Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: June 25

With the offseason program having concluded, and the NFL now on something of a five-week break until training camps begin to open, Asked and Answered also will take a brief hiatus. The next installment of Asked and Answered will appear on Steelers.com on Tuesday, July 21.

With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let's get to it:

RODNEY LAMBERT FROM RALEIGH, N.C.:
During Le'Veon Bell's suspension, does he count against the 53-man roster?

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The top photos of RB Le'Veon Bell who was voted as the Steelers'2014 MVP by his teammates.

Suspended players do not count against a team's 53-man roster limit during the course of their suspension.**

KRIS FOUTCH FROM CHARLOTTE, N.C.:
So glad you started Asked and Answered and hope it continues. For players like James Harrison who were cut, what does it take from the coaches to be able to tap into what seems like this hidden, overlooked talent that some of these unsung guys have?

The difference could be as simple as opportunity. And I mean real opportunity, not lip-service opportunity. The Steelers long have believed in giving every prospect a real opportunity to make the team and then contribute. And when Chuck Noll implemented that philosophy when he was hired in 1969 it likely was because the team was so bereft of talent. But when guys who were late-round picks, such as L.C. Greenwood, Mike Wagner, and Ernie Holmes, or undrafted rookies, such as Donnie Shell, made the team and then because integral parts of Super Bowl winning teams, the idea of equal opportunity for all incoming players became ingrained. That has continued to the present day, and if coaches are looking for reasons to like a player instead of reasons to cut a player then these kinds of success stories can become more common.

DAVID RUDIN FROM COLORADO SPRINGS, CO:
Love this format. What do you think are the top storylines at training camp this year?

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What I'll be watching is the development of these four defensive players: Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier, Shamarko Thomas, and Cortez Allen. Believing that several rookies are going to come in and make an immediate impact on this defense is delusional, and so it's going to be those guys I just mentioned who can turn the unit into one capable of contributing to a team contending for a championship. If Jones, Shazier, Thomas, and Allen can approach the level the Steelers believe they're all capable of reaching, this defense is going to be a whole lot better than many suspect. Then if the offense continues to progress as it did throughout 2014, Steelers fans could be in for a special season. In my opinion.**

GARY WHITAKER FROM CONCORD, N.C.:
With all the talk about franchises moving to Los Angeles and with ownership issues in some other places, do you ever see a future without the Rooney family holding majority ownership of the Steelers? And are there any next-generation Rooneys interested in the business?

Never is a long time, but not in my lifetime could I see the Rooneys not operating the Pittsburgh Steelers. And Dan Rooney, Team President Art Rooney II's son, currently works in the Steelers personnel department.

MATT BUTLER FROM HUNTSVILLE, AL:
In a previous Asked and Answered, you stated a belief that the 1975 Steelers team was the best in franchise history. I was just a kid back then, but my father always said to me the 1978 Steelers team was possibly the best team in the history of the NFL, despite the fact they didn't win the Super Bowl. I remember the 1978 team was destroyed by injuries during the playoffs.

You are confusing 1978 with 1976. The 1976 Steelers were the two-time defending champions, but they started the season 1-4 and had just lost starting quarterback Terry Bradshaw to a neck injury that would sideline him for the next six weeks. At which point radio analyst Myron Cope said on the air that if they came back to make the playoffs he would swim across the Monongahela River in February. Bolstered by a running attack that featured a pair of backs – Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier – would both would finish that 14-game season with over 1,000 yards, plus a defense that allowed just 28 total points in the final nine games, including five shutouts, the Steelers finished 10-4 and won the AFC Central Division based on a head-to-head sweep of the 10-4 Cincinnati Bengals.

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Photos of Super Bowl X. The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 to capture the team's second Super Bowl victory in Miami's Orange Bowl.

In hammering the Baltimore Colts, 40-14, in the Divisional Round, the Steelers lost both Harris and Bleier to injuries. When they were unable to play against the Raider in Oakland the next week, the Steelers lost the AFC Championship Game, 24-7. In February 1977, by the way, Cope donned a wet suit and swam the width of the Mon River. **

All due respect to your dad – and to Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. who also said he thought that was the best team in franchise history, I don't believe the 1976 group could be the best in this franchise's history because it didn't win the very championship that six other editions managed to win.

Now, my reasons for picking the 1975 team as the best in franchise history: those Steelers finished 12-2 in the AFC Central Division, with two wins over the Bengals and two wins over the Oilers. The Bengals finished that season 11-3 (with two losses to the Steelers) and the Oilers were 10-4 (with two losses to the Steelers) and didn't even make the playoffs. In the AFC playoffs, the mighty Oakland Raiders nipped Cincinnati, 31-28, while the Steelers beat the 11-3 Bengals during the regular season by a combined 65-38. The Steelers bested the 10-4 Oilers by a combined 56-26.

Remember, all of the statistics I'm now going to quote were compiled in a 14-game season, not a 16-game season. The defense had 43 sacks and 49 takeaways, including 27 interceptions. The offense averaged 27 points a game, with 22 rushing touchdowns and a 4.5 per carry average AS A TEAM. Lynn Swann caught 11 touchdown passes; Mel Blount had 11 interceptions and was the Defensive Player of the Year; Franco Harris had 1,246 yards, 11 rushing touchdowns and averaged 4.8 per carry. The Steelers punted 69 times in 14 games and forced opponents to punt 90 times. Their only two losses in the regular season were to O.J. Simpson's Buffalo Bills in Week 2 and then a meaningless regular season finale in Los Angeles to the 12-2 Rams.

In the Divisional Round of the playoffs, against a Baltimore Colts team that ranked No. 12 in the NFL in offensive yards and No. 2 in points scored, the Steelers defense allowed 154 yards, had five sacks and three takeaways in a 28-10 victory. In the AFC Championship Game vs. an Oakland offense that ranked No. 4 in the NFL in yards and No. 4 in points scored, the Steelers had seven takeaways. Then in Super Bowl X, the Steelers sacked Roger Staubach seven times and intercepted three of his passes.

Dominant defense. Dominant running game. Emerging passing attack. Best team in franchise history.

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