Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 8

Let's get to it:

NATHAN WONG FROM BUTLER, PA: Ben Roethlisberger has had great receivers over his almost two decade tenure. Who makes your top-five list, in order, based on chemistry with Ben, production, and being a clutch player?
ANSWER: I have neither the time nor the interest in the type of research project required to rank the receivers during Ben Roethlisberger's 17-plus seasons in the various categories specified in your question, but I will give you my list with a brief reason why I included each player. This list is chronological, based on when the receivers joined the Steelers: Hines Ward, because during the eight seasons he played with Roethlisberger he had 575 catches, three 1,000-yard seasons, and 48 touchdowns; Santonio Holmes, because of Super Bowl XLIII when the pair hooked up for nine receptions for 131 yards (14.6 average) and the championship-winning touchdown, with four for 73 yards and a touchdown coming on the decisive drive; Mike Wallace, who finished with a ridiculous number of 40-plus-yard touchdown passes from Roethlisberger; Antonio Brown, whose time with Roethlisberger resulted in six 100-catch seasons and seven 1,000-yard seasons, he led the NFL in receptions twice, in receiving yards twice, and in receiving touchdowns once; and JuJu Smith-Schuster, whose first two seasons in the NFL resulted in 169 catches for 2,343 yards and 14 touchdowns, including two that covered 97 yards.

BARRY BIBLER FROM SALEM, OR: Based on the recent developments with the Titans violating NFL edicts regarding COVID-19, is there any chance the NFL reverts the schedule back to the original version and forces the Titans to forfeit to the Steelers as well? As of this point it seems the Steelers really are getting the overall worst scenario.
ANSWER: I cannot see any chance the Titans are forced to forfeit to the Steelers, because the addition of forfeiting games was added to the list of punishments only after the date when the game vs. the Steelers was to be played. I could see players being suspended for multiple weeks, however, and any three-week suspension handed down at this point would remove those individuals from playing in the rescheduled game vs. the Steelers.

VINNY LOBONO FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: What was the story on Paxton Lynch? I thought for sure he would be the No. 2 quarterback this year and perhaps the starter last year ahead of Devlin Hodges. He was a first-round draft choice (with his selection being endorsed by Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway himself). Was he that bad that Josh Dobbs was brought back to replace him? Or was he just a victim of salary cap?
ANSWER: If you thought Paxton Lynch was going to be Ben Roethlisberger's backup this year, you either weren't paying attention or you didn't believe Steelers President Art Rooney II, General Manager Kevin Colbert, and Coach Mike Tomlin when they all said separately that they were comfortable with Mason Rudolph in that role. Lynch had all of the tools, but he never seemed to "get it" when it came to the above-the-neck skills necessary to play the position at the professional level. And because Lynch was signed to the Steelers practice squad and would have been making the NFL minimum for his experience level if he ever was promoted to the active roster, he definitely was not released at the end of this most recent training camp because of salary cap issues. And one final point regarding John Elway's ability to identify quarterback talent in the draft. Elway became the Broncos GM in 2011, and he has overseen drafts that added these quarterbacks to the team: Brock Osweiler in 2012, Zac Dysert in 2013, Trevor Siemian in 2015, Paxton Lynch in 2016, Chad Kelly in 2017, and Drew Lock in 2019. In Elway's case, the phrase "it takes one to know one" doesn't apply to him evaluating quarterbacks, although it's too early to come to that conclusion with Lock.

GEORGE PARSON JR. FROM GEORGETOWN, SC: Please enlighten me on when the trade deadline is? What are your thoughts on the upcoming NFL trade deadline?
ANSWER: The NFL trading deadline is at 4 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Oct. 29. I think that every trading deadline in the NFL is anticlimactic compared to the trading deadlines in the other three major sports. Some of it has to do with the salary cap implications of every trade, and the other part of it has to do with players having to learn and fit into different systems in the NFL, as opposed to Major League Baseball, as an example, where playing third base is the same for every team in the sport.

KEN WALDROP FROM ONTONAGON, MI: Mike Hilton has not only covered well but is fantastic on the blitz. I know the Steelers don't do contracts during the season, but could Hilton be an exception? The thought being his price may be going up quite a bit if they wait for the offseason.
ANSWER: Here's the thing about a policy: If there are exceptions made, then it isn't a policy. The Steelers don't negotiate contracts during the season. Not for Mike Hilton. Not for Bud Dupree. Not for JuJu Smith-Schuster. Not for any player, because if an exception is made for one guy, then all of the other guys start wondering why an exception wasn't made for them. Then you have players thinking/wondering/worrying about contracts instead of playing winning football. So, no exceptions for anyone, ever. That's why it's called a policy.

TONY TURAY FROM SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA: I'm not sure I understand your response to the "poor spot and failed challenge" on the Ben Roethlisberger play in the Texans game. Are you saying that an "obvious" error (on making a call during a game proven by video replay), is still at the discretion of the officials? What is the point of having video replay challenges?
ANSWER: Your naivete is charming. I don't know how long you've been watching NFL football, but it can't be too long if you still believe that instant replay and the challenge system corrects all obvious errors while also confirming the correct calls. As for the two questions you pose, allow me to answer them succinctly: Yes. Exactly. And I close with the words of Chuck Noll, a staunch opponent of instant replay as an officiating tool, when told that the purpose of it was to get calls right. Countered Noll, "What if it doesn't?"

MICHAEL SYLVESTER FROM EBENSBURG, PA: When talking about players from the earlier days of the NFL, I sometimes hear talking heads say things like, "He could still be competitive in today's NFL." Are there any players from Steelers history that you think could be picked up from their time period, dropped into the current NFL and still produce at a high level?
ANSWER: This is an age-old argument that spans all sports, and it's a difficult one because there has to be a way to compensate for the evolution of the human body and the advancements in training and nutrition and sports medicine. Here are two examples: Joe Greene played defensive tackle at 250 pounds, and Gale Sayers had his spectacular career virtually ended following a knee injury that involved torn ligaments. In today's NFL, a 250-pound defensive tackle would get brutalized by contemporary NFL offensive linemen who not only weigh over 300 pounds but also have spent years and years involved in specialized weight-training, had their diets designed for them, worked with personal trainers and specialty coaches year-round to maximize their speed, strength, and quickness, while learning footwork and how to use their hands. And if a running back sustained the injury Sayers did to his knee, it would be repaired to an extent where it conceivably could be stronger than it was before the injury. So if you give Greene and Sayers the advantages of modern medicine, nutrition, and coaching, and allow them more exposure to football than back in the 1960s-70s when teams never saw their players from the end of one season to the start of the next training camp, they both would dominate. If you forced them to play by the rules of their time but compete in today's world, the outcome would be the same as entering a 1969 Plymouth into the 2019 Daytona 500.

NATHAN GEISLER FROM BOISE. ID: With the Steelers having only three head coaches since 1969, who did Dan Rooney and the Steelers interview for the head coach vacancies in 1969, 1992, and 2007? And did any of them later become head coaches with other NFL franchises?
ANSWER: In 1969, before Dan Rooney settled on Chuck Noll and presented him to his father as the preferred candidate, the job was offered to then-Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who declined. In 1992, the four finalists for Noll's job were Joe Greene, Kevin Gilbride, Dave Wannstedt, and Bill Cowher, with Wannstedt (Chicago Bears) and Gilbride (Chargers) getting other jobs. Then in 2007, the four finalists were Ron Rivera (Carolina and Washington), Ken Whisenhunt (Arizona and Tennessee), Russ Grimm, and Mike Tomlin.

MIKE HOLMES FROM FARMINGTON PA: In a recent Asked and Answered, you answered a question from Mark in Florida about the 2021 salary cap. In your reply you asked your own question: "Is there any chance fans quit worrying about the 2021 salary cap until it's actually 2021?" I wanted to flip the script this week and answer YOUR question: No, there is absolutely no chance fans will quit worrying about 2021's salary cap. Nor is there any chance fans will quit wondering why the Steelers won't trade Ben Roethlisberger for a fifth-round draft pick, and a bag of Idaho potatoes. Fans are dumb.
ANSWER: I don't agree with your blanket assessment of fans, but instead I liken it to something the nuns always hammered home (sometimes literally) in grade school: "Empty barrels make the most noise."

THOMAS BAUMGARTEN FROM COLUMBUS, OH: Is there any scenario where the Steelers look to trade for Dwayne Haskins? I know at the moment they like Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs as their backups and potential future starters, but having been a live witness to Haskins' lone season as a starter for the Buckeyes I believe that his ceiling is much higher than Rudolph's.
ANSWER: Did you have the Ohio State fight song playing in the background as you typed this? The Steelers made a trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick last year because there was an open spot in the lineup for him and because they would have him under the control of his rookie contract for the next two years plus a possible fifth-year option, but the trade for Dwayne Haskins would be for what? To compete with Mason Rudolph to be the backup to Ben Roethlisberger? And then what if Roethlisberger finishes this season with statistics comparable to what he has posted to this point so far: completion percentage of 67, touchdown percentage of 6.4, interception percentage of 0.9, rating in the neighborhood of 105.2? Then, a possible extension would be in order for two reasons: he's still a top-level NFL quarterback, and an extension would lower his 2021 cap number, and it's assumed the Steelers will be looking for relief in that area. Because Haskins is in his third season already and with no spot in the lineup for him in Pittsburgh, that would mean the Steelers would either lose him as an unrestricted free agent soon or have to commit a ridiculous number to exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract possibly without seeing him take any meaningful snaps for them. Besides, after the Steelers acquire Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, there really won't be any room on the roster for Haskins.

CALVIN HERB FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: I know that in terms of stadiums, Heinz Field is pretty recently built, but say in a few decades – more or less, the Steelers need to design a new stadium. They've always based their stadiums around the rivers and being more open, but what are the chances a new stadium would be indoors, or maybe even have a contractible roof like some do in the league today?
ANSWER: If I understand this correctly, you're asking me to predict whether 30 years from now a new Steelers stadium will have a roof, or maybe a retractable roof? My Magic 8-ball just jumped off the shelf and ran screaming into the other room.

JONATHAN TRAPP FROM CHALFONT, PA: Have you yet thought about adding an area for the many fans of Asked and Answered to leave comments after each reply you give?
ANSWER: This is a feature where people submit questions and I answer them. It's not talk radio. Or a debate.