Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 28

Let's get to it:

When speaking of retired jersey numbers, you mentioned those that have been in long-time storage (Nos. 12, 32, 52, 58, 59). Why not retire them also? No one will ever live up to wearing those jerseys anyway, because their previous owners are legends. Plus, Heinz Field would look so cool with so many legendary jersey numbers displayed.

There's a difference between retiring a number and just not issuing it anymore, even though that might not seem like much of a distinction to fans. Based on which numbers can be used by certain positions, for example, the Steelers always are going to have to keep Nos. 82 and 88 in circulation. John Stallworth and Lynn Swann are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as are Franco Harris and Jack Ham and Jack Lambert and the rest of those great players from the 1970s. Since the Steelers cannot retire Nos. 82 and 88, how do they justify retiring Nos. 58 and 52, for example. Fans can have their favorite players and rank them according to their own personal preferences, but the team probably wants to view all of those great players as virtual equals. Except for Joe Greene.

Look into your crystal ball and tell us if you think this year the Steelers will put themselves in the category with the upper level teams in the AFC, i.e. the Patriots, Colts, Broncos, or will this year be yet another inconsistent year like losing to teams with sub-.500 records?

The Steelers finished 11-5 in 2014 and won the AFC North, just to refresh your memory. How can the Colts be in the upper level of the AFC if the Steelers hammered them, 51-34? The Steelers, led by six touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger, put up half-a-hundred on a team that, in my opinion, is one of the most overrated in the conference. What have the Broncos done recently except run up some great fantasy league statistics during the regular season and then gag in the playoffs? I understand your point has to do with whether the Steelers are going to improve upon their annoying habit of losing to bad teams, but understand that every team – except the year's defending champion – has at least one annoying habit, or it would have won the Super Bowl. OK, rant is over. Now to what I perceive to be your question: losing to inferior opposition – I believe – reflects some level of inexperience/immaturity. As this current group of Steelers mature professionally, both as individuals and as a 53-man team, I expect to see less of that. We should all expect to see less of that.

Photos of the Steelers Offensive Tackles during the 2014 season.

What is your take on the offensive line situation, particularly, is there enough depth there?

Offensive line depth is like money – it's never really enough because you never really know how much you're going to need. If you could promise me that all of these players were going to enter the regular season healthy – Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, David DeCastro, Kelvin Beachum, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams, and Cody Wallace – I would admit to being confident the Steelers could fill out the final two/three spots on the bottom of the depth chart based on the competition among Alejandro Villanueva, Chris Hubbard, B.J. Finney, Miles Dieffenbach, Reese Dismukes, and the rest. But a rash of injuries could change everything, especially if the injuries all come at one position. I do believe the Steelers have put themselves in a nice position with respect to the competition they have in place along the offensive line. We'll see how lucky they are.

Dick LeBeau, Mike Munchak, and Todd Haley are all very good position coaches or coordinators, and yes, it's high time we admitted Todd Haley has been very good for the Steelers. Why do you think they couldn't successfully make the transition to head coach?

My first thought as to why they had difficulty as head coaches has to do with their respective starting quarterbacks. Dick LeBeau had Akili Smith and Jon Kitna; Mike Munchak had an over-the-hill Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, and Ryan Fitzpatrick; and Todd Haley had Matt Cassel. There's also the support system in place for a head coach. In that respect, Haley was stuck with Scott Pioli, who rode Bill Belichick's coattails in New England and hasn't done much anywhere else; Munchak had Mike Reinfeldt and then Ruston Webster; and LeBeau had Mike Brown. And finally, some guys are just better coordinators than head coaches, because it's more of a football-only job. Munchak is 50, and Haley is 48. Maybe they get another shot.

How long do you think it will take James Harrison to get inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame once he is eligible?

Once again, I'm going to address a Hall of Fame question by distinguishing between a player's credentials and what I perceive as his electability. James Harrison's on-field credentials – 71.5 sacks plus 6.5 more in the playoffs; 2008 Defensive Player of the Year; two first-team All-Pro selections; five Pro Bowls; two Super Bowl rings, one of which came as the result of him turning in a 100-yard pick-six that's the greatest play in Super Bowl history – place him in the discussion for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the manner in which the NFL demonized James Harrison when it decided to implement its player-safety initiative following Week 6 of the 2010 regular season, I believe, will end up making Harrison unelectable. Harrison never had been flagged for a personal foul for unnecessary roughness, which is code for a dirty hit, despite having played virtually every snap of every game from 2007-10, and then all of a sudden he became public enemy No. 1 as he was writing checks for some big fines. Harrison has been unfairly labeled, in my opinion, and I'm afraid it's going to prevent him from even having a chance at the Hall of Fame.

Regarding LeGarrette Blount's departure, I always felt there was more to the story than Blount just quitting on the team. With the history of the New England Patriots' questionable morals, I believe he was contacted by the Patriots to return to the team to be the lead running back, which they needed, and was coached to do something stupid to get thrown off the Steelers' team. What are your thoughts on this conspiracy theory?

At the time of the NFL calendar when the Steelers released LeGarrette Blount, which was after the games of Week 11 of the regular season, all players are subject to waivers. So Blount got cut by the Steelers, and the rest of the league had a full 24 hours to decide whether to claim him and his contract, which would not have been a strain on any team's salary cap. If the Browns had claimed Blount, for example, he either goes to Cleveland or he doesn't play. Period. Blount cleared waivers, and New England signed him. The Patriots didn't even make their own waiver claim. So if Blount orchestrated that in order to get back to the Patriots, he took a big chance. I believe Blount quit because he didn't believe Le'Veon Bell was going to be so good so fast, and then he was too selfish to deal with not getting any touches even though the team was winning. As for a conspiracy, there may have been a wink-nod with an agent, but nothing as overt as you detail.

Out of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, who do you think should be rated highest on the NFL's top-100 list?

Ben Roethlisberger. On a football team, a great quarterback is more valuable than a great anything else, and Roethlisberger is a great quarterback. That top-100 list, by the way, is more of a marketing, social media, fan engagement project – not that there's anything wrong with that – than an accurate football assessment. Just saying. Let the buyer beware.

I read somewhere that the Steelers had a Doug Williams Jr. at rookie camp. Is he the son of the legendary Doug Williams from Grambling, and did he get invited back?

Doug Williams Jr. did participate in Steelers rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, and he is the son of former Grambling quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams. Williams Jr. was not signed.

With the crowded linebacker corps and the speed of Ryan Shazier, do you think he be would considered in a strong safety role?

I was wondering where y'all had been recently? Hadn't gotten one of these for a good while. The legend lives on.

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