Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 26

Let's get to it:

MARTIN ABELSON FROM MECHANICSBURG, PA: With social distancing becoming the new normal, have the Steelers ruled out training camp in Latrobe this year? I understand the health issues that could arise for everyone associated with the team and everyone associated with the college. I also understand because of the articles and videos you have provided in the past, that going to Latrobe is a big deal. Keeping us informed and entertained is also a big deal. My sincere thanks to you and your staff.
ANSWER: Training camp at Saint Vincent College has not been ruled out, but neither is there a confirmed starting date. There still is far too much uncertainty for there to be plans to carry on at Saint Vincent College as the Steelers have for the last 50-plus summers, but it's also important to note that nothing has been cancelled at this point either. The only thing I can tell you is that as soon as there is something definitive about training camp, it will be reported on We're all hoping for the best.

PAUL MCGURGAN FROM CARLSBAD, CA: Really enjoy reading this section, particularly how you handle some of the "less informed" questions. Not really a question here, but wishing I'd be able to be at Saint Vincent College this year in particular, as I think watching the Watt brothers do backs-on-backers would be quite a spectacle. Nothing more intense than two brothers competing. Hopefully, it will get on video for all of us to enjoy.
ANSWER: I'm sorry to have to tell you that backs-on-backers happens during a period of practice where shooting video is not allowed. For a Steelers fan to experience backs-on-backers, it has to happen in person.

PETE CRAFT FROM CONNEAUT LAKE, PA: I've been a Steelers fan since the "same old Steelers" days. And like all rabid fans I am certain game officials, the NFL office, and the national media are all against the Steelers. But last night I was watching a replay of last year's Baltimore at Steelers game and saw two horrible calls against the Ravens. In your opinion is there anything that could be done to improve the officiating?
ANSWER: I long have had an opinion on a way to improve officiating, but it has no chance of happening or even being considered. The way to improve officiating starts with abolishing instant replay, because instant replay has made officials tentative and developed within them a tendency to rely on technology to do the heavy lifting. But there have been countless examples of the technology being unable to capture the correct angle or apply the correct nuance on a particular situation, and my go-to example is the Jesse James catch/non-catch against the Patriots because in that game replay overturned the on-field call of a touchdown and then in the Super Bowl about a month later the exact same plays were being ruled touchdowns. I have relayed this many times in the past, but I will do it again now because I believe it's pertinent. In the mid-1980s when instant replay was on the way to being implemented, Chuck Noll was opposed, and when a reporter said the purpose was to get calls right, Noll said, "But what if it doesn't?" We have seen too many examples of when instant replay didn't.

LARRY JONES FROM BELPRE, OH: Do you believe there will be any change to the approach with Mason Rudolph in regards to practice/game reps given Ben Roethlisberger's age and recent elbow injury and also because Rudolph's rookie deal is up after the 2021 season?
ANSWER: It wouldn't surprise me at all if Ben Roethlisberger plays little or not at all during the preseason, which could result in more time in those games for Mason Rudolph. But when it comes to the regular season, Roethlisberger is the starter and he would play unless he was physically incapable. In the NFL, teams typically don't switch quarterbacks during a game for any reason other than injury. And for sure, the contract status of the backup would have no impact.

DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: Aaron Smith is a player who may be a household name in Pittsburgh but often is overlooked as a top defensive end. How important was he to the Steelers defense?
ANSWER: During the bulk of Aaron Smith's 13 seasons with the Steelers (1999-2011), running the football still was a significant part of NFL offenses and stopping the run was the primary responsibility of the defensive linemen in the team's 3-4 alignment. Smith never really put up eye-popping statistics, either in terms of tackles or sacks, but his strength allowed him to control blockers on his side of the line of scrimmage and his selflessness made him a valuable component of the unit because he freed up the linebackers and safeties to make plays at or around the line of scrimmage. Maybe the best way to make the case of Smith's value to those Steelers defenses is to highlight what happened to the units when he was injured an unable to play. In both 2007 and 2009, Smith missed some significant time because of injuries, and the 2007 team faded down the stretch once he was out of the lineup, and the 2009 team failed to make the playoffs one season after winning Super Bowl XLIII. And during the championship run of 2008, Smith was a significant part of that record-setting defense with 60 tackles, including eight for loss, plus 5.5 sacks.

DAVE STARCHER FROM BUTLER, PA: Why did the Steelers put up with the kicking woes in the 1970s? I have watched Roy Gerela and Bobby Walden have some horrible kicks? No offense to either guy, but was the bar much lower back then for specialists? Also many times I heard announcers say that the Cowboys got such a tremendous bargain from the Steelers by getting Preston Pearson for $100. Can you explain why we let Pearson go and how that $100 happened?
ANSWER: On your first question, I'll allow statistics to provide the answer. In 1975, when both Bobby Walden and Roy Gerela were part of the Steelers team that won Super Bowl X, the NFL's No. 10 placekicker in terms of accuracy was Joe Danelo with a field goal success percentage of 68.8. Garo Yepremian led the NFL at 81.3 percent, and Gerela finished No. 2 at 81.0 percent. In 2019, Josh Lambo led the NFL with a 97.1 field goal accuracy percentage, and in 2018 when fans were calling for Chris Boswell's head he was successful on 65 percent of his field goal attempts. When it comes to punting, in 1975, Ray Guy (who is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame by the way) led the NFL with a 43.8-yard average; in 2019, Tress Way led the NFL with an average of 49.6 yards per punt. To emphasize even further, Jordan Berry frequently is identified by fans as a punter the Steelers should replace, and in his five NFL seasons, he has bettered Guy's league-leading average from 1975 twice and posted a 43.7 average in a third.

The Steelers waived Preston Pearson after the 1974 season because they had this guy named Franco Harris who had taken over the job and most recently was coming off setting a single-game Super Bowl rushing record. In those days, claiming a player off waivers cost the claiming team $100. During his six seasons in Dallas, Pearson averaged 3.7 yards per carry while catching 189 passes for 2,274 yards and 11 touchdowns. As a running back, Pearson was a better receiver.

DAVID HAYES FROM HARTSELLE, AL: Since the great run of the 1970s, how many times since then have the Steelers missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons? What is the longest playoff drought? Keep the humor coming.
ANSWER: The Steelers final Super Bowl championship during the 1970s came at the conclusion of the 1979 season. In 1980 and 1981, the team didn't make the playoffs. In 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1988, the team didn't make the playoffs. In 1990 and 1991, the team didn't make the playoffs. All of those teams were coached by Chuck Noll. During the Bill Cowher era, when it comes to more than one playoff-less season in a row, the Steelers didn't make the playoffs in 1998, 1999, and 2000. Mike Tomlin was hired in 2007, and when it comes to more than one playoff-less season in s a row, the Steelers didn't make the playoffs in 2012 and 2013, and they didn't make the playoffs in 2018 and 2019. To summarize by coach, the longest post 1970s playoff drought was four seasons under Noll, three seasons under Cowher, and two seasons under Tomlin.

CRAIG MADER FROM MECHANICSBURG, PA: I just wanted to relate my recent experience with Asked and Answered. In March, I had a stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma. To make a long story short, I spiked a fever, ended up in the ER, and developed double pneumonia without an immune system. I was placed in a drug induced coma. I woke up three weeks later with clear lungs and still alive. After a stint in the rehab hospital I came home. Once on the Steelers website I realized I had not read Asked and Answered for over two months. So I went back and read every one. There is a psychological aspect of healing, and I think you helped with that. So, thanks Bob. By the way, the transplant worked.
ANSWER: I have been told by readers in no uncertain terms that reading Asked and Answered has made them sick, but this is the first time it has been associated with helping someone during a healing process. Thanks for sharing, and good luck in the future.