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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: March 30

Let's get to it:

Who is the oldest player to suit up for the Steelers in the last 40 years?


ANSWER: Bobby Walden, a punter who came to the Steelers for the 1968 season after spending the first four years of his NFL career in Minnesota with the Vikings, was born on March 9, 1938. When he suited up for the final of his 10 seasons with the Steelers in 1977, he was 39 years old. William Gay will turn 39 in May, so I guess it's a tie.**

What is the difference between a strong safety and a free safety?

ANSWER: Traditionally, a strong safety lines up closer to the line of scrimmage and is more involved in stopping the run, and his primary responsibility in coverage is the tight end. A free safety plays centerfield in the deep secondary. But as the sport at the NFL level has evolved, so have those job descriptions, and they now vary from team-to-team based on the particular defensive scheme being employed. Some teams now assign their safeties to a particular half of the field, rather than having one closer to the line of scrimmage and the other deep in the secondary, just as one example.

Even without drafting any new wide receivers, how do you think the receiving corps will fare next season?

ANSWER: I would need to have a whole bunch of additional information to have any chance at giving you an insightful assessment. Is Martavis Bryant reinstated? Does he remain on the straight and narrow? And is he able to rub off the rust of his year of inactivity quickly? Was Sammie Coates only hampered by his broken fingers after the first month of the 2016 season? If so, did the surgery fix that? Will Justin Hunter come here and provide the big-play element that his size, speed, and athleticism indicate he is capable of providing? Will the group stay relatively injury-free?

Those are just some of the unknown factors involved, and if you're the type of person who tends to look at the glass-half-full version, your conclusion would tend to be optimistic. But if you're the glass-half-empty type of person, your conclusions would be less so. What that means to me is that everyone can decide for themselves right now, and then we'll let the facts reveal the truth to us over the course of time.

What's has become of Justin Gilbert? Any chance he gets another shot at competing for a job at training camp?

ANSWER: Justin Gilbert remains out of football following the Steelers' decision to release him in early February. I imagine Gilbert might draw some interest following the draft, and General Manager Kevin Colbert is on record as saying the Steelers have not closed the door on a possible return.

See who has worn jersey No. 50 in Steelers history.

If the Steelers do not re-sign DeAngelo Williams, will they give Karlos Williams a chance to complete for a roster spot?

ANSWER: Karlos Williams was released by the Steelers on March 9.

I know that our offensive line is in pretty good shape as far as starters, but I think we need to get players in this upcoming draft for depth since we haven't done much in free agency. Are there any offensive line prospects worth a second-round pick by the Steelers?

ANSWER: I'm sure there are offensive linemen worthy of being drafted toward the end of the second round, but I disagree with your contention that the Steelers need to be a team doing that. Looking at the offensive linemen currently on the roster for the Steelers: there is the starting group of (from left) Al Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Marcus Gilbert. Jerald Hawkins is a second-year pro who will serve as the No. 3 tackle, and B.J. Finney is the primary backup along the interior. There also is Chris Hubbard, and he makes eight linemen. The team can expect to keep absolutely, positively no more than 10 on the 53-man roster – and most likely only nine – and so a second-round pick is too high to spend on this position for a backup who most likely will be inactive for every game of the 2017 season.

If a restricted free agent, Stephon Tuitt for example, signs an offer sheet from another team, and then the Steelers agree to match it, can the other team up their offer to Cockrell? Can another team get involved in making an offer after the Steelers matched the first one?

ANSWER: Since you used Ross Cockrell as an example, we'll stick with him for purposes of this question. Once Cockrell's agent presents a signed offer sheet to the Steelers – and it would have to be before the April 21 deadline – the Steelers have seven days to match, or not match and accept the draft pick compensation designated by the amount of the original tender. If the Steelers elect to match, that's the end, and Cockrell's rights revert to the Steelers under the terms of the signed offer sheet. The other team cannot come back and sweeten the deal. And there is only one signed offer sheet per restricted free agent, and so if Cockrell presents one from the Browns to the Steelers, then the Bengals couldn't get involved on the back end.

My father, Hubbard P. Law, played for the Steelers in 1942 and also after World War II. Is there any way I can get film or any information on him from the Steelers? I would be ever so grateful.

ANSWER: Here is what I was able to unearth for you: Hubbard Law was drafted by the Steelers in the 15th round of the 1942 NFL Draft (131st overall selection) out of Sam Houston State. Law was listed at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. He wore jersey No. 34 in 1942. The Steelers of that era utilized the single-wing offense, and Law was listed as a "BB," which stood for blocking back. It's also worth noting that most of the time players of that era played both ways – offense and defense. Law was a 21-year-old rookie.

The Steelers starting backfield for that 1942 season was: Vern Martin as the blocking back, future Hall of Fame member Bill Dudley as the tailback, Dick Riffle as the fullback, and Curt Sandig as the halfback. Hubbard Law, while not a starter, did appear in all 11 of the Steelers' regular season games in 1942, and he finished with one carry for 6 yards, and one interception that he returned for 13 yards. The 1942 Steelers, coached by Walt Kiesling, finished with a 7-4 record, which was good for second place in the NFL's Eastern Division, behind the 10-1 Washington Redskins, who won the NFL Championship with a 14-6 victory over the Western Division's Chicago Bears. In 1945, Law played in six games for the 2-8 Steelers, but he did not register any statistics on offense or defense.

Sometimes, as a fan, I criticize the coaching staff for certain in-game decisions. However, my favorite thing about them is that they are steadfast and they make the tough decisions. They always stick with it and don't change to what other people say. What's your favorite thing about Coach Mike Tomlin and his staff?

ANSWER: I have been here at times when members of the coaching staff were more interested in being right than they were about winning games. That has never been my impression of this staff, and for me it all began when Mike Tomlin elected to stick with Dick LeBeau as the defensive coordinator and keep the 3-4 zone-blitz scheme in place when he was hired in 2007, rather than switch the focus and the personnel to something with which he had more direct familiarity. That turned out to be a major factor in the winning of Super Bowl XLIII. Not many new head coaches in the NFL are that egoless.

What is the status of quarterback William Gay? I am a life-long Steelers fan and watched Zach at LSU. I know he has a big-time arm and thought he might be a real NFL quarterback. I understand that there is more to it than arm strength. How do the Steelers feel about him?

ANSWER: As of today, Zach Mettenberger is the clear No. 3 quarterback on a depth chart where Ben Roethlisberger is the undisputed No. 1, and Landry Jones recently was re-signed to a two-year contract to be No. 2. Maybe that changes at Saint Vincent College, but my sense is that if the Steelers were to use a draft pick on a quarterback, that incoming rookie would be competing with Mettenberger for the No. 3 job in 2017.

I'm not going to ask you to predict when the Steelers will start looking for Ben Roethlisberger's successor. My question is more along the line of timing relative to other teams' projected needs. For example, we might not want to be looking at a quarterback at the same time New England needs a replacement for Tom Brady. Or San Diego, or even Green Bay. How much do you see that as a factor down the road?

ANSWER: I would be on board with trying to sync the search for a franchise quarterback with a draft class that is deep in talent at the position, but I don't believe a team should be concerned with the needs of other teams around the league when it's looking to fortify a specific position on its team via the draft.

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