Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: June 16

Let's get to it:

KEVIN W. MCCARTHY FROM WINTER PARK, FL: Who do list as the top five (or more) NFL quarterbacks born in the Greater Pittsburgh area?
ANSWER: There are six quarterbacks from Western Pennsylvania who are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In alphabetical order, those six include George Blanda from Youngwood, Pa.; Jim Kelly from East Brady, Pa; Dan Marino from Pittsburgh; Joe Montana from New Eagle, Pa; Joe Namath from Beaver Falls, Pa; and John Unitas from Pittsburgh. Those are the top six because being enshrined in the Hall of Fame is a simple way of separating them from all of the others. As far as ranking those six, I would go with this order: Unitas, Montana, Marino, Kelly, Blanda, and Namath.

GARY SCOTTON FROM CUYAHOGA FALLS, OH: I was recently watching a repeat of Super Bowl IX and was amazed that during the playoff run how few yards rushing the Steelers defense allowed. This was during a period of time when teams ran first to establish the pass. I was wondering if you know this stat for the other Super Bowl winning teams that supposedly had "the best defense" ever? In particular the Ravens or Bears teams that everyone likes to tout as the best of all time.
ANSWER: Over the three games of the 1974 postseason, the Steelers defense allowed an average of 48.7 rushing yards per game, an average of 2.3 yards per carry, and zero rushing touchdowns. In those three games, Buffalo rushed for 100 yards on 21 carries, with most of that coming from fullback Jim Braxton, because O.J. Simpson was held to 49 yards on 15 carries; Oakland finished with 29 yards on 21 carries; and Minnesota managed 17 yards on 21 carries. The Steelers allowed 33 total points in the three games, but only three offensive touchdowns, two of which were scored by the Bills in a 32-14 final.

By comparison, the 1985 Bears allowed only 10 points in three playoff games, with consecutive shutouts over the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams, and then allowing New England just 10 points in the Super Bowl. The Bears defense allowed 125 rushing yards on 51 attempts during the postseason, which worked out to an average of 41.7 yards per game and 2.5 yards per carry. The 2000 Baltimore Ravens needed four games to win their first Super Bowl, and that defense allowed 23 points in four games, but only one offensive touchdown. Denver, Tennessee, Oakland, and the New York Giants combined to average 64.5 rushing yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry.

DAVID ANDERSON FROM IDAHO FALLS, ID: Any word on the progress of getting Bud Dupree into a long-term contract?
ANSWER: The Steelers never have been a team to leak "progress" of negotiations, and so there's nothing unusual about there being radio silence on this issue. But this is an unusual offseason throughout the NFL when it comes to signings, both of draft picks and veterans to contract extensions. My impression about this is that the continuing unknowns associated with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted the speed with which teams have gone about this type of business. I have no concerns whatsoever about teams getting their draft picks signed before the start of training camp, whenever that might be, but in particular with the Steelers, I believe the first veteran to get a new/extended contract will be Cam Heyward.

GLAUCIO CAFALCHIO FROM TAUBATÉ, BRAZIL: Looking forward to the 2020 season, this Steelers team looks very promising, however, a couple of players to improve the depth of inside linebacker and maybe of the defensive line would be welcomed. If there were some quality players available at those positions, how much money do you think Steelers will be comfortable to spend to make a significant improvement of the roster?
ANSWER: The Steelers are finished with free agency, and they have been for months.

ENRIQUE GOMEZ FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: How do you think the Hall of Fame Game will affect the Steelers and Cowboys this year, considering that the entire offseason program has been virtual? Will it be beneficial, because the teams are getting extra time to take a look at their players, or just extra work for everyone?
ANSWER: Not meaning to dodge the question, but as of this moment, I'm not even sure there will be a Hall of Fame Game played this offseason. There have been reports that the NFL and the NFLPA have had discussions recently about reducing the number of preseason games this offseason. This is another issue to be placed in the category of wait-and-see.

DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: I grew up in Carlisle, Pa., and went to football camp at Dickinson College where the Redskins would hold training camp. I seem to remember the Steelers having either a joint practice or scrimmage against the Redskins. Do you have any info on this?
ANSWER: Because of the relationship Chuck Noll had with Joe Gibbs, the Steelers and Redskins scheduled some joint practices, first at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., and then also at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. There are two interesting stories I recall from the visits to Dickinson:

The first involved Carlton Haselrig, who was a 12th-round draft pick of the Steelers in 1989. What was unique about Haselrig was that he didn't play college football, but instead was a six-time NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion from the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown. Haselrig was a six-time NCAA champion because in those days the NCAA Division II champion in each weight class automatically got a spot in the NCAA Division I tournament. Haselrig won three straight Division II heavyweight championships and then followed that up each year by winning the Division I heavyweight title as well. During an interview, Haselrig told me that there were only two people on the Pitt-Johnstown wrestling team: him and a guy who wrestled in the 125-pound weight class. Because a heavyweight couldn't get anything out of practicing against a teammate who weighed 125, Haselrig said he would put that guy on his back and run stadium steps for a workout.

Anyway, during Haselrig's first couple of seasons with the Steelers, he was tried as a nose tackle, and because he had not played football since high school he was a work in progress. But still there were times when it was obvious he was a world-class athlete and also someone who could handle himself physically in all situations. During one-on-one drills against the Redskins, one of their offensive linemen was getting the better of Haselrig, who was struggling with the proper techniques and becoming more frustrated with each repetition. After one repetition, the Redskins player and Haselrig got into a scuffle that was ended quickly and violently when Haselrig got his hands on the guy, flipped him onto his back and planted him into the grass. All of the players who were gathered around learned a valuable lesson that day: don't mess with Carlton Haselrig. Noll quickly assessed Haselrig's skill-set and decided his best position would be on the offensive line, and so he moved Haselrig to guard. By 1991, Haselrig was a full-time starter at guard, and in 1992 he was voted to the Pro Bowl.

The other anecdote relates to the Steelers' first trip to Carlisle. At the end of the day's practices, the Redskins and Steelers held a scrimmage under the lights on campus, and it was to be televised back to Washington, D.C. The Redskins were already on the field in game uniforms when the Steelers buses arrived at the site of the scrimmage. Under Noll, Steelers players didn't have numbers on the jerseys they wore during training camp, and Noll had no interest in modifying his routine for the benefit of the Redskins' telecast. As the Steelers got off the buses in practice uniforms with no numbers on the jerseys, veteran receiver Weegie Thompson cracked, "Look at this. It's the Washington Redskins vs. Joe's Bar & Grill."

JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: When researching Joe Greene, it lists he wore jersey Nos. 72 and 75. When did Joe Greene wear No. 72?
ANSWER: Ken Kortas was a starting defensive tackle for the Steelers from 1965-68, and in each of those seasons he wore No. 75. As a returning veteran, he began 1969 as the "owner" of No. 75, and so rookie Joe Greene had to select a different jersey number, which became No. 72. Over the course of the 1969 training camp/preseason, Kortas lost his job as a starting defensive lineman, then he lost his roster spot, and then ultimately he lost No. 75, all to the same rookie from North Texas State.

FRANCIS SANTILO FROM COW COUNTRY, FL: Two words: Cam Newton.
ANSWER: I'll see your two words and raise you four: Not. Going. To. Happen.

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