Let’s get to it:
DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: Some of us take pleasure in being afraid. There have been plenty of scary players in the Steelers locker room. Who is the most terrifying defensive player?
ANSWER: I am going to assume that by terrifying you mean an individual who commanded respect from his peers to the degree that no one among those peers dared cross him or question his authority. Based on that, I always have maintained that the answer to all of these kinds of questions is Joe Greene, and I offer as evidence the following anecdote from Myron Cope’s book, “Double Yoi.” It was in the locker room before a game at Three Rivers Stadium during the early years of the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s. As it got close to kickoff, assistant equipment manager Jack Hart walked in and turned off the stereo that had been pumping music through the locker room. Ernie Holmes got up from the stool in front of his locker, walked over, and turned the stereo back on. Hart turned it off. Holmes turned it back on. Hart turned it off while saying, “You know Chuck’s (Noll) rule: No music in the locker room starting one hour before kickoff.” Holmes snarled, “I don’t give a (bleep) about Chuck’s rule, I want to hear more music.” After a couple of more turn-it-off, turn-it-on back-and-forths, Joe Greene rose from his stool, walked over to the stereo, ripped out all of the wires from the back and threw them into a corner. No more music. Dispute settled.
JACK FOSTER FROM HELENA, MT: Just read a post about Joe Greene's number being retired, and it got me to thinking: I believe his number didn't get retired until not too long ago? Up until then, which players had the privilege of wearing his number?
ANSWER: The Steelers retired Joe Greene’s No. 75 in a ceremony held on Nov. 2, 2014, and for the 30-plus years between his retirement after the 1981 season and that date in 2014, nobody wore No. 75. But it’s also worth noting that when training camp opened in 1969, not even Joe Greene wore No. 75. When Greene reported to Saint Vincent College for his rookie training camp after a contract holdout, No. 75 was being worn by veteran defensive lineman Ken Kortas, and so Greene was issued No. 72. Before the 1969 regular season began, Kortas and running back Don Shy were traded to New Orleans for running back Don McCall. Greene then got No. 75, which he had wanted all along.
RICK PETERS FROM CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA: James Conner was said to be limited in practice this week. Conner has more than proven his work ethic and drive to play. How many snaps does a starting running back take daily in practice?
ANSWER: This is what Coach Mike Tomlin said about James Conner and his shoulder injury during his weekly news conference: “James Conner does have a shoulder injury. It is in the process of being evaluated right now as we speak, so I don’t have a lot of information. One thing is for sure: It’s going to limit him, surely, in the early portions of the week. James has played enough ball, and I’m starting to get comfortable with him so maybe it doesn’t require a complete week of work in an effort for him to play, like it does for some younger players. So we’ll play it by ear, check his availability (for practice) on a day to day basis and let that be our guide in terms of his availability (for the game).”
And the thing about practice for a running back is that it’s much more about timing and staying sharp because there is definitely no tackling, and certainly nobody would hit the starting running back when he’s nursing a shoulder injury, which makes the number of practice repetitions a moot issue. It’s even rare for a team to be in full pads during a practice at this point in a regular season. The Collective Bargaining Agreement allows for only 14 padded practices over the course of a 17-week regular season, and since a team practices three times a week for 16 weeks, plus twice during the bye week, that’s a total of 50 practices right there, and only 14 of those 50 can be in pads.
JIM VANKIRK FROM ROGERS, OH: Do the Steelers script a number of plays to start a game on offense like some teams do? If so is it right down the list, or does it depend on the situation and down/distance?
ANSWER: The Steelers do have a script of offensive plays to start a game, and those plays are chosen based on a combination of what the quarterback likes, what the offense can execute, and what scouting has indicated will work vs. the particular opponent. Then those plays are practiced specifically in the order in which they might be used, but that of course is based on game situation. And it also should be understood that the script is not something that’s ironclad and mandatory. There can be changes and/or alterations, and often there are.
MARC ZECCHIN FROM FULDA, GERMANY: As part of the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, did the Steelers also get the right to exercise the fifth year option that’s part of the standard contract for every first-round pick, or is this option exclusive to the team that drafted him?
ANSWER: The fifth-year option is part of Minkah Fitzpatrick’s contract, and in a trade the complete terms of that contract are transferred to the team acquiring the player. So, yes, the Steelers have the fifth-year option available on Fitzpatrick’s contract.
BEN FUSSINER FROM OJAI, CA: If a player is traded from a team that has not had its bye to a team that already has had its bye, will that player be allowed to play 17 games in the season, or is the player forced to be inactive for one week?
ANSWER: In the scenario you describe, that player can play in 17 games, and he would be paid for 17 games plus the bye week, which means he would receive 18 game checks.
MICHAEL VALENCIA FROM LOS ANGELES, CA: Is Devin Bush the Defensive Rookie of the Year if he keeps progressing throughout the season the same way he has been up to this point in the season?
ANSWER: As of right now, I would identify the top candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year being Devin Bush (59 tackles, one sack, one quarterback hit, two interceptions, no forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries), and Nick Bosa (20 tackles, seven sacks, 13 quarterback hits, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery).
DIABLO SAYAYIN FROM CDMX, MEXICO: Imagine the following scenario: Antonio Brown knocks on our door and says, “Yes, gentlemen, I was wrong. I sought help, and I’m changing. I want to be play for the Steelers again.” Would the organization accept him (owner, general manager, coaches, and players)?
ANSWER: In the real world, no. And I suspect the one group that would be most adamantly against his return, a group you didn’t mention, is the fans.
BLAIR HAUGHT FROM FOLLANSBEE, WV: With the current state of the team’s running backs in flux due to injury and only Trey Edmunds available to spell Jaylen Samuels, do you see the Steelers adding another free agent running back for depth? Two interesting names out there right now are Chris Ivory and C.J. Anderson.
ANSWER: Maybe those names would be interesting to fans, but not to anyone with a paying job with an NFL team. According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, Oakland recently brought C.J. Anderson in for a workout only to find him out of shape. Ivory, who is 31 years old, was released by Buffalo on March 27, 2019 and has been out of football since. No team was interested in bringing him to training camp, no team sought him out as an injury replacement during camp or the preseason.