Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: July 27

Let's get to it:

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Steelers' four preseason football games can be viewed by fans on television stations in 13 cities across six states. As always, the Steelers' preseason TV flagship station is KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. The other stations to carry the team's four preseason games this summer are: WTAJ-TV in Altoona, Pa.; WFXP-TV in Erie, Pa.; WHP-TV in Harrisburg, Pa; WOLF-TV in Scranton, Pa.; WQCW-TV in Charleston, WV; WCMH-TV in Columbus, Oh.; WTOV-TV in Steubenville, Oh.; WKBN-TV in Youngstown, Oh.; WYDC-TV in Elmira, NY; KTBY-TV in Anchorage, Ak.; KJUD-TV in Juneau, Ak.; and KFVE-TV in Honolulu, Hi.

LARRY SNYDER FROM FISCHER, TX:
Why do the Steelers start training camp today? Other teams have already started.

ANSWER: Based on the provisions in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are permitted to open training camp no more than 15 days before the date of their first preseason game. The Steelers' preseason opener is on Aug. 11, and if you count back 15 days it brings you to July 27. There are special provisions made for teams with a new head coach, but that doesn't apply in Pittsburgh.

MICHAEL COOPER FROM CHAGRIN FALLS, OH:
Are players allowed to override their agent or are they contractually obligated in some way?

ANSWER: An agent works for the player, not the other way around.

SOPHIA MANCINELLI FROM COLLINGSWOOD, NJ:
I am coming to training camp, and I am in a member of Steelers Nation Unite. Are there any special perks I would get, or anything I could possible reserve in advance?

ANSWER: The following is taken directly from Steelers.com: "When fans join Steelers Nation Unite and become official members of Steelers Nation, they have a chance to make a visit to training camp even more exciting. By becoming a member at SteelersNationUnite.com, fans can RSVP for the day(s) they will attend training camp. By simply doing that, members have an opportunity to be selected for a VIP experience, complete with on-field access for practice and a meet-and-greet with Steelers Legends Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley.

"Members can also visit the Steelers Nation Unite tent located at the entrance to the Steelers Experience to spin the prize wheel and score great giveaways, including new gear and novelties. Additionally, there will be an opportunity for members to gain access to a daily screening of the team's 2016 highlight film before practice.

"With Friday Night Lights and Family Fest at Heinz Field also taking place during this year's training camp, there will be additional ways for members to get rewarded with exclusive access and benefits at these exciting events."

So in summary, RSVP for the date or dates you plan to attend training camp at SteelersNationUnite.com, and then stop by the Steelers Nation Unite tent at the entrance to camp to spin the prize wheel.

MIKE CLAPPER FROM BEDFORD, PA:
Can you explain what "seven shots" is during training camp? Listening to Adam Crowley on Steelers Nation Radio, that seems to be something he and the other guys are looking forward to seeing.

ANSWER: "Seven shots" is a drill the Steelers have been using to start every practice – offseason, training camp, regular season – for going on three straight years now. The way the drill works is straightforward: the ball is placed at the 2-yard line, which is where two-point conversions are attempted, and it's offense vs. defense, 11-on-11, for seven straight plays. Full-speed, often with live tackling. Coach Mike Tomlin believes the drill emphasizes competitiveness, and it allows both the offense and the defense to work on the kind of short-yardage/goal-line situations that can be the difference in a game.

TINA FRANK FROM SPENCERPORT, NY:
My 14-year-old sustained a serious baseball-to-the-face injury a month ago that required surgery. He bounced back like no one ever imagined, but he missed his season. I bought him tickets to Family Fest and want to provide the best experience for him I can. We will be staying overnight in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Do the players stay in a hotel near Heinz Field where he may run in to them?

ANSWER: The Steelers will be housed on campus at Saint Vincent College on the Saturday night before Family Fest. Since Monday – the day after Family Fest – is a players' day off, most of the veterans will be at home with their families, while the rookies and newcomers will go back to the dormitory at Saint Vincent.

TIM SMITH FROM MARLBOROUGH, MA:
With the stacked wide receiver position, why did the Steelers re-sign Canaan Severin, and how difficult will it be for him to make the 53-man roster?

ANSWER: Every NFL team has to have sufficient numbers at each position in order to conduct training camp and get through its preseason schedule. Canaan Severin is one of 11 wide receivers the Steelers will have at Saint Vincent College, and that's not an inordinately high number. It's going to be difficult to make the Steelers' 53-man roster at wide receiver for more players than just Severin.

CHRIS DIYENNO FROM ELLICOTT CITY, MD:
What's your most memorable Steelers playoff game of all time?

ANSWER: Since I am limiting this to the playoff games I personally witnessed, I would have to pick the 2005 AFC Divisional Round victory over the Colts in Indianapolis. I often have referred to the best moment of my 30 years working for the Steelers as being the moment when Dan Rooney held up the franchise's fifth Lombardi Trophy inside Ford Field, and the victory over the Colts was the game that made that moment possible. The emotional roller-coaster at the end – from Jerome Bettis' fumble to Ben Roethlisberger's saving tackle to Mike Vanderjact's missed field goal – was something I'll never forget. A close second, however, would be the Steelers' victory over the Ravens in the 2008 AFC Championship Game. The feeling in Heinz Field during and immediately following Troy Polamalu's pick-six that iced the outcome and sent the Steelers on to Super Bowl XLIII was one of the most electric atmospheres I ever have experienced in any venue watching any sport.

VICTOR TEXEIRA FROM CARY, NC:
What will the Steelers have on either the uniform or helmet to honor the late Dan Rooney?

ANSWER: NFL rules permit the wearing of a patch on the uniform to pay tribute only to a deceased member of ownership, and that's what the Steelers will do in 2017. If you recall, the team wore a decal on the back of their helmets as a tribute to Chuck Noll. You can visit Steelers.com to see what the patch looks like and also to read the accompanying story that was written by Teresa Varley.

LEE JOHNSON FROM MIDLAND, VA:
I played against a running back named Russell Davis in high school. He attended Woodbridge High in Virginia. A tough running back. I believe he was drafted by the Steelers in 1979 and wore jersey No. 45. I know he was Franco Harris' backup, but would you have any stats for him?

ANSWER: Russell Davis left Virginia and attended the University of Michigan. He was drafted by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 1979 NFL Draft, but he missed all of his rookie season after breaking his arm during the preseason process. In four seasons with the Steelers, Davis, who played at 6-feet, 227 pounds, played in 42 games, and he rushed for 474 yards, had a 4.6 average, and scored two touchdowns. His career was cut short by sarcoidosis, a condition that causes lung scarring and a diminished breathing capacity.

LANCE RASMUSSEN FROM ATTICA, IN:
This is more for the people talking about Vince Williams. Did any of them watch any of the 2016 season? For me, I was excited every time he stepped on the field. So much heart and great tackling. I believe the only reason he didn't start last year was because of a guy named Lawrence Timmons. I can't wait to see Williams unleashed this year.

ANSWER: Lawrence Timmons was a key component of the Steelers defense for many seasons, but in the past couple of those seasons he had lost some of what had made him special in coverage, and opponents had come to recognize that and exploit it. I don't know that Vince Williams will be asked to do the same things in coverage that Timmons was asked to do, but when it comes to playing the run and bringing an intensity to the defense, I believe he will be an asset.

AUSTIN GREEN FROM SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA:
I was wondering if you have heard any buzz about any dark horse candidates who were really impressive during OTAs and minicamp? I know that it's just football in shorts, but could you give a few names to watch out for who may steal a roster spot before this is all said and done? Love Asked and Answered over here in South Korea.

ANSWER: As you're paying attention to how training camp unfolds, one of the key things to monitor is not so much which rookies get off to a fast start, but which ones avoid falling into a lull around the time the preseason games start. Hitting a plateau is a fairly normal thing for a rookie in his first NFL training camp, and the ones who prove unable to fight through that lull and continue to improve are the ones who fall by the wayside. With that explained, here are some names who could have a chance, and I pick these guys because they will be competing at spots where the Steelers could be looking for depth.

One final clarification: to me, the term dark horse is limited to undrafted rookie free agents or first-year players. Tight end Scott Orndoff, inside linebacker Matt Galambos, and cornerback Mike Hilton.

RUBE GINDER FROM EAST PALESTINE, OH:
How long are players able to stay on the practice squad?

ANSWER: The simple answer to your question is that a player can spend no more than three seasons on any practice squad, but then it gets complicated by what the NFL defines as a season. It used to be that three weeks of an NFL season spent on a practice squad counted as one full season of practice squad eligibility. But that number has been increased to six weeks, which expands some players' eligibility.
In 2014, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a rule that expanded the practice squad limit from eight to 10 players, and in 2016 teams could have two of the 10 practice squad spots filled by players who had two or more years of experience on an NFL roster. This year, that number has been increased to four players.

In a subsequent installment of Asked and Answered, I will provide a list of all of the players on the Steelers' 90-man roster who have practice squad eligibility.

MARLON ELLIS FROM ALLEN, TX:
Do you think the Steelers would make a coaching change if they don't make the Super Bowl?

ANSWER: Sigh.


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