Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: March 8

Let's get to it:

NATHAN GEISLER FROM BOISE, ID: I was looking at next year's list of NFL players who are eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2023. One of those players is Steelers All-Pro outside linebacker James Harrison. He is the Steelers all-time leader with 80.5 career sacks. In your opinion do you believe is a Hall of Famer?
ANSWER: On his topic, there are two very separate conversations: Is James Harrison worthy of the Hall of Fame? And can James Harrison get elected to the Hall of Fame? In my mind, as of today, the answers to those two questions are: yes; and it's not going to be a slam dunk. In my opinion, Harrison is Hall of Fame worthy, because there was a time during his era when he was the most feared, intimidating defensive player in the league to go along with being one of the NFL's best pass-rushers. During the five seasons from 2007-11, Harrison had 54 sacks, was voted to five Pro Bowls, was voted first-team All-Pro twice, and was voted the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. And that doesn't even take into account his authoring the greatest defensive play in Super Bowl history, which was his 100-yard interception return for a touchdown vs. Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII. I would vote for him, if I had a vote. But how many people on the Board of Selectors might mistakenly label him as a dirty player for the way he was singled out starting in 2010 when the NFL changed the rules about what it considered appropriate/legal contact six games into that regular season and began fining Harrison big bucks as a result? The other issue could be his statistics, and how his numbers compare to others who made their living sacking the quarterback. For example, since 2016, the following guys have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I am including their sack totals: Kevin Greene (160), Charles Haley (100.5), Rickey Jackson (136), Richard Dent (137.5), Chris Doleman (150.5), and Michael Strahan (141.5). Including the sacks he recorded during his time with Cincinnati and New England after he left the Steelers, Harrison had 84.5 career sacks. Again, I would vote for Harrison is I had a vote, but I fear his election isn't going to be as easy as it deserves to be.

ANTHONY MORENO FROM BROOKLYN, NY: When was the last time the Steelers picked in the top three of a draft?
ANSWER: Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, the Steelers have drafted in the top 10 six different times – eighth overall in 2000; 10th overall in 1987; seventh overall in 1989; ninth overall in 1986; eighth overall in 1971; and first overall in 1970.

FRED MCGUIGAN FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Apparently this is a deep draft. Have the Steelers ever traded out of the first round to pick up more picks in the later rounds? Can you see them doing that?
ANSWER: When someone asks a question that is worded, "have the Steelers ever …" what they should understand is that Art Rooney Sr.'s franchise joined the NFL for the 1933 season, which means the 2022 season will be the franchise's 90th in the NFL. That's a lot of "ever." What I will tell you is that since Chuck Noll was hired in 1969, the Steelers never have traded out of the first round of an NFL Draft, and I cannot see them doing it this year.

FREDERICK MOSLEY FROM COVENTRY, ENGLAND: What's your take on the Steelers trading three first-round draft picks and Cameron Heyward in exchange for Aaron Rodgers, and then using our second-round pick to draft a developmental quarterback like Desmond Ridder to be Aaron Rodgers' backup and successor?
ANSWER: In my opinion, the trade you propose would be extremely stupid. In fact, it sounds like a fantasy football trade, because it's quarterback-centric to the point where it excludes any other aspect of the game and many of the other positions on the team. In your world, how do the Steelers improve their offensive line, their run defense, fortify their cornerbacks, re-sign Minkah Fitzpatrick, etc., after committing so much draft capital and salary cap space (Rodgers' reportedly is seeking close to $50 million a year on a new contract) after making your trade?

HAROLD YOUNG FROM BONNEY LAKE, WA: The Steelers have had many outstanding centers in their history. In your opinion, where does Ray Mansfield rank?
ANSWER: Ray Mansfield began his NFL career in 1963 as a second-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Steelers acquired him in 1964 in a trade in exchange for cash. It turned out to be money well spent. In 13 seasons with the Steelers, Mansfield never missed a game for any reason, and he ended up playing 182 straight games and was a starting center on the teams that won Super Bowl IX and Super Bowl X. Obviously extremely reliable, Mansfield also had to be a very good player to be a starter for Chuck Noll for so many seasons, but he never was voted to a Pro Bowl nor was he ever a first-team All-Pro. The Steelers have had six different centers voted first-team All-Pro at least once – Mike Basrak, Bill Walsh, Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, Jeff Hartings, and Maurkice Pouncey.

MIKE TENCER FROM HAGERSTOWN, MD: I am sure you have seen the Mock Drafts, and it appears the Steelers would have to move up in the draft to pick No. 12 to get Kenny Pickett or to No. 16 for Malik Willis. Which quarterback do you prefer, and do you think they will go for a quarterback in the first round? Also, do you think Joe Haden is worth re-signing.
ANSWER: I have no interest in trading up in the first round for any of the quarterbacks eligible in the 2022 NFL Draft. And answering your Joe Haden question would depend on his salary requirements. Sitting here today, my sense is some other team is going to offer him more than the Steelers would be willing to pay for a 33-year-old cornerback, which is what he will be in mid-April.

AARON BREEZE FROM FRESNO, CA: You answered a question about changing the overtime rules in the March 3 edition of Asked and Answered with, "Play defense! If you can't, or don't, then you don't deserve to win." I couldn't agree more. That being said, I hate when a game ends in a tie, so can you ever see some sort of special teams showdown take place in the future instead of ending in a game in a tie? Like a shootout in hockey.
ANSWER: It's an NFL regular season game, nor a skills competition. There are only 17 games in an NFL regular season and deciding even one of those by some other means than playing the game of football is not the way I would go.

BILL NEVRUZ FROM PARK RIDGE, IL: If somehow both Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett are still on the board at No. 20, who do you think the Steelers should pick?
ANSWER: I'm not going to agree that the Steelers need to pick a quarterback in the first round of this draft, nor am I going to agree that the Steelers need to pick a quarterback on any round of the upcoming draft. If somehow both Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett are still on the board at No. 20, I might be in favor of picking a playmaking defensive lineman, or a ball-hawking cornerback, depending on whether one of those types of players also was available.

RUSSELL OBENSTINE FROM ELIZABETHTOWN, PA: Has Stephon Tuitt announced he is coming back?
ANSWER: Cam Heyward has said he expects Tuitt to return. During an appearance on Steelers Nation Radio from the NFL Combine, General Manager Kevin Colbert said Tuitt told him he's "excited" about returning in 2022. But there has been no official announcement from Stephon Tuitt.

RAY GREHOFSKY FROM BLACKSBURG, VA: There has been a lot of media/fan talk about the Steelers needing to "rebuild" their offensive line. I'm in the minority but feel like Kendrick Green will be the starting center, barring injury, in the season opener. How many of this past year's starting offensive linemen do you see starting on opening day?
ANSWER: That's difficult to predict in a year when two of last year's five starters – Chuks Okorafor and Trai Turner – are eligible to become unrestricted free agents on March 16, and I don't know whether Kevin Dotson (nine starts in 17 games) deserves to be referred to as a 2021 starter. I'm going to guess Dan Moore Jr. and Kendrick Green will be starters when 2022 begins; the Steelers will look to sign a veteran right guard or center; and they'll spend a high draft pick on a right tackle.

ZACK VERMONT FROM BEATRICE, NE: Would you be at all surprised if Pittsburgh selected offensive linemen in the first two rounds of this draft?
ANSWER: I would be very surprised if the Steelers used their first two picks in the 2022 NFL Draft on offensive linemen for a couple of different reasons. The first being that the team has other needs to be addressed, and when General Manager Kevin Colbert identified offensive tackle as one of the deep positions in the upcoming draft there should be an opportunity to get a quality player at that position in the third round, maybe even the fourth.

PAUL WIER FROM FRANKLINTON, NC: My question is about the fifth-year option on a first-round draft choice. The Eagles have three first-round picks this year. Let's say they use all three picks, and the drafted players stick with the team through the first four years. Can the Eagles use the fifth-year option on all three players, or do they have to pick one?
ANSWER: Every player who enters the league as a first-round draft pick is eligible to have his contract extended to a fifth year should his team decide to exercise that option. The option doesn't have to be exercised by the team that originally drafted the player, as we have seen when the Steelers acquired Minkah Fitzpatrick via a trade with Miami and then exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. The only exception is if the player is waived by the team that drafted him before he gets to his fifth season in the league, a la Dwayne Haskins.

MARCELLUS RAINES FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Can you see a situation where the Steelers bring back Ahkello Witherspoon and sign a free agent cornerback to start?
ANSWER: If Joe Haden leaves as an unrestricted free agent, Ahkello Witherspoon would be a starter.

SEAN LANHAM FROM ELM CITY, NC: Do you think the Steelers would be more inclined to re-sign James Washington with Mason Rudolph having a good chance of being our starting quarterback next year? I have noticed their connection seems strong when Rudolph starts, obviously due to their familiarity with one another from their playing days at Oklahoma State.
ANSWER: I have to admit, I never have seen any obvious signs of chemistry between Mason Rudolph and James Washington during their time together with the Steelers. And I especially believe Washington will be looking to take advantage of free agency this offseason for a fresh start with a different team.

CASEY MCDONALD FROM MONTGOMERY, AL: It seems to me that Kevin Colbert's answer about Mason Rudolph being the starter was a bit overblown. Colbert specifically said, "if the season started today...". I don't really have a question, just thought it was silly of other networks to talk about it or debate it.
ANSWER: On the NFL calendar, this time between the Combine and the draft certainly qualifies as the "silly season."