Let’s get to it:
SCOTT MUELLER FROM BUXTON, NC: Who is the greatest left tackle in Steelers history?
ANSWER: Even though the franchise is very well-represented in Canton – only the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers have more primary people enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – the only offensive linemen among the Steelers’ contingent are centers Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson. Even when it comes to being voted to the Pro Bowl, the Steelers have been represented in that game by three left tackles in franchise history – Charley Bradshaw was voted to two, Marvel Smith was voted to one, and Al Villanueva was voted to two. But my answer to this question would be Jon Kolb, a player never even voted to a single Pro Bowl.
A third-round pick in the same 1969 NFL Draft that brought Joe Greene to the Steelers in the first round, Kolb played 13 seasons for the team, all at left tackle. He appeared in 177 regular season games, with 138 starts, and he also started 16 playoff games during which the Steelers compiled a 12-4 record and won four Super Bowls. In those Super Bowls, Kolb was assigned Vikings defense end Jim Marshall, Cowboys defensive end Harvey Martin twice, and Rams defensive end Fred Dryer. . Against the Vikings, the Steelers rushed for 249 yards and averaged 4.4 per attempt; in Super Bowl XIII against the famous Cowboys pass rush, Terry Bradshaw passed for 318 yards and four touchdowns; and in Super Bowl XIV against the Rams, Bradshaw passed for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
Recognition is nice, but results are most important, and Kolb played a critical position on a team that won a lot of games and four championships, first by employing a run-first offense that won two of those four, and then morphing into a prolific passing attack to win two more.
JOE WILSON FROM JACKSON, MS: With all the players the Steelers brought in do you think there’s enough depth at the tight end, outside linebacker, tight end, and safety positions? Should they bring in a veteran?
ANSWER: The Steelers believe they have enough depth at those positions as they exit the offseason program and get set to open training camp, and how things shake out once they get to Saint Vincent College is to be determined. But I have made this point before, and I’ll make it one final time: There is no cap room, nor is there any interest in adding the kind of veteran free agent most fans are referring to when they pose these kinds of questions.
GENARO VAN DER MAAL FROM EAGLE PASS, TX: Do Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph practice with the first offense before and during the season in case they need to step in for Ben Roethlisberger?
ANSWER: Periodically during training camp, and typically on Wednesdays during the regular season, Ben Roethlisberger is given a day off with the dual purpose of resting his arm/elbow and allowing Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph the opportunity for additional on-field repetitions.
The value of keeping Roethlisberger fresh over the long grind of an NFL season shouldn’t have to be explained to anyone, but apparently there are still some fans who need to be reminded that flesh and bone isn’t an indestructible combination. Should something happen to a team’s starting quarterback, it’s important that the backup has had time in practice, and it’s also important that the backup has had time in practice with the people with whom he’s going to have to be on the field executing the offense.
DUTTA SANTANU FROM CHARLOTTE, NC: When a head coach is fired in the NFL, is the decision made by the owner, by the general manager, or by both?
ANSWER: Different teams choose to operate in different ways. With some teams, the general manager has the authority to hire and fire the head coach. On other teams, such a decision would be the owner’s.
ROY PERRIN FROM FUQUAY VARINA, NC: NFL rules state that a person must be three years removed from high school to be eligible for the NFL, but nowhere does it stipulate that they must have gone to college. Have there been any Steelers players who didn't go to college?
ANSWER: I can’t speak for the 1930s, 1940s, and the 1950s, but since then there has been one Steelers player who didn’t attend college. Defensive end Ray Seals was signed as an unrestricted free agent in 1994 after breaking into the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 29 games as a 3-4 defensive end for the Steelers, Seals had 15.5 sacks.
BUDDY POWELL FROM FT. MYERS, FL: What newcomer other than Devin Bush has caught your eye during OTAs? I know it is way early, but I would like some insight.
ANSWER: Padless practices, a.k.a., football in shorts, makes it difficult to evaluate certain positions because removing the physical aspect casts a totally different light on the demands of the individuals playing those positions. As an example, offensive line. I would have nothing to say about how an offensive lineman is progressing if all that was available to base it upon were padless practices. With that in mind, here are two guys who have caught my eye to some degree: veteran wide receiver Donte Moncrief and first-year defensive back Kameron Kelly. Moncrief was signed as an unrestricted free agent; Kelly entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2018 and then after being waived by Dallas he played in the AAF with the San Diego Fleet before that league folded.
CHRISTOPHER MEHNO FROM PRINCETON JUNCTION, NJ: What is the typical salary for being on the Steelers practice squad?
ANSWER: The minimum salary for a player on an NFL practice squad in 2019 is $8,000 per week, which means if that individual is on the practice squad for the full season, he would earn 17 checks for a total of $136,000. That’s the minimum salary, and teams are allowed to pay members of their practice squad more than that if they choose, but it should be understood that the total amount spent on the practice squad must fit under the team’s salary cap.