Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: March 10

Let's get to it:

DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: The new trend in the league seems to be mortgaging the future to win and win now. Was there a time when the Steelers were trying to buy a team rather than build one, and who is most responsible for changing it?
ANSWER: When the Steelers were in the business of trading away draft picks by the bushel, it was because Coach Buddy Parker preferred veterans to rookies, because in the late 1950s-to-mid-1960s professional football still wasn't the kind of job where players didn't have to work in the offseason. Parker had won two NFL Championships with the Detroit Lions (in 1952 and 1953) before resigning from that job on Aug. 12, 1957. Parker then signed a five-year contract to coach the Steelers on Aug. 27, 1957, and during his eight seasons as Art Rooney Sr.'s coach, Parker traded four first-round picks and a total of 14 picks in the top 40 of his eight NFL Drafts in the job. The Steelers' first pick in both the 1959 and 1963 NFL Drafts came in the eighth round; in 1960 they made a first-round pick and then not another until the seventh round. This is the way it was during Parker's tenure, until Dan Rooney convinced his father that Parker shouldn't be allowed to make trades without running them past upper management. When informed of this new policy, Parker bristled and said he couldn't work under such constraints, to which Dan Rooney was said to have replied, "I accept your resignation." After hiring Mike Nixon (2-12 in his only season) and Bill Austin (6-20-2) in two seasons, the Steelers found a coach who shared Dan Rooney's belief in building through the draft. Dan Rooney then convinced his father to hire Chuck Noll, and the future of the franchise had been charted.

KEN WALDROP FROM ONTONAGON, MI: Now that we know the NFL salary cap has been boosted considerably for the upcoming season, do you see the Steelers securing the offensive line more so through free agency?
ANSWER: That's difficult to predict, because you don't want to grossly overpay for a free agent offensive lineman, or a free agent at any position, and there's no way of knowing how the market will unfold until after things get underway on March 16. In an ideal world, I would like to see the Steelers come out of this offseason having signed one starting-caliber interior offensive lineman via free agency and then drafting an offensive tackle in one of the first two rounds in late April.

MICHAEL ARCELA FROM KENILWORTH, NJ: Let me preface this by saying a friend said he could definitely kill the Combine even though he chain-smokes cigarettes all day. Do the Steelers or any team in general have a policy barring any player from smoking cigarettes/vaping?
ANSWER: First of all, your friend is delusional. Regardless of his lung capacity or lack thereof, I'd love to see him try to even remember how to do the short-shuttle and the three-cone drill after seeing it done, and then "killing it" without breaking an ankle. Professional athletes really don't have to be nagged about the dangers of smoking, because these guys are very serious about taking care of their bodies. I have seen players at the salad bar with little scales measuring amounts of salad dressing and weighing different ingredients so they don't overindulge. I cannot imagine a realistic scenario in which an NFL player having to be told not to chain-smoke cigarettes. And if you're hanging around that friend in an enclosed space while he's chain-smoking cigarettes all day, you're not doing your lungs any favor, either.

ALAIN MICHAUD FROM ROBERVAL, QUÉBEC, CANADA: Najee Harris spent one more year in college to develop his skills, and in his first year in the NFL he had an immediate impact. Joe Burrow was drafted at 23 and also had an excellent first year in the NFL despite below average pass protection. In a system where free agency is allowed 4 or 5 years after the draft, is it better to take a chance and select a 21-year-old player, who had an excellent year as a junior in college but will need time to develop his craft, or select an older player who may have more maturity, may have been more exposed to adversity, and could possibly have an immediate impact?
ANSWER: There are examples of players who became NFL greats only after exhausting their college eligibility, and there are examples of players who became NFL greats after being drafted while still having college eligibility remaining. It all depends on the individual.

RON WILLIAMS FROM ASTORIA, OR: When it comes to replacing General Manager Kevin Colbert, would you stay with your internal prospects who know the team and how it functions, or would you look to someone outside the organization?
ANSWER: Kevin Colbert wasn't an internal prospect when the Steelers hired him. Neither were Bill Cowher or Mike Tomlin. Yet all of them learned how the Steelers wanted to do business, and they applied their own knowledge and experience to those parameters and things worked out just fine. Whether hiring a general manager or a head coach or a secretary, the Steelers aren't going to allow that individual to proceed with no guidance. In a way, it's the same philosophy the franchise uses when drafting players: You select the best combination of player/person available, and then you teach him and mentor him. I don't believe the Steelers go into the task of replacing Kevin Colbert with a preconceived notion to hire, or not hire, an internal candidate, any more than they go into a draft with the preconceived notion of drafting a particular position in a particular round. That's the recipe for failure.

GINO CALDERONE FROM HOUSTON, TX: I know it's called the draft because that's what happens. But does a drafted player have the option to decline to play for the team that drafted him and either go back into the pool or try to act as a free agent and try his luck?
ANSWER: Let me throw this question back to you: If there was the possibility of a player choosing not to go to the team that drafted him, what would be the purpose of having a draft in the first place? Just let it be a free-for-all.

JOHN KUN FROM FREDERICK, MD: Now that Aaron Rodgers signed a ridiculously expensive contract extension, and Russell Wilson was traded for a ridiculous number of draft picks and players, can we stop with all the trade questions?
ANSWER: Not a chance. See below.

MATT JOHNSON FROM DENVER, CO: Thoughts on trading Chase Claypool for Jordan Love?
ANSWER: Beyond my thoughts being that you have way too much free time on your hands, what exactly have you seen from Jordan Love that leads you to believe he's capable of being a quality starting quarterback in the NFL?

RICK ROADRUCK FROM EVERGREEN, CO: If the Packers are looking to move Jordan Love, do you see any interest in him from the Steelers?
ANSWER: I believe if Jordan Love had showed the Packers that he was an up-and-comer as an NFL quarterback, the team might not have signed Aaron Rodgers to a four-year, $200 million contract. In 2021, Love started one game when Rodgers was on the COVID-19 list, and he completed 19-of-34 for 190 yards, with one touchdown, one interception, and a rating of 69.5 in a 13-7 loss to Kansas City; and he also played the second half of the regular season finale, which was a 37-30 loss to Detroit. In that second half, the Lions outscored Green Bay, 20-17, and Love completed 10-of-17 (58.8 percent) for 134 yards, with one touchdown, two interceptions, and a rating of 64.0. Let's pretend you're the general manager. What would you give up to acquire Jordan Love?

GIO CALABRO FROM EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, NJ: Has Ulysees Gilbert III progressed enough to start next to Devin Bush, or is he a strictly a backup inside linebacker?
ANSWER: Ulysees Gilbert cannot show any progress when there is no football being practiced or played, and there is no football being practiced or played at this time of the year. His chance will come starting in July when training camps open.

JOSE EUGENIO TRABULSE FROM TIJUANA BC, MEXICO: I´m 52 years old, and I´m a Steelers fan since I can remember. My birthday is Sept. 23, and I have received a birthday email from the Steelers with a player video on it congratulating me. The first time the player was JuJu Smith-Schuster, and last year it was T.J. Watt. I think that is a classy thing to do. I really enjoyed it, and it made my birthday the happiest. Can you tell me where I can write to them to thank them for their thoughtfulness?
ANSWER: Correspondence to players can be mailed to: 3400 S. Water Street, Pittsburgh, PA., 15203.

LOU MANN FROM ASHKELON, ISRAEL: I notice that you usually select one or two inane, insane questions to include in Asked and Answered. I do like your comebacks, but you're paid to put up with them so why do we all have to suffer?
ANSWER: Misery loves company.