Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: June 30

Let's get to it:

Given the youth movement on this current roster, do you feel we have the veterans in place on defense to lead the youngsters through a long playoff run? We know the season is long and adversity is a sure thing in the NFL.

ANSWER: The "next man up" mind-set has been ingrained by Coach Mike Tomlin since his arrival in 2007 and so that now is self-perpetuating, with the 2015 season serving as the freshest example to the players. In terms of specific defensive personnel, I would point to William Gay and Cam Heyward as the two alphas in the room. To be sure, there is a pecking order within each position group, and there are other guys in those rooms who can be counted upon to reinforce the coaching staff's message and serve as examples of being a professional. There are plenty of leaders. What the unit is going to need are more sacks and takeaways.

First-time questioner, 38.8th time reader (phone died. Tragic.) My question: if you could take any defensive player and any offensive player from any team(s) in the rest of the league for the Steelers right now, who would they be?

ANSWER: The temptation might be to say to add an offensive superstar to the mix, such as Todd Gurley to a backfield already containing Le'Veon Bell and Le'Veon Bell, or a receiver such as Julio Jones or A.J. Green or Brandon Marshall to pair with Antonio Brown. But all-star teams don't win championships in football. Remember when the Eagles believed they had assembled the "dream team" in 2011 only to finish 8-8? What about the 2000 Redskins, when Daniel Snyder tried to assemble a fantasy football team, and it also finished 8-8?

So, rather than mess with the chemistry and the selflessness the Steelers have created in this locker room, for offense, all I want is for everybody to stay healthy all season. Everybody. All of the starters and all of the backups, and I'll take my chances with that group. On defense, give me the 2008 version of James Harrison – 16 sacks and 34 pressures – to go along with the rest of the existing personnel, and I would be willing to play anybody anywhere. Even the mighty Arizona Cardinals.

Why was Bruce Arians let go?

ANSWER: I have no first-hand knowledge of all of the details involved, but in the five seasons Bruce Arians was the Steelers' offensive coordinator, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 215 times in 73 games (2.95 sacks per game), and that doesn't even begin to tell the story of how many times he was exposed to hits. At one point during that time, Steelers President Art Rooney II said publicly that a priority had to be reducing the amount of punishment Roethlisberger was taking. Nothing changed, and so Arians' contract was not renewed when it expired after the 2011 season. Todd Haley was hired in 2012, and since then Roethlisberger has been sacked 106 times in 57 games (1.86 sacks per game), which is a significant reduction.

It doesn't seem like Todd Haley gets much credit for stabilizing the offense and making it one of the best in the league. Additionally, he has helped to keep Ben Roethlisberger healthy and quite possibly extend his career. Why do think that is?

ANSWER: I have mentioned often the reduction in the number of times Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked and hit since Todd Haley became the coordinator in 2012, and as you can see by the above answer I will continue to do so. The job of NFL offensive coordinator largely is a thankless one, because just about every person watching every NFL game – either in person or on television – has an opinion on just about every single play-call. I like what the Steelers offense has become under Haley, but it can be more efficient in the red zone, especially with the personnel on hand. See? That's a typical compliment for an offensive coordinator: not bad, but could be better.

If Markus Wheaton has a breakout season and Sammie Coates shows some promise, do you think the Steelers will keep Martavis Bryant even if he can stay clean? I'm a huge Clemson and Steelers fan, and I want to think Bryant can get his life in order. But do you think the Steelers will put up with him?

ANSWER: If Martavis Bryant gets his life in order and fails no more drug tests, there is no question the Steelers will welcome him back.

I read an article that Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has a "no trade" clause in his contract. Is this a common thing in the NFL? Is there now or has there every been a Steelers player who has had this clause in his contract?

ANSWER: No. And definitely no.

Do you think the point of adding Ryan Harris was simply to add depth for the offensive line, or is the coaching staff hoping to have him replace Alejandro Villanueva at left tackle? I don't see him taking the spot at right tackle as Marcus Gilbert has held that spot since 2012.

ANSWER: Why in the wide, wide world of sports would the coaching staff hope Ryan Harris replaces Alejandro Villanueva? Harris is a veteran NFL offensive tackle with starting experience, and with starting experience on a team that completed a particular season with a Super Bowl championship. Signing him – and to a reasonable free-agent contract, by the way – adds depth and provides competition, which is an essential element to continued improvement. The Steelers got lucky at the end of the 2015 season when they were able to get by with only three offensive tackles on their roster: Al Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert, plus the midseason addition of journeyman Byron Stingily. They were lucky Stingily didn't have to play, and even luckier guard Chris Hubbard didn't have to be an emergency in-game replacement at the position. Every NFL teams needs more than two offensive tackles.

Historically the Steelers defense has been at its best when it had a nasty streak. In my opinion, the pass defense would be a lot better with a great pass rush that strikes fear in a quarterback. Do you see any of the young guys stepping into that roll on a consistent bases?

ANSWER: The Steelers are still a physical football team, but the NFL has legislated most of the intimidating hits out of the game. That's just the way it is now.

The Steelers have soon-to-be seven Lombardi trophies. Which teams have multiple championships in the pre-Super Bowl era?

ANSWER: Actually, I believe the range of the question needs to be changed from pre-Super Bowl era to pre-merger, because there was a four-year span of the Super Bowl era where there was an NFL Champion crowned. That team then advanced to the Super Bowl to face the AFL Champion.

Anyway, pre-merger, which happened in 1970: The Packers won 11 championships; the Decatur Staleys/Chicago Bears won 8; the New York Giants won 4; the Portsmouth/Detroit Lions won 4; the Cleveland Browns won 4; the Philadelphia Eagles and the Baltimore Colts won three apiece; and the Canton Bulldogs, Chicago Cardinals, Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams, and the Boston Braves/Washington Redskins won two apiece.

When traveling to away games, what cities, other than Cleveland, do the Steelers travel by bus instead of by air?


Is it wishful thinking to expect both Artie Burns and Sean Davis to earn starting spots in camp this offseason?


I am going to training camp this year with my Dad and Granddad. Will the players sign helmets? And what is the best day for past players to maybe attend? Especially Heath Miller, Troy Polamalu, or Brett Keisel.

ANSWER: Players sign autographs every day at training camp, but just so you understand ahead of time, not every player signs every day. And they sign everything, including helmets. Having gone through the rigors of training camp for so much of their adult lives, former players don't just pop out to Saint Vincent College for a summer afternoon of watching football practice. That's fun for fans, but not for the guys who do all of the hitting and sweating, even for the guys who used to do all of the hitting and sweating.

How many questions do you generally receive between each edition of Asked and Answered? Do you go through them yourself, or do you have a dungeon full of unpaid interns doing the hard work?

ANSWER: The number of questions varies, as does the number of legitimate questions compared to the foolishness. And I sort through the questions myself, because forcing the interns down in the dungeon to do it has been classified as cruel and unusual punishment.

I hope to God this ain't true, but did we just sign the player formally known as Johnny Football?

ANSWER: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a wrap.

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