Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 22

Let's get to it:

JEFF TRODDEN FROM YORK, PA: Just wondering what's going on with Calvin Austin. I haven't noticed him in the games. Is he hurt or just can't break into the starting lineup?
ANSWER: Wide receiver Calvin Austin III has not been injured, but I also believe it was rather unrealistic to believe he would "break into the starting lineup" in what essentially is his rookie season. Here are the wide receivers' comparative statistics through the first five games of this regular season: George Pickens is No. 1 in targets (40), receptions (22), average per catch (17.9) and offensive snaps (273, 90 percent); Allen Robinson is second in targets (22), receptions (17), third in average per catch (8.1) and second in offensive snaps (260, 96 percent); and Calvin Austin III is third in targets (22), receptions (12) is second in average per catch (11.9) and third in offensive snaps (211, 69 percent). Austin's playing time has benefitted from the early injury to Diontae Johnson, and I believe it's reasonable to expect it could decline once Johnson returns to active duty. That's not to mean Austin is a disappointment or will have no role moving forward this season, but I just believe your expectations for him were a bit inflated at this stage of his young career.

GERRY MANDER FROM SCALP LEVEL, PA: The "illegal man downfield" penalty confuses me. What's the advantage to the offense if an offensive lineman goes downfield on a play?
ANSWER: With so many quick screens and run-pass option plays being utilized by offenses these days, offensive linemen are looking to get downfield and get themselves in position to make blocks to help spring the receivers or running backs who end up with the football. Hence "illegal man downfield" if they leave too early.

STEPHEN SCHRADER FROM PORTLAND, OR: Which quarterback has the longest touchdown pass of the season so far? Oh yeah, and the second longest?
ANSWER: Among the 33 quarterbacks with enough attempts to qualify on the NFL stats list, Kenny Pickett's 72-yard touchdown pass is the longest in the NFL to this point in the season, with Tua Tagovailoa's 69-yard touchdown pass being the second-longest. Now that I have provided you with that answer, good luck with the rest of your game of Trivial Pursuit.

KEVIN LOWEN FROM ST. CHARLES, MO: Not sure if there was a rule change, but it used to be on kickoffs that if the ball ended up in the end zone and NOT out of bounds you had to pick it up and run it out. If you didn't then the kickoff team could recover, and it would be a touchdown. Has this changed in recent years?
ANSWER: The receiving team didn't used to have to return the ball out of the end zone, but it at least had to be caught/covered and downed for a touchback. And it was a live ball if it wasn't caught or covered. Anyway, the rule was changed in the league's first attempt to make the kickoff a less dangerous play, and then in the spring of 2023 the kickoff was made even less relevant when it became possible for the receiving team to fair catch the ball anywhere inside its own 25-yard line and still get the ball at the 25-yard line.

ALONSO GONEZ FROM PUEBLA, MEXICO: Have you ever seen a Steelers game in Acrisure Stadium from the stands, like a common man?
ANSWER: The last Steelers game I saw as a fan was on Dec. 3, 1972, when the Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns, 30-0, at Three Rivers Stadium. I was in high school at the time.

RONALD MITCHELL FROM TALLMADGE, OH: I saw where wide receiver Calvin Austin III and linebacker Elandon Roberts did some healthy cooking demos for women at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. Any chance we can get a recipe from each of them?
ANSWER: Ronald, Ronald, Ronald, this is just another reason why you should read every Asked and Answered, because those recipes were published as part of the Oct. 8 installment. You can access that Oct. 8 installment by going to, clicking on the "NEWS" icon on the top NavBar. After doing that, you will get a drop-down bar where you will see an "Asked and Answered" icon. Click on that, and it will take you to the archived versions. Find the one for Oct. 8, and the recipes are linked in the answer to the question submitted by James McCamey.

JOHN VERHOVEC FROM NORWALK, OH: I've been wondering how Cam Heyward was doing on returning to the field?
ANSWER: Because Cam Heyward is on the injured reserve list, there are not progress reports given along the path of his rehabilitation, and so how he is doing as of this moment isn't known. But I can tell you that the timetable reported around the time of his surgery would put his return around the middle of November.

ISRAEL PICKHOLTZ FROM ASHKELON, ISRAEL: Trading receivers that worked for the other team: Buddy Dial for Nobody.
ANSWER: The category for the question you reference that appeared in the Oct. 19 Asked and Answered was the Steelers trading a wide receiver that worked out for the other team. And while you are correct in making the point that the Steelers got nothing in return for the trade of Buddy Dial to the Dallas Cowboys in 1964, Dallas didn't exactly reap a bounty for the acquisition, certainly not to the same degree the Colts benefitted from the acquisition of Roy Jefferson. When Dial was traded, he was only 27 years old, but his best years were behind him. Dial played only three more seasons, all for the Cowboys, and in those he appeared in 32 games and posted a total of 42 catches for 713 yards and 2 touchdowns. In every one of his 5 seasons with the Steelers, Dial finished each individual one either with more catches or more yards or more touchdowns, and sometimes it was some combination of better numbers in those statistical categories. Yes, the Steelers got nothing from the trade, but the Cowboys ended up with a player who barely was a shadow of his former self. In the trade I chose to highlight – and it never was going to be a situation where I was going to supply multiple scenarios for the same question – Roy Jefferson was statistically as productive, or even more productive in some categories after the trade as he was before the trade.

MICHAEL PRIDDY FROM AYDEN, NC: Were the Steelers the first of the three Pittsburgh professional sports teams to wear black-and-gold? And is there another city where all their major sports teams wear the same colors?
ANSWER: The Pittsburgh Pirates joined the National League in 1887, and those early uniforms contained the colors blue and red. The team replaced the blue and red in their uniforms with black and gold in 1948. The Steelers, initially nicknamed the Pirates, have used black and gold as their colors since the franchise's inaugural season in the NFL in 1933. Black and gold are the colors of the city's official flag. The Pittsburgh Penguins inaugural season in the National Hockey League was in 1967, and the team's colors were originally blue and white. The team switched colors in 1980 to black and gold. Pittsburgh is the only city to have three major professional sports teams wearing the same color uniforms.

THOMAS WHITE FROM GARDENDALE, AL: With all the excitement around the Desmond King acquisition, why was he let go so soon?
ANSWER: As it turns out, the "excitement around the Desmond King acquisition" was overrated, because once he got to Pittsburgh in early September it took him about a month to learn the defense sufficiently to get onto the field, and then his first defensive snap in a regular season game for the Steelers was against the Ravens on Oct. 8 and that was for Justice Hill's 14-yard touchdown run. Not to say that touchdown was King's fault, but he did have a chance to make a tackle but could not keep Hill out of the end zone. As the Steelers entered their bye week, King had played just one defensive snap and 15 special teams snaps for the team. I think it's safe to say the Steelers thought they were getting more in King than they actually got, and the move to part ways was made based on what the coaches had seen from him in practice leading to the conclusion that he just wasn't the right fit. Another thing to remember is that the Steelers made it known King was available in a trade – and the cost undoubtedly would've been nominal – and there were no nibbles, which then led to his release.

MARK BEERY FROM SAEGERTOWN, PA: While Kenny Pickett's development at quarterback seems a little more typical than other recent young quarterbacks, what, in your opinion, is the difference in the college game now vs. 15-20 years ago, which appears to have led to much faster high performance from several rookie/second-year quarterbacks (Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, et al)? Is it over-simplifying things to assume it's just because passing is a much larger part of college football today than it ever was in the past?
ANSWER: What I believe is at work here is there is a misconception created by the success of a handful of young quarterbacks. You list Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Justin Herbert, and then your use of "et al," which is Latin for "and others" leads to the impression that there are many more who fall into that same category, but history tells a decidedly different story. In the last 10 drafts (2014-23) NFL teams combined to select 52 quarterbacks in the first three rounds – which I refer to as premium picks – and of those 52 I would contend that only 8 (15.4 percent) deserve to be characterized as franchise quarterbacks. Those 8 are: Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert, and Trevor Lawrence.

Some of the other 44 might still develop into true franchise quarterbacks, but way too many just don't have the right stuff. Here are those other 44: Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Garrett Grayson, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenburg, Jacoby Brissett, Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, Davis Webb, C.J. Beathard, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Mason Rudolph, Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, the late Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, Will Grier, Jordan Love, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Mac Jones, Kyle Trask, Kellen Mond, Davis Mills, Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder, Malik Willis, Matt Corral, Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, Will Levis, and Herndon Hooker. Many of those 44 very well could develop into winning quarterbacks who enjoy long NFL careers, and some of them might even win a championship, but there is more to it, in my opinion, in earning the distinction of being a franchise quarterback. I maintain quarterback is the most difficult position for NFL scouts to evaluate and that teams make more mistakes at that position than at any other.

The combination of free agency and the salary cap is what I believe has encouraged teams to play their highly-drafted quarterback prospects quickly, because big-money decisions have to be made on those guys just a few years after they're picked. And while that can work out favorably for the team in question, much more often it does not.

HENRY WILHOIT FROM LONDON, OH: I'm referring to the answer you gave to Jim Neal in the Oct. 19 Asked and Answered about quarterbacks catching their own passes. I don't remember the exact year, because I'm old and forgetful, but a quarterback for the Steelers named Bill Nelsen in the mid-1960s caught his own pass. I'm only bothering you about it because he gained about 20 yards and a first down. I don't suppose you could check that to see how close I got to the actual event. I do think we lost the game, which was a common occurrence back then.
ANSWER: Bill Nelsen came to the Steelers from USC as a 10th-round choice in the 1963 NFL Draft, and he played five seasons here (32 games with 23 starts) before ending his career with five more seasons with the Cleveland Browns (58 games with 51 starts). According to his career NFL statistics, Nelsen is credited with only one reception, and it came in 1965 when he was the Steelers quarterback. That game was a 22-13 win over Dallas in Pitt Stadium on Oct. 31. The play was scored as a 5-yard loss.