Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: July 7

Let's get to it:

JIM FOX FROM DENHAM SPRIGS, LA: In my youth I remember a Steelers running back named John Henry Johnson. Can you refresh me on his career?
ANSWER: The Steelers picked John Henry Johnson in the second round of the 1953 NFL Draft, but he instead opted to sign with the Calgary Stampeders. During his only season there, Johnson rushed for 648 yards (6.0 average) and five touchdowns, caught 33 passes (11.1 average) and scored three more touchdowns, averaged 8.2 yards on 47 punt returns, and he scored another touchdown on a 104-yard kickoff return. On defense, Johnson intercepted five passes, and as a result of his two-way production he was voted the league's most valuable player. The following year, Johnson signed with the San Francisco 49ers where he played for three seasons with his statistics dropping each year. In 1957, Johnson was traded to Detroit, where he was moved to fullback with the idea of taking advantage of his blocking. But that season, Johnson led the Lions in rushing and was a significant contributor in their 59-14 win over the Browns in the 1957 NFL Championship Game. After the 1959 season, the Lions traded Johnson to the Steelers for two draft picks.

Once the Steelers finally acquired Johnson in 1960, he had his most productive years as a pro while in Pittsburgh. In 1962, Johnson became the first Steelers player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, and he did it again in 1964. In that 1964 season, Johnson carried 30 times for 200 yards and scored three touchdowns in a Steelers' upset win over the Browns in Cleveland, and that is considered his best game in the NFL. It was only the ninth 200-yard rushing game in NFL history to that point, and Johnson finished the 1964 season with 1,048 yards as a 35-year-old man. But age caught up to Johnson the following season, and he played in only one game for the Steelers before ending his career in 1966 with the AFL's Houston Oilers. Johnson and Joe Greene entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame together as part of the Class of 1987.

EDWARD BAUMAN FROM LANDISVILLE, NJ: I really want to know if DirecTV will extend its contract with the NFL to televise games? I realize there are more important things going on in this world, but thank you for your time.
ANSWER: One of the reasons the ratification of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement earlier this year was considered so significant is that it ensured labor peace in advance of the next round of negotiations to broadcast NFL games. Included in that CBA is an immediate expansion of the playoffs and the likelihood of a 17-game regular season in the near future, both of which are attractive to potential bidders for the broadcast rights. But the global pandemic then came along and impacted this, and so I would imagine negotiating new television contracts have been pushed to the background. My guess would be that new TV contracts will be done in advance of the expiration of the existing deals, and so you're probably going to have to wait until 2021 for an answer to your question.

GRANT MAESHIRO FROM HONOLULU, HI: For a guy in Hawaii who has only watched our Steelers play on TV for the past 40 years, please tell me a personal story about the game day experience in Heinz Field. Attending a December home game with playoffs on the line is near the top of my bucket list.
ANSWER: During the entire life of Heinz Field, I have worked in my current job, and so while I have seen every Steelers game played in the building, I never have seen one outside of the enclosed press box, which means I have not had any real experience with the game day experience. There are two instances, however, when I could feel vibrations in the press box from the roar of the crowd, and so I only can imagine how loud it actually was. The first instance was late in the 2008 AFC Championship Game when Troy Polamalu intercepted a Joe Flacco pass and returned it for a touchdown to clinch the AFC Championship and a spot in Super Bowl XLIII for the Steelers. And the other was on Christmas Day in 2016 when Antonio Brown extended the ball across the goal line in the final seconds of the fourth quarter to clinch the AFC North Division title for the Steelers and eliminate the Ravens from the playoffs in a 31-27 victory. If you indeed decide to spend a week in Pittsburgh during December to catch a Steelers game at Heinz Field, my wife and I would be happy to house-sit for you.

JIM MAC PHERSON FROM BEACHWOOD, NJ: I heard that now it's likely there will be no preseason games. At this point what is your gut opinion on having a season? Fifty-fifth?
ANSWER: What you "heard" was that the NFLPA, though a vote of the player reps, recommends that there be no preseason games. And that vote came after the NFL moved to cut each team's preseason schedule from four games to two. The NFLPA recommendation is not policy, and it's nothing but an assumption that there will be no preseason games this summer. My advice to fans is to realize there will be many reports of suggestions and recommendations as management and the union discuss procedures to be put in place with the goal of having a 2020 season, but those suggestions and recommendations are not policy. I understand people – and I mean everyone from players to coaches to fans to media – are looking for a detailed resolution, but things remain way too fluid at this point for that. What we know for sure right now is that training camps can open on July 28, that the Hall of Fame Game and the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies have been postponed until 2021, and that the preseason has been shortened from four games per team to two games per team. As for the prospects of a 2020 NFL season? I'm not an oddsmaker, but I choose to remain optimistic.

FREDRICK JOSEPH FROM FOREST, VA: In a recent Asked and Answered, the topic was great quarterbacks the Steelers let go, and the two you mentioned were Len Dawson and Johnny Unitas. Back in the 1960s when I first started getting serious about football, a young quarterback named Bill Nelsen took the starting job in Pittsburgh. He did a fairly good job. I remember being disappointed that he was later traded to the Cleveland Browns. Nelsen subsequently led the Browns to three championship games, and they won two of those games. Does this qualify Nelsen as another great quarterback who passed through Pittsburgh?
ANSWER: It does not, and your memories of Bill Nelsen and his career contains some inaccuracies. The last time the Cleveland Browns won an NFL Championship was in 1964, and their quarterback that season was Frank Ryan. After being traded to the Browns, Nelsen was their starter for the four seasons from 1968-71, and during his whole career in Cleveland he completed 52.4 percent of his passes with 71 touchdowns, 71 interceptions, and a rating of 72.1, hardly the kind of numbers that point to greatness. Nelsen started five playoff games with the Browns, and the team was 2-3 in those games, with Nelsen completing 51.5 percent for three touchdowns, eight interceptions, and a rating of 58.3. In those days, the NFL contained just four divisions, and to make the playoffs a team had to win its division. Because the Browns upset the Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs in both 1968 and 1969, they advanced to the NFL Championship Game in those seasons, which put them one step short of the Super Bowl. But in 1968, the Browns lost to the Colts, 34-0, in the NFL Championship Game, and they lost to the Vikings, 27-7, in the 1969 NFL Championship Game. So, while it would be fair to characterize Nelsen as better than Dick Shiner, who became the Steelers starter after Nelsen was traded to the Browns, labeling him "great" or even "very good" is a stretch.

DEREK DOLITSKY FROM MILWAUKEE, WI: When will Ola Adeniyi get a legitimate shot to compete for an outside linebacker spot? He has better pass-rushing moves than Bud Dupree and would be perfect across from T.J. Watt, especially since it is unlikely we will pay Dupree after this season.
ANSWER: Ola Adeniyi has been getting a "legitimate shot to compete for an outside linebacker spot" during each and every practice and preseason game during his two seasons with the Steelers. Playing time and opportunities for playing time have to be earned in the NFL; it's not something bestowed on a player as recognition for time served. In some ways, Adeniyi has been fortunate the Steelers haven't had much depth at outside linebacker over the last couple of seasons, because I'm not at all certain what he showed in training camp and the preseason last summer would've been good enough to earn a roster spot otherwise. And your contention that Adeniyi has "better pass-rushing moves" than Dupree, who posted 11.5 sacks during the 2019 NFL regular season is ludicrous. Adeniyi will get another chance this summer to show he belongs in the NFL.

MARK BENSON FROM AKRON, OH: Where does Ben Roethlisberger rank among all-time NFL quarterbacks in career wins?
ANSWER: Ben Roethlisberger's record as a starter in the NFL is 144-71-1, which places him seventh on the all-time list behind Tom Brady with 219, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning each with 186, Drew Brees with 163, John Elway with 148, and Dan Marino with 147. Roethlisberger's winning percentage of .669 is fourth among all quarterbacks currently ranked in the top 30 in total victories, behind on Brady at .774, Joe Montana at .713, and Manning at .702.

LARRY HOUGAN FROM BALTIMORE, MD: In Madden, if you switch Jaylen Samuels to tight end, his overall production goes up significantly. What are the chances the Steelers move him there this year in a reserve role?
ANSWER: You do understand that Madden is a video game and that the football at the NFL level is played by flesh-and-blood human beings in real life.