Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 2

Let's get to it:

KLINT SIMMEL FROM HOLT, MI: I was wondering about the history behind Gabe Rivera? I remember he was in a very bad car accident, but did he ever play in the regular season? What ever happened to him if you know?
ANSWER: Gabe Rivera was the Steelers No. 1 pick in the 1983 Draft, and he played his college football at Texas Tech, where as a senior in 1982 he was a consensus All-American and was voted Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Year. For the Steelers, Rivera played in six games as a rookie during which he recorded two sacks. On Oct. 20, 1983, Rivera was involved in a one-car accident that left him paralyzed. Rivera died on July 16, 2018, from complications associated from a perforated bowel.

WES PLANTHABER FROM HUNTINGDON, PA: A question in a recent Asked and Answered about slow starts brought back a memory, but I am not sure when it was from. Do you remember the slogan, "Joe put the '0' in offense?" I remember it was the offensive coordinator's first name, but I do not remember the last name or the year. I was wondering if you could help me with this one?
ANSWER: The sign you describe was directed at offensive coordinator Joe Walton, who was hired by Chuck Noll after Tom Moore left for a job with the Minnesota Vikings following the 1989 season. My memory is a bit foggy, but my remembrance of the sign was that it read something along the lines of: "Hey, J?e, where's the 'O'?" The sign debuted at Three Rivers Stadium during the early part of the 1990 season because the Steelers went through the first four games of that season without scoring a single offensive touchdown. When Noll retired following the 1991 season, Walton was not brought back to be part of Bill Cowher's inaugural staff of assistants.

ANDY GARBER FROM WHEELING, WV: What are the length and terms of Mitchell Trubisky's contract?
ANSWER: Shortly after the start of free agency in March, Mitch Trubisky reportedly signed a two-year contract worth $14.285 million, which included a $5.25 million signing bonus and salaries of $1 million in 2022 and $8 million in 2023.

OWEN KELLY FROM CORK, IRELAND: You've seen a lot of changes to the game over the years I'd imagine, not only rules but with equipment and facilities. Is there anything you'd like to see changed now in terms of bringing more accuracy to the game during play to help with officials' calls and ball placement after a down?
ANSWER: It has always seemed absurd to me that the on-field officials most often responsible for spotting the ball after an offensive play begin the play at the line of scrimmage and then are expected run downfield to know whether, for example, a running back gained 6 or 7 yards and then place the ball at a spot that sometimes determines whether it's a first down or third-and-short. That should be changed, because the official who's spotting the ball has a terrible angle to view where the runner or receiver actually was down. And then the other thing I always mention when asked this kind of a question is I would be strongly in favor of abolishing the use of instant replay as an officiating tool. It doesn't work, and it has made the on-field officials tentative.

MARLIN COBB FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: George Pickens' catch in Cleveland was great and all that. My question is why does he have to make these kinds of catches? Is it the quarterback or is he not getting open?
ANSWER: On that play, George Pickens was "NFL open," and the ball was thrown in a spot where he either made the catch or the pass was incomplete. That's the way it's done in the NFL these days.

DUSTIN RANKIN FROM HAGERSTOWN, MD: Your answer in a recent Asked and Answered about teams videotaping games on their own raises a question about replay: Do the coaches in the booth rely on the network feeds when deciding whether to throw the red flag, or do they use their own video?
ANSWER: The only video that teams can reference in a challenge situation during a game is the network feed.

TIMOTHY SAMONI FROM NORTHLAKE, TX: Footage of T.J. Watt hammering a sled and doing some running/agility drills surfaced on the internet this week. Given that he is on the injured reserve list, and it appears his condition is improving, when is the earliest Watt could return to the lineup?
ANSWER: T.J. Watt was placed on the injured reserve list after the first game of the regular season, and he has to miss at least four games. That would mean Watt would be eligible to return to practice on the day after the Oct. 9 game in Buffalo vs. the Bills and technically could play as early as the Oct. 16 game vs. Tampa Bay at Acrisure Stadium.

JAMIE EWEN FROM BOURNE, UNITED KINGDOM: I know that we have our offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator who call the plays on game day, but, in your experience, how much does Coach Mike Tomlin get involved with this (either in terms of game-planning prior to the game or on game day)?
ANSWER: As the head coach, Mike Tomlin is heavily involved in all aspects of the team's preparation on a weekly basis, from the evaluation of the previous week's performance to the formulation of the offensive, defensive, and special teams game plans for the upcoming opponent, to everything that happens on game day, including vetoing calls made by the coordinators or calling plays instead of the coordinators. And I know for a fact that Bill Cowher was as involved and as prone to changing/making calls on game days as Tomlin.

ROBERT YEAGER FROM CANYON COUNTRY, CA: I read your list in the Sept. 29 Asked and Answered about the jersey numbers not assigned anymore. Why have Lynn Swann's No. 88 and John Stallworth's No. 82 been constantly assigned? Aren't they considered some of the all-time greats of the team? It seems a little disrespectful to them, especially after all their accomplishments in their Super Bowls.
ANSWER: Only recently has the NFL decided to allow wide receivers to wear jerseys in the single-digits or in the teens and tight ends to wear jerseys in the 40s, so there was a period where there weren't enough numbers in the 80s for all of the receivers and tight ends on a 53-man roster if No. 82 and No. 88 were kept out of circulation.

CHRIS BALMER FROM ALLENTOWN, PA: With the switch at nose tackle from Tyson Alualu starting to Montravius Adams starting, do you feel the run defense can improve? What are your thoughts on the defensive line overall?
ANSWER: As of this week, the Steelers ranked last in the NFL against the run, so the run defense MUST improve, but I'm not willing to assign all of the blame for that to the nose tackle. Based on the additions of Larry Ogunjobi as a veteran free agent and the drafting of DeMarvin Leal, plus the retention of Tyson Alualu and Montravius Adams, I believe the 2022 defensive line is a better version of the one the Steelers had during the 2021 season.

TODD WALTER FROM CARY, NC: You left out Jack Ham's No. 59 in answering the question about jersey numbers no longer assigned to players. I'd clean that up to avoid a disrespect scenario towards a great linebacker.
ANSWER: You might want to check your facts before accusing me of disrespecting Jack Ham's career. In the third round of the 1983 NFL Draft, the Steelers used their pick on linebacker Todd Seabaugh from San Diego State. Seabaugh wore No. 59 during his rookie season with the Steelers, which turned out to be his only year as an NFL player.

LARRY LININGER FROM MESA, AZ: I was working in Greenland during the 1972 season listening to Steelers games on AFRN. When they made the playoffs, I asked a friend to get a couple of tickets to a playoff game. (I was coming home for Christmas.) I had meant for me and him to go together, but he got me one ticket to the Divisional Round Game (vs. Oakland) and one for the AFC Championship Game (which turned out to be vs. Miami). It was a thrill to witness the Immaculate Reception in person and is a memory I treasure. The Steelers were leading Miami in the AFC Championship Game until the Larry Seiple fake punt and subsequent Miami touchdown. But this was the AFC Championship Game, and it was during Miami's perfect season. Why wasn't that game played in Miami?
ANSWER: The NFL didn't begin using teams' regular season records to determine homefield advantage in the playoffs until the 1975 season. Before that, the league used a rotational system to determine which team got the home game during the playoffs. In 1972, it was the AFC Central Division that had priority in hosting playoff games as long as one of its teams remaining in the postseason, which is why the Steelers hosted the undefeated Dolphins in the Conference Championship Game.

TIM CROWLEY FROM ST. CLAIRSVILLE, OH: I read John Stasko's submission in a recent Asked and Answered about watching the Immaculate Reception on television and what a great memory it was. One would think that being at the game in which the Immaculate Reception occurred would have produced an even better memory. Well, not necessarily … The only Steelers game my Dad ever attended was the Immaculate Reception game. Sadly, the historic play transpired while he was in the men's room. I just thought I would share that little anecdote. Thank you so much for the great work you do. I always find it informational and entertaining.
ANSWER: I sympathize with your Dad, because my bladder has let me down in some critical situations, too, but thankfully not to the extent where it caused me to miss history being made. Thanks for sharing.