Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 29

Let's get to it:

CHUCK LONGAZEL FROM BOYNTON BEACH, FL: I always believed that Randy Grossman was one of the most underrated Steelers of their glorious 1970s team of the decade. Do you agree?
ANSWER: To start chronologically, Randy Grossman was the "other" undrafted rookie from the Class of 1974 to make the roster, with Hall of Fame safety Donnie Shell grabbing most of the attention there. That alone qualifies Grossman as underrated, but the other adjective I would use to describe him as a player is "dependable." In a different era, Grossman's skill-set might have been more valued, but in the 1970s, tight ends were supposed to be big and physical and their primary function was to serve as blockers. Grossman was smaller – he would be considered an H-back in today's NFL – and he caught anything and everything thrown near him. But again, two-tight-end sets weren't utilized that often, and when they were it wasn't because the ball was designed to be thrown to the second tight end. Still, Grossman played in 118 games over eight seasons – he missed only two – and finished with 119 catches for 1,514 yards and five touchdowns. In 15 playoff games, he caught another 15 passes, including one for a touchdown in Super Bowl X. After retiring from the NFL, Grossman became a certified financial planner.

RICHARD SNYDER FROM HOBOKEN, NJ: Listening to the Steelers-Titans broadcast on SNR last Sunday, Bill Hillgrove said Robert Spillane is wearing the same No. 41 as his grandfather did when he played for the Steelers back in the day. Can you please elaborate on this story?
ANSWER: Robert Spillane is the grandson of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner, who was the team's first-round pick of the 1954 NFL Draft. Lattner played college football at Notre Dame for Coach Frank Leahy, and he was a two-time winner of the Maxwell Award, presented annually "to the college football player judged by a panel of sportscasters, sportswriters, and NCAA head coaches and the membership of the Maxwell Football Club to be the best all-around in the United States," as well as the Heisman Trophy. In 1953, Lattner also appeared on the cover of Time Magazine.

The seventh overall pick in 1954, Lattner played only one season for the Steelers before being drafted to serve in the United States Air Force. During his stint in the military, Lattner injured a knee during a football game that ended his NFL career. During his one season with the Steelers, Lattner rushed for 237 yards and scored five touchdowns, caught 25 passes for 305 yards and two more touchdowns, returned 17 punts for 73 yards, and returned 16 kickoffs for 413 yards (25.8 average). Lattner was voted to the 1954 Pro Bowl.

Lattner attended Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois, and several of his 25 grandchildren attended the same school and played football while there. Robert Spillane would be considered the most famous football-playing descendent of Lattner based on his start at linebacker for the Steelers last weekend against the Titans.

RITA BYRD FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: You wrote on Tuesday that Chase Claypool was taken out of last Sunday's game by the Titans defense. But this year top players like Davante Adams or Julio Jones, or historical players like Randy Moss or Jerry Rice always had big games despite defenses using all kinds of tools trying to stop them. It is a total cop-out to say that a defense takes a player out of the game. If Claypool is a great player, no one should be able to take him out of a game.
ANSWER: So in your mind, it makes sense to compare Hall of Fame wide receivers (Jerry Rice and Randy Moss) to a rookie (Chase Claypool) who has a grand total of two starts so far in his NFL career? Another question for you: In Atlanta's 40-39 loss to Dallas on Sept. 20, why did Julio Jones catch only two passes for 24 yards? In Green Bay's 42-21 victory over Detroit the same day, why was Davante Adams held to just three catches on a day when his teammate – Calvin Ridley – had 109 yards receiving and two touchdowns? And who called Chase Claypool a great player less than halfway through his rookie season? Wasn't me. And just to emphasize how ridiculous your point is, in his seventh NFL game, Jerry Rice caught one pass for 3 yards.

JASON PURDUE FROM BERLIN CENTER, OH: When a veteran player is released during the season and signs with a new team, is the new team required to honor the player's prior contract terms, or is the contract terminated upon release?
ANSWER: When a player is cut, his contract is terminated and then he and his new team have to negotiate a new contract. If a player is waived and claimed on waivers, the team claiming him has to honor his existing contract.

RAY GREHOFSKY FROM BLACKSBURG, VA: In the Oct. 26 Asked and Answered, you answered a question about the length of television timeouts by referencing the "green hat" who controls commercial stoppages during the flow of the game. I never noticed the green hat and always referred to that person as "orange oven mitts." Are we both speaking about the same person?
ANSWER: Two different people, but they stand together on the sideline and are teaming up to do the one job. The "green hat" is in communication with the network truck, and the "orange oven mitts" communicates what the "green hat" learns to the on-field officials.

TOM McCORMICK FROM FINDLAY, OH: Assuming my memory is correct, there was a rule that if a player's helmet came off during a play, he had to leave for one play. Is my memory wrong or did they change the rule?
ANSWER: That's a college rule. I don't know whether it's still in effect, though.

JON WILLIAMSON FROM ASHEVILLE, NC: Has Ben Roethlisberger stated how long he intends to play in the NFL?
ANSWER: He has not.

DANIEL BRADY FROM VANDERBILT, PA: I hope you can settle a bet. Darrell Royal said, "Three things can happen when you pass, and two of them are bad." But I remember Bill Cowher using a similar but different quote. I think he said two of them are good, and I argued that with a friend. Am I wrong? Do you remember Cowher using/changing this quote?
ANSWER: There is some minor disagreement over whether it was Darrell Royal or Woody Hayes who first said, "Three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad," and the reason is that even though the earliest published accounts of the quote attribute it to Royal, Royal muddied the waters by saying that he got the quote from his good buddy Hayes. Anyway, I never can remember Bill Cowher saying that or any version of that. I do remember Cowher being asked in a news conference why he replaced Jerome Bettis on third-and-1, and Cowher's reply was, "Sometimes those third-and-1s are more like one-and-a-half."

ERIC SMITH FROM WOODBRIDGE, CT: What do you think about changing how the draft order is determined? Instead of rewarding ineptitude and watching teams intentionally tank, why not reward winning? Instead of giving the No. 1 overall pick to the team with the worst record, rank the teams that don't get into the playoffs by record. The non-playoff team with the best record gets the first overall pick and the team with the worst record would get the 18th pick. The remaining order of the draft continues as is with the champion getting the 32nd pick.
ANSWER: And what makes you think teams wouldn't be tanking in Weeks 16-17 to just miss the playoffs? This has no chance of happening.

LARRY LAWHEAD FROM GLEN CARBON, IL: How about some love for the coaches after last week's game, especially on the offensive side? I thought it was brilliant taking the ball to start, then going with controlled passes to attack Tennessee crowding the line of scrimmage. Granted the execution had to happen, but it just seems like a great plan. And I think the Titans' comeback was more a factor of execution. If you told anyone Steelers would be minus-3 in turnover ratio against a 5-0 team on the road, everybody would expect they would have lost. Or am I wrong?
ANSWER: Your theory sounds plausible to me, but some people are always looking for somebody to blame. See below.

SEAN FREDERICK FROM SOUTH BEND, IN: Watching the second half of the Titans game was extremely nerve-racking. I understand adjustments are made throughout the game and especially at the half, but it appeared the Steelers were unable to adjust to the changes the Titans made. Titans continued to get better and Steelers continued to get worse. Who is to blame for that?
ANSWER: Who is to blame for that? Who is to blame for the Titans starting to play like an undefeated team on their home field? Who is to blame for the Titans playing more like the team that eliminated New England with Tom Brady and Baltimore with NFL MVP Lamar Jackson in back-to-back weeks of the 2019 playoffs instead of like the New York Jets? Who's to blame?

CHUCK VODD FROM MILFORD, PA: Is a player on the practice squad an eligible candidate for trading during the trade season?
ANSWER: I don't know that it's illegal, but why would a team trade for a player it could simply sign without having to give anything back as compensation?

TIM MAHAN FROM COLORADO SPRINGS, CO: Who is ultimately responsible for the spot of the football when it is punted out of bounds, and what angles are they viewing from?
ANSWER: The referee is standing behind the punter, and after he watches for running into/roughing the punter, he has a good angle to see where a punt goes out of bounds on the fly. One of the officials on the side of the field where the ball went out of bounds will come up the sideline with his arm raised. When he gets to the spot where the ball went out of bounds, the referee will make a chopping motion with his arm, and that's where the ball is spotted for the offense to begin its possession.

JOHN THOMPSON FROM CONNEAUT, OH: I cannot understand how people can call themselves diehard Steelers fans but have no concept of the salary cap. The Steelers are as usual up against the cap, but whenever a rumor starts like the one about J.J. Watt wanting out in Houston, Steelers fans will start suggesting the team should add him to the team. Go get him. Can you explain this to me?
ANSWER: Sorry, but I cannot. There are a lot of things I can't explain. See below.

BRAD GABORA FROM CANORA, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA: Mason Rudolph definitely knows the Steelers system, but I believe the Steelers need a more experienced and proven backup. What do you think the chances are that the Steelers pick up an unsigned experienced quarterback?
ANSWER: Seriously, we're not done with this yet?