Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: July 25

Let's get to it:

JIM GRAVES FROM WATERTOWN, NY: Now that Alex Highsmith has signed his new contract, what effect has this had on the salary cap situation? Do you think they still enough cap room to add anybody before the start of camp?
ANSWER: Once the Steelers got into their offseason program following the draft, I believed the remaining salary cap space was going to be reserved in an effort to get a long-term deal done with Alex Highsmith, who was to be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023. Now that the Steelers and Highsmith have gotten that long-term deal done, my belief is that there will be no more veteran free agent additions unless there is a significant injury that forces the team's hand. I believe when it comes to using cap space to add players who would command more than the veteran minimum salary, the Steelers will choose to use it to address an issue they know they have rather than use it on an issue they think they might have.

RON PROLEIKA FROM CHARLOTTE, NC: One of my favorite Chuck Noll quotes is: "Some coaches pray for wisdom. I pray for 260-pound tackles. They'll give me plenty of wisdom." I'm wondering how long it's been since the Steelers started a tackle in that weight range?
ANSWER: Tunch Ilkin played 12 seasons under Chuck Noll and 1 season under Bill Cowher, and in the 143 games he started for the Steelers, he never weighed more than 263 pounds. Ilkin's final season with the Steelers was 1992.

MICHAEL WOLOZYN FROM OIL CITY, PA: An individual is drafted by a team but chooses not to sign a contract with the drafting organization. What are the player's options in the subsequent years? Can he sign with another team at some point in the following years? Or does he remain obligated to deal with the original drafting team?
ANSWER: If a player is drafted by a team and does not sign with that team, he then goes into the draft the following year where he can be drafted again. This is not a high-percentage move for a player, because if he was a high draft pick and chose not to sign because he didn't like the team that picked him, he just might get drafted the following year by another team he doesn't particularly like. And in that case, he will have wasted a year of his career and lost the signing bonus that would have come in the preceding year's contract along with costing himself a year toward achieving free agency and qualifying for a pension. If a player is a later-round draft choice, it would be tantamount to career suicide to sit out an entire season because he didn't like the team that drafted him, because there will be plenty of able-bodied potential replacements in the next draft and a team would be unlikely to waste a pick on a guy who had a track record of not signing.

FRAY MCCUSKER FROM WASHINGTON, WV: In the Asked and Answered of July 18 you said there were 5 Hall of Fame members from the 1974 draft class and free agency. I'm having a brain cramp trying to name the fifth. Lambert, Stallworth, Swann, Webster. And?
ANSWER: Donnie Shell was the undrafted rookie who signed with the Steelers shortly after the 1974 NFL Draft was completed, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2020.

JAMES MOYER FROM LAREDO, TX: I realize we have a really good tight end room, but I wonder how many the team can afford to keep on the final roster. Zach Gentry and Darnell Washington may be the tallest duo in the league; and Pat Freiermuth is a stud and is still developing. That leaves Connor Heyward and Rodney Williams, with Heyward also possibly contributing as a fullback as needed. Do you see any case that the Steelers keep more than three tight ends?
ANSWER: At this point, which is before players have reported to Saint Vincent College for training camp and everyone is healthy and uninjured, my answer to your question would be that I cannot envision a situation where the Steelers would keep more than three tight ends on their initial 53-man roster. And again at this stage of the process, I would believe that Connor Heyward would be one of the three the Steelers decide to keep, because his versatility would allow them to save a roster spot for an extra player at another position. But a lot of things are going to happen between July 26 when players are due to report for training camp and 4 p.m. on Aug. 29, which is when all NFL teams must cut their rosters down to 53 players.

KEVIN D'ANGELO FROM SELBYVILLE, DE: I have a general NFL question. If a player is franchise tagged, but he doesn't sign the tender, was not given a long-term contract, and the player plays without it. What will the player be paid that season?
ANSWER: A player under the franchise tag who has not signed the tender and has not negotiated a long-term contract with the team that put the tag on him cannot play for that team and cannot be traded by that team to another team. A player under the franchise tag who has not signed the tender cannot be fined for missing training camp or for missing any other mandatory team activities that players under contract must attend. Essentially, the player you describe is in an NFL limbo.

JAVIER MORI FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: Coach Mike Tomlin and Co. have missed on a few first-round draft picks lately, such as Jarvis Jones, Artie Burns, and some would say Devin Bush. We always hear of the great drafts the Steelers had during Chuck Noll's tenure, but what were some of the whiffs during the Noll era focusing on first round picks?
ANSWER: From 1979 through 1991, which was the year Chuck Noll retired following the regular season, the Steelers made 14 picks in the first round of the draft – they had two in 1989 – and here are the players they acquired, listed chronologically. I'll allow you to decide which ones were "whiffs:"

RB Greg Hawthorne, QB Mark Malone, DE Keith Gary, RB Walter Abercrombie, NT Gabe Rivera, WR Louis Lipps, DE Darryl Sims, G John Rienstra, CB Rod Woodson, DE Aaron Jones, RB Tim Worley, T Tom Ricketts, TE Eric Green, LB Huey Richardson.

LEE JOHNSON FROM MIDLAND, VA: My question is, did Ben Roethlisberger beat every team at least once in the NFL?
ANSWER: No. He was 0-0 vs. the Steelers.

JOSEPH ROMANO FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Same question. Can Pittsburgh host a draft? I think it is actually a good question.
ANSWER: Absolutely, Pittsburgh can host a draft. But before you injure a shoulder patting yourself on the back, here is the more relevant question: Will the NFL ever choose Pittsburgh to host an NFL Draft?

JOSE TOVAR FROM TEXCOCO, MEXICO: What are the odds that the Steelers sign the Mexican kicker, Alfredo Gachuz, who was invited to the rookie tryout camp that was held shortly after the draft? If not for the 53-man roster, do you think he could make the practice squad?
ANSWER: The Steelers already have two placekickers signed to the 90-man roster they will bring to training camp on July 26 – veteran Chris Boswell and undrafted rookie B.T. Potter, an accomplished placekicker from Clemson. NFL teams simply do not take three placekickers to training camp, because even spots on the 90-man roster are precious, and there's just not enough work during training camp and the preseason for three placekickers. And in the event that the Steelers decide to keep a placekicker on the practice squad, I would believe it would be one who had been in an NFL training camp.

CARLOS ARVIZU FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: Where can we consult the different uniforms the Steelers have worn throughout their history?
ANSWER: If you go to and click on the ellipsis (…) on the top NavBar, you will see a link for "HISTORY." Click on that, and you will be directed to a page allowing you to access various things pertaining to the history of the franchise. Toward the bottom of that page, you will come to an area titled, "From The Archives." Within that section is a photo gallery detailing the Steelers uniform history.

DAVE EDWARDS FROM WINGDALE, NY: What is "12-man personnel?"
ANSWER: When naming a personnel grouping, a specific number system is used to refer to the number of running backs and tight ends on the field. For example, "12 personnel" describes a grouping that contains one running back and two tight ends; "13 personnel" describes a personnel grouping that contains one running back and three tight ends, which makes that one something most often utilized when the offense is planning to run the football.

RANDY CARAMELLINO FROM LEECHBURG, PA: When it comes to L.C. Greenwood, what do the initials "L.C." stand for?
ANSWER: In the Sept. 30, 2013, edition of "The New York Times", William Yardley wrote: "The oldest of nine children, L. C. Henderson Greenwood was born Sept. 8, 1946, in Canton, Miss. In 'About Three Bricks Shy of a Load,' Roy Blount's book about the Steelers' 1973 season, Blount wrote that Greenwood initially told him that L.C. stood for "Lover Cool" but later insisted that the letters did not stand for anything."

TOM MCCORMICK FROM FINDLAY, OH: I tried to research it myself but could not find a definitive answer. Did Jerome Bettis ever catch a touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger?
ANSWER: The only touchdown passes Jerome Bettis ever caught during his Steelers career – regular season or playoffs – came in 1997. So, the answer to your question is, no.

RICH HUGHES FROM CONNEAUTVILLE, PA: Does the Friday Night Lights practice sell out?
ANSWER: This summer's Friday Night Lights practice at Latrobe Stadium is scheduled for Aug. 4, and I never have known any fans interested in attending being turned away at the gate.