Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: June 7

Let's get to it:

KEN MAULDIN FROM CLYDE, TX: One Steelers player I appreciate is Diontae Johnson. It just seems like he does not get the respect he deserves for what he does even from our own fans. He runs all those short routes where he takes an absolute beating. With Ben Roethlisberger and our offensive line issues, I felt like he carried us the past two seasons in many ways. I was hoping you could display his stats since his rookie year vs. other Steelers prominent wide receivers during the same time period.
ANSWER: Diontae Johnson was a rookie in 2019, and the team's most productive wide receivers during the period of 2019-21 were him, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Chase Claypool. When it comes to individual statistics, Smith-Schuster's were impacted by him playing only five games in 2021 because of injury, and Claypool didn't join the team until the 2020 season as a second-round draft pick. So, while a statistical comparison of the three is skewed a bit by those factors, here are the numbers:

• Diontae Johnson
2019: 92 targets, 59 catches, 680 yards, 11.5 average, 5 touchdowns, long of 45 yards
2020: 144 targets, 88 catches, 923 yards, 10.5 average, 7 touchdowns, long of 47 yards
2021: 169 targets, 107 catches, 1,161 yards, 10.9 average, 8 touchdowns, long of 50 yards

• JuJu Smith-Schuster
2019: 70 targets, 42 catches, 552 yards, 13.1 average, 3 touchdowns, long of 76 yards
2020: 128 targets, 97 catches, 831 yards, 8.6 average, 9 touchdowns, long of 31 yards
2021: 28 targets, 15 catches, 129 yards, 8.6 average, no touchdowns, long of 34 yards

• Chase Claypool
2020: 109 targets, 62 catches, 873 yards, 14.1 average, 9 touchdowns, long of 84 yards
2021: 105 targets, 59 catches, 860 yards, 14.6 average, 2 touchdowns, long of 59 yards

KEITH RUSSELL from LAKEWOOD, CA: When will the announcement of the inductees into the Hall of Honor take place. My wife and I attended the 2018 ceremony and had a terrific experience. We hope to attend again this year. When will the game be announced when the induction ceremony will take place?
ANSWER: The Hall of Honor Class of 2022 will be revealed on Saturday, July 30, during the time when the Steelers will be at Saint Vincent College for training camp. The induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, Nov. 12, and the halftime recognition ceremony will be the following day – Sunday, Nov. 13 – when the Steelers host the New Orleans Saints.

NICK DONEGAN FROM MODESTO, CA: When will "In the Locker Room" return on Steelers Nation Radio, and what do you think Craig Wolfley will have to say about Najee Harris' "ham hocks?"
ANSWER: "In the Locker Room with Wolf & Starks" will return to Steelers Nation Radio once the Steelers open training camp, and I learned a long time ago never to try to guess what might be coming out of Craig Wolfley's mouth regarding "ham hocks."

NICK MOSES FROM SIMI VALLEY, CA: What options do we have for replacing Stephon Tuitt? I'm not talking about finding his equal, that's not going to happen right now. But I just mean who will likely step into his spot, and what do you think it will mean for the run defense this year?
ANSWER: I don't anticipate the Steelers attempting to dive into what at this time of the NFL calendar is a shallow pool of free agent defensive lineman, instead hoping they can get a level of increased production from some of the players already on their roster at the position. In addition to rookie DeMarvin Leal, the veteran players to whom I am referring are Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, and Montravius Adams. Wormley (6-foot-5, 300 pounds) is a former No. 3 pick of the Ravens who will be 29 in October, Loudermilk (6-7, 293) was the Steelers' fifth round pick in 2021 and will be 25 in October; and Adams (6-4, 304) entered the NFL as a third-round pick of the Packers and will be 27 in July.

JIM ANDERSON FROM TOLEDO, OH: In one of the pictures from the June 1 OTA, I noticed a "zebra" in the background. Was this a member of the Steelers' staff? Is this "official" required to be there by the NFL?
ANSWER: During OTAs, and during some practices throughout the season, Coach Mike Tomlin will have local high school officials attend practice and work the sessions to get the players into the rhythm of having their work scrutinized by officials.

KEN WILSON FROM MILTON, FL: Curious, was Stephon Tuitt's retirement the result of Omar Khan giving him an ultimatum?
ANSWER: I sincerely doubt it. If I was forced to guess, I would point to the calendar and note that minicamp is this week and that's a mandatory attend for all players under contract. You're being way too dramatic with the ultimatum suggestion.

DASH GIBSON FROM BARBOURSVILLE, KY: Is it worth considering trading a No. 2 or a No. 3 draft pick for Javon Hargrave to compensate for the loss of Stephon Tuitt?
ANSWER: Javon Hargrave, originally a third-round pick by the Steelers, signed a three-year, $39 million contract with Philadelphia as an unrestricted free agent, and he will be entering the final year of that deal in 2022. Hargrave is due to earn $12.75 million in salary and count for $17.8 million on the Eagles' salary cap in 2022, and by trading him the Eagles would be hit with a dead money charge of $16.758 million on their 2022 salary cap. I see no realistic scenario in which the Eagles would give up a player who will play this season as a 29-year-old and had 63 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 18 hits on the quarterback, and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2021 in a transaction that would net them only a No. 2 or a No. 3 pick and still cost them almost $17 million on their salary cap this year in dead money. Makes no sense.

DAVID MARCOU FROM DANVERS, MA: Given the retirement of Stephon Tuitt and the Steelers struggles against the run last year, what do you think they will do to improve along the defensive line, other than getting improved play from their younger defensive linemen?
ANSWER: Besides working with the younger defensive linemen currently on the roster and seeing whether any of them, or more realistically, whether some combination of them can provide the caliber of play that might lessen the impact of Stephon Tuitt's retirement, I don't know what realistically can be done at this stage of the calendar. Any veterans still unsigned with offseason programs coming to an end and training camps set to open some six week from now likely are in that spot because their play no longer measures up to their salary expectations, or the individual isn't completely committed to playing in the league in 2022. No team really has an excess of defensive linemen and therefore would be willing to trade, and the draft is over. Maybe something happens as training camps open, and teams have a chance to assess their situations; maybe somebody ends up getting waived or cut when mandatory roster reductions happen. Outside of that, the best thing to do is work with the young players and pray that Cam Heyward and Tyson Alualu stay healthy.

BRANDON JOHNSON FROM FAIRMONT, WV: In a previous Asked and Answered, you brought up quarterback Jim Miller. It's amazing to me that Coach Bill Cowher named him the starter for the 1996 season, and then gave him less than one game to prove himself. I guess in hindsight Cowher made the right decision although Miller did have a decent 2001 season with the Bears. I know this happened nearly 30 years ago now, but doesn't it seem odd that Cowher had no patience with Miller given the fact he was patient with other less than stellar quarterbacks like Kordell Stewart and Mike Tomczak?
ANSWER: My guess would be that Coach Bill Cowher believed going with a more veteran quarterback (Mike Tomczak) was the higher-percentage move given that the 1996 team was a nearly identical version of the 1995 edition that won the AFC Championship and advanced to Super Bowl XXX. And while the Steelers lost Greg Lloyd for the season to a torn patellar in the opening game loss to the Jaguars, Rod Woodson was back after missing most of the previous season with a torn ACL. I understand hindsight is 20/20 but given that advantage maybe the better move would have been to stick with Miller and try to weather the storm as he improved over the course of the season, because Tomczak was a 34-year-old quarterback who had thrown 25 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions over the previous five seasons with three different teams. Tomczak started fast in 1996, but then he reverted to his old self and over the final seven games of the regular season, the Steelers went 3-4 with their quarterback throwing for eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Then in the playoffs, Tomczak passed for no touchdowns and four interceptions with a rating of 40.9, which ushered in the Kordell Stewart era.

RICARDO CHAVEZ FROM WEXFORD, PA: What do you make of the fact that the Steelers have assigned just about every jersey number that isn't retired/no longer circulated except for Joe Haden's No. 23? A sign of respect for Haden's time in Pittsburgh or a sign that they are keeping the door open for a reunion? Or am I making much ado about nothing?
ANSWER: My sense is you're making much ado about nothing.

WILLIAM NEIL FROM MARSHALL, MI: What exactly is a sub-package? How does it work, and how do the Steelers use it? Is it employed primarily on the defensive side, but can it also be used offensively?
ANSWER: "Sub-package" is a general term used to describe a defensive personnel grouping that varies from the team's normal alignment. In the specific situation of the Steelers, as an example, the team's base alignment on defense is a 3-4-4 (three defensive linemen, four linebackers, four defensive backs), and so any deviation from that specific personnel grouping is referred to as a sub-package. If a third cornerback is on the field, or if a fifth linebacker is on the field, or if a third safety is on the field, all of those would be considered sub-packages.