Let's get to it:
WALTER DEHORITY FROM ALBUQUERQUE, NM: In a previous installment of Asked and Answered, you noted that Steelers all-time great Mike Webster was handling long-snapping duties for the team in 1988. As such, he seems as if he may have been one of the few players from the 1970s dynasty still playing for the organization at that time. Did any Steelers players who played in all four Super Bowls from the 1970s play for the team past 1988? And have any Steelers played for the franchise longer than the 15 years Webster logged?
ANSWER: Of the 22 Steelers who won four Super Bowls during the 1970s, Mike Webster played the longest, with his final season with the team coming in 1988. His 15 seasons with the team are the second most in franchise history, behind Ben Roethlisberger who played his 16th season with the Steelers in 2020. When it comes to the last player on the Steelers active roster to have a Super Bowl ring from the 1970s dynasty, that would be cornerback Dwayne Woodruff, a sixth-round pick in 1979 who played with the team through the 1990 season.
JAMES HAGY FROM PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL: What's the background with Trai Turner? In a previous Asked and Answered, you noted that he was a long-term starter with Carolina and voted to the Pro Bowl five out of six seasons with the Panthers. From what I've seen, Carolina traded him to the Chargers in the 2020 offseason, and then the Chargers released him after attempting to trade him. Any idea of why there would be no takers for a five out of six seasons Pro Bowl guard?
ANSWER: As a very wise man told me, whenever the question has to do with "why," the answer has to do with "money." Trai Turner, now 28 years old, was a third-round pick of the Panthers in 2014, and when he was in the final year of the contract he signed as a rookie, Carolina negotiated a four-year extension that was to pay him $45 million, including $20.5 million of guaranteed money. The Panthers traded Turner to the Chargers in 2020 for left tackle Russell Okung, but then the Chargers ended up cutting him in early March for salary cap reasons. Turner was due a salary of $8.5 million in 2021, and that number coupled with a 2020 season ruined by injuries undoubtedly is why the Chargers couldn't find any takers in a trade for a guard who had been voted to five straight Pro Bowls from 2015-19.
PAT FLYNN FROM OAKDALE, PA: Who do you think has the tougher job for 2021: First-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada installing his offense or offensive line coach Adrian Klemm taking over a completely shuffled offensive line.
ANSWER: I am of the opinion that the difficulty of a job is directly related to the amount of responsibility associated with that job. The offensive coordinator is charged with putting together a unit that attains a level of efficiency capable of supporting a team intent on contending for a championship. The coordinator might not be directly responsible for getting an individual position group ready to play, but the coordinator is indirectly responsible for each unit on his side of the ball because in devising a plan he has to implement things each unit is capable of executing at a high level. So, to put names on this, Matt Canada has the tougher job, and not just in 2021.
JEFF ELINOFF FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Have you heard any ideas on better/more frequent uses of fullback Derek Watt this year? The way he was used/not used in 2020 seemed to be a waste.
ANSWER: There wasn't much to be gleaned about Matt Canada's plans for the offense during the offseason program, but it might be revealing to look at the ways Canada utilized the fullback during his time as the offensive coordinator at Pitt.
Canada also was asked about his plan for using Derek Watt in a Zoom call with the media conducted during minicamp: "I think Derek's a really, really good player. I believe, to the point of matchups and personnel changes and giving the defense more things to worry about and to look at, it is always a benefit for you, as an offense, if the production is there, if there's a reason to do it. Having Derek and his ability to play is great … Our job as a staff is to come into a game plan, find the matchups and where they are, and I think he definitely fits into that in certain weeks, in certain times. And having that luxury as far as play design and what we can do gives us a lot of options."
ROY PERRIN FROM FUQUAY VARINA, NC: How long has the Hall of Fame Game been played, and have the teams playing each other in that game ever met up again in the playoffs or the Super Bowl?
ANSWER: The first Hall of Fame Game matched the New York Giants vs. the St. Louis Cardinals on Aug. 11, 1962, and it ended in a 21-21 tie. At the end of that season, the Giants lost to Green Bay in the NFL Championship Game, 16-7. In 1964, the Baltimore defeated the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game, 48-17, and then the Colts ended that regular season with a 27-0 loss to the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship Game. Once the NFL and the AFL merged in 1970, the Hall of Fame Game matched a team from the NFC vs. a team from the AFC, so the only possibility for a rematch in the playoffs would be in the Super Bowl. In 1988, the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 14-7, in the Hall of Fame Game, and then they ended the season with a 20-16 loss to San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIII. In 2001, the St. Louis Rams defeated Miami, 17-10, in the Hall of Fame Game, and they ended the season with a 20-17 loss to New England in Super Bowl XXXVI. To summarize, a team that played in the Hall of Fame Game never has ended the season by winning a championship, and the teams participating in a Hall of Fame Game never met in an NFL Championship Game or in the Super Bowl that ended that particular season.
CHARLES PITNER FROM BELLE VERNON, PA: In 1984 or 1985, the Steelers drafted two tight ends, and neither of them made the team as rookies. Both of those guys were claimed off waivers and ended up playing for better teams – the Chicago and the San Francisco 49ers. What in the world went wrong in Pittsburgh?
ANSWER: Brent Jones and Cap Boso were two tight ends drafted by the Steelers in 1986 – Jones in the fifth round and Boso in the eighth. To be kind, the Steelers of that era were a mess in terms of having the personnel department and Coach Chuck Noll on the same page when it came to the kinds of players added via the draft.
Jones was a receiving tight end, and that was the role in which he flourished when he was claimed off waivers by the 49ers, but the Steelers didn't really utilize their tight ends in that role. Jones was 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he wasn't a dominating physical presence at the end of the line of scrimmage, and he found himself in Noll's doghouse right off the bat by missing a hunk of training camp because of an inability to get a contract negotiated and signed. Jones finished his 11-year NFL career with 417 catches for 5,195 yards (12.5 average) and 33 touchdowns, plus he added another 60 catches for 740 yards (12.3 average) and five more touchdowns in 21 playoffs games, three of which were wins in the Super Bowl.
Boso (6-4, 230) wasn't that good or productive, but he played one season with the Cardinals and five more with the Bears to finish with 54 catches for 591 yards (10.9 average) and four touchdowns.
BROOKS LAVER FROM HARRISONBURG, VA: What would make the most sense with the Steelers' quarterback situation down the road assuming that Ben Roethlisberger's final season is in 2021? Would you promote Mason Rudolph, Joshua Dobbs, or Dwayne Haskins to starter? Or perhaps draft a quarterback during the 2022 NFL Draft?
ANSWER: By September 2021, the most likely scenario at this point will be that either Joshua Dobbs or Dwayne Haskins will not have a spot on the 53-man roster. Since this is based entirely on speculation, I would imagine that a player who cannot win a spot as the No. 3 quarterback in 2021 wouldn't be in the running to be the starter in 2022. So that eliminates one of the three names you proposed.
I wouldn't "promote" anyone to be the starting quarterback. That would be determined by a two-man competition at training camp. A three-man competition is too clumsy, and it doesn't typically allow for a clean evaluation, because there aren't enough repetitions during training camp and/or snaps during the preseason to get a full and fair evaluation, because one of the three candidates always seems to get stuck on the field with guys on the bottom rungs of the depth chart who have no chance to make the team and/or finds himself going against the opponent's bottom rung of the depth chart guys who don't belong in the NFL. Both of those scenarios skew the evaluation process.
PHIL CONTE FROM REIDSVILLE, NC: In the June 1 Asked and Answered, your answer to a Buddy Parker question about his penchant to make wholesale trades of draft picks for veteran players is one of the most interesting, informative, and depressing answers I've read about the Steelers' long history. Times do change, thankfully. Nevertheless, thanks for the insight. And, rhetorically speaking, what the heck was the Chief doing/thinking while all this malfeasance was taking place?
ANSWER: With very, very, very few exceptions over the course of the history of the franchise, the Rooney management style has been to support the head coach and then to allow the head coach to do his job without a lot of interference or micromanaging. Then the coach is evaluated for the results and then is either kept or replaced. The NFL was a different business in the era of late 1950s to the mid-1960s. Scouting departments were not nearly as big as they are today, and the system of scouting college players was not as sophisticated or organized as it is today. Because of that, the NFL Draft was not treated as such a big deal as it is currently, and that's true of both fans and the teams alike. Teams often drafted players without ever having seen them play a college game, and instead of eyewitness accounts teams relied on accounts in newspapers and magazines when it came to making draft picks.
When Buddy Parker took over the Steelers following the 1956 season, the team had just gone through a 13-year span in which it posted just five-non-losing seasons and three of those were .500 seasons. Parker came to Pittsburgh having won two NFL Championships with the Detroit Lions, and in his eight years as the Steelers coach his teams posted five non-losing seasons, including four winning seasons – including 7-4-1 in 1958, 9-5 in 1962, and 7-4-3 in 1963. So, Parker had legitimate credentials and he had some modicum of success in Pittsburgh, but his mortgaging of the future by trading away future draft picks in bunches set the franchise on a downward spiral that lasted until Chuck Noll was hired in 1969.
While Art Rooney Sr. is the one who hired Parker and allowed the mass trading of future draft picks, he also was getting his oldest son, Dan, more involved in the day-to-day operation of the franchise. When Dan Rooney, who by the end of the 1964 season was the de facto general manager, told Parker that there would be no more rash decisions to cut players after losses and no more wholesale trading of draft picks without first running those decisions by him, Parker balked and Dan Rooney then "accepted Parker's resignation." Art Rooney Sr.'s decision to delegate more authority to his son, Dan, was the turning point in franchise history.
NICK JAKOBSON FROM APOLLO, PA: As Mike Tomlin's years seem to be numbered, would it be smart to consider Ben Roethlisberger for the head coaching spot after he retires?
ANSWER: Maybe you haven't heard, but the Steelers signed Coach Mike Tomlin in April to a three-year contract extension that binds him to the team through the 2024 season, and the length of the extension indicates President Art Rooney II is not in agreement with your assertion that his coach's "years seem to be numbered." And hiring a former player with absolutely no coaching experience on any level to lead an NFL team, or even considering hiring a former player with absolutely no coaching experience on any level to lead an NFL team would be the polar opposite of "smart."
JAKE HUBBARD FROM ARLINGTON, TX: If Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph were to go down with injuries, would it be wise to move Pressley Harvin III to quarterback for a few games since he has experience throwing the football?
ANSWER: And to think I actually receive submissions questioning why I need a vacation.