Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 30

Let's get to it:

CARMEN SANTA MARIA FROM FERNANDINA BEACH, FL: Frenchy Fuqua was in the flight path of the ball thrown by Terry Bradshaw and deflected to Franco Harris during the play now known as the Immaculate Reception. In 1972, two offensive players could not sequentially touch a forward pass or deflect a pass to another offensive player, as I recall. I have read tease statements from Fuqua about that pass, but has Fuqua unequivocally stated whether he did or did not touch the ball that was deflected to Franco Harris?
ANSWER: A 3,800-word story written by's Judy Battista that appeared on the website on Dec. 20, 2019, took a deep dive into the Immaculate Reception, including the results of her interviews with all of the major participants in what has been recognized as the Greatest Play in NFL History. Part of her story includes the following from her interview with Frenchy Fuqua:

"On the way into their locker room, the Steelers were, in fact, greeted by Art Rooney, who had heard the roar when (Franco) Harris scored while in the elevator. He had, as Harris thinks about it now, gotten on the elevator a loser and gotten off a winner, the fortunes of his franchise swinging in the time it took to go down a few floors.

"(Frenchy) Fuqua had a question as he shook the owner's hand.

"'Mr. Rooney, should I tell them what happened?' Fuqua asked. 'There were reporters all around the locker room. He had a cigar in his mouth. 'Frenchy, keep it to yourself.'

'"The number of reporters asking did you touch it? I love publicity. If I answer it, what will be in the papers tomorrow? I said to myself we won the game and that's the most important thing.'

'"I'll never tell,' Fuqua said."

STEPHEN CUPRZYNSKI FROM COCKEYSVILLE, MD: Having followed Kenny Pickett in college, I was happy the Steelers were able to draft him. I was hoping he would carry the clipboard for this year's learning process, but it was to work out differently. Do you think a young quarterback learns more from observing and mentoring, or from physically making mistakes, providing he stays healthy?
ANSWER: I don't believe there is one answer to that question that applies to all young quarterbacks. Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions as a rookie, which still is an NFL record, and his career turned out fine. Ben Roethlisberger was forced onto the field in the second game of his rookie season by an injury to Tommy Maddox, and his career turned out fine. Patrick Mahomes spent his rookie season watching veteran Alex Smith, and his career turned out fine. Tim Couch started 14 games as a rookie in 1999 and was out of the league after the 2003 season. There is no one answer that applies to every situation.

MIKE PALOMBO FROM McMURRAY, PA: What goes into the decision of when to activate a player from injured reserve and start their 21-day window? It would seem that if the team didn't envision the player being able to be activated, it would wait until later to activate him rather than have him be out for the season.
ANSWER: That decision is a medical one, but not all medical decisions are as simple and clearcut as 1+1=2. The first thing to remember is that a player on the injured reserve list is not allowed to practice, and so the medical personnel aren't necessarily sure how the player's injury is going to respond once he returns to football activity. What may seem to be healed enough as long as the player is simply doing rehabilitation could turn out to be not OK once the activity switches from the controlled atmosphere of a workout into the more chaotic activity of practicing football with 21 other players on the field at the same time. Sometimes the player, or the player's doctor, might want to exhaust all approaches to rehabilitate the injury before resorting to surgery, and then maybe it comes to be determined that surgery ultimately is going to be necessary. It's not as simple a process as you describe, and there's an amount of educated guesswork involved.

ANTHONY PELLONI FROM PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Now that T.J. Watt's window to come off injured reserve is activated, do the Steelers have to put him on the practice report? If they end up activating him to the 53-man roster, will he need to be on the practice report moving forward?
ANSWER: Even though the 21-day clock has started on T.J. Watt's potential return to the active roster, he still remains on injured reserve according to NFL rules, and players on injured reserve are not included on the practice report. If, or once, Watt is elevated to the 53-man roster, then he would be subject to the rules governing the practice report. But then there's this: if Watt is activated to the 53-man roster and immediately becomes a full participant in practice on a regular basis, then he is not subject to being placed on the practice report because teams don't have to put players on the practice report who are full participants in practice on a regular basis. To summarize, once Watt is put on the 53-man roster, if there is no news regarding his status, that will be good news.

GREG PARSONS FROM MOUNT LAUREL, NJ: In watching the game against the Dolphins, the Steelers first-down play was always a run, and it rarely worked. They didn't change that pattern up until the last five minutes of the game. This seems to be a trend week after week. Do they not trust Kenny Pickett to pass the ball? This predictability puts them in a lot of second-and-long situations.
ANSWER: I will admit to having the same sense about the run-pass split on first downs during the game against the Dolphins, but after the game I put a pen and paper to what I thought and learned that it wasn't the case. In the first half, on their 12 plays on first downs, there were five runs and seven passes, and then from the start of the second half until there was 5:43 remaining in the fourth quarter, on 10 first down-plays there were six runs and four passes. That meant in the time frame you describe in your question – the start of the game until there was 5 minutes remaining – the Steelers ran the ball 11 times and passed the ball 11 times on first downs.

JOSHUA CAMPBELL FROM CINCINNATI, OH: Do the Steelers offer their players a medical benefits package or are the players responsible for getting one?
ANSWER: All players in the National Football League belong to the NFLPA, which is a union, and that union long ago negotiated a comprehensive medical benefits package for its members.

SHAWN FRANKLIN FROM URBANDALE, IA: In your opinion are most NFL games still won in the trenches or has the wide receiver and quarterback talent changed the equation a bit?
ANSWER: This is another of those questions that has no single answer that fits all situations. What I do believe is an absolute, however, is that any team trying to win based on its quarterback and wide receiver talent better be able to protect its passer.

VICKIE DORE FROM SIDNEY, MT: What years did Michael Vick play for the Steelers?
ANSWER: Mike Vick played the 2015 season for the Steelers. He posted a 2-1 record as a starting quarterback and completed 40-of-66 (60.6 percent), with 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, and a rating of 79.8. Vick also ran for 99 yards on 20 carries, with his 24-yard run in the fourth quarter being a critical element in the Steelers' 24-20 road victory over the Chargers.

CHRIS FACKLER FROM BENSALEM, PA: I understand that Mitch Trubisky is still a team captain, and rightfully so since his peers voted that way. How many other times in Steelers history was a backup player a captain?
ANSWER: Let me attempt to explain something: In 2022 the Steelers are participating in their 90th NFL season, and your question, and the many others I receive similar to your question are asking me about how many other times in Steelers history something happened. What I believe is missing is an understanding of what "how many other times in Steelers history" actually entails. That history is 90 years. Ninety years! As a result, I have no answer for you, and I would have absolutely no idea how to begin to find an answer to this question.