Let's get to it:
DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: Calvin Austin lll has the kind of speed that can be dangerous on punt returns. Considering this as a rookie season for him, who had the most successful rookie season returning punts? Antonio Brown, Antwaan Randle El, and Rod Woodson are the most elite as I remember.
ANSWER: Starting with the punt returners you remember as being elite, in his rookie season of 1987 (which was limited to 8 games because of a contract holdout), Rod Woodson returned 16 punts for 135 yards (8.4 average); in Antwaan Randle El's rookie season of 2002, he returned 37 punts for 257 yards (6.9 average); and in Antonio Brown's rookie season of 2010, he returned 19 punts for 110 yards (5.8 average). You needed to go farther back in history to find the two players who could lay claim to being the Steelers' most dynamic punt returner as a rookie. In his rookie season of 1974, Lynn Swann returned 41 punts for an NFL-leading 577 yards and 1 touchdown, and his average per return was 14.1. But my choice for the most dynamic rookie punt returner in Steelers history is Louis Lipps, who in 1984 returned 53 punts for an NFL-leading 656 yards and 1 touchdown, and his average per return was 12.4. My rationale for picking Lipps over Swann is that while Swann finished with a better average-per-return, those 656 punt return yards by Lipps remains the franchise's single-season record.
JOSEPH McCAMEY FROM KINGSLAND, GA: Not on-the-field related, but I was reading the article on Steelers.com about the Steelers cooking for a cause and was wondering where one would get the recipes for the things the players cook.
ANSWER: Calvin Austin III and Elandon Roberts led the cooking demonstration at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital when the Steelers took part in the annual Healthy Cooking Demo in conjunction with UPMC as a part of breast cancer awareness month. The players prepared healthy food options that also were praised for being tasty as well. To view some of the recipes click here >>>
CHAZ KELICAN FROM WARDENSVILLE, WV: The NFL hands out fines each week for illegal plays. Is there a website listing the fines and what they were issued for? Also does the NFL publish what is done with the money?
ANSWER: The website where a list of players who were fined and the amount of those fines is at: Operations.nfl.com/inside-football-ops/rules-enforcement/gameday-accountability/. The fines collected are donated to the Professional Athletes Foundation to support Legends in need and the NFL Foundation to further support the health, safety and wellness of athletes across all levels, including youth football and the communities that support the game. Since 2011, about $4 million a year has been used to support these worthy causes.
JIM GRAVES FROM WATERTOWN, NY: In the Oct. 5 edition of Asked and Answered you mentioned a time that fans cheered when Terry Bradshaw was injured. You thought that it was against the Oilers. The player who injured Bradshaw was Turkey Jones, and he slammed Bradshaw into the turf headfirst, WWE style, and fans cheered when Terry was helped off the field. Jones played for the Cleveland Browns during that dark day in Steelers history. You can take a mulligan on this one since your memory is usually spot on.
ANSWER: No mulligan necessary for me, because you're the one who's incorrect. My reference was to a 1974 incident at Three Rivers Stadium when Steelers fans cheered an injury to Terry Bradshaw, and the Turkey Jones incident happened in Cleveland in 1976. I have done some additional research and the game I was referencing happened on the Sunday following Thanksgiving in 1974 – Dec. 1 – and Bradshaw was forced from the game after completing 6-of-20 for 60 yards, with 1 touchdown, 1 interception, and a rating of 35.4 while also being sacked 3 times. He was replaced by Terry Hanratty, who was 0-for-5 with 2 interceptions, and the Steelers lost to the Oilers, 13-10.
JOSE VILLARREAL FROM CARRIZO SPRINGS, TX: Looking at the standings in the AFC North, the game against Baltimore is the biggest game of the early season. What is the Steelers overall record at home against the Ravens in Coach Mike Tomlin tenure?
ANSWER: Since Mike Tomlin was hired in 2007, the Steelers are 10-9, including playoffs, in Pittsburgh against the Ravens.
SCOTT WAMPOLE FROM FLEETWOOD, PA: Just wondering why on the Steelers app when trying to listen to Steelers Nation Radio it works fine for the pregame stuff but as soon as the game starts I can't get it anymore.
ANSWER: That's because the NFL signs rights deals with broadcast partners for all regular season and postseason games. If you want to listen to today's game on the radio vs. the Ravens, for example, it's available to subscribers on SiriusXM or the SXM app.
ZACH RAVES FROM SCOTTSDALE, AZ: If a team starts having trouble selling tickets or merchandise, who ends up losing money? Are there stipulations in player/coach contracts tied to sales? Or is it only the owner?
ANSWER: Revenue generated by sales of tickets and merchandise from each of the 32 teams are pooled together and go into determining the amount of the annual salary cap per team. If you recall, the impact of Covid in 2020 forced most teams to play their games in empty stadiums, and that resulted in the 2021 salary cap decreasing for the first time since that system was put into place.
DICK VOCHEK FROM PORTAGE, PA: Who do you consider the Steelers most traditional rival? In my opinion, it's the Browns. I've lived in Maryland, and Ravens fans think they are the greatest rival of the Steelers.
ANSWER: To me, this is a similar situation to determining the "most valuable player." Is the MVP the best player on the best team, or is it the most indispensable player on any team? According to Oxford, synonyms for traditional are "established" and "long-established," and so based on that the answer to the question would be the Cleveland Browns, because the Steelers played the Browns at least twice a season from the time the Cleveland franchise joined the NFL in 1950 until Art Model moved the franchise to Baltimore for the 1996 season. And then the series resumed when the Browns rejoined the NFL in 1999, and the teams have met at least twice a season every year since then. If the question became, "Which team is the Steelers most hated rival today?" then my answer would be the Baltimore Ravens.
BOBBY STICKEL FROM ITHACA, NY: Do the Steelers have a policy (or just a philosophy) about injured starters not losing their jobs to backups? I'm thinking about our punters. If Brad Wing out performs (however that's measured) Pressley Harvin III while Harvin is injured, could he be named the starter? Is there a process for this, and is it up to teams or something in the CBA?
ANSWER: There is really no policy, either a team policy or one based in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that governs when a player loses his starting job, and beyond that there almost always has to be a performance component involved that far out-weighs every other factor in the decision. Using your example of the punters, for Brad Wing to take Pressley Harvin III's job while Harvin recovers from his hamstring injury there would have to have been a level of dissatisfaction with Harvin's performance leading up to his injury. And that is not the case.
DAN WEYAND-GEISE FROM CINCINNATI, OH: I always look forward to your reports and perspective. I am curious to hear your recollections of the fans' reactions during the Cowher-era when the Steelers failed to make the playoffs three years in a row - including two years with under-.500 records? By the way, living here in Cincinnati, there are some fans who are ready to fire Bengals Coach Zac Taylor even after two straight conference title appearances. Sincerely, a grateful Steelers fan in southwest Ohio.
ANSWER: During the three straight seasons (1998-2000) when the Steelers missed the playoffs under Coach Bill Cowher, there was plenty of angst among the fan base, but as with everything in that pre-internet/social media era it never rose to the level such things reach now. Back in those days, there were just two sports talk shows – Myron Cope's that was followed by Stan Savran's, both on WTAE-AM, a 5,000 watt station – and neither of those hosts rose to the level of vitriol that's common today. But fans still complained about the losing, the playoff-less seasons, Cowher's choices for offensive and defensive coordinators, his 1-2 record in AFC Championship Games at home, his handling of the quarterback position. The criticism reached a crescendo when the Steelers finished 6-10 in 2003 and Dan Rooney signed Cowher to a contract extension, but that turned out to be the correct move because the Steelers finished 15-1 in 2004 and won Super Bowl XL to cap the 2005 season. And Bill Cowher is now enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.