Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 14

Let's get to it:

JASON NORTON FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA: Are teams/players allowed to drive to away games? I don't know how quickly an NFL team can get in and out of an airport, but for the average Steelers fan, it feels like driving would be quicker. Has anyone tested that theory?
ANSWER: Players travel with the team, and the Steelers ride buses to their game in Cleveland every season. Back in the earlier portion of the Chuck Noll era, for a short time the Steelers traveled by airplane to Cleveland. Myron Cope always speculated that decision was made because Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is located west of the city, Noll's sister lived close to that area, and he always arranged to have dinner with her during that road trip. Whether fact or just another entertaining Cope story, the Steelers rather quickly went back to bus trips to Cleveland, and the team will be boarding buses at the end of this week for the Nov. 19 game vs. the Browns.

JEFF BANKOVICH FROM ELIZABETH TOWNSHIP, PA: I know the game clock stops on an incomplete pass, penalty, injury, and timeout. When does the clock stop when the ball carrier runs out of bounds?
ANSWER: Running out of bounds stops the clock in the final two minutes of the first half and in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter. Outside of those windows, the clock may stop briefly to give the officials time to spot the ball for the next play.

RODGER SHAFFER FROM PLUM, PA: What is the role of the practice squad during the week and who are their coaches?
ANSWER: The players on the practice squad spend their in-season weeks doing exactly what the players on the 53-man roster do. Same times, same meetings, same cafeteria options, same athletic trainers, same weight room time, same therapy if needed, and same practices. And the same position coaches work with all of the players in their respective groups. This routine is why the Steelers often turn to the players on their practice squad first when looking for a fill-in or a replacement for someone who had been on the 53-man roster. The Steelers know them, and they know the Steelers.

ANDREW ROWLEY FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: I remember a few seasons back that every team in the AFC North had a Heisman Trophy winner on the roster, except for the Steelers. Have they ever drafted/signed a Heisman Trophy winner to the roster?
ANSWER: The Steelers drafted two Heisman Trophy winners and had a brief relationship with a third. Listed chronologically, the Steelers used their first pick of the 1946 NFL Draft (third overall) on Doc Blanchard, who became the first junior to win the Heisman Trophy when he did it in 1945. Blanchard played at West Point, and he was part of the famous "Mr. Inside Mr. Outside backfield." Blanchard was Mr. Inside, and Glenn Davis was Mr. Outside, and they were the offensive motor that drove those Army teams to a 27-0-1 record over three seasons under Coach Red Blaik. Blanchard declined to play pro football and instead served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force and flew 113 combat missions during the Vietnam War.

In the 1954 NFL Draft, the Steelers used their No. 1 pick (seventh overall) on Notre Dame halfback Johnny Lattner, who played for Coach Frank Leahy from 1950 to 1953. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1953, when the Irish went 9–0–1 and were ranked No. 2 to Maryland in the final Associated Press poll. After being drafted by the Steelers, Lattner's one NFL season came in 1954 and included 1,028 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, punt returns, kickoff returns) and 7 total touchdowns for a team that finished 5-7 – fourth in the Eastern Conference under Coach Walt Kiesling. Following that single season with the Steelers, Lattner joined the United States Air Force for a 2-year stint. While in the service, Lattner injured a knee playing football and that prevented him from being able to play any more professional football.

Then in 2012, the Steelers had a brief relationship with Troy Smith, the former Ohio State quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy in 2006 and was selected by the Ravens in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. In 2012, the Steelers signed Smith to a futures contract in January but cut him before training camp opened in July. The three quarterbacks on the Steelers 2012 roster ended up being Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, and Charlie Batch.

MIKE FEDERICO FROM COLLIERVILLE, TN: How do Kenny Pickett's stats compare to Ben Roethlisberger's over the same number of games to begin their careers? I recall that Ben's stats were somewhat underwhelming compared to what he blossomed into as a passer.
ANSWER: With all due respect, I'm not going to do all of the compiling and adding to compare Kenny Pickett to Ben Roethlisberger because it's not fair to either player and has no real significance. Whatever Roethlisberger's stats were not during the first few seasons of his career was because of a lack of volume in comparison to quarterbacks who operated in more liberal style offenses. Roethlisberger was a dynamic player before the end of his rookie season, and he quarterbacked the team to a Super Bowl championship with a spectacular run through the AFC Playoffs – wins at Cincinnati, at Indianapolis, and at Denver – when he completed 49-of-72 (68.1 percent) for 680 yards, 7 touchdowns, 1 interception, and a rating of 124.8. There is no comparison, and none ever will be considered by me in this space. I plan to allow Kenny Pickett to create his own story with the Steelers, and Roethlisberger's legacy stands on its own.

REDD MAHONEY FROM ROOSEVELT, NY: Jaylen Warren looks extremely fast on the football field. What was his 40-time/shuttle time prior to the NFL draft, and why wasn't he drafted?
ANSWER: During the run-up to the 2022 NFL Draft, Jaylen Warren was timed at 4.55 in the 40-yard dash, and he posted a 34.0 in the vertical jump, a 116 in the broad jump, a 4.42 time in the shuttle, and a 7.13 time in the 3-cone drill. I believe a couple of the things working against Warren were his size (5-foot-8, 215 pounds), and the fact he played just one season at Oklahoma State after starting his college career at Utah State. Also, in those pre-draft scouting reports around the league he was characterized as "a one-speed runner who lacked an extra gear, with marginal elusiveness. He is a strong momentum runner, but he needs the hole to be there to hit top speed running downhill." The Steelers saw things in Warren that they liked, and aggressively pursued him as an undrafted free agent. I believe we now know the Steelers were correct.

BOB WALKER FROM BRENTWOOD, TN: I just watched the 2023 Alumni Weekend Program on Is this an annual event? How are the alumni selected? Can fans attend? Looks like a first-class event.
ANSWER: Alumni Weekend is an annual event, and it is open to the public. The Steelers try to incorporate as many different alumni as possible by focusing on specific eras in team history from one year to the next. It's very first-class.

STEVE SHUSSETT FROM READING, PA: I'm really happy for Josh Dobbs and Robert Spillane, both of whom are playing so well and getting attention for it. But I also wish that could have happened for them while in Pittsburgh. Was it a matter of the system, or the players ahead of them, money, or was it a mistake that those two aren't with us anymore?
ANSWER: After a four-year, 37-game college career at Tennessee when he had a 22-15 record as a starter, Joshua Dobbs was picked in the fourth round (135th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Steelers. He spent that season as the No. 3 quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph. In 2019, he was traded to Jacksonville for a fifth-round pick on Sept. 9, and then on Sept. 15 the Steelers learned Roethlisberger would need season-ending surgery on his right elbow. On Sept. 5, 2020, Dobbs was waived by the Jaguars, and he was claimed by the Steelers the next day and appeared in one regular season game. On April 19, 2021, Dobbs signed a 1-year contract with the Steelers, and on August 31 he was placed on injured reserve. After that, Dobbs spent stints with Cleveland, Detroit, Tennessee, Cleveland again, Arizona and Minnesota. Circumstances didn't work out for Dobbs in Pittsburgh; it was nobody's fault.

Robert Spillane is a smart, enthusiastic inside linebacker who is somewhat limited athletically. During his time with the Steelers, Spillane was revealed to be a liability in coverage, and the team set out to improve that inside linebackers unit during the 2023 offseason. Myles Jack, Devin Bush, and Spillane were replaced by Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts, and then Kwon Alexander was added after training camp had started. Mark Robinson was kept as a developmental prospect and was on a minimum contract. Spillane was free to explore his worth on the open market as an unrestricted free agent and ended up signing a 2-year, $7 million deal with the Raiders that included a $1.6 million signing bonus and $4.245 million in guaranteed money overall. Good for him. He got paid, and the Steelers moved on. That's life in professional football.

GREG SMITH FROM GAINESVILLE, FL: With all the injuries to the inside linebackers corps, do you know if the Steelers will reach out to Myles Jack and see if he has any interest in coming out of retirement?
ANSWER: I believe Myles Jack is finished with professional football, and by his own choice. After being released by the Steelers on March 16, 2023, Jack signed with the Eagles on Aug. 6. Then Jack said in an interview that he actually considered going to trade school to pursue a job as an electrician or a plumber before signing with the Eagles. By Aug. 20, 2023, Jack, 28 years old, had announced his retirement from football. On Oct. 4 with the NFL heading into Week 5 of this regular season, it was announced that the Allen Americans franchise in the minor league hockey ECHL, was sold to Jack and his mother, LaSonjia Jack. With that, they became first African-American majority owners in ECHL history.