Let’s get to it:
GEORGE BENNETT FROM MT ZION, IL: The early returns on the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade have been positive, which has me thinking about other trades in Steelers history. What trade would get your vote as the greatest the team has ever made?
ANSWER: I would find it extremely difficult to rank any trade in franchise history higher than the one in 1996 that brought Jerome Bettis to the Steelers. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his contributions as a player, and Bettis also was a Hall of Fame caliber contributor in the community. He was respected to the point of being loved by his teammates, who rallied around him to get him back to his hometown of Detroit for Super Bowl XL, which he helped the Steelers win and then announced his retirement on the podium with the Lombardi Trophy in his hands. One other factor to remember about Bettis was he took less money in negotiations, and even accepted salary reductions, to stay with the Steelers during the latter stages of his football career. Bettis was a true champion on and off the field, a Hall of Fame player, and a better person. That’s the greatest trade in Steelers history, but simply in terms of winning a particular deal, it would be hard to argue that getting a No. 3 and a No. 5 pick in return for Antonio Brown isn’t among the best as well for maximizing his value on the open market. I guarantee you no team would be willing to part with multiple draft picks, or a pick as high as one in the third round for Brown today.
ANTONIO CAMPOS FROM TORREON, MEXICO: In a previous installment, you mentioned that Mason Rudolph wasn't drafted to be the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger. Later, in another question, you were talking about backup-caliber quarterbacks and you mentioned Landry Jones and Joshua Dobbs, but not Rudolph. What is your position on him?
ANSWER: Landry Jones and Joshua Dobbs were drafted to be groomed as backup quarterbacks because that’s what their skill-set dictated. Sure, they were good enough to get a team through a couple of games if the starter was injured, maybe even a decent portion of the season if the starter was injured. But neither player was the kind of guy who be a full-time starting quarterback in the NFL and have his team be a consistent contender for a championship. I didn’t put Mason Rudolph in that category, because I believe his talent level puts him a cut above Jones and Dobbs, but I also didn’t believe he was drafted to follow Roethlisberger per se, because I didn’t see Roethlisberger’s career as being one that was close to ending at the same time Rudolph was drafted (2018). And that has proven to be true, because since drafting Rudolph, the Steelers have signed Roethlisberger to a three-year contract that binds him to the team through the 2021 season. Maybe Rudolph ends up following Roethlisberger as the team’s starter, but I don’t believe that was the intent when the team drafted him.
MICHAEL FILAK FROM PLANO, TX: How do they score that bad snap by Maurkice Pouncey that resulted in the Rams’ only touchdown? Is it a sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery for a touchdown by Dante Fowler?
ANSWER: According to the official play-by-play from the game, it was scored as an aborted play, with Maurkice Pouncey being charged with the fumble. Dante Fowler was credited with a fumble recovery, and then a 26-yard return for a touchdown. There is no sack and no forced fumble on that play.
AARON BREEZE FROM FRESNO, CA: I really enjoy the Q&A session you do with Mike Tomlin. In this most recent one you asked him a lot about ball-hawking safeties, and I was surprised and maybe even a little upset that he didn't mention Troy Polamalu. He talked about Ed Reed twice and a couple of others, but how can he miss Troy? It bothers me even more, I think, because Tomlin is very thoughtful and intentional with how he answers questions.
ANSWER: I don’t know if you remember, but there was at least one year when both Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu were voted first-team All-Pro, and one of the reasons that could happen was because they played different positions. Reed was a free safety, and Polamalu played strong safety. In the discussion with Tomlin, Reed and the other players he referenced, including Dexter Jackson and Minkah Fitzpatrick, are free safeties whose typical assignment is to patrol the deep middle of the field and hunt for the ball. Polamalu was a playmaker extraordinaire, but he lined up all over the field and typically was much closer to the line of scrimmage. In terms of the players Tomlin referenced in his answer, Polamalu really didn’t belong in that group. Different positions, aligned on the field in different areas, and utilized by their respective teams in different roles.
DON STITZENBERG FROM WEEHAWKEN, NJ: The Steelers’ core business philosophy is to build the team through the draft. I lived through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s where they brought in over-the-hill players and traded away draft picks. Who decided to go to a philosophy of “build the team through the draft?” Was it Chuck Noll, Dan Rooney, or someone else?
ANSWER: It was Dan Rooney, because he was the one who told Coach Buddy Parker he was no longer allowed to make trades without running them past him first. When Parker told Dan Rooney he couldn’t work under those parameters, Dan Rooney told him, “I accept your resignation.” After Mike Nixon and Bill Austin, who followed Parker as coach, didn’t pan out, it was Dan Rooney who headed the search that resulted in the hiring of Chuck Noll, and one of the reasons Noll was a highly regarded candidate was because his belief in using the draft meshed with Dan Rooney’s.