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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 17

Let's get to it:

KEN MAULDIN FROM CLYDE, TX: Najee Harris has been superman as of late, but he takes a beating. Isn't there someone out there who can run the ball for us and give Najee a break before we lose him to some injury caused by fatigue?
ANSWER: The plan was to utilize Anthony McFarland Jr. as a complement to Najee Harris, and maybe once he comes off injured reserve, you'll actually see that happen.

BURTON HARRIS FROM GREENSBURG, PA: Now that Anthony McFarland Jr. and Zach Banner have been designated to return from injured reserve and the clock has started on their 21-day windows where they are permitted to practice, what happens after the 21 days if they are not added to the 53-man roster?
ANSWER: If at the end of 21 days of practice, the Steelers decide not to add Zach Banner and/or Anthony McFarland Jr. to the 53-man roster, there are two other choices: the player(s) can be returned to injured reserve where they would be out for the remainder of the 2021 season, or they could be released. Admittedly, the second option never happens, because a team is not going to cut a guy after going through all it went through to make him eligible as an IR-designated-to-return guy, but it is an option.

RUSS HERSCH FROM KARNEI SHOMRON, ISRAEL: I see where Najee Harris stated that he "often cramped up" playing at Alabama due to the heat. Is this something the Steelers knew about? Is there anything in training or treatment that can help a player who is susceptible to cramping?
ANSWER: The key to avoid cramping is hydration. Steelers players constantly are being instructed: "One Gatorade, two waters," which means to drink one bottle of Gatorade and two bottles of water. And they are instructed to do this often. Based on the dedication with which Najee Harris approaches every element of his preparation and play, I would believe he should be able to stem his cramping episodes with more diligence toward hydrating, even when he might not think he's "thirsty."

TODD DAY FROM JONESTOWN, PA: We went to the Broncos game last weekend. I happened to see or thought I saw Cam Heyward coming on to the field for field goals. Was this correct, and if so, how often has it been going on?
ANSWER: Cam Heyward has played special teams since he entered the league as a rookie in 2011, and in his nine full seasons prior to 2021 he has played an average of 134 special teams snaps a season. And I am certain that Heyward has at least one blocked field goal on his NFL resume.

RYAN HAAHR FROM DEVILS LAKE, ND: Was there ever a jersey schedule lineup released this year? Trying to plan for later this season.
ANSWER: By a "jersey lineup," I'm taking you to mean when/if the Steelers will wear color rush and/or throwbacks. If that's indeed what you mean, I believe they will wear their color rush uniforms for a home game this year (not aware of the date), but I don't think there is going to be a throwback jersey game. That's the best I can do.

DANIEL CARRENO FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Will the Steelers be wearing their color rush uniforms this Sunday against the Seahawks?

DAVID POLLARD FROM WARRINGTON, PA: Larry Brown played on all four of the Steelers Super Bowl teams in the 70s. The first two he played tight end and the final two he was an offensive tackle. That's pretty unique. What caused him to change position?
ANSWER: When Larry Brown was inducted into the Steelers Hall of Honor as a member of the Class of 2019, that position switch came up in some of the interviews he did surrounding the event. According to Brown, he had sustained a knee injury the previous season and in a subsequent meeting with Coach Chuck Noll, Brown said Noll told him that due to the injury hampering his ability to run and cut like a tight end, he was going to have Brown learn the tackle position. In the meantime, the Steelers used a No. 1 pick on Bennie Cunningham, and the team's need was more at offensive tackle. Brown became proficient at tackle, and that was that.

STEVEN COSNER FROM HANOVER, PA: What have you thought of Najee Harris's blocking ability in pass protection so far?
ANSWER: Najee Harris is a willing blocker and in my opinion has been effective. He sticks his nose in there are puts his body between the rusher and the quarterback. He certainly has been good enough to be on the field on third downs.

ROD KEEFER FROM EDMOND, OK: How surprised were you when the Steelers signed a wide receiver this past week? "After all, this is not fantasy football, this is the real world, and so that way of thinking ignores such things as this new player having to learn a new offensive system and new terminology, having the new player learn to adjust to his new teammates and coaches and to have his new teammates and coaches learn to adjust to him. Are there any idiosyncrasies in the way he runs certain patterns, and how much repetition with Ben Roethlisberger will be required before both receiver and quarterback can be considered on the same page? And when is that extra practice supposed to take place, because teams already have a full week just in preparing for the upcoming opponent? And finally, it's not as though the Steelers are going to take some guy off the street and insert him into the starting lineup or into a significant role within the offense as a receiver."
ANSWER: Good job cutting and pasting what I wrote in a previous Asked and Answered, which I have noted in your submission with quotation marks. What your cutting and pasting left out, though, was that the Steelers signed Anthony Miller to the practice squad, and what you had suggested – "What would you think of pulling Travis Fulgham from the Eagles' practice squad?"—would have required the Steelers to add Travis Fulgham to their active roster immediately. That's the rule for signing a player off another team's practice squad, and that's why I wrote what I did about the time it would take for Fulgham to learn the system and the terminology and become familiar with his new teammates.

GINO CALDERONE FROM HOUSTON, TX: I think James Washington is a quality receiver and playmaker. Does Ben Roethlisberger not have confidence in him or does the staff not like him? I was surprised to see the team is looking for more wide receivers following JuJu Smith-Schuster's injury.
ANSWER: The receivers the Steelers were "looking for" in the wake of JuJu Smith-Schuster's season-ending injury were guys they could add to the practice squad, because in addition to losing Smith-Schuster, both Chase Claypool (hamstring) and James Washington (groin) had their practice participation limited during the week because of injuries.

DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: Is there a rule in the NFL that forbids buyout clauses in player contracts? In light of how the large guarantees being given to star players can hamstring a team if those players get hurt or don't maintain their performance level, it would seem smart to me to have a buyout clause similar to what we see in hockey.
ANSWER: I'm not familiar with buyout clauses written into NHL contracts, but what you've explained sounds to me as though it would be a way for an NFL team to circumvent the salary cap. The NFL usually sniffs those kinds of things out and prohibits them either with rules or through not approving contracts that would include that in the language.