Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: June 20

Let's get to it:

GREG SCHINDLER FROM AKRON, OH: Do you think Ben Roethlisberger or Santonio Holmes deserved to be the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII? And what did Holmes do that we traded him away?
ANSWER: With all due respect to the great catch that Santonio Holmes made for the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII and the fine performance he turned in overall – 9 catches for 131 yards (14.6 average) and the 6-yard touchdown, I firmly believe that if either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning had directed that final drive and turned in the kind of performance Ben Roethlisberger did that day, there is no way the media voting on the MVP Award would have given it to a wide receiver. On that decisive drive in the final 2 minutes of the game, Roethlisberger completed 5-of-7 for 84 yards and the winning touchdown, and he also scrambled for a 4-yard gain. His statistics for the game were 21-of-30 (70 percent) for 256 yards, with 1 touchdown, 1 interception, and a rating of 93.2. As for the reasons Holmes was traded, back in those days there was an issue with positive tests for marijuana that led to an in-season suspension.

Today, Holmes is heavily involved in his foundation (III & Long Foundation). According to its website, "Founded by Santonio Holmes in the fall of 2011, the mission of the III & Long Foundation is to raise awareness to help fight Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) and provide financial support and treatment options for families affected by the disease. Santonio Holmes recognized the great need to advocate for SCD when his own son, Santonio 'TJ' Holmes III, began to suffer from symptoms of the disease at an early age. A blood test revealed that TJ had inherited the blood disorder and would need to combat the disease through constant hospital visits and medical treatment. Experiencing first-hand the medical, financial and emotional difficulties that families fighting SCD face, the NFL star built the III & Long Foundation in honor of his son, to educate families and help them navigate these challenges. The III & Long Foundation works in partnership with local SCD organizations to provide grants that enable families to receive proper treatment and education. The foundation is dedicated to building awareness about the disease through programs, merchandise, and fundraising events. These endeavors support families and raise funding for research on SCD."

NATE GEISLER FROM BOISE, ID: I remember my Dad telling me that former 49ers tight end Brent Jones was drafted by the Steelers but never played for the team. Do you know why he never played, or what happened with him and the Steelers organization?
ANSWER: The Steelers selected tight end Brent Jones from Santa Clara University in the fifth round (135th overall) of the 1986 NFL Draft, and less than two weeks later he was involved in a car accident caused by a drunk driver and sustained a herniated disc in his neck. The Steelers kept him on the roster into the start of that regular season and then waived him. He joined the San Francisco 49ers for training camp in 1987 and blossomed in 1989. Jones finished his NFL career with 417 catches for 5,195 yards (112.5 average) and 33 touchdowns.

JOE CARUSONE FROM CAVE CREEK, AZ: Now that there's a break before Latrobe, are the players on their own? Or can they stay and continue going to the practice facility and get their workouts in?
ANSWER: While there is no prohibition on players remaining in Pittsburgh and using the facilities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, the reality is that not a lot of them live in the area to be able to make that convenient for them. Plus, there are a number of specialized "camps" held during this down time that players can attend to hone their individual and/or positional skills. As Brian Batko reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, tight end Pat Freiermuth will attend "Tight End University" as one example. Wrote Batko, "'Tight End University,' is the catchy name for a camp spearheaded by former NFL star Greg Olsen and a couple of current ones, Travis Kelce and George Kittle. It's essentially a three-day convention for the game's best tight ends, and Tuesday through Thursday will be Year 3 of the program in Nashville."

BRIAN GREGORY FROM MARTINSBURG, WV: I was watching Bryant McFadden and Pat Peterson interview Troy Polamalu on their podcast, and it was brought up that Coach Mike Tomlin did 2-a-days at training camp during his first year as the Steelers coach. Nothing against Coach Tomlin, but I seem to remember the team looked worn out by the time they played the Jaguars in the playoffs. Am I completely off the mark?
ANSWER: Back in that era – before the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement that legislated against 2-a-day padded practices during training camp – NFL coaches typically operated under such a schedule during the early portions of training camp each summer. But my memories of that 2007 training camp was that it was an intense one, and at the time there was speculation that Coach Mike Tomlin was trying to set a tone as a first-year coach, which is what both Chuck Noll did in 1969 and what Bill Cowher did in 1992. The Steelers started out that season by going 7-2 and then lost 3 of their final 4 games of the regular season on the road to winning the AFC North Division, and they did lose to Jacksonville, 31-29, in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. Certainly, a case can be made based on those results that the team wore down over the course of the season.

ERIC HUTTINGER FROM BEAVERCREEK, OH: Carnell Lake was one of my all-time favorite Steelers. I was recalling a game I attended in Cincinnati, it would have been in 1995 when Carnell played cornerback after Rod Woodson tore an ACL in the regular season opener. I remember Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake hitting wide receiver Carl Pickens for an apparent 80-yard touchdown, except Carnell caught him at the 1-yard line, popped the ball out, and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. Am I remembering this correctly?
ANSWER: The details of that particular game and of Carnell Lake's career tell a different story. Lake's longest fumble return for a touchdown came in a 1996 game against Jacksonville at Three Rivers Stadium. In the third quarter, on a play that started as a third-and-2 at the Pittsburgh 7-yard line, Lake sacked Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell, scooped up the ball at the 15-yard line and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown in what ended up as a 28-3 Steelers victory. That was the longest fumble return of his career. In the 1995 game in Cincinnati, a 49-31 Steelers victory, Lake finished with three tackles, no interceptions, and no fumble recoveries.

ALEX HATCHWELL FROM ALDERGROVE, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA: How do I gain access to previous editions of Asked and Answered?
ANSWER: Go to, and there is a nav-bar across the top of the homepage. Click on "News," and then click on "Asked and Answered." The archived installments then will appear. Enjoy.

STEVE BURGESS FROM TALLAHASSEE, FL: Who did the Steelers keep when they waived Johnny Unitas and Len Dawson? Or did they trade them? Do you think keeping either one of these guys might have helped the team?
ANSWER: By now everyone knows the Steelers entered the NFL for the 1933 season and didn't win as much as a Division Championship or a playoff game until 1972, but they had a chance to drastically change the fortunes of the franchise during a three-season span in the middle-1950s if they only had a vague idea of what they were doing. In 1955, the Steelers spent a ninth-round draft choice (102nd overall) on a University of Louisville quarterback named John Unitas, but Coach Walt Kiesling cut him without ever giving him a chance either during training camp or in any of the exhibition games. Instead, Kiesling kept Jim Finks as the starting quarterback, Ted Marchibroda as the No. 2 quarterback, and he used a third roster spot on a quarterback from Missouri named Vic Eaton, whose value to the team that season was as a punter and a backup safety. The 1955 Steelers finished 4-8, the 1956 Steelers finished 5-7, and Art Rooney Sr. fired Kiesling and replaced him with Buddy Parker, who had won back-to-back NFL Championships in 1952-53 as the coach of the Detroit Lions. In Parker's inaugural season with the Steelers, the team spent the fifth overall pick of the 1957 NFL Draft on Purdue quarterback Len Dawson. The player picked sixth overall in the 1957 NFL Draft was a Syracuse fullback named Jim Brown. Before their careers were over, Unitas was a three-time NFL MVP, and Brown was a three-time NFL MVP, and the Steelers cut one of them and bypassed a chance to draft the other. I'll leave it to you to decide whether a Steelers team with Unitas at quarterback and Brown at fullback might have had a significant impact on the course of franchise history.

JOHN GRACE FROM BRIAN, OH: I get a kick out of episodes of "A Football Life," the biographical series that airs on NFL Network. I've noticed that little and sometimes none of the content includes current interviews with the player or coach being profiled. A segment on Jack Lambert in that series would certainly be popular. I realize he stays away from publicity but wondered if the NFL has contemplated producing an episode on him using existing footage?
ANSWER: I have watched a number of episodes of "A Football Life," and my experience is that the episodes done on living players or coaches all contain content based on interviews or other cooperation with the subject of the story. My impression is that if Jack Lambert had any interest in cooperating with the production of "A Football Life" based on his life in the sport, it would have been done years ago.

CHRISTOPHER WINKLER FROM FRANKLIN, PA: For the last five years the Steelers have seemed to be treading water in their attempts to address the inside linebacker position. Since then they have signed as free agents or traded for Jon Bostic, Mark Barron, Avery Williamson, Joe Schobert, and Myles Jack. This past offseason, after releasing Jack and electing to not resign Devin Bush (understandably), they doubled down with the signings of Elandon Roberts and Cole Holcomb. Mark Robinson, while intriguing, remains an unknown. I know you don't have a crystal ball, but is there any reason Steelers fans should believe this year will be any different?
ANSWER: You are absolutely right about one thing: I do not have a crystal ball. My suggestion would be that rather than deciding in mid-June whether to be optimistic or pessimistic about the state of the Steelers inside linebacker position, it would make much more sense to wait until things unfold at training camp and during the preseason to come down on one side or the other of that issue. Inside linebacker – and every other position on a football team – is played in pads and in competition with other positions also manned by players in pads. There has been none of that so far in 2023.

CARLOS ARVIZU FROM CDMX, MÉXICO: Other than T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, and Quincy Roche, who are the outside linebackers currently on the roster?
ANSWER: Veteran Markus Golden and fourth-round rookie Nick Herbig will enter training camp as the primary candidates at outside linebacker in addition to the three you mentioned.

ETHAN BARSTOW FROM OKLAHOMA CITY, OK: I remember being 15 years old in 1981 and convinced that the worst kicker in the history of the game was David Trout, who lasted one miserable year. My recollection is that it was "all his fault" for every loss. Has there been a statistically worse kicker who played an entire season? And was there absolutely no one else the Steelers could have brought in that year?
ANSWER: Let's begin with how David Trout came to be the Steelers placekicker in the first place. Rookie Matt Bahr replaced 31-year-old Roy Gerela for the 1979 season, and during a season that ended with the Steelers winning Super Bowl XIV he converted 18-of-30 field goals for a 60 percent success rate. Bahr improved slightly for the 1980 regular season when he converted 19-of-29 field goals for a 67.9 percent success rate, but he would lose the job during the 1981 preseason when Trout, a rookie free agent who played his college football at Pitt, caught the eye of Coach Chuck Noll with his ability to drive his kickoffs out of the end zone for touchbacks, which forced opposing offenses to start at the 20-yard line. It could be argued that Noll's decision was a bit hasty, because Bahr continued as an NFL placekicker through the 1995 season, and away from the Steelers he would convert 73.7 percent of his field goals over the rest of his career.

This brings us to Trout's 1981 season and your childhood memories of those losses being "all his fault." The 1981 Steelers finished 8-8, and six of those 8 losses came by 7 points or less, but in four of those six losses, Trout did not miss any kicks. He did miss two extra points in a 37-33 loss to Kansas City, and he missed field goals of 49 and 22 yards in a 24-21 loss in Seattle. Overall, Trout converted 12-of-17 field goals on the season for a 70.6 percent success rate, and 38-of-46 PATs for an 82.6 percent success rate. Below the line to be sure, but even those numbers place him far away, in my opinion, from being the worst placekicker in Steelers history. Keeping this discussion in the modern era of Steelers football, in 1969 Gene Mingo converted 12-of-26 field goals for a 46.2 percent success rate, and in his 24 games as the Steelers placekicker (Noll replaced Mingo with Allan Watson after 10 games in 1970), Mingo was 17-of-44 (38.6 percent) on his field goal attempts. For the 1982 season, the Steelers picked up Gary Anderson off waivers after he was cut by Buffalo on the eve of the regular season.