Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: July 7

Let's get to it:

JON HOFMANN FROM GRIDLEY, IL: Rod Woodson is considered to be one of the best defensive backs to have played the game, and so it would have been great to have him retire in the black and gold. I don't remember what led or caused him to move on from the Steelers after 10 years. Can you refresh my memory?
ANSWER: On the first third-down play of the 1995 regular season, a game where the Steelers were hosting the Detroit Lions, Barry Sanders caught a pass in the flat and when Rod Woodson came up to make the tackle, he planted his foot in the Three Rivers Stadium turf and ended up tearing his ACL. Coach Bill Cowher held a roster spot for Woodson instead of immediately placing him on the injured reserve list, and Woodson hustled through his rehabilitation and got himself onto the field for Super Bowl XXX. In retrospect, that probably wasn't the best thing for Woodson, because when the 1996 season began it quickly was clear that he wasn't the same player he had been before the injury.

Still a quality NFL starting cornerback in 1996, Woodson was lacking the dynamic/clutch playmaking that had been a consistent part of his game. Then in the Divisional Round of the 1996 AFC Playoffs, the Steelers needed a win in New England to earn the right to host the Conference Championship Game at Three Rivers Stadium for the third straight season. The Steelers offense opened the game with a three-and-out, and on first-and-10 from the Patriots 45-yard line following the punt, Terry Glenn beat Woodson with a double-move and hauled in Drew Bledsoe's pass for a 53-game gain to the Pittsburgh 2-yard line. After a 2-yard run by Curtis Martin, New England led, 7-0. The Steelers lost that game, 28-3,, and Woodson's became an unrestricted free agent as a soon-to-be 31-year-old cornerback. What the Steelers offered Woodson was well below what the player believed he was worth. Woodson rejected the Steelers' offer and signed with the San Francisco 49ers, and then in 1999 he began a second career as a free safety that provided him with the opportunity to post 24 interceptions over the next five years and finish No. 3 on the NFL's all-time list of interceptors with 71, behind Paul Krause (81) and Emlen Tunnell (79).

BOBBY STICKEL FROM ITHACA, NY: The Steelers have retired a couple of jersey numbers (Nos. 70 and 75), and it's my understanding that some other jersey numbers, though not officially retired, are simply no longer made available to players. Do you happen to have a list of those unavailable numbers and the last players to wear them?
ANSWER: There is no official list of jersey numbers that have been taken out of circulation, but I can provide you with a general idea. The No. 12 hasn't been worn since Terry Bradshaw retired after the 1983 season; No. 32 hasn't been worn since Franco Harris' Steelers' career ended after the 1983 season; No. 36 hasn't been worn since Jerome Bettis retired after Super Bowl XL; No. 43 hasn't been worn since Troy Polamalu retired after the 2014 season; No. 52 hasn't been worn since Mike Webster's Steelers career ended after the 1988 season; No. 58 has not been used since Jack Lambert retired after the 1984 season; No. 59 was issued to Todd Seabaugh in 1984, but outside of that one year it hasn't been used since Jack Ham retired after the 1982 season; No. 63 hasn't been used since Dermontti Dawson retired after the 2000 season; and No. 86 hasn't been used since Hines Ward retired after the 2011 season.

ZACH RAVES FROM SCOTTSDALE, AZ: For a true quarterback competition, do the coaches give each quarterback time with the first team? Or are the down-the-depth-chart quarterbacks expected to show they can succeed with the backups before having a viable shot at competing for the starting job?
ANSWER: Coach Mike Tomlin never has conducted a quarterback competition with the Steelers, because when he was hired in 2007 Ben Roethlisberger already was established as the starting quarterback. I believe there will be some opportunity for all quarterbacks competing for the starting job to have an opportunity to work with the other "starters" on offense, but rather than make a guess now it would make the most sense to wait until training camp and see how things unfold.

DENNIS SLEEGER YORK, PA: When a player signs a contract, when does he get the signing bonus? If money is guaranteed, does he still get that in a weekly check during the season? How do their agents get paid? A lump sum after signing? If a player is suspended does this affect the agent's money?
ANSWER: All of these questions typically are part of the contract negotiations, with the terms being agreed upon by the team and the player, or by the player and the agent. Typically, a signing bonus is paid at the time the contract is signed, but not always; when guaranteed money gets paid would be something determined within the language of the signed contract between the team and player. How agents get paid and how much they earn are things that would be detailed in the player's contract with him. To steal a Tomlinism, there isn't a cookie-cutter way to answer all of those questions accurately.

SCOTT RANDALL FROM CONWAY, PA: I have had an eye out for seventh-round pick Mark Robinson, the inside linebacker from Ole Miss. He seems to have all the tools to become a good linebacker, has the work ethic and the mind-set too. What are your thoughts on him? I know it's way early, but still he piques my interest.
ANSWER: Mark Robinson has all of the components necessary for the making of a great underdog story during this training camp. "I had one offer coming out of high school," said Robinson, "which was to Presbyterian (to be a running back), and before our first season was over – my freshman season – they announced that we were going to become a non-scholarship college. Of course, we all scattered trying to find places to play. I went to Southeast Missouri, and I (played there) for two seasons, and then that's when my friend convinced me to walk-on at Ole Miss."

Robinson walked-on at Mississippi and then was convinced by a coach there to switch from running back to linebacker. That move got him drafted into the NFL, and he joins a defense that finished last in the NFL against the run in 2021. What Robinson needs is some time to develop as an inside linebacker, and the only path for him to earn the roster spot that will provide the time for his development is via special teams. It's possible Robinson could become an interesting camp/preseason story, but until the pads go on it's nothing but talk.

GARY CAMPBELL FROM ROSWELL, GA: Trai Turner was a starter last year. Why is he no longer with the team?
ANSWER: To be more specific, Trai Turner was a starter in 2021 on a below-the-line NFL offensive line. During the offseason, the Steelers signed James Daniels, a soon-to-be 25-year-old former second-round pick who has 48 career NFL regular season starts on his resume. The Steelers believe Daniels is better than Turner, so they signed Daniels and released Turner. That's the NFL.

JEFF WELLER FROM COLUMBUS, OH: Just want to give you your props. You were dead on with the answer to my question about the Salute to Service game. Living in "enemy territory," I rely on for most of my info, so thanks.
ANSWER: I'm just glad you were the beneficiary of one of my correct prognostications.