Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 25

Let’s get to it:

NICOLETTA PERITORE FROM BROOKLYN, NY: Why do you think Antonio Brown has had such success with punt returns? Who first came up with the idea?
ANSWER: To resurrect a common phrase, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to have Antonio Brown return punts. A simple glance at his statistics dating all the way back to high school, or if one were to do a YouTube search for his high school highlight reel, it’s obvious that he has the requisite skills to be a punt returner. In his three years at Central Michigan, Brown had 305 catches for 3,199 yards and 22 touchdowns, while catching a pass in 41 straight games. He scored touchdowns rushing, receiving, passing, on kickoff returns, and punt returns during his college career. Also during that career, he had touchdowns of 55, 75 and 75 yards on punt returns; of 95 and 90 yards on kickoff returns; and of 70, 82, 79 and 93 on receptions. And this factoid was included on his football bio provided by the NFL after the Steelers made him a sixth-round choice in the 2010 NFL Draft: “Spent a prep year in 2006 at North Carolina Tech … ran for 451 yards and 13 touchdowns and threw for 1,247 yards and 11 scores in just five games … also returned 11 punts and six kickoffs for touchdowns.” Just to make the arithmetic clear, during that one season at North Carolina Tech, Brown scored 30 touchdowns and passed for 11 more.

ERIC SMITH FROM WOODBRIDGE, CT: Do you think the Steelers should try to trade for Patrick Peterson, even if it costs a first-round pick?
ANSWER: This is another one of those situations where my opinion doesn’t matter, but what I can do is offer you some facts and a bit of historical perspective: Within the last couple of weeks, Cardinals President Michael Bidwill was asked about the possibility of trading Patrick Peterson, and he said, "I've seen the speculation. But it's not happening. Not happening." Cardinals Coach Steve Wilks referred to the possibility as “ludicrous.” Then on Wednesday, Oct. 24, Peterson posted on Twitter that “I have always given my all to the Cardinals organization, my teammates, and fans. That is what I intend to do for the years to come. I am an Arizona Cardinal, and my focus is on this week’s game.” And from the Steelers’ perspective, the last time the team didn’t have a first-round choice because of a trade was 1967.

MIKE LEACH FROM COSHOCTON, OH: I was somewhat surprised to see the Steelers cut Landry Jones this year only because the team seems to favor experience at the backup quarterback spot. Do you know if he was picked up by another team?
ANSWER: As of right now, Landry Jones is out of football. He has had some workouts with some different teams, but he didn’t sign a contract. Maybe he surfaces during the offseason and selects a team he believes is a good fit for him moving forward, because I don’t think he has lost the desire to play and he’s definitely still NFL-caliber at a position where Nate Peterman has a job.

JOHN RIGGS FROM BREMEN, OH: Though I understand your reply in Tuesday’s Asked and Answered regarding Jack Lambert/Jack Ham/Lawrence Taylor, I believe the intimidation factor was not taken into consideration. Jack Lambert brought more intimidation to the game than either Taylor or Jack Ham. Taylor was physically gifted and Ham was probably the smartest linebacker to play, but there was no question as to who brought serious attitude to the Steel Curtain.
ANSWER: I get it. You’re a big fan of Jack Lambert’s, and there’s nothing wrong with that because he is one of the best players in franchise history and a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection. But please don’t tell me that Lawrence Taylor wasn’t intimidating, because that’s just ridiculous. Take these comments that Bill Belichick made in a May 2017 interview on Paul Rabil’s podcast: Belichick said, “Taylor had the ability, when he stood on the end of the line of scrimmage, which is where he played as an outside linebacker/defensive end, he could just tell, it didn’t matter who the person was, or what the play was, or anything else, he could just tell by the look of the opponent on the other side of the line of scrimmage who was going to block him, and that was by how scared they were. When that tackle was looking at him like, ‘If I’m one split-second late out of my stance, if I am a few inches off on my angle or step, this guy’s going to be behind me.’ They’d have that scared to death look. And Taylor could just tell by looking at the guy whether the guy was blocking him or not. The same thing with the quarterback. Taylor would anticipate it was a run because the quarterback didn’t care about him, it was somebody else’s problem. But if it was a pass play, and the quarterback looked at Taylor like, ‘Is he rushing? Is he not rushing? Do I have him picked up?’ Before the ball was snapped, he could just tell by the terror he felt from that individual, look in the guy’s eye or how nervous he was from play to play, you know run/pass, which guy’s blocking me, that kind of thing. He would often times come off and tell me that, after the first or second series, he said, ‘I can read this on every play. It’s easy.’ Because the tackle, if he had him in pass protection, was scared to death.”

ALLEN GREENE FROM SAULT STE MARIE, MI: I read an article that named Huey Richardson as the most regrettable first-round selection in Steelers history. I respect that you seldom put down players, but I ask if you agree with this choice or if you have another in mind?
ANSWER: What I often find amusing by articles written about such things is that the author seems to forget, or doesn’t care to consider, the fact the Steelers have been members of the NFL since 1933. The first draft in NFL history was in 1936, and in 1937 the Steelers’ No. 1 pick was a center from Duquesne named Mike Basrak. Nice player, a decent player, but in picking him the Steelers passed on a chance to pick Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh, one of the greatest players in NFL history. So first of all, I believe it’s necessary to view Huey Richardson through the prism of 80-plus years of history. That said, Richardson was a big-time bust, the 15th overall selection who was a combination of a bad player who also was soft. As a rookie, Richardson once missed several practices because he broke his nose in a walk-through.

In my mind, another way to measure a bad No. 1 pick is by looking at the players the team could’ve chosen instead. In 1952, with the sixth overall selection, the Steelers picked Maryland fullback Ed Modzelewski, a Western Pennsylvania native who played one season for the Steelers during which he rushed for 195 yards (2.4 average) and added another 109 receiving yards and scored two total touchdowns before being traded to Cleveland, where he had similarly mediocre production. But in picking Modzelewski, the Steelers passed up two Hall of Fame halfbacks (Hugh McElhenny and Frank Gifford) and Hall of Fame defensive end Gino Marchetti. In 1957, the Steelers picked Purdue quarterback Len Dawson fifth overall, a Hall of Fame player, albeit based on his contributions to the Kansas City Chiefs, instead of a Syracuse running back named Jim Brown, who went sixth overall to the Cleveland Browns.

One last example: the 1989 draft when the Steelers had two first-round picks and used them on Georgia running back Tim Worley (seventh overall) and Pitt tackle Tom Ricketts (24th overall). Worley was an I-formation tailback in college and never adapted to Chuck Noll’s split-back offense. He ended up playing in 33 games over four seasons with the Steelers to end up with 1,338 yards rushing (4.0 average), another 253 yards receiving and eight total touchdowns. But his presence on the roster in 1990 made the Steelers comfortable enough with the running back situation to trade down in the first round with the Dallas Cowboys. The Steelers ended up with tight end Eric Green, and in Pittsburgh’s original slot, the Cowboys got Emmitt Smith. So Worley not only wasn’t a very good player as the seventh overall pick in one draft, but he also influenced the Steelers to pass on the guy who became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. And Green was a bust, too.

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