Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: June 2

Let's get to it:

STEVEN LINDSEY FROM MATTESON, IL: As the date for the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities gets closer, I was thinking about the Steelers already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. As for linebackers, do you think any team ever fielded a better group of starting linebackers than the early Super Bowl teams that had Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Andy Russell? I can't recall any other team starting two Hall of Fame linebackers at the same time.
ANSWER: I'm not going to claim my research on this issue covers the entire history of the National Football League, but in the Super Bowl era, but off the top of my head the late-1960s Green Bay Packers (Dave Robinson and Ray Nitschke) had two Hall of Fame linebackers starting at the same time, as did the early 1970s Kansas City Chiefs (Willie Lanier and Bobby Bell), as well as the mid-1980s New York Giants (Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson). Since the Giants played a 3-4 defense, they aligned four linebackers at the same time, and so maybe you would disqualify their group from this discussion. I admit to being biased in favor of the Steelers' trio of linebackers, and part of the argument I would make for Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, and Andy Russell being the best threesome would have to do with the way they changed the game in terms of linebackers being excellent in coverage. Ham averaged one-third of a takeaway per game, with 32 interceptions and 21 fumble recoveries during his career; Lambert was very close behind at .31 takeaways per game, with 28 interceptions and 17 fumble recoveries during his career; and Russell, who played much of his career before passing became so prevalent in the NFL, had 18 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries in his career.

GLAUCIO CAFALCHIO FROM TAUBATÉ, BRAZIL: A lot of football fans, myself included, are really unhappy with the quality of the officiating in the NFL. However, it seems that few steps have been taken to improve it. Would it make sense to add a couple more officials on the field to make the job easier? I've attended a referee course, and I know that's not an easy task.
ANSWER: The NFL owners have resisted the idea of adding to the seven officials who currently work games, and this spring the owners did not approve a proposal to add an eighth official who would serve as a "sky judge" from a booth high in the stadium. Personally, I don't believe adding more officials to the crew working a game is the right way to try to fix the problem, because having more officials might lead to more penalties because each guy might want to "contribute" to the game. And I'm of the opinion that games with fewer penalties always are better and more enjoyable for fans than games with a lot of penalties. Adding more officials could be seen as the football version of "too many chefs spoil the soup."

DAVID ZIPPARO FROM ROCHELLE, IL: I've noticed on kick returns, when someone on the return team is called for holding, the team will be penalized by backing up half the distance to the goal, and other times it's just a 10-yard penalty. What's the difference?
ANSWER: This is not just for penalties on returns, but on all penalties. If the penalty requires a 10-yard assessment and the infraction occurred inside the penalized team's 20-yard line, the ball is moved back half-the-distance to the goal line. If the penalty requires a 5-yard assessment and the infraction occurred inside the penalized team's 10-yard line, the ball is moved back half-the-distance to the goal line. This is also the case on penalties committed by the defense. A 10-yard penalty inside the defense's 20-yard line is half-the-distance; and a 5-yard penalty inside the defense's 10-yard line is half-the-distance. That's the rule. The NFL doesn't want a 5-yard penalty against the defense at its 6-yard line to put the ball at the 1-yard line, as an example. Too punitive.

MARIO ZINNA FROM PALM BAY, FL: I agree with Mr. Rooney on the "gimmick" of the fourth-and-15 play in place of an onside kick. My worst nightmare would be a Steelers defensive holding or hands to the face call on that play. Would that be an automatic first down?
ANSWER: It would.

FELIX MCGUIRE FROM PHOENIX, AZ: When will the Steelers jazz up their uniforms like all the other teams?
ANSWER: My fervent hope that the answer to that one is "NEVER!"

JOHN VITIKACS FROM ST. AUGUSTINE, FL: Could James Conner become a good slot receiver in the mold of Hines Ward?
ANSWER: Absolutely, positively no. And just as an addition, that whole notion of Le'Veon Bell being capable of being a wide receiver is also a load of fertilizer. Someone who has held the NFL jobs of wide receivers coach, offensive coordinator, and head coach told me that Bell wasn't fast enough or quick enough to line up as a wide receiver in the NFL because as a wide receiver he would be covered consistently by cornerbacks while as a running back he usually was covered by linebackers or safeties. A running back, no running back, has the speed and short area quickness sufficient to create separation consistently vs. NFL cornerbacks.

RICKY GLENN FROM NILES, OH: Could you see Josh Dobbs being a Steelers quarterback again, whether it's via trade or free agency?
ANSWER: If the Steelers liked Joshua Dobbs as a quarterback and believed in his potential to contribute to the team for seasons moving forward, they wouldn't have traded him for a fifth-round pick.

ROY PERRIN FUQUAY VARINA, NC: Can you tell us what plans are being considered for starting the upcoming season? For example, starting practices, but not allowing the public to attend, etc.
ANSWER: There are still way too many unknowns regarding the re-opening of sports, and things can change in the matter of a day or two. I don't believe it serves any purpose for me to add to the uncertainly by presenting things that would be nothing more than speculation. When there is news, it will be reported on

TOM HOLOWELL FROM CUYAHOGA FALLS, OH: What do you think of Jaylen Samuels' chance to make the team in 2020?
ANSWER: I wouldn't put Jaylen Samuels in the category of a lock to make the 53-man roster, but I also believe he has shown himself to be a player who belongs in the NFL. It's going to be an interesting competition for the spots behind James Conner on the depth chart this summer, and I believe Samuels, Benny Snell, Kerrith Whyte, and rookie Anthony McFarland all have a chance. As often is the case during the training camp/preseason process, the guys who are most able to avoid injuries to stay on the practice field and give themselves a chance to improve will have a decided edge.

DANNY WOLF FROM FREEHOLD, NJ: I was thinking about the upcoming Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions, and with Bill Cowher going in as a coach, did he ever play in the NFL?
ANSWER: In 1980, the Cleveland Browns signed Bill Cowher as an undrafted rookie from North Carolina State, and during his two seasons with the team he primarily played special teams but also started two games at linebacker. Cowher finished his playing career with two seasons in Philadelphia.

HERMAN KANE FROM NEW YORK NY: I have been a fan of the Steelers since the early 1950s. I have a recollection that the Steelers defeated the New York Giants, 63-7, in a game around that time. As the Giants were generally a much stronger team than the Steelers in the 1950s, can you explain the lopsided win by the Steelers?
ANSWER: That 63-7 victory by the Steelers over the New York Giants happened on Dec. 1, 1952 at Forbes Field. For an account of that game, I will reference a story written by Bob Barnett, which was reprinted courtesy of Professional Football Researchers Association:

"You might argue that the Steelers weren't actually that bad back in 1952 despite going into the Giants game with a 3-6 record. They had lost twice to the co-conference leading Cleveland Browns by one point each time, and had lost three other games by a total of 15 points. In fact, they might just as easily have been 8-1 – except they were losers.

"The Steelers were a tough, physical team with a defense led by ends Bill McPeak and George Tarasovic, tackle Ernie Stautner and safety Jack Butler. The offense was led by quarterback Jim Finks, halfbacks Ray Mathews and Lynn Chandnois, fullbacks Ed Modzelewski and Fran Rogel, along with veteran end Elbie Nickel.

"Going into the game with the Steelers, the Giants had a 6-3 record and were in a three-way tie with the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the Eastern Division. Interestingly enough, that weekend's games matched the three top teams in the division vs. the three bottom teams. It was Cleveland vs. Washington, Philadelphia vs. the Chicago Cardinals, and the Steelers vs. the Giants.

"The Giants' defense was loaded, with tackles Al DeRogatis and Arnie Weinmeister, cornerback Em Tunnell, and someone named Tom Landry also was in the secondary. The offense, which had been the team's weak link, featured the NFL's leading ground gainer in fullback Ed Price, plus halfback Kyle Rote and quarterback Charlie Conerly.

"Despite their overall strength as a team, injuries had been a problem for the Giants that season, and Conerly was a questionable starter for the Steelers game with a bruised shoulder. Rookie halfback Frank Gifford remained behind in New York to nurse a leg injury."

Chandnois returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, and he scored another touchdown on a short run to up the Steelers' lead to 14-0. In the second quarter, Finks threw touchdown passes of 21 yards to Nickel and 42 yards to Mathews to make it 28-0 at halftime. Going into the fourth quarter, the Steelers held a 35-7 lead and then added four more touchdowns, including one on a 60-yard pass to Dick Hensley (Finks' fourth of the day) and a blocked punt that was returned for a score.

Back to Barnett: "The 63-7 final score clearly reflected the devastation of the Giants. Not only were the Steelers an offensive machine that day, but the defense also intercepted seven passes, recovered two fumbles, scored on a blocked punt, and crushed the Giants physically. At a press conference on Monday, Giants' coach Steve Owen confessed he would have problems fielding a team for the next game because of injuries inflicted by the Steelers."

SEAN DELANEY FROM UPTON, MA: Two questions: Why do people ask you questions they could easily find on the Internet? And why do you answer them?
ANSWER: Here's a response you won't find on the Internet: If you don't like the questions readers submit, why don't you come up with something better instead of just critiquing the quality of their questions?