Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: June 1

Let's get to it:

HERMAN KANE FROM NEW YORK, NY: In the 1952-68 period, the Steelers had five head coaches, most notably Buddy Parker from 1957-64. The team's record under Parker was 51-47-6, which is respectable, if not highly successful, while the four coaches immediately before and after him were 38-75-3. Parker is remembered, in part, for reducing reliance on the draft by trading away many high choices. In your judgment, did Buddy Parker's draft approach set the Steelers back, and aside from Bobby Layne and John Henry Johnson, what other prominent players were acquired by trades between 1957-68?
ANSWER: In my opinion, your portrayal of Buddy Parker is way too kind, because not only did he fail to win anything or even advance to the NFL Championship Game – there were no playoffs in the NFL in that era, only the NFL Championship Game played between the winners of the two conferences – but his disdain for the draft mortgaged the Steelers future for several years after he was fired.

From 1957 through 1967 (an 11-season span that extended four seasons beyond Parker's final one as Steelers coach) the Steelers traded six of their 11 first-round draft choices – because Parker was known to trade draft picks years into the future – as well as five of their 12 second-round picks. In 1959, the Steelers didn't have a pick until the eighth round; in 1960, they had a No. 1 pick and then not another until the seventh round; in 1961, the had a No. 2 pick and then not another until the seventh round; in 1962, they had a No. 1 pick and then not another until the seventh round; and in 1963, they again didn't have a pick until the eighth round. That goes far beyond "reducing reliance on the draft by trading away many high picks." In fact, it's football malpractice.

And even on the rare occasions when Parker made a first-round pick, he did it poorly. In 1957, the Steelers picked quarterback Len Dawson instead of some running back from Syracuse named Jim Brown, who went to Cleveland with the following selection. While Dawson would go on to have a Hall of Fame career, Parker traded him the following year to the Browns, before he ever had a chance to establish himself with the Steelers. Another first-round pick of the Parker era was Ohio State fullback Bob Ferguson, whose career with the Steelers ended after 18 games, during which he carried 63 times for 208 yards (3.3 average) and one touchdown.

Buddy Parker may have been the most successful coach statistically in franchise history before Chuck Noll was hired in 1969, but his tenure hardly deserves to be labeled a success. And it's reflective of his time on the job that when he was fired by 32-year-old Dan Rooney in 1964, it was because he refused to accept the mandate that no more impulsive trades or cutting of players take place unless the moves first were run by Rooney. And before you give credit to Parker for acquiring John Henry Johnson in a trade, it should be noted that Johnson originally a Steelers draft pick, and the team had to re-acquire him via trade.

FRANK ELLIS FROM NASSAU, BAHAMAS: A few of us plan to travel to the home opener against the Raiders on Sept. 19. Though nothing has been definitely defined as yet in the case of entry for those who are not vaccinated, do you think that President Art Rooney II should provide some idea for what the plans are for stadium access to unvaccinated persons who are traveling just so they can plan ahead of time?
ANSWER: The best solution to this is to get vaccinated. Problem solved.

JOHN ZAKUTNY FROM BEAR, DE: I'm hearing lots of rumors that Ben Roethlisberger no longer can throw the long ball. Since I see no evidence of Ben throwing the long ball, I can't discount the rumors. How far can he throw it?
ANSWER: Far enough, trust me.

NICHOLAS PELCHAR FROM PURCELLVILLE, VA: Is the two- running-back set only a short-yardage or goal-line formation, or will the Steelers go with two running backs?
ANSWER: When he was the offensive coordinator at Pitt, Matt Canada used a fullback, and so it's quite possible Derek Watt will see more playing time on offense than he did last season. But it isn't necessary to have a fullback on the field to be able to run the football successfully. There are no rules against lining up with three wide receivers and a tight end who's a competent blocker and running the football from that formation. Najee Harris rushed for 3,843 yards and averaged 6.0 per attempt at Alabama, and I don't remember all of that happening with a fullback on the field.

JEFF SCIALABBA FROM CONWAY, SC: Why do you think Derek Watt was not used very much last year? How do you see him being used this upcoming season? Can he be used at tight end or is he strictly a fullback?
ANSWER: Derek Watt is not a tight end. And as mentioned in a previous answer, Matt Canada has utilized a fullback during a previous stint as an offensive coordinator at Pitt. Rather than guess about what form the Steelers offense will take under his direction, how about we wait and allow it to unfold. Why Randy Fichtner didn't utilize Watt more doesn't really matter at this point because his contract wasn't renewed.

WEST FISHER FROM BRYAN, TX: I asked this question a couple of months ago and did not see a reply. Our offense was not so good on converting short yardage running plays last year and my question was why did we not try using our fullback in those situations? Isn't that kind of their specialty?
ANSWER: This question has been answered many, many times already, and I encourage you and other readers to check for answers to questions and not simply look to see if your version of the question is published. The Steelers' issues with short-yardage situations throughout the 2020 season went deeper than use of a fullback. Too often the offensive line was handled physically, and I believe that was the root of the problem.

AARON BREEZE FROM FRESNO, CA: Under the "Front Office" section of Steelers.com, Arthur J. Rooney II is listed as President, while Arthur J. Rooney Jr. is listed as Vice President. Is this an error? Aren't they the same person? Also, I thought I read somewhere that Kevin Colbert was VP and GM. Can you set me straight on this?
ANSWER: Art Rooney II, the son of Dan Rooney and the grandson of Art Rooney Sr., is the Steelers President. Art Rooney Jr., the son of Art Rooney Sr. and the brother of Dan Rooney, is a team Vice President. Art Rooney Jr. is Art Rooney II's uncle. They are two different people. On Steelers.com, Kevin Colbert is listed as Vice President and General Manager. How is that different from what you read about him being "VP and GM?"

CARLOS ARVIZU FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: Assuming a normal training camp and that fans will be admitted to attend, are professional cameras allowed or do the same restrictions as regular games apply?
ANSWER: Fans are permitted to use still cameras during practice at training camp, but the use of video cameras is prohibited.

JACK WILLIAMS FROM ALBION, PA: Do you have any projections on contracts that could be given to Steelers free agents next year? Such as T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster?
ANSWER: Next year, as in 2022? I do not. And I will not.

MATT POOLE FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: You touched on signing bonuses of rookies in the May 27 Asked and Answered, which made me wonder, does the player who receives the bonus pay state tax on the money to the state they are in when they sign the contract or in Pennsylvania?
ANSWER: What if the player who receives the signing bonus signs the contract in Pennsylvania? Does Pennsylvania collect twice?

DAVE ZIPPARO FROM ROCHELLE, IL: We have two great defensive players on defense, both on rookie deals still. We picked up Minkah Fitzpatrick's fifth-year option already, are we not allowed to also use the fifth-year option on our own No. 1 pick, T.J. Watt? Can you not give two separate first round picks in rookie deals a fifth-year option?
ANSWER: The Steelers already have exercised the fifth-year option on T.J. Watt's contract, which is scheduled to pay him $10.9 million in 2021. The Steelers still are able to negotiate a long-term extension with Watt or Fitzpatrick.

SCOTTE MARTIN FROM LAKESIDE, CA: I am not a big fan of the punter and long snapper positions. Is it really that hard to find a backup guard or center for the long-snapper role, and a kicker who could punt?
ANSWER: I'm certain you would be even less of a fan of the Steelers losing a game because of a botched punt, or a punt that wasn't placed directionally and led to a big return, or of a bad snap that led to a game-winning field goal being missed. To save a little bit of money on a house you were having built, would you be willing to allow the electrician to do the plumbing? How much different could those two jobs be? Why can't one tradesman do both things? And back in the day when backup offensive linemen were long-snappers and punters did the placekicking, a good field goal success rate was just a bit over 50 percent. As a comparison, after a season in which he converted 65 percent of his field goals, Chris Boswell had to fight for his job.

DERRICK WEATHERSPOON FROM DAYTON, OH: Why does any rookie receive a signing bonus when he hasn't played a down in the NFL?
ANSWER: In other professional sports, athletes' contracts are fully guaranteed at the date of signing. In the NFL, the way the league gets guaranteed money into the players' hands without fully guaranteeing the entire contract is the inclusion of a signing bonus.

MICHAEL JOHNSON FROM HOUSTON, TX: When Deshaun Watson becomes tradable, are the Steelers in the mix?
ANSWER: No. There won't be any salary cap space left after they trade for Julio Jones.

BROOKS LAVER FROM HARRISONBURG, VA: So, Julio Jones. Do you think the Steelers should make a run at him?
ANSWER: No. There won't be any salary cap space left after they trade for Deshaun Watson.

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