Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 13

Let's get to it:

DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: In the Super Bowl era the Steelers have had two franchise quarterbacks – Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger. We are going to see who becomes Ben's heir apparent over the course of the next few years. Barring the resting of starters in a final, meaningless last game of the season, who was the first quarterback after Bradshaw to start all the games of a season?
ANSWER: Terry Bradshaw was still on the roster for the 1983 season, but an injured right elbow kept him sidelined for all but the final regular season game. In his place, Cliff Stoudt started 15 regular season games, plus the playoff loss to the Raiders in Los Angeles. The following season, with Bradshaw having retired, the Steelers acquired David Woodley from the Miami Dolphins, and he started the first seven regular season games before losing the job to Mark Malone, who quarterbacked the team to a division title and an appearance in the 1984 AFC Championship Game. Malone started eight games in 1985 and then was the full-time starter in 1986.

JOHN THOMPSON FROM CONNEAUT, OH: Larry Brown is one of the most versatile players in Steelers' history. Could you provide details as to why the Steelers switched him from tight end to offensive tackle?
ANSWER: As often happens in the NFL, Larry Brown's move to offensive tackle was precipitated by an injury. During the 1976 season, Brown – still a tight end – sustained a knee injury and then heading into the 1977 offseason, Coach Chuck Noll believed that injury had robbed Brown of some of the speed and agility Noll believed was necessary to play the tight end position. So, Noll proposed a position change to Brown, and Brown's willingness to accept that and then do the work necessary to make sure the move was a successful one for both him and the team allowed Brown to play another eight NFL seasons.

And while I am an admirer of Larry Brown's career, and he was a significant piece of four Super Bowl teams during the 1970s, fans should be careful in throwing around phrases like "one of the most versatile players in Steelers' history." That's because 2022 is the franchise's 90th NFL season, and there have been a lot of players and too many things have happened during that time to be so quick with labels. Here's an example of what I mean: In 1946, Bill Dudley led the NFL in rushing, punt returns, interceptions, and fumble recoveries. Dudley LED THE NFL in an offensive statistic, a defensive statistic, and a special teams statistic, all in the same season. That's why Bill Dudley is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

RYAN HAAHR FROM DEVILS LAKE, ND: With the restructure of T.J. Watt's contract before the regular season opened, and the talks of restructuring Cam Heyward's, do you see the Steelers making another pick-up somewhere early in the season? Blake Martinez intrigues me, but another spot needs to be cleared up and it gets too messy thinking of hypotheticals. What would they be clearing up space for?
ANSWER: When it comes to salary cap space, it's rarely an issue of "use it or lose it." Restructuring the contracts of T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward to clear cap space puts the team in a position to have some flexibility to look for outside help in the case of a significant injury, but that space also allows the Steelers to carry a full complement of practice squad players, because those guys have to be paid and their salaries count against the cap. In my view, the Steelers are finished adding veteran free agents unless there is a need created by a significant injury. And there's also the possibility that extra cap space from 2022 can be carried over to 2023, which isn't a bad thing either.

ROBERT RICHARDSON FROM MODESTO, CA: When Art Rooney Sr. bought the Steelers, what was the price?
ANSWER: The franchise fee that Art Rooney Sr. paid to join the NFL in 1933 was $2,500.

KEITH WIMER FROM BOARDMAN, OH: When a team is away, by when do they arrive in the host city? And does the NFL mandate in any way the travel plans of the visiting team?
ANSWER: NFL rules mandate that the visiting team arrive in the host city at least 18 hours before kickoff. This rule has been adjusted in certain cases, such as those when severe weather is a factor, but any such adjustments must be approved by the league office.

BRUNO CONTORCHICK FROM YORK, PA: Who were the coaches responsible for the Steelers defense in the 1970s? I know the players were outstanding, but the schemes still had to be put together. I know George Perles and Bud Carson were two of the coaches, and of course Chuck Noll, but were there others?
ANSWER: The first thing to understand is that NFL coaching staffs were nowhere near as large in the 1970s as they are today. Bud Carson, who was hired by Chuck Noll in 1971 as a secondary coach, became the Steelers defensive coordinator in 1972 and held that job through the 1977 season after which he left the Steelers for the Los Angeles Rams. During his college coaching career at Georgia Tech, Carson is credited with devising the defensive scheme that came to be known as the Tampa-2, which featured zone coverage in the secondary with two safeties protecting the deep portions of the field. The Steelers became a Cover-2 defense, but they supplemented it with the special athletes they had at their disposal. As one example, conventional wisdom said that the way to attack the Cover-2 coverage scheme was in the middle of the field behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties. But because of Jack Lambert's size, speed, athleticism, and range, the Steelers' Cover-2 featured Lambert getting deeper into that middle area than other middle linebackers of that era, which led to him finishing his career with an unheard-of total of 28 interceptions.

Another coach whose contributions to the defense in that era are significantly underrated is Dan Radakovich, who coached the defensive line in the early 1970s before becoming the offensive line coach later in the decade. One of Radakovich's major contributions was his advocating for a couple of undersized, athletic defensive ends named L.C. Greenwood and Dwight White to become part of the Steelers front four along with tackles Joe Greene and Ernie Holmes. Said Greene during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech in 1987, "And I certainly do want to thank Dan Radakovich for putting L.C. Greenwood in the lineup in 1970, because without 'Hollywood Bags,' Joe may not be here. L.C ... quick, fast and did everything that you would ask him to do. I leaned on him a lot. I was just big. He was quick."

BRUCE ALITT FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: What is your opinion of the attempted pass that was incomplete and stopped the clock in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter of the 23-20 overtime win over the Bengals on Sunday? In my opinion it was one of the worst play calls I have ever seen.
ANSWER: I'm willing to bet that your opinion of that play-call is what it is because the play didn't work. To re-set the scene, following a goal-line stand and a taunting penalty on Ja'Marr Chase, the Steelers had the ball at their 17-yard line with 1:51 remaining, and the Bengals had two timeouts left. If the offense gets one first down, the game is over, because the Steelers would be able to get into victory formation and bleed the remaining time on the clock. And Coach Mike Tomlin is going to take the aggressive approach every time – he did it in a 2010 Divisional Round victory over the Ravens when the outcome was clinched with a pass to Antonio Brown, and then again in the 2010 AFC Championship Game when the win over the Jets also was clinched by a pass to Brown. Kevin Colbert once explained the situation this way: If the team makes one play, just one, and gets a first down, the game is over. Under the conservative approach, the same team is going to have to execute the couple of running plays without fumbling or a penalty, then get off a punt without it getting blocked and get the returner on the ground before he gains too much yardage, and then put together a defensive stand that is probably going to require the defense to make at least two-to-three good plays to keep the offense out of the end zone to win the game. So, it comes down to making one play to win by being aggressive and going for a first down vs. making maybe a dozen to win by going the conservative route with a couple of running plays, getting off a punt and covering it, and then stopping them on defense. What needs to change is not the approach, but the execution of the offensive plays, because getting a single first down should not be a deal-breaker, especially when the opposing defense might be expecting the Steelers to go the conservative route.

DANIEL HUNT FROM HAHIRA, GA: When people discuss the great history of Steelers linebackers, one name I don't hear often is Mike Merriweather's. I remember him as one of our best players from the 1980s. Could you talk about his career?
ANSWER: Mike Merriweather came to the Steelers from Pacific as a No. 3 pick in the 1982 NFL Draft, and while he was one of the team's better players during his six seasons with the Steelers, his career paled in comparison to the 1970s linebackers who preceded him and the 1990s linebackers who followed him. During his six seasons, Merriweather recorded 31 sacks and 11 interceptions that resulted in him being voted to three Pro Bowls, but then he sat out the entire 1988 season in a contract dispute and ended up being traded to the Vikings for a No. 1 pick in the 1989 NFL Draft.

RAYNE KNIGHT FROM SHERIDAN, WY: Where are all those people who said we shouldn't have paid Chris Boswell as much money as we did in that contract extension he signed over the summer?
ANSWER: They're probably having a meeting with all of the people who said the Steelers shouldn't have sent a No. 1 pick to Miami to acquire Minkah Fitzpatrick.

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