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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 2

Let's get to it:

KEITH MILLER FROM CANTON, NC: We all know the best draft ever was the Steelers' Class of 1974. But has there ever been a better two-year draft class (and I know it's too early to chisel it in stone) than 2023-2024? Last year's draft brought them starters at offensive line, defensive line, cornerback, and tight end. This year, it looks like probable starters at offensive tackle, wide receiver, inside linebacker, and center.
ANSWER: If someone is looking for excellence in the art of NFL drafting over a two-year span, I would nominate the 1970-71 Steelers. Here's the haul from those two draft classes, both of which preceded the greatest draft class in NFL history, which came three years later in 1974. Anyway, in 1970, the Steelers picked quarterback Terry Bradshaw and cornerback Mel Blount – two first-ballot Hall of Fame players – and starting wide receivers Ron Shanklin and Dave Smith. In 1971, they added wide receiver Frank Lewis, who played 13 seasons and finished with 6,724 yards (16.9 average) and 40 touchdowns; outside linebacker Jack Ham, a first-ballot Hall of Famer who transformed the way the position was played; and then just go down the rest of the list from 1971 and see how many significant names are on it. Moon Mullins, Dwight White, Larry Brown, Ernie Holmes, and Mike Wagner. Those guys combined to earn 18 Super Bowl rings, and all were starters on those championship teams.

PHILIP GEISLER FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: After the draft ended, some people were angry the defensive side of the ball wasn't addressed as well as they expected. Don't you think the offense and a new coordinator with presumably a ground-and-pound mentality will allow the defense longer stretches of rest?
ANSWER: The Steelers didn't select a defensive lineman until the sixth round (178th overall), and I'm sure that disappointed some Steelers fans who were wishing for an earlier, higher profile pick. But you can't get everything from a single 7-pick draft. And those among the disappointed should remember the Steelers committed a good bit to the defense during free agency, on top of that unit already having most of the high-priced talent on the roster. In free agency, the defense got every-down, all-situations inside linebacker Patrick Queen, plus two additions to the secondary with NFL regular season starting experience in cornerback Donte Jackson and safety DeShon Elliott. The defense also has T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joey Porter Jr., and Alex Highsmith, and Cam Heyward, and Larry Ogunjobi, and Keeanu Benton, and Nick Herbig, and Elandon Roberts. The offense had to get a center, the offensive line needed the talent injection that comes with a No. 1 pick, and wide receiver was a value position in the third round of the 2024 NFL Draft. Besides, was there even a defensive lineman available in the third round who would've been a clear upgrade over what the Steelers currently have along the defensive line? I'm not so sure.

CARLOS E. MARTINEZ FROM MONTERREY NL, MEXICO: Besides Kurt Warner, are there any other undrafted quarterbacks who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
ANSWER: With the exception of players who entered the NFL before the NFL Draft was instituted in 1936, the only undrafted quarterbacks to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame are Kurt Warner, as you mentioned in your submission, and Warren Moon. In 1977, Moon's final college season at the University of Washington, he quarterbacked the Huskies to the Pac-10 title and then an upset win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl where he was voted the game's Most Valuable Player. But concerned he would attract little interest in the upcoming NFL Draft, Moon opted to sign with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League six weeks before the NFL Draft. After a storied career in the CFL, Moon signed with the Houston Oilers in 1984, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2006.

DAN McNEEL FROM MANCHESTER, NH: I have to wonder where having any patience and intelligence has gone. Nearly everyone is quick to jump to conclusions and hand out grades. None of this, I repeat, none of this will prove out in the near future and may take years or even decades. Donnie Shell was signed as part of the historic 1974 Draft class that produced 5 Hall of Fame players, and it was decades before all 5 were actually inducted. Add on to this that all those handing out grades now missed nearly every draft pick of every team in their mock drafts, which are nothing more than click bait. Please, people. Would someone with some semblance of sanity please stand up and stop the nonsense.
ANSWER: Preach.

STEVE MASSARO FROM MARTINSBURG, PA: With Pittsburgh taking 3 offensive players with their first three picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, I wondered if they had ever done this in past drafts, and if so who were the players selected and how did they fare in the NFL?
ANSWER: The Steelers have participated in every draft in NFL history, with the first coming in 1936, and I didn't have to go back very far in franchise history for the answer to your question. In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Steelers selected Najee Harris in the first round, Pat Freiermuth in the second round, Kendrick Green in the third round, and Dan Moore Jr. in the fourth round. During the 2023 season, Harris, Freiermuth, and Moore were starters for the Steelers, and Green appeared in four regular season games, with three starts, for the Houston Texans.

MEL THOMAS FROM WINCHESTER, VA: Can Cordarrelle Patterson help us in the receiving game, because I recall he was a receiver/running back at one time? Can you illustrate his receiving stats for us?
ANSWER: Cordarrelle Patterson will be entering his 12th NFL season as a 33-year-old in 2024, and over the course of his career he has 298 catches for 2,795 yards (9.4 average) and 16 touchdowns as a receiver to go along with 514 carries for 2,511 yards (4.9 average) and 22 touchdowns as a running back. As for how he might be utilized by the Steelers, I believe his primary role will be as a returner, and it's also worth noting that Patterson hasn't had a season with more receiving yards than rushing yards since 2018.

SHAWN BITTNER FROM JACKSONVILLE, NC: Debating with a friend. Since the draft was reduced to 7 rounds there are a lot more undrafted free agents who that make NFL rosters and end up playing significant roles. Since most undrafted free agents only sign a 1-year deal, and are basically a free agent in their second year, do they have an advantage over a seventh-round pick who is locked up with the same team for 4 years?
ANSWER: Allow me to correct a few misconceptions. Undrafted free agents are not signed to 1-year contracts coming out of college. Jaylen Warren, for example, signed a three-year, $2.57 million contract with the Steelers that included a $12,000 signing bonus. At the end of that contract, Warren would be a restricted free agent, which is a designation that rarely leads the player to move from one team to another. If there is an advantage for an undrafted free agent vs. a seventh-round draft pick, it's that the undrafted free agent may get to pick a team based on his best opportunity to earn a roster spot. Also, a player going into his second and/or third NFL season without a contract would be classified as an exclusive rights free agent (ERFA). Keeping an ERFA is simple for an NFL team, because all it has to do is extend a qualifying offer to the player, and the player is unable to negotiate with other teams. A qualifying offer is a one-year contract at the league minimum salary based on the player's experience level. If an exclusive rights free agent is given a qualifying offer, he has no recourse other than to play for his current team. His only other option is not to play football.

ANDREW SCHERBIK FROM PORTSMOUTH, VA: With this being the 50th anniversary of the greatest individual team draft in NFL history, it got me to thinking, how many other players from that draft (not just the Steelers) made the Hall of Fame?
ANSWER: The 1974 NFL Draft produced 6 Hall of Fame players, and five of them played their entire careers for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The sixth was Dave Casper, a tight end who was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round (45th overall). Interestingly, the slot the Raiders used to pick Casper was one slot before the Steelers used their second-round pick on Jack Lambert.

MIKE ROBEY FROM TILTONSVILLE, OH: Do you anticipate the Steelers giving Coach Mike Tomlin a contract extension before the 2024 regular season begins?

LIAM VACCARO FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: I noticed during the draft over the weekend that some of the teams were running low on time to make their pick. And that made me think, "What if a team ran out of time?" I was wondering if you could let me in on some info on what would happen.
ANSWER: Let me start by explaining that there can be a difference between the ticking clock that's shown on television, and the official time being monitored by the NFL. Anyway, if the NFL determines Team A's allotted time to make its pick has expired, the next team in the draft order (Team B) would be able to make its pick. And if Team B happened to select the player that Team A might have wanted, too bad for Team A.