Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: June 15

Let's get to it:

CHAD CROSS FROM EDMOND, OK: With our available cap space, assuming we have some left after all the contract signings for the new guys, do you see another splash play, and if so who would you like to see the Steelers acquire.
ANSWER: If there is to be a "splash play" signing, I would imagine it would be an extension for Alex Highsmith. And since you brought up the subject of "splash play" signings, don't believe the rumors circulating about Chase Young and Dalvin Cook. Just trying to inject a bit of reality into today's episode of Asked and Answered.

TOM ONIONS FROM LITTLE RIVER, SC: The Steelers now have three quarterbacks under contract who have started regular season NFL games and won multiple games for the team. Under the new rules, how many quarterbacks do you think the Steelers will have dressed and available for each game going forward?
ANSWER: Assuming there are no injuries, I would expect Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky to be in uniform as the starter and the backup, with Mason Rudolph also in uniform as the emergency quarterback.

MARTY HEICK FROM DECATUR, IL: We are planning a trip through Pittsburgh during the first week in October. Which tour of the stadium would you recommend not associated with tickets to a game?
ANSWER: I don't know your specific schedule, but if you have time for only one tour I would highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to visit the Hall of Honor Museum. Information on booking a tour can be accessed by visiting and scrolling down the homepage until you see the "Take a Field Trip" section. Click on the "Book A Tour" icon and follow the directions. You won't be disappointed.

RAYNE KNIGHT FROM SHERIDAN, WY: Is a deal with Alex Highsmith likely to get done by training camp?
ANSWER: I don't know whether your "by training camp" deadline will be met, but I believe a contract extension for Alex Highsmith is very likely to happen before the team's deadline of halting negotiations before the start of the regular season.

LARRY BARNES FROM SHELBY, OH: I just finished watching Super Bowl XIV and was wondering if you knew why Mike Wagner didn't play?
ANSWER: Mike Wagner, an 11th-round draft choice from Western Illinois in 1971, twice came back from potential career-ending injuries. In 1977 Wagner sustained a neck injury that limited him to just three games that season, but he returned in 1978 to start 14 of the 16 regular season games and all three postseason games when the Steelers finished 14-2 and won Super Bowl XIII. In 1979, Wagner was plagued by hamstring and hip injuries that limited him to 8 regular season games, and he did not play in that postseason that ended with a victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV. Wagner had surgery as a result of those injuries, and played in 15 of the 16 games during the 1980 regular season.

NICHOLAS PELCHAR FROM PURCELLVILLE, VA: As a long-time Steelers fan, I lamented as a young man the Steelers trading Preston Pearson, cutting Bill Ring and Dwaine Board, and not re-signing Mike Vrabel. All players either helped their next teams win a Super Bowl or greatly improved them. Do fans sometimes see things general managers don't?
ANSWER: Allow me to provide some historical context to your childhood memories: Preston Pearson was waived by the Steelers at the start of the 1975 season, and both of the starting running backs at the time – Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier – were better. Bill Ring was an undrafted rookie running back signed by the Steelers in 1980, and while he became a fan favorite after being signed by the San Francisco 49ers, he was a career backup in the NFL who had far less to do with the 49ers Super Bowl wins of the 1980s than Joe Montana, Roger Craig and Ronnie Lott, plus some others. I will concede the Steelers – Chuck Noll specifically – erred in cutting Dwaine Board and keeping a 30-year-old Dwight White instead, but it's worth remembering that White was an original member of the Steel Curtain front four who dragged himself out of a hospital bed and played a great game in the franchise's first Super Bowl victory – a 16-6 win over Minnesota at the end of the 1974 season – and posted 6 total sacks in the playoffs during the Super Bowl winning seasons of 1975 and 1978. In that particular instance, I would give Noll a pass for having a sentimental attachment to a player who was integral to the franchise evolving from a doormat into a dynasty. Of all of the player losses you reference, not re-signing Mike Vrabel after the 2000 season would appear to be the most egregious personnel gaffe, but the Steelers also had Jason Gildon and Joey Porter waiting to step into the starting outside linebacker spots. Starting in 1998, Gildon, a third-round pick, posted sack totals of 11, 8.5, 13.5, 12, and 9; and starting in 2000, Porter, another third-round pick, had 10.5 sacks in 2000; 9 sacks in 2001; and 9 sacks and 4 interceptions in 2002. Vrabel was a good NFL player, certainly, but on those Patriots Super Bowl champions, the key guys were cornerback Ty Law and defensive lineman Richard Seymour, both of whom are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I remember as a child being heartbroken when the Steelers traded Buddy Dial for a guy named Scott Appleton, who never did play for the team, but that didn't lead me to believe I was an NFL-caliber personnel evaluator.

WILLIAM N. HAYES JR. FROM NASHVILLE, TN: Did Jack Lambert have any pick-6s in his career with the Steelers?
ANSWER: While Jack Lambert finished his NFL career with 28 regular season interceptions plus one more in the postseason – it came in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XIV vs. the Los Angeles Rams – he never scored a defensive touchdown.

JEFF ALLAN FROM LAKE FOREST, IL: As much as I like your column and enjoy your replies to those who deserve them, I will take my admiration to a whole new level of respect if you say that you are related to Rich Labriola of Labriola Bakeries and the founder of Stan's Donuts in Chicago. While I eat my donuts and read your column, could you answer for the 100th time who do you think is the best tight end in Steelers history?
ANSWER: I am not aware that Rich Labriola is a relative, but after investigating Stan's Donuts on the internet, I would happily welcome him to the family myself, being that I would classify donuts as being one of life's most important food groups. As for the answer to your question: Heath Miller, HEATH MILLER, HEATH MILLER! Not even close.

JOHN KNOX FROM NASHVILLE, TN: What happens at minicamp that doesn't happen at OTAs?
ANSWER: After the first day of mandatory minicamp (Tuesday, June 13), Coach Mike Tomlin addressed the media, and this is how he described things that would be happening during the on-field work taking place on June 13-14-15: "I thought I would start by saying that the work we're doing out here really is just a continuation of what we've been doing, with a few caveats. It's important that we progress during this developmental journey, and we take another step toward football-like work, which obviously will be awaiting us in training camp. A couple of examples of that were we used the play-clock today. Acknowledging that component of the game, we're at the point in this development collectively where it's time to do that. We also introduced more situational football. We're not just snapping the ball as if it's first-and-10. It's possession down football, it's red zone, it's things of that nature in an effort to increase the learning opportunities and the teaching opportunities. It's football-like, not football, because sometimes I control the drill in an effort to put (players) in circumstances. What I mean by that is during the second set (of two-minute), the guy probably scored when he caught the ball on the 2-yard line, but I called it down to just make the offense work on a short field under those circumstances. I know you want to identify winners and losers … but a lot of these scenarios are controlled by me, because I'm more interested in teaching and learning as opposed to evaluating."