Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 26

Let's get to it:

JOHN VERNACCHIO FROM MODESTO, CA: Besides the quarterback competition, what do you see as some of the most intriguing position battles coming up for OTAs and training camp?
ANSWER: Jobs aren't won or lost until the pads go on, and once that happens I will be interested in seeing how the offensive line comes together; how the free agent signings of James Daniel and Mason Cole mesh with the up-and-coming players (Kendrick Green, Dan Moore Jr., Chuks Okorafor, and Kevin Dotson) to see if the Steelers can put together a group capable of helping Najee Harris improve upon the production he turned in as a rookie last season.

BRYAN CLARK FROM BETHLEHEM, PA: Would you please compare cutting "new draftee," "holdover," and "newly acquired" player contracts in the preseason? Specifically, I am trying to determine if cutting Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph, or Mitch Trubisky in the preseason has any cap advantages during the season.
ANSWER: This is a ridiculous exercise because it has absolutely no basis in reality. There is no realistic scenario where the Steelers would waive a player it just drafted 20th overall, and especially with that player being a quarterback, because the franchise only has used No. 1 picks on the position four times since 1970. And you can't convince me that you actually believe there is a realistic scenario where the Steelers would release Mitch Trubisky, a former second overall pick with a 29-21 record and two playoff appearances on his NFL resume, and in his two playoff starts he completed 62.5 percent, with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a rating of 92.5. You cannot convince me to believe they would cut such a player whose cap charge is only $3.66 million, even if he doesn't win the competition this summer. That leaves Mason Rudolph. If you subtract the dead cap charge from his salary and then subtract the cost of a rookie free agent to take his place on the 53-man roster, that doesn't leave enough money left over even to create a ripple when it comes to the salary cap pool. I remember Bill Cowher always responded to these kinds of queries with, "I'm not interested in playing the what-if game." Me neither.

MILT HARRIS FROM TAMPA, FL: Your answer to the question about the "greatest" Steelers play was perfect. The Immaculate Reception was the single play that flipped the switch to turn wild enthusiasm and hope into true belief. I was 15 years old then, and like everyone else I wanted so badly to really believe that our team was for real. Plays like that always happened to "good teams." That play anointed us as one of those teams.
ANSWER: And even more significant for what it did for the fan base, imagine how it energized a franchise that never had won anything before.

SEAN DELANEY FROM UPTON, MA: In the May 19 edition of Asked and Answered, you answered a question about mystery of Stephen Tuitt's return like the player's defense attorney trying to cast reasonable doubt. Technically, you are correct. We don't know if Tuitt has communicated his intent to Steelers President Art Rooney II. But if he has indeed told the team he's coming back, why would the Steelers keep it a secret? Quite frankly, Tuitt OWES the fans an answer.
ANSWER: You accuse me of acting as a defense attorney. Well, you're coming off as somebody who believes he has subpoena power. I don't know whether Stephon Tuitt has made a decision, and/or communicated that decision to the Steelers, but because you want to play lawyer, let's say that hypothetically Stephon Tuitt has told he Steelers he's coming back. The reason the team might be interested in keeping it quiet is because doing so shields Tuitt, his teammates, and all the coaches from having to answer the inevitable questions over and over and over again now that the media is back in the locker room on days when the team has OTAs or mandatory minicamp. And I'll close with this: Respectfully, Stephon Tuitt owes the fans nothing when it comes to making a decision and going public with that decision on his immediate future as a football player. He's a FOOTBALL PLAYER, not a public figure, not someone with a job impacting national security or global health. Fans are not owed a detailed explanation concerning the reasons and decisions made, and who made them, regarding the health of an individual player. Whatever the reason/situation/diagnosis was that impacted Tuitt's availability for the 2021 season broke no NFL rules, and the league is satisfied nothing nefarious took place. There is no other legitimate need-to-know.

NATE GEISLER FROM BOISE. ID: After seeing a photo of first-round pick Kenny Pickett wearing the No. 8 jersey, it was making me think. Was Tommy Maddox the best quarterback to have worn No. 8? Who were the other best Steelers quarterbacks listed by their jersey numbers Nos. 1-19?
ANSWER: I'm going to give this a shot, but please understand the answers are more coming off the top of my head than they are thoroughly researched.

No. 00: Johnny Clement is the only player ever to wear that number for the Steelers, but also was a quality single-wing tailback – the equivalent of a T-formation quarterback in today's game – who led the team in rushing and produced 11 total touchdowns in 1947 for a team that finished 8-4.

No. 1: Anthony Wright is the only quarterback ever to wear the number for the Steelers.

No. 2: Mason Rudolph over Michael Vick and Brian St. Pierre, based on most regular season wins in a Steelers jersey.

No. 3: Landry Jones over Brian Hoyer.

No. 4: Byron Leftwich over Tyler Palko.

No. 5: Terry Hanratty over Joshua Dobbs and Bruce Gradkowski.

No. 6: Bubby Brister over Devlin Hodges, if you're old enough to know.

No. 7: Ben Roethlisberger. No explanation needed.

No. 8: Tommy Maddox, unless Kenny Pickett has something to say about it.

No. 9: Not applicable.

No. 10: Kordell Stewart over Kent Nix, Dennis Dixon, Scott Campbell, Rudy Bukich, and Earl Morrall (only considering what he did with the Steelers). Mitch Trubisky is pending.

No. 11: Tie between Rick Strom and Mike Quinn over Kent Graham, because it wasn't Strom or Quinn who took that sack in Cleveland in 2000.

No. 12: Terry Bradshaw. No explanation needed.

No. 13: Not applicable.

No. 14: Neil O'Donnell over Todd Blackledge and Bill Nelsen.

Bo. 15: Ed Brown, over George Izo, Mike Kruczek, and Steve Bono, based on Brown passing for 2,982 yards and leading the NFL with a 17.4-yard average per completion in quarterbacking the 1963 Steelers to a 7-4-3 record.

No. 16: Charlie Batch over Len Dawson (only considering what he did with the Steelers), Mark Malone, and Jim Miller.

No. 17: Joe Gilliam over Ted Marchibroda, Dick Shiner, and Tee Martin, based on if you ever saw them all throw a football, you know.

No. 18: Cliff Stoudt over Jack Kemp (only considering what he did with the Steelers), Terry Nofsinger, and Mike Tomczak.

No. 19: David Woodley.

MARK GAUCI FROM SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: Given the roster changes we've seen so far, is it reasonable to expect the Steelers run defense to be better this season than last?
ANSWER: Since the Steelers finished last in the NFL in run defense in 2021, the run defense in 2022, by definition, cannot be worse. But more than roster changes, I believe the improvement can come from within via the return to form of some of their injured players. To put names to that, those players would be Tyson Alualu, Stephon Tuitt, and Devin Bush.

DARRELL SAUNDERS FROM MIAMI, FL: Is Craig Wolfley going to continue to do a radio show on SNR after the passing of his teammate and long-time friend Tunch Ilkin? I am a long-time listener of SNR, and I really miss the "In the Locker Room" show.
ANSWER: Actually, Craig Wolfley was joined by former Steelers tackle Max Starks all the way back at the start of training camp in 2021 for "In the Locker Room with Wolf & Starks." The show will return at the start of training camp and will air at the same place and the same time.

MARK HENKE FROM O'FALLON, MO: I know it was only for a brief time, but has there been a better linebacker group than Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, and Andy Russell? Andy is the reason I first became a Steelers fan in 1967.
ANSWER: In my opinion, those three were the best group. Those three won two Super Bowls as a starting unit; two guys were first-ballot Hall of Fame inductees; and the third was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection who missed a season when he was 23 because of military service and survived the purge when Chuck Noll was hired in 1969. But the New York Giants have a good argument with the group of Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks on the outside and Gary Reasons and Harry Carson on the inside. Taylor and Carson are in the Hall of Fame, but the Giants have the advantage of an extra player.

MICHAEL LEYBICK FROM VIRGINIA BEACH, VA: Do you think Mason Rudolph could lose his job with the addition of Chris Oladokun, because Mason is the only quarterback on the roster who is not a threat to run.
ANSWER: I disagree with your assessment about Mason Rudolph to the extent that while he'll never be confused with Michael Vick, he isn't a statue either. Rudolph is sufficiently athletic to buy time in the pocket, and if a lane opens up, he can take advantage, as he did against the Lions when he gained 26 and then 11 yards on separate scrambles. Coach Mike Tomlin is trying to put together a quarterback depth chart that can be effective over the course of a 17-game regular season and help the Steelers win games and compete for a championship. He's not entering a relay team in the Olympics.