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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 25

Let's get to it:

ARLEY EARLS FROM LINDALE, TX: I heard that Jack ham never played football in high school. Is that true?
ANSWER: It is not true. In the 1966 Bishop McCort Yearbook, there is a photo of Jack Ham in his uniform. In the photo, he is wearing jersey No. 66. After high school, Ham attended prep school at Massanutten in Woodstock, Va., where he played football but didn't play a lot or very well, either. Ham left Massanutten with no scholarship offers, but he did have a teammate named Steve Smear, a defensive lineman who had gotten a football scholarship to Penn State. When one of the Penn State recruits backed out of his commitment and signed with Iowa, there was an open spot, and Smear lobbied the coaches to give that scholarship to Ham. The Penn State coaching staff ended up reaching out to Ham with an offer late in the spring before his freshman year in college.

DON MARSHALL FROM CINCINNATI, OH: How did Slippery Rock quarterback Roland Rivers III do in Rookie Minicamp, and was he offered a contract?
ANSWER: I have no specifics to offer regarding the individual performance of quarterback Roland Rivers III during Rookie Minicamp, but I can tell you that the Steelers did not offer contracts to any of the five players, including Rivers, who participated over that weekend on a tryout basis.

TOM RYAN FROM SAN DIEGO, CA: I know the Steelers are up against the salary cap, but I would love to see them bring in a veteran running back such as Adrian Peterson. He would not cost that much at this point and still has some gas in the tank. You have to have another professional running back to lighten the load and still have a productive offense.
ANSWER: I disagree with your assessment about Adrian Peterson being someone with "some gas left in the tank" and that "he would not cost that much," because if those two things were true, I believe he would have signed with a team by now. Also, I believe teams should tread lightly when signing a proven veteran who previously has been the star of the show for the purpose of him accepting a secondary role behind a young and often unproven player. The Steelers got lucky in that respect when they signed DeAngelo Williams, then 32 years old, in 2015 to serve as a backup to Le'Veon Bell. Coach Mike Tomlin and Randy Fichtner both knew Williams personally, and they determined he would come to the team and be satisfied with his supporting role, and Williams turned out to be a great addition. But the previous year, the Steelers had tried something similar with LeGarrette Blount, who was 28 years old when the Steelers signed him in 2014. Maybe Blount didn't believe Bell, a second-year pro at the time he signed with the Steelers, would be as good as he ended up being, and when Blount's playing time didn't match up to his expectations, he became a malcontent who quit on the team during a Monday night win over the Titans in Tennessee. My opinion is that before the Steelers would go down the path of adding a proven veteran running back to the roster, they will see what they have in Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, and even Kalen Ballage, who entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2018 after measuring 6-foot-2, 228 pounds and running a 4.46 at that year's NFL Combine.

KEN WALDROP FROM ONTONAGON, MI: It's hard to ask this question without being a bit critical. David DeCastro seemed to be a bit off his timing last season, especially when it came to pulling (which before that I thought he was one of the best in the league at doing). Was that attributed to injury or maybe the chemistry of the line as a whole?
ANSWER: David DeCastro missed some of training camp and then three games over the course of the regular season because of knee and abdominal injuries.

DAVID MARCOU FROM DANVERS, MA: I was just browsing the Steelers current roster, and I was trying to figure out who prime candidates are for the first outside linebacker off the bench? Other than the rookies, do you know which guys would be competing for this job at training camp?
ANSWER: Other than the rookies, I would keep my eye on Cassius Marsh, who has 14 sacks in 92 career NFL games. Marsh will be 29 on July 7.

JC CHUTA FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: In a follow-up to an answer to a question in a previous installment of Asked and Answered regarding a drafted player who doesn't sign a rookie contract: "If a drafted player does not sign a contact, he would have to go back into the following year's draft …". Would the NFL team that was not able to sign him get compensated for losing a draft pick?
ANSWER: No. There would be no compensation to a team that did not sign one of its drafted players who then would enter the next year's draft.

CHRIS SAQQAL FROM ALLENTOWN, PA: How do you feel about the change to the jersey number policy? I know most Steelers players didn't change their jersey number, but personally, I am not looking forward to seeing wide receivers and cornerbacks wearing single digits on the field.
ANSWER: I'm sure there are things about which I care less, but none immediately come to mind.

LARRY LANDSPERGER FROM DOUGLASVILLE, GA: Although quarterbacks were plentiful in the draft, I was surprised that Cole Kelley out of Southeastern Louisiana University didn't get a look. Big like Ben Roethlisberger. Good numbers. Can we assume the Steelers were just not interested in any new quarterbacks to work with going into the 2021 season?
ANSWER: Cole Kelley, the quarterback at Southeastern Louisiana, will be draft eligible in 2022.

ED SWARTZ FROM NORWICH, OH: Two years ago the Steelers drafted Justin Layne in the third round and I thought that was a great pick. Some draft analysts had him going sooner than that. He will be entering his third year in the NFL, is he progressing the way the team hoped he would and what do you think the team's expectations are for him?
ANSWER: In my opinion, Justin Layne needs to take a big step forward this summer, particularly in training camp and during the preseason. At the end of 2020, he had been passed on the depth chart by undrafted rookie James Pierre. Layne may end up being lucky the Steelers depth at cornerback isn't great, because that could end up helping him hold onto a spot on the 53-man roster, but Coach Mike Tomlin's patience isn't limitless, either.

DENNIS SLEEGER FROM YORK, PA: How long can a rookie contract be for? What is the most a first-round draft pick can get? And are the last years of the contract an option year?
ANSWER: All drafted rookies sign four-year contracts, and a team never would do this, but it could give its entire rookie pool under the salary cap to one individual. Only first-round draft picks have an option on their contracts for a fifth year.

SCOTT COLLINS FROM GAMBRILLS, MD: Can you see James Harrison making a comeback as a long-snapper?
ANSWER: I would think there's a better chance James Harrison returns as a media relations liaison.

JOE KALDON FROM ALIQUIPPA, PA: Are NFL head coaches allowed to wear a suit and tie on the sidelines, or do they have to wear the gear of corporate sponsors? Will we ever see the likes of Tom Landry again with a suit, tie, and fedora?
ANSWER: The NFL "encourages" coaches to wear the sideline gear that's part of the league's sponsorship with Nike, and I strongly believe there is more interest is keeping that relationship healthy than there is in the sartorial splendor of a fedora. Besides, how many NFL coaches today even know how to tie a tie?

BOBBY KNIGHT FROM RESTON, VA: With the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey and Ben Roethlisberger's immobility, has the team ever considered the possibility of moving David DeCastro to center and starting Kendrick Green at guard?
ANSWER: I certainly hope that possibility never has been considered. How does moving an All-Pro guard entering his 10th NFL season to a position he hasn't played since high school, and he graduated from high school in 2008, help anything?

RON HOBBS FROM ORLANDO, FL: Finally, an intelligent and informative article by you. The one about running back Najee Harris and the outside zone blocking schemes. My question is when are you going to write other informative articles?
ANSWER: After considerable soul-searching, I have decided to dedicate my professional life to living up to your expectations. Say hello to your cousin Roy.