Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 9

Let's get to it:

JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: In a previous Asked and Answered, you answered a question about Cam Heyward's involvement in the community and noted "it's high time he won it" regarding the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and I couldn't agree more. How many Steelers, if any have won that award?
ANSWER: The award originally was called the NFL Man of the Year Award, but in 1999 it was renamed the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award to recognize Payton's history as a humanitarian. The Steelers who have won the award were Franco Harris in 1976, Joe Greene in 1979, Lynn Swann in 1981, and Jerome Bettis in 2001.

BILL SHINER FROM JACKSON, TN: How did the Steelers acquire Tommy Maddox?
ANSWER: Tommy Maddox entered the NFL in 1992 as a No. 1 pick by the Denver Broncos. By the end of the 1995 season, Maddox was out of the NFL after being cut by the Broncos, Rams, and Giants, but he resurrected his career in 2000 when he was the starting quarterback of the New Jersey Red Dogs of the Arena Football League. From there, Maddox was signed by the XFL's Los Angeles Xtreme, where he completed 57.3 percent of his passes for 2,186 yards, 18 touchdowns, and nine interceptions and was voted the MVP of the XFL. The XFL folded after that one season, and Maddox was a free agent again. He sent faxes to all NFL teams looking for a job, and the only team to show any interest was the Steelers, and the team signed him for training camp in the summer of 2001. Maddox had an impressive summer, and during the 2001 season, the three quarterbacks on the Steelers 53-man roster were Kordell Stewart, Tommy Maddox, and Tee Martin, who was the team's fifth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

MATTHEW JOHNSON FROM CASHIER, NC: Kenny Pickett's throw to Chase Claypool was into double coverage, and the one to Pat Freiermuth was high, but those guys have to help their rookie quarterback out, don't they?
ANSWER: There are things quarterbacks cannot afford to do in the NFL. One of them is throw the ball into double-coverage over the middle, because while it's one thing to put the ball up to allow your receiver to make a play down a sideline, there is just too much traffic in the middle of the field to try that. And another no-no is to throw the ball late in a play and across the field, which is something only to be attempted by the tiny percentage of quarterbacks with superior arm strength, and even rarely by those guys. Those are two ways to invite disaster.

ROD KEEFER FROM EDMOND, OK: I realize it's nearly impossible today to build a team entirely from the draft, but am I remembering correctly from childhood that at least once during the 1970s the Steelers did just that?
ANSWER: The 1979 Steelers, the team that ended that season by defeating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV, was made up entirely of players who never had played for another NFL team except the Steelers.

BRYAN CRAMER FROM FRANKLIN, PA: A team captain gets benched. Is he still a captain? Sure, he will be active on game days and be the backup quarterback, but does he take the coin toss?
And I mean no disrespect to Mitch.

ANSWER: Players decide the team captains by a vote, but they don't get to vote on who starts. Mitch Trubisky will be the No. 2 quarterback, and he still will take the field for the pregame coin toss.

WARREN WEBB FROM EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA: I was under the impression that the Steelers had not expected Kenny Pickett to be available at their No. 20 overall draft position. Had they not gotten Pickett, do you think Mitch Trubisky would still be the starter? Or Mason Rudolph or some other option?
ANSWER: Maybe the Steelers would have drafted a different quarterback. It's all speculation at this point, and it really doesn't matter.

BOB NEMETZ FROM JACKSONVILLE, FL: What's your assessment of Gunner Olszewski's performance so far on special teams?
ANSWER: Shortly through training camp, after watching Gunner Olszewski daily in practice, I believed he was going to be an upgrade over Ray-Ray McCloud in the receiver-returner role. But my "assessment" of him through four games of the regular season is simple and brief: He has fumbled twice as a punt returner. That's typically twice too many for Coach Mike Tomlin, and so I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a change made there soon, likely by Sunday for the game vs. the Bills in Buffalo.

When asked at his news conference about his comfort level with Olszewski as a punt returner, Coach Mike Tomlin said, "Not very high, to be quite honest with you. You can't put two balls on the ground in four games and feel good about it. Two is a pattern in the National Football League. We say that often. We say that about runners and ball security. Whether there's four games or eight games or 12 games, two, in our business, is a pattern. So, we've got some work there this week and some decisions to make and he's got to get us to a level of comfort, and we'll look at some other options as well."

PAUL JUMP FROM STILLWATER, OK: It seems Mitch Trubisky is not meeting expectations and Coach Mike Tomlin has decided Kenny Pickett is the right decision going forward. In this process what has been the status or involvement with Mason Rudolph? It would seem he would be given the opportunity to become the No. 2 quarterback. From an outside perspective it appears Rudolph showed as much or more than Trubisky to this point and has the time in the system as well. Do you think the Steelers should or will move on from Trubisky and elevate Rudolph to suit up on game days?
ANSWER: As you write in your submission, "from an outside perspective," and that's at the heart of this matter. There are so many things involved in this quarterback competition dating all the way back to the start of OTAs that those of us on the outside – and that includes me – have no way of knowing.

DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: Does Calvin Austin lll have any experience fielding punts?
ANSWER: During his final three college seasons at Memphis, Calvin Austin III averaged 11.1 yards on 29 punt returns with two touchdowns.

JOHN HOUGHMASTER FROM HASTINGS, NY: I know the offensive line is young. When do you think they will start to gel as a unit if at all?
ANSWER: I believe the offensive line has shown steady improvement going all the way back to that preseason game against the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Aug. 20. I'm not about to predict that guys on the offensive line will be voted to the Pro Bowl this year, but the unit deserves some credit for what has been consistent improvement.

STEVE HOUSEHOLDER FROM WESTERNPORT, MD: Do inactive and injured reserve players travel to away games?
ANSWER: Since final decisions on the inactive list might not be made until the day of the game, all 53 players on the active roster typically travel to road games, but that's not necessarily the case with guys on injured reserve. If there is some reason why their attendance might be necessary, they might travel but typically they would not.