Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 8

Let's get to it:

SCOTT JORDAN FROM WAPAKONETA, OH: Will the Hall of Honor recipients be acknowledged during halftime of the New Orleans game?
ANSWER: The 2022 Class of the Hall of Honor will be inducted on Saturday, Nov. 12 at Acrisure Stadium and then presented to the crowd at halftime of the game against New Orleans the following day. The 4-man Class of 2022 includes Myron Cope, Sam Davis, Ray Mathews, and Heath Miller.

ROBIN MIDLAM FROM CHEYENNE, WY: Having a losing season is hard to watch, especially when the Steelers are in last place in the division. When was the last time that happened? And how many times since? I was born in the middle of the 1970s reign, and I don't remember them being last in my lifetime.
ANSWER: During the 50 completed NFL seasons between 1970-2021 (1982 was a strike-shortened season when the NFL dispensed with the divisional setup and went instead with two 14-team conferences), here is the breakdown of the last-place finishers in the AFC Central Division (1970-2001) and the AFC North Division (2002-present): Cleveland finished last 19 times; Cincinnati finished last 16 times; Houston-Tennessee finished last 9 times; Baltimore finished last 4 times; Jacksonville finished last once; and the Steelers finished last once (in 1988).

DENNIS LIABENOW FROM LAYTON, UT: I've always wondered why it's not called intentional grounding when a team spikes the ball when they are trying to stop the clock. Why is this allowed?
ANSWER: Because it's a rule. Back in prehistoric times, the way teams would stop the clock without using a timeout was to line up, have the quarterback line up under center to take the snap, and then throw the ball over a receiver's head and out of bounds. Instead of that, a rule subsequently was introduced and passed to allow the spiking of the ball to stop the clock.

RONALD MITCHELL FROM TALLMADGE, OH: How does Najee Harris' production with Kenny Pickett as the starting quarterback compare to his production when Mitch Trubisky was the starting quarterback?
ANSWER: There were two games – vs. the Jets and vs. the Buccaneers – where Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky both played, and I have factored that into Najee Harris' 2022 rushing and receiving statistics. With Trubisky at quarterback, Harris carried 55 times for 187 yards (3.4 average) and caught 12 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. With Pickett at quarterback, Harris carried 53 times for 174 yards (3.3 average) and caught 12 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.

TY PAUL FROM DAYTON, OH: Is it known whether Chase Claypool was "being shopped" or if the Bears reached out on their own? How does a deal like this materialize midseason?
ANSWER: I believe the Steelers listened to offers for Chase Claypool, but unless they received one that really caught their attention, they were fine with holding onto the third-year receiver. In situation such as this, the way a midseason trade materializes is a team that's looking at a particular player will call and gauge interest in whether a trade might be possible. Since Claypool had been the subject of trade rumors leading up to the deadline, there likely was some belief around the league that the Steelers were listening to offers. Then it comes down to whether a team would offer something that would entice the Steelers to pull a trigger on the deal. Since the Bears did, the Steelers did.

BOB CHESHIER FROM WILDER, ID: It's halfway through the season, and the Steelers offense has been dismal. With what you've seen so far, do you think Kenny Picket has the talent to become a franchise quarterback?
ANSWER: Ben Roethlisberger will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, in my opinion, and after the first four starts of his NFL career I had no idea whether he was going to end up being a legitimate franchise quarterback. And by the way, the team was 4-0 in those starts. That's being honest. I could offer a guess, but that's all it would be is a guess. And my guess would be no better than yours.

DEREK OLENCHUK FROM COLUMBIA, SC: Once Calvin Austin III returned to practice from injured reserve, the Steelers had a certain number of days to activate him or leave him on the injured reserve list. They ultimately decided not to activate him. Does that mean he is on the injured reserve list for the rest of the season, or is he still eligible to return to play this year?
ANSWER: Calvin Austin III was returned to the injured reserve list where he will remain for the rest of the 2022 season. He is not eligible to play this season, nor is he allowed to practice with the team for the duration of this season. And even though you didn't include this in your question, other readers have asked about it and so I'll throw in the answer to that here. Yes, he will be paid his full 2022 salary.

ANTHONY PELLONI FROM PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Here's a nutty scenario (one I believe is totally possible): T.J. Watt comes back after the bye week after missing nearly half the season, and he still somehow leads the league in sacks by the end of the regular season. Is he a candidate for comeback player of the year?
ANSWER: First of all, the Comeback Player of the Year Award is voted on by a nationwide panel of media members, and while the criteria is subjective, it's typically awarded to a player who shows perseverance in overcoming adversity from not being able to play the previous season, such as an injury, or for playing well in comparison to the previous year's poor performance. Since it's usually voted on based on one season to the next, and T.J. Watt was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2021, I would say that he would not be voted the 2022 Comeback Player of the Year.

BOB CANALI FROM HONOLULU, HI: If a team is attempting an extra point, there is a bad snap, and the holder takes the ball and runs into the end zone, does his team get 2 points?

STEPHEN CUPRZYNSKI FROM COCKEYSVILLE, MD: I grew up with the Steelers of the late 1950s, and it was a challenging time to be a fan through the 1960s. Would you have any insight on John Unitas being cut, and who was the quarterback at the time and the team's corresponding record?
ANSWER: Walt Kiesling was the Steelers' coach at the time, and while he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, that was for his accomplishments as a player. His record as the Steelers' coach was 30-55-5 in three separate stints with the team, and he can be viewed as an example of Art Rooney Sr. hiring coaches he knew/liked instead of someone who might've been the best person for the job, a trend that ended in 1969 when Dan Rooney headed up the search that brought Chuck Noll to Pittsburgh. Anyway, when the Steelers reported to training camp in 1955, Jim Finks was the incumbent starting quarterback. Finks, who would be 28 years old at the beginning of the season, had started 33 games over the previous three seasons and had a 14-19 record in those games. In 1953, the Steelers had used their No. 1 draft pick, fifth overall, on quarterback Ted Marchibroda. In 1955, the roster limit for an NFL team was 35 players, and so if a team was going to keep three quarterbacks, the No. 3 quarterback had to be able to play a defensive position (Finks in fact had played cornerback and safety before becoming the Steelers' full-time starter in 1952). Vic Eaton, an 11th round pick in the 1955 NFL Draft (John Unitas was the ninth-round pick in that same draft) could punt and play safety, which made him an easy choice to be the No. 3 quarterback. Based on the fact Kiesling didn't give Unitas a chance to practice with the team during training camp or to play in any exhibition games, it's safe to assume Kiesling had his mind made up that the players he would keep at quarterback were Finks (the veteran starter), Marchibroda (a recent No. 1 pick), and Eaton (who could punt and play safety), so why bother seeing what Unitas could do.

The Steelers finished 4-8 in 1955; Finks retired after the season; Eaton was out of football after the season; and after a 4-7 record as a starter in 1956, Marchibroda was traded to the Cardinals in 1957 and was out of football as a player before the 1958 season. In 1958, Unitas quarterbacked the Baltimore Colts to the first of back-to-back championships, was voted first-team All-Pro both times, and won the first of three NFL MVP Awards in 1959. Kiesling's last season as an NFL coach was in 1956.

PAUKNER MAX FROM BAVARIA, GERMANY: My question is about A.J. Brown's three touchdown catches in the game against the Eagles. How can this happen? In my opinion every NFL defense should be able to learn from the first touchdown and make prompt adjustments to avoid a next one.
ANSWER: The Philadelphia Eagles signed A.J. Brown to a 4-year, $100 million contract after acquiring him via trade with Tennessee, and the reason Brown could command that kind of money is because his skill-set defies "adjustments." Brown doesn't necessarily have to be open to make big plays, and on two of his three touchdown catches in that game vs. the Steelers he was "covered."

TERRY PECK FROM SPRINGFIELD, OH: In today's NFL do you think the hit on Frenchy Fuqua that sent the football into Franco Harris' hands that came to be known as the Immaculate Reception would have been a penalty?
ANSWER: I am certain of a couple of things: Had the Immaculate Reception happened in "today's NFL," we'd still be waiting for instant replay to come down with a decision on the play; and if a penalty had been called for a hit on a defenseless receiver, Oakland linebacker Phil Villapiano would still be whining about that, too.