROM SILVER SPRING, MD: Which attribute do you think is the most important for the quarterback who takes over after Ben Roethlisberger retires, all other things being equal: accuracy, mobility, arm strength, or release speed?
ANSWER: Being a winner, which means making critical plays at the critical moments that help the team win. All that other stuff is for people who worship at the altar of Pro Football Focus.

NICK KERR FROM VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA: With the signing of Melvin Ingram, whom I believe will battle for the starting edge spot and potentially win it, could we consider moving Alex Highsmith to inside linebacker?
ANSWER: This is absurd. The Steelers signed Melvin Ingram to give the team three competent outside linebackers because having three to cover the two positions provides natural rest within games that allows the defense to have two whose energy hasn't been sapped by too many pass-rush repetitions on the field in the fourth quarter. Your idea is to move one of those three to a different position, which then leaves the Steelers right back where they were before the Ingram signing – with only two outside linebackers to handle all of those pass-rush repetitions game in and game out. One step forward, two steps back is no way to build a contending team.

ROBERT FOSTER FROM RIVERVIEW, FL: Are the Steelers ever going to be on "Hard Knocks?"
ANSWER: I certainly hope not.

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