Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 15

Let's get to it:

MARK HENKE FROM ST. LOUIS, MO: I am a huge fan of Andy Russell. He was a Missouri grad and the reason I have been a Steelers fan since 1968. Has there ever been a better threesome at linebacker than Andy Russell, Jack Ham, and Jack Lambert when the three played together from 1974-76. All three were Pro Bowlers during those three years, with all three making it in 1975.
ANSWER: I could write what I think, but I've decided to turn this issue over to someone whose opinion I respect. Rick Gosselin is in his 48th season reporting on the NFL. He has covered the Lions, Giants, Chiefs, and Cowboys plus 38 Super Bowls. He has served on the Hall of Fame selection committee for 25 years and is a member of both the senior and contributor sub-committees. The following are snippets of what he once wrote about Andy Russell for "Talk of Fame Network:"

"From 1974-76, there was no better linebacking corps in NFL history than the trio who provided the steel in the Steel Curtain. Jack Ham lined up as the weakside linebacker, Jack Lambert in the middle and Andy Russell on the strong side … During the three seasons those three linebackers played together, the Steelers won two Super Bowls, led the NFL in defense twice and in scoring defense, pass defense and run defense once apiece. Ham and Russell went to three Pro Bowls apiece during that stretch and Lambert one.

"But Ham and Lambert were just starting their NFL careers then. Russell was finishing his. Ham and Lambert would go on to win two more Super Bowls and earn NFL all-decade acclaim for the 1970s. Both have since been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But Russell retired after the 1976 season, ending a 12-year career that included seven Pro Bowl appearances. But those seven Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls apparently aren't sterling enough credentials for a bust in Canton. Russell has never been a finalist for the Hall of Fame, so his career has never been discussed and debated by the full selection committee. Andy Russell deserves better."

DIABLO SAYAYIN FROM CDMX, MEXICO: I have the pleasant impression that the Steelers have committed few penalties through the first eight games, which speaks of good training and discipline. Since the Super Bowl era, is this our best performance in in terms of penalties?
ANSWER: In reviewing all seasons starting with 1980, plus the four seasons of the 1970s that ended with Super Bowl championships, I have found there is no correlation between a low number of penalties in a season and the Steelers' record in that season. The two seasons in which the Steelers committed the fewest penalties since 1980 were in 1998 when they were flagged 79 times on the way to a 7-9 finish and in 2006 when they were flagged 69 times on the way to an 8-8 finish. On the other hand, the Steelers are 6-2 in Super Bowls, and the number of penalties in each of those seasons: 104 in the 14-game season of 1974, which would work out to 119 in a 16-game season; 89 in the 14-game season of 1975, which would work out to 201 in a 16-game season; 108 in 1978; 108 in 1979; 109 in 1995; 99 in 2005; 95 in 2008; and 100 in 2010.

A. D. WARNER FROM EAST SPRINGFIELD, OH: A lot of pundits/commentators have been opining on the Steelers as contenders for the Super Bowl. At what point is it prudent to have that conversation?
ANSWER: There are few things on this planet that concern me less than what pundits/commentators are "opining on" because too many are simply trying to generate controversy to get themselves noticed. My advice to you would be that it's your decision about when it's prudent to view an 8-0 team as a Super Bowl contender.

JAY SIMMONS FROM DALTON, GA: During a radio talk show, a host stated that defensive pass interference is always a spot foul. My understanding has been that if the penalty occurs less than 15 yards from the line of scrimmage it is a 15 yard penalty; if beyond 15 yards it is then a spot foul. What is correct?
ANSWER: In the NFL, defensive pass interference is a spot foul and an automatic first down.

DEAN FLORIO FROM MARRERO, LA: How is the development of second year tight end Zach Gentry going? Will he be more of a participant in the absence of Vance McDonald or Eric Ebron?
ANSWER: During an offseason with no OTAs, minicamp, or preseason games, it's difficult to gauge the progress/development of a young player. I expect Zach Gentry to get a helmet today with Vance McDonald on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and so maybe his performance against the Bengals will provide some clues.

SEAN FREDERICK FROM SOUTH BEND, IN: Knowing how you feel about instant replay and the caliber of officiating in the NFL, I was wondering if you would be more in favor of instant replay if plays only were allowed to be reviewed in regular speed. Not with super slow, zoomed in, micro analyzed video.
ANSWER: You begin by saying you know how I view instant replay as an officiating tool, and then you try to put lipstick on a pig by massaging how it would be used. I am against any use of instant replay as an officiating tool, and I truly believe the caliber of officiating in the NFL never will become what it should be as long as it's in use.

BRYAN CRAIG FROM KABOT, PA: If Ben Roethlisberger cannot play, do you believe Mason Rudolph will be on a short leash? With Josh Dobbs behind him and last year in mind, I don't believe that's a skewed perspective to have. If Ben ends up out for multiple games for some reason in the future, the team cannot afford any games where Rudolph plays poorly. You can explain how he's not a high risk player, but the Steelers fan base believes otherwise, for good reason. I think you're too high on him.
ANSWER: Let's begin with this, and I write this seriously with all due respect: It doesn't matter what the Steelers fan base believes. It matters what President Art Rooney II, General Manager Kevin Colbert, and Coach Mike Tomlin believe, and each one of them said publicly that the team is comfortable with Mason Rudolph as the backup quarterback. When I write that, I'm not offering my opinion; I'm telling you what the decision-makers believe. Because if the Steelers ran their business by doing what the fan base believes, Bud Dupree wouldn't be on the roster and neither would Chase Claypool. Be a fan. Let the decision-makers make the decisions. And then if you're completely honest about it, I believe you'll admit they're correct way more often than not. Rooney, Colbert, and Tomlin, to say nothing of the other coaches and players appreciate Steelers fans for their loyalty and passion, and they work hard to put a contending team on the field year after year. The last time I know of an owner who listened to fans in making a personnel decision was when Jimmy Haslem of the Browns said publicly that one of the reasons the team drafted Johnny Manziel was because a fan came up to him as he was leaving a restaurant in Downtown Cleveland and told him that's who the fans wanted. Be very happy Steelers management makes its own decisions.

JEFF FEDUIK FROM DEERFIELD BEACH, FL: Why is FOX broadcasting Steelers-Bengals and not CBS? Isn't FOX the NFC network?
ANSWER: The NFL not only will flex games from one Sunday time slot to another, but it also will flex Sunday games from one network to another. With CBS broadcasting the final round of The Masters on Sunday, Steelers-Bengals was moved to 4:25 p.m. and from CBS to FOX.

GLAUCIO CAFALCHIO FROM TAUBATÉ, BRAZIL: Do you think the fact of not facing a great quarterback during entire regular season could affect the preparation for an eventual postseason game against Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs, or for the Super Bowl against one of the four future HOF quarterbacks of the NFC (Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Tom Brady)?
ANSWER: I take it you're not a big fan of last year's NFL MVP, because the Steelers have two games against Lamar Jackson on their regular season schedule, as well as games against Josh Allen's Buffalo Bills and Phillips Rivers' Indianapolis Colts. I'm not suggesting any of them are the caliber of Patrick Mahomes, but none of the teams on the Chiefs' schedule can rush the passer like the Steelers, and so they'll have no first-hand exposure to that. Steelers vs. Chiefs, as one example, would come down to execution more than scouting, in my opinion.

RAY BACON FROM NEWPORT NEWS, VA: I haven't seen much written about the effectiveness of Ola Adeniyi or Marcus Allen on defense. Considering injuries and potential losses due to COVID-19, have either of them shown themselves to be effective reserves?
ANSWER: You haven't seen much written about Ola Adeniyi or Marcus Allen on defense, because there isn't much to write. Adeniyi has played 40 defensive snaps over the first eight games, and Allen has played 15 defensive snaps in the few games he has been active. At outside linebacker, Alex Highsmith has emerged as the guy who comes in whenever Bud Dupree or T.J. Watt need a break, and after the trade for Avery Williamson I suspect Allen's prospects of seeing time on defense was reduced even further.

DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: The Steelers are currently averaging 29.4 points per game halfway through the season. If it continues at this pace they will score 470 points for the regular season. How high would that 470 points rank when compared to the other 16 game seasons in team history?
ANSWER: The Steelers have scored 400-plus points in a season five times in franchise history. In chronological order: 416 points in 1979, 407 points in 1995; 423 points in 2015, 406 points in 2017; and 428 points in 2018.