Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 19

Let's get to it:

The top photos of former LB James Farrior.

The Steelers are historically quiet in free agency but when they do sign a free agent, that player usually contributes meaningfully. In your opinion, who is the most significant free agent the Steelers have signed?

ANSWER: There are three who stand above all others, and then to some degree it becomes a matter of personal preference. In chronological order in which they came to the Steelers: Kevin Greene, Jeff Hartings, and James Farrior.

Greene is to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August, and the 160 sacks he posted in his 15-year NFL career serve as undeniable evidence that he belongs. But in this three-man competition, it must be noted that only three of those seasons and 35.5 of those sacks came with the Steelers. Two of his five Pro Bowl appearances and one of his two first-team All-Pro designations came with the Steelers.

Hartings has no such statistics as a center, but in his six seasons with the Steelers their ground-heavy offense finished seasons ranked in the top five in the NFL in rushing three times, and in the top 10 in the NFL five times. During his time with the Steelers, Hartings also was voted to two Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro once. And on the day after the Steelers lost the 2004 AFC Championship Game to the Patriots, Hartings met the media in front of his locker and said, "We honestly love each other. I honestly felt that I would rather lose a game like this with this team than win a Super Bowl with a team I didn't enjoy playing with." The Steelers would win Super Bowl XL to climax the 2005 NFL season, and Hartings started every game. One final note about Hartings: he was drafted as a guard by the Detroit Lions and had been a guard in college, but he switched to center when he signed with the Steelers and he played that position solely during his time here.

But my choice as the Steelers' best unrestricted free agent signing is Farrior, who came to the team from the New York Jets in 2002. In his 10 seasons in Pittsburgh, Farrior had 30 sacks and 20 takeaways (eight interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries) in 154 games, all starts, as an inside linebacker. He played in two Pro Bowls and was voted first-team All-Pro in 2004, a season in which he easily could have won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. But in addition to his on-field contributions, James Farrior was one of the key leaders on those Steelers teams of the era that played in three Super Bowls and won two. In his 10 seasons with the Steelers, Farrior was voted a team captain eight times, and he was respected by young players and grizzled veterans alike.

I have always wondered how all of our professional sports teams have the same black and gold. That doesn't seem to be too common, but it's very cool.

ANSWER: It has to do with the official flag and The Coat of Arms of the City of Pittsburgh. There is an ordinance dating back to December 1925 from files of Pittsburgh City Council stating that "The colors of Pittsburgh are gold and black." The city's professional sports teams have tailored their uniforms to conform.

I heard the Steelers were taking a look at Dalyn Williams at the quarterback position. Any news on how things went for him during the rookie camp?

ANSWER: Dalyn Williams from Dartmouth was one of three quarterback to participate in the Steelers rookie minicamp that was held on the weekend following the 2016 NFL Draft. The other two quarterbacks were Jacob Huesman, a rookie from Tennessee Chattanooga, and Nick Arbuckle, a rookie from Georgia State. The only information I can give you is that Williams wasn't offered a contract at the end of the weekend, and it looks as though the Steelers will go to training camp with Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Bruce Gradkowski, and Dustin Vaughan as the four quarterbacks on the roster.

What date is the date for the night practice at Latrobe Stadium during training camp? Do you have to buy tickets to attend? If so how much are they? I have been going to Latrobe for the past three years, and it is hard getting signatures from a lot of players. I think I can do better at the night event.

ANSWER: The training camp schedule hasn't been finalized, but my guess, and I emphasize that this is a guess, is that Friday Night Lights will be held on Aug. 5. Tickets must be purchased for the night practice, but the price is a nominal number and is typically a donation to the high school athletic department and/or the Westmoreland County United Way. Those tickets can be purchased at the gate and on the day of the event. But allow me to clue you in on the autograph session, which usually runs from 6:45-7 p.m. – The fans are lining the chain-link fence surrounding the track that surrounds the football field, and the 90 players taking part disperse and walk to different areas and sign for the fans in that area. Once a fan picks a spot along the fence, that fan will get the autograph of the player(s) who come to that spot along the fence. If you're intent on getting an Antonio Brown autograph, for example, and he walks to the other side of the field to sign, you're out of luck. I'm not discouraging your attendance, but I wanted you to understand how it works so you can make an informed decision.

Why do the Steelers continue to let William Gay return to the team at his age? I ask this because it takes a position away from one of the team's promising linebackers, such as Anthony Chickillo, Travis Feeney, or Jordan Zumwalt. I would rather have one of these guys on the 53-man roster instead of a 38-year-old Harrison. The favoritism, which sacrifices a younger player with potential to help the team now and in the near future, has to stop.

ANSWER: You are absolutely correct. Mike Tomlin does indeed play favorites – his favorites are the guys who can play. If any of those "promising linebackers" was better than James Harrison, that "promising linebacker" would be playing instead of him. Plain and simple. But the fact is that Harrison is better, and so the Steelers will continue to have a spot for him on the roster and in the lineup.

If a quarterback gets intercepted and then there's a fumble on the return and somehow the offense recovers it, does it still count as an interception?

ANSWER: Yes, it's still an interception for the offense. But it's also a lost fumble for the defense.

Ryan Shazier in my opinion did exactly what he was drafted to do: use his speed to disrupt. I wonder if they will move him to outside linebacker with all the new linebacker weapons we currently have. Go, No. 50. I would like to see his speed on the outside.

ANSWER: Just when I think everybody finally has been clued in on this particular running joke …

Any thought put in to making Ryan Shazier a strong safety? I believe with his outstanding speed he could be another Troy Polamalu. He is a very hard hitter and seems to be a little undersized to be taking on 350-pound lineman.

ANSWER: … See what I mean?

Since you get thrown simple football questions every day, I'm going to toss you a real tough one. Since it's the season, do you prefer chicken or steak on the grill?

ANSWER: For me, it's not so much about what's being cooked on the grill as much as it is what's being used to cook what's on the grill. It's gotta be charcoal. Old school. Charcoal. Build it into a sort of pyramid, squirt a little of what my uncles used to refer to as "Boy Scout water" on it. Then you hit it with a match. Wait until the flame dies down and the charcoal briquettes get white around the edges. Time to cook. That's the process that yields the backyard grill flavor, and it's the backyard grill flavor that's the key. Then it can be hot dogs, burgers, chicken, steak, pork, turkey. Whatever it is will taste like summer.

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