Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 24

Let's get to it:

JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: Against the Broncos last Sunday, T.J. Watt had another game with multiple sacks when he finished with 2.5. How many times in his young career has he had multiple sacks in a game? I believe Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt are the best outside linebacker tandem the Steelers have had since LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison. Since the Steelers switched to a 3-4 alignment, which outside linebacker tandem do you think is their all-time greatest?
ANSWER: In his three full seasons plus two games so far in 2020 – a total of 49 regular season games – T.J. Watt has nine games with multiple sacks. That breaks down into one game in 2017, three in 2018, four in 2019, and one so far in 2020. As for the best tandem of outside linebackers in franchise history, these are the ones, in my opinion, that are in the running for this mythical and arbitrary award (in chronological order): Mike Merriweather and Bryan Hinkle; Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd; Joey Porter and Jason Gildon; James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley; and Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt. Admittedly, there are a lot of different ways to try to evaluate these tandems: best season, best tenure with the Steelers, best combination of skills/statistics; and the eye test.

In 1984, Merriweather and Hinkle combined for 20.5 sacks and five interceptions. In 2000, Porter and Gildon combined for 24 sacks, six forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries; and then in 2002 the same tandem combined for 18 sacks, four interceptions, 14 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. In 2008, Harrison and Woodley combined for 27.5 sacks, two interceptions, five passes defensed, nine forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries; and then in 2010 the same tandem combined for 20.5 sacks, four interceptions, 10 passes defensed, nine forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.

All of those tandems and all of those seasons were exceptional, but I'm going to go with Greene and Lloyd, because in 1994 both of them were voted first-team All-Pro after combining for 156 tackles, 24 sacks, six forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. That vote signified that the Steelers had the two best outside linebackers in football that season, and just to complete the picture future Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas was second-team All-Pro at outside linebacker in 1994. With none of the other Steelers tandems was there a season where both players voted first-team All-Pro. On that basis, I'm going with Greene and Lloyd, but each of those other tandems were a handful for opponents as well.

TODD McCANDLESS FROM WILDWOOD, MO: I am glad to see the Steelers re-signed Josh Dobbs after trading him last year. That makes we wonder how the trading process works. When a team is discussing a trade, do they seek input from the player or are they told after negotiations are concluded?
ANSWER: Typically, a player is not consulted before a trade is made involving him. However, a team also knows that if the player refuses to report to the team to which he was traded, then there is no trade. So in cases of a difficult situation, there could be some advance discussion.

BRIAN LIPIEC FROM ERIE, PA: Is there anywhere I can get a guide of what is on at what time on SNR?
ANSWER: If you go to the Steelers.com home page, and scroll down until you get to the banner dedicated to SNR, you will see two links on the left: "Listen Live" and "Programming." Click on "Programming" and that should lead you to the information you need.

JOE ASHER FROM TAMPA, FL: Chase Claypool's touchdown catch against the Broncos on Sunday was amazing. For a rookie who had no preseason, he seems to be adjusting well to the NFL. I also thought I saw Alex Highsmith on the field, and of course Kevin Dotson started at right guard. What did you think of those two performances, and did any other rookies see playing time last Sunday?
ANSWER: By all accounts Kevin Dotson played well in his first NFL start, and it also should be noted that he missed a decent amount of training camp with a knee injury. Alex Highsmith played 10 defensive snaps and 18 special teams snaps in the opener vs. the Giants and had one tackle on defense; and he played 11 defensive snaps and 21 special teams snaps against the Broncos and didn't show up on the stat sheet. Highsmith is still learning on the fly, but when he has been in the game during the first two weeks he doesn't appear to be a liability, which under these unique circumstances is a plus. The other rookie to see playing time against the Broncos was cornerback James Pierre, who was on the field for nine special teams snaps.

BRIAN TENNANT FROM WEST HAVEN, UT: When was the last time the Steelers had a wide receiver who, during his tenure, was considered one of the best in league, and, was a first-round draft pick?
ANSWER: "Considered one of the best in the league" is kind of a vague label, because it doesn't specify who is doing the considering and what level has to be attained by the player to be "considered" legitimately. But here are a couple of names for you, and you can decide: Lynn Swann was a first-round pick in 1974 and ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; and Louis Lipps was a first-round pick in 1984 and was voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons.

TERRY COLUMBIA FROM SCIPIO, IN: Why didn't Benny Snell get more playing time last Sunday? He deserves touches, so why didn't he get them?
ANSWER: Why? Here's why: because in two games so far this regular season, Benny Snell has two fumbles in the second half. JuJu Smith-Schuster bailed him out in the opener by coming out of a pile of Giants defensive players with the football when the Steelers were clinging to a 16-10 lead, and against Denver Snell lost a fumble on the first offensive snap following a Broncos touchdown that had cut the Steelers' lead to 26-14. Running backs who fumble in those kinds of situations deserve neither playing time nor touches. Snell needs to tighten up that part of his game, and to do it yesterday.

WARREN RICKENBACH FROM SEWELL, NJ: I have a officiating question for you. On kickoffs, why does the referee automatically rule a touchback when the ball lands in the end one and doesn't go out the back of the end zone? I thought that on any kickoff if the ball goes beyond the minimum 10 yards, that it is considered a live ball that's up for grabs, even in the end zone.
ANSWER: This rule was changed a few years ago when the NFL decided to de-emphasize kickoffs for player safety reasons. Now as soon as a kickoff hits the ground in the end zone, it is automatically ruled a touchback.

CHRIS ZAVADIL FROM FREMONT, NE: Are you hearing any league or fan reaction to the fake crowd noise? I understand trying to replicate an "atmosphere," but personally I would rather hear what's happening on the field.
ANSWER: I have a feeling the fake crowd noise will be continued as long as stadiums aren't permitted to operate at full capacity for two reasons: the fake crowd noise covers up a lot of the audibles and other calls players are making, and coaches like that because they don't want that kind of information going out over the national airwaves; and the artificial crowd noise can help camouflage some of the salty language that comes out of the mouths of players during the heat of the game.

DAVE ORTMANN FROM OXFORD, MS: Why is it so hard for a team that starts either 0-3 or 0-4 to make the playoffs?
ANSWER: A logical place to start in answering that question is simple arithmetic. An NFL regular season is 16 games, and usually a team has to be 9-7, or at least 8-8, to make the playoffs. So if a team is 0-3, it has to go 9-4 to finish 9-7, or 8-5 to finish 8-8. If a team is 0-4, it has to go 9-3 to finish 9-7, or 8-4 to finish 8-8. If a team is bad enough or injured enough or unlucky enough to start a season 0-3 or 0-4, it stands to reason it's very unlikely that team could turn it around during said season and start playing at a winning percentage of no worse than .615 and maybe as high as .750.

ALBERT FUKUSHIMA FROM PEARL CITY, HI: What is practice squad offensive tackle Brandon Walton's jersey number?
ANSWER: There is nobody named Brandon Walton on the Steelers practice squad.

MARK ADKINS FROM ST. AUGUSTINE, FL: What is your opinion of giving punter Corliss Waitman a call-up from the practice squad? I think it would be good to give the rookie a shot to see what he can do, and competition is always good.
ANSWER: Giving a rookie "a shot to see what he can do" is not something for the third week of the regular season. Those experiments are for training camp and/or any time the team isn't playing games that count in the standings. I'm not ready to declare the decision to cut Jordan Berry for Dustin Colquitt a good one or a bad one, but the most important person to consider in any change at punter is Chris Boswell, because the punter is his holder. And I wouldn't be in favor of any change that would disrupt him from being the kind of placekicker he has been for all but that one bad year since the Steelers signed him.

THOMAS KALINOWSKI FROM QUEEN CREEK, AZ: I do not have a question but had to write to thank you for putting the "gentleman" who asked the question about signing Cam Heyward to a four-year extension in his place. Cam Heyward exemplifies everything the Steelers organization represents, and he earned that contract.
ANSWER: What you said.

DAVID HORCHAK FROM CHERRY TREE, PA: First, I love Asked and Answered. I think it should be a daily feature, but I realize there may not be enough content for that. Also, I love your snarky answers to some questions, and even though I have been on the receiving end of one or two of those I wasn't offended but enjoyed it. Have you given any thought to a stupidest question column?
ANSWER: Too much content for that.

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