Let's get to it:
LARRY LAFFERTY FROM ATHENS, OH:
You don't look old enough to have seen the whole Steelers period from 1970-2015, but I consider you a historian. So, using that 45-year lens, do you mind taking a shot at the top five Steelers running backs and top five Steelers wide receivers who played during that time? Obviously, I can spot you players in each category, based on the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and so that's why I'm asking for five. Thanks for the great column.
ANSWER: Nice try on the flattery, but I am definitely old enough to have seen the 45-year period from 1970-2015, not all of it as an employee but certainly as someone who grew up in Pittsburgh and followed the city's sports teams religiously. Anyway, here we go – and I'm not going to waste a lot of cyberspace defending my picks, because there really are no definitive right answers:
Top five running backs: Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, Le'Veon Bell, Willie Parker, Rocky Bleier. Barry Foster could have made the list based on talent alone, but he wasn't a good enough teammate during his career here to make this cut.
Top five wide receivers: John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Antonio Brown, Hines Ward, and for the last spot I'm going to go with Louis Lipps over Santonio Holmes and/or Antwaan Randle El.
JOHNNY JOHNSON FROM STAFFORD, TX:
Regarding long-snappers, I find it hard to believe that out of 53 position players no one can long snap. Has a long-snapper ever been drafted?
ANSWER: You have no respect for the precision required to an NFL long-snapper, and I'm not going to be able to instill that in you with words. I am telling you that it's not as easy as you might think, and whatever player you think you're going to be able to keep on the 53-man roster instead of a legitimate NFL long-snapper isn't going to be as valuable to the team – in terms of actually winning games – as the long-snapper. The Steelers drafted a long-snapper in 1992 – Bill Cowher's first season as coach. His name was Kendall Gammons, and he was picked in the 11th round from Pittsburg State. Since he played for 15 NFL seasons, he must have had some value.
ERIC SMITH FROM ORANGE, CT:
I just read the May 31 installment of Asked and Answered where you listed William Gay's 100-yard interception return as your greatest Super Bowl memory. Never mind Super Bowl history, that might be the greatest play in NFL history. Your opinion?
ANSWER: Let me just start out by again recognizing the magnificence of James Harrison's 100-yard interception for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals. For me, that was the game-winning play of Super Bowl XLIII, because without that defensive score, Ben Roethlisberger's pass to Santonio Holmes becomes a meaningless touchdown in garbage time. But for me, Harrison's 100-yard interception return is not even the greatest play in Steelers history. There was a touchdown catch Franco Harris made in a 1972 playoff game against Oakland at Three Rivers Stadium that changed the course of an entire franchise. By the way, the Immaculate Reception in fact was cited by NFL Films as the greatest play in NFL history.
The Steelers participate in Day 5 of the 2016 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
PATRICK DILLON FROM WAUKEGAN, IL:
The reason I am a Steelers fan is because of Ed Brown. I know he came from the Bears, which made me switch loyalties. My question is how did the Steelers acquire him, and what year. I believe it was in 1962 or 1963.
ANSWER: Ed Brown played his college football at the University of San Francisco, and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the sixth round of the 1952 draft. But Brown also was drafted by Uncle Sam and so he first spent two years in the Marine Corps. Brown began his NFL career in 1954 with the Bears as the No. 3 quarterback behind George Blanda and Zeke Bratkowski. In 1955, with Bratkowski in the military, Brown beat out Blanda for the starting job and led the Bears to an 8-4 record and a second-place finish in the Western Conference behind the Los Angeles Rams.
Brown had his finest season in 1956 when he led the league in passing, with 1,667 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. The Bears won the Western Conference and faced New York in the 1956 NFL Championship Game, but the Giants won, 47-7, after intercepting Brown twice and sacking him multiple times for minus-34 yards.
By 1961 Brown was benched in favor of newly acquired Billy Wade, and then before the 1962 season, Brown was traded to Steelers where he began his career in Pittsburgh as a backup to Bobby Layne. When Layne retired after the 1962 season, and Brown got another chance to start. In 1963, Brown passed for 2,982 yards, with 21 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, but he threw three interceptions in a 33-17 loss to the Giants that prevented the Steelers from winning the Eastern Conference title. Brown retired after the 1965 season.
GERARD HAWKINS FROM BATON ROUGE, LA:
What are Jerald Hawkins' chances of getting any playing time?
ANSWER: Based on the identical surnames, and the fact Jerald Hawkins attended high school in Baldwin, Louisiana, and this question came from Baton Rouge, I'm gonna go out on a limb and surmise there is some blood relationship going on here. With that out of the way, I predict Jerald Hawkins' "chances of getting any playing time" at offensive tackle as a rookie being zero unless there are injuries. The Steelers will go to training camp with three offensive tackles who have starting experience in the NFL – Alejandro Villanueva, Ryan Harris, and Marcus Gilbert – and they usually don't keep any more than four offensive tackles on the 53-man roster. Trust me, the coaching staff isn't going to throw a rookie in there "to see what he can do" unless there are no other alternatives.
GLENN ADAMS FROM SHARON, PA:
I followed Temple a bit last year because a friend of mine played for the Owls. I noticed a senior linebacker by the name of Tyler Matakevich, who seemed to be all over the field. What do you think the likelihood of said player getting a significant amount of playing time?
ANSWER: Just go to the answer to the above question, and change the names around a little bit. This is the same situation. Don't be laying those kinds of expectations on Tyler Matakevich. It's not fair to him, and it's rather disrespectful to the proven NFL players on the depth chart ahead of him. At least, that's the way I see it.**
ED CABANA FROM NOTTINGHAM, PA:
In the May 31 edition of Asked and Answered, you revealed that players get paid weekly during the regular season. You did not reveal which day of the week they get paid, so can you please elaborate on this significant concern of sports fans everywhere. Also, do they have the option for direct deposit?
ANSWER: Good job with the sarcasm. And yes, they can sign up for direct deposit, but they still have to meet the balance minimum to qualify for the free toaster.
DAN GUTHRIE FROM DAYTON, OH:
Do you really get a large number of laughable questions, or do you enjoy correcting the idiocy?
JOE MAIN FROM ARLINGTON, VA:
I know I am asking this question really early. This year our top needs in the draft were cornerback, safety, and defensive tackle. What do you see our top need(s) being in the 2017 draft?
ANSWER: And we have a winner.