Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: July 28

LATROBE, Pa. – Let's get to it:

GREG WHARTON FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX:
I hope this question is not taken in the same vein as, "Will Ryan Shazier move to safety?" But here goes: What are the plans for last year's No. 3 draft pick Dri Archer? He appears to be too small for most of what's expected of him as a running back – blocking and running between the tackles. And from the little I've seen, he seems very hesitant about running into the line, but the guy can burn. Why is he not being considered as a wide receiver? Is he too small for this also, or are his hands a problem?

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The best photos of RB Dri Archer from the 2014 season.

The first step toward trying to get a handle on this is to stop thinking about Dri Archer in such strict terms when it comes to defining his "position." In fact, with Archer, I would suggest exchanging the word "position" for "role." What will be Dri Archer's role be with the Steelers in 2015? That remains to be seen. For Archer, I still believe it's going to have to start with special teams. He returned four kickoffs for touchdowns in college, and so some of that is going to have to translate into the NFL. It also would he nice if Archer could relieve Antonio Brown of at least some of the punt returning duties. You are correct in that there's no real upside to expecting Archer to do a lot of running between the tackles or to take on blitzing linebackers in pass protection, but there are going to be occasions when he lines up in the backfield. The idea, I believe, is to get the ball to Archer in space, and then he has to utilize his individual talents to make something happen. How that happens is something I expect to evolve over the next couple of months. But first, I believe Dri Archer has to prove he belongs in the NFL, both to himself and to the Steelers coaches.**

TONY PEJACK FROM YUCAIPA, CA:
Eventually there will be a quarterback replacing an aged Ben Roethlisberger. Is that player already on the rooster, or will it be someone yet to be selected in the draft?

That player is not on the roster. It's very probable that player is still in high school. In fact, the way Ben Roethlisberger has been moving and throwing the ball this summer, maybe the kid is still in middle school.

MARTIN ABELSON FROM MECHANICSBURG, PA:
Who was the last Steelers quarterback trained to call his own game?

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Chuck Noll allowed his quarterbacks to call their own plays during the portion of his 23 seasons with the Steelers where he served as both head coach and offensive coordinator. The first officially titled offensive coordinator for the Steelers was Tom Moore, who had his title changed from wide receivers coach in 1983. Once Terry Bradshaw retired after the 1983 season, the Steelers gradually joined the rest of the league as a team where offensive plays were called from the sideline. By the time Bubby Brister won the starting job for the 1988 season, Moore was calling the plays, and he communicated them with hand signals. Joe Walton liked to use player substitution as a messenger system, and during the time Ron Erhardt was Bill Cowher's first offensive coordinator the league had begun to allow wireless communication from the sideline to the quarterback. Based on that, the last quarterback trained to call his own plays was Terry Bradshaw.**

ROBERT JACOBS FROM COLLEGEVILLE, PA:
I think if the offense becomes more efficient in the red zone it could help the defense and the new defensive coordinator be better than what people think, because of opponents having to play catch-up. Do you see it that way?

Certainly, having a high-scoring offense is a big help to a team's defense, and one of the criteria for being a high-scoring offense in the NFL is red zone efficiency. In one of his first interviews of this training camp, Ben Roethlisberger set the number at 30 points per game, and I believe that is very realistic goal. But just the same, the defense has to be able to pick up the slack on those occasions when that 30 points per game goal isn't met. The other thing that could happen is if the Steelers offense gets off to a good start in terms of points scored per game, opponents could come in with the mind-set of having to take some chances to score a lot of points, which could create some takeaway situations for the defense. Right now, though, all of that is just theory.

MIKE FOSTER FROM EWA BEACH, HI:
I just finished reading your article about Mike Tomlin signing his contract extension and his philosophy. To me, he is a great combination of his two predecessors in that when things are going well he is fired up like Bill Cowher, but when things aren't going so well he is even-keeled, cool, calm, and collected like Chuck Noll. Do you agree? I love him as a coach, and think he and Kevin Colbert are so simpatico.

On this one, I'm going to defer to Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney. Shortly after Mike Tomlin was hired in January 2007 as a 34-year-old, comparisons were made between Tomlin and Bill Cowher, likely because of their defensive backgrounds and the fact Cowher also was 34 when he was hired by the Steelers. But Rooney told me that while many on the outside-looking-in might see Tomlin as similar to Cowher, he thought Tomlin was much more similar to Chuck Noll.

After injuring his knee in 2012, Sean Spence made his first NFL start on Sunday vs the Buccaneers.

BRIANT LASLO FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA:
My question is regarding the Comeback Player of the Year. I had always been under the assumption that the comeback player of the year was based on somebody returning from some sort of injury. I kind of thought that with Sean Spence playing at a decent level last year, he might have been under consideration due to the severity of his injury. But apparently it also includes players bouncing back from an off year?

Yes. Remember, Tommy Maddox was the Comeback Player of the Year as the Steelers quarterback in 2002, and he did not win the award because he was coming back from an injury.

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