Let's get to it:
Check out photos of the Steelers new wide receiver, Justin Hunter. Photos by AP.
CHRIS LOCKE FROM HERNDON, VA:
I read the March 14 edition of Asked and Answered, and there was some contention as to the winner of the 1975 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. The Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award went to Mel Blount, as you said. There's also the Pro Football Writer's NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award, which was awarded to Jack Ham in 1975. Which is more prestigious/accepted?
ANSWER: I cannot say anything definitive about prestige, but the Defensive Player of the Year Award that's listed/recognized by the NFL in the annual Official NFL Record & Fact Book is the Associated Press' version. To all of those who emailed me and went into great detail about how Wikipedia lists Jack Ham as the 1975 winner, I can tell you that Wikipedia isn't the final word on these kinds of things. It's the NFL, and the NFL has chosen to recognize the Associated Press' versions of the Defensive Player of the Year, the Offensive Player of the Year, the Offensive Rookie of the Year, the Defensive Rookie of the Year, the Comeback Player of the Year, and the Coach of the Year. There is no mention in the annual Record & Fact Book about awards bestowed by any entity/organization other than the Associated Press.
And so, as far as the NFL is concerned, Jack Ham never won the Defensive Player of the Year Award; Terry Bradshaw is the only Steelers player ever to win the Offensive Player of the Year Award (also known as the NFL MVP Award); the four Steelers to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award were Jimmy Orr in 1958, Franco Harris in 1972, Louis Lipps in 1984, and Ben Roethlisberger in 2004; the three Steelers players to win Defensive Rookie of the Year Award are Joe Greene in 1969, Jack Lambert in 1974, and Kendrell Bell in 2001; the only Steelers player to win the Comeback Player of the Year Award is Tommy Maddox in 2002; and the only Steelers coach to win the Coach of the Year Award is Bill Cowher in 1992.
GARY SIMMERS FROM CHICAGO, IL:
A question about the timeline of events on the Davon House visit yesterday. I know a person is free to sign and work for whomever they wish in this country, but is it considered odd or at least tacky to be on the phone finalizing a deal with a competing team while in another team's facility? Seemed like this is something that could catch up to a person in the future.
ANSWER: If there were any hard feelings about this – and I'm not implying that there were – most likely it would be directed toward the player's agent. But as the French might say, "C'est la vie." Or as Coach Mike Tomlin said recently about free agency, "It's free for them, and it's free for us."
OLIVER SANDERS FROM EATON, OH:
Why does it seem like the franchise is more likely to let offensive players retire as a Steeler instead of defensive players? We have seen just too many good defensive players (Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley) get cut and forced out of Pittsburgh as compared to offensive players (Jerome Bettis, Heath Miller). I understand that as a defensive player who gets old, it makes business sense to cut them. But from a fan's perspective, it stinks to see a player give so much to the team only to get tossed out like yesterday's salad. Will the franchise show a bit more love? Or is it just the way it is?
ANSWER: I have no idea how you came to this conclusion of the way the Steelers treat offensive players vs. defensive players, but I'm just going to deal with the examples you present in an effort to answer your question. Lawrence Timmons left as an unrestricted free agent for a better deal, i.e., more money, from the NFL team in his home state; and LaMarr Woodley was cut because he didn't take care of his body during the offseasons, gained too much weight, and was constantly injured. Timmons was paid $60 million for what he "gave" to the Steelers during his career here, and Woodley had earned $13.5 million and had signed a six-year contract for another $61.5 million before putting on the weight that turned him into a drain on the salary cap.
Jerome Bettis took pay cuts several times because he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh, and Heath Miller never pursued free agency and was highly productive in his last NFL season before deciding to retire to spend time with his family.
The bottom line to me is that the NFL is what former Oilers Coach Jerry Glanville once said about it. "N-F-L, that stands for not-for-long" if you're not producing/winning.
The @Steelers Top Followers.
JOSE PABLO HAYAUX DU TILLY FROM CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM:
If Jabrill Peppers was on the board when the Steelers are picking at No. 30 in the first round of the draft, would you consider drafting him? It's hard to follow college football in the UK, but I know being a Heisman finalist is a huge honor (even though Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel, and other NFL busts have won it).
ANSWER: Speaking for myself, and acknowledging that my opinion doesn't matter, I would not pick Jabrill Peppers. He's not big enough to play linebacker, and the fact he had only one interception in his college career has me doubting his ball skills in terms of becoming a top-flight NFL safety.
JAMES HOLLMAN FROM CHARLESTON, SC:
In your March 14 Asked and Answered, you were asked who the most hated Steelers player of all time would be. Don't you think you missed on the answer? In my opinion Neil O'Donnell wins this "award" hands down.
ANSWER: I'm guessing you're picking Neil O'Donnell because of Super Bowl XXX and the three interceptions he threw in that game, the last of which was the death blow to a Steelers' comeback win over the heavily-favored Dallas Cowboys. I didn't include O'Donnell only because he almost immediately signed a free agent contract with the New York Jets, and so Steelers fans never really got a chance to express their displeasure. That was my rationale, but O'Donnell is a solid choice, to be sure.
SCOTT CHRISTENSEN FROM PHILADELPHIA, PA:
Do you think the team has any real future plans for Tyler Matakevich as a starter? He seems like he has some good intensity when he is on the field.
ANSWER: My experience is that the Steelers don't pigeon-hole a guy, but they instead allow that player to reveal what he is to them. With Lawrence Timmons now in Miami, and if the Steelers don't add an inside linebacker during free agency, Vince Williams will get first crack at the starting job and I expect him to win it. But if Williams falters, either in camp or the preseason or during the regular season, that could open the door for Matakevich.
DEREK ROOKER FROM BRANDON, MS:
During the offseason, who determines when a player has surgery? The player, the team, or do both have input?
ANSWER: It's a medical decision as to whether surgery is necessary or not, and in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement players have the right to a second opinion from a doctor of their choice. In a lot of these cases, the decision could be to see whether a non-surgical approach could work, because as the saying goes, the only such thing as minor surgery is surgery performed on somebody else.
JIM MILLER FROM LEES SUMMIT, MO:
While reading some of the free agency news, I saw that Lawrence Timmons' compensatory pick value was only a fifth-round pick. I was under the impression compensatory picks were awarded based on the whole package of additions and subtractions not on individual players. Can you explain how that process works?
ANSWER: I cannot, and my experience is that people who claim they know for sure how compensatory picks are awarded can end up being wrong. Not wrong all the time, but they're not right all the time, either. For me, I just wait until the compensatory picks are announced by the league.
JASON CAMPBELL FROM ROCHESTER, NY:
Love your insights. I, unfortunately, am stuck watching a ton of Bills games (thank you, NFL). Stephon Gilmore is a good cornerback, but I can't believe the Patriots gave him that deal. What am I missing?
ANSWER: I would agree with you on that. In fact, I would say that Malcolm Butler is a better cornerback than Stephon Gilmore, and therefore would be a better long-time, big-money investment, and Butler is a guy who won a Super Bowl a couple of years ago with an interception at the goal line late in the fourth quarter. But that's just my opinion, and my opinion doesn't matter.
JOSH LOPEZ FROM KING CITY, CA:
If Ben Roethlisberger were to retire in two years do you think the Steelers would get a quarterback in free agency like Marcus Mariota, or someone in the draft?
ANSWER: Teams don't let quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota become available in free agency. Even a guy like Kirk Cousins can find himself franchise tagged in back-to-back seasons.
JOE PALIZZI FROM GEORGETOWN, DE:
I had always thought Ryan Shazier would be a great safety. He reminds me of another great, Troy Polamalu, flying around making plays. If the Steelers made the change, this could help him with the injuries by freeing him more and keeping him from having to take on those huge offensive linemen first. Any thoughts?
ANSWER: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. You must be new to this, right?