Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 27

Let's get to it:

SCOTT HOROWITZ FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: What do you think of Chase Claypool's special teams play? I think his work on coverage teams has been exceptional.
ANSWER: I honesty cannot ever recall another instance where an NFL wide receiver caught an 84-yard touchdown pass and was in on three special teams tackles in the same game.

JOSH CRISSMAN FROM BRADENTON, FL: Do you see Chase Claypool getting a legitimate chance to start at wide receiver this year? I love the idea of him, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Diontae Johnson on the field together along with Eric Ebron or Vance McDonald. He's been great on the few touches he's gotten, so why not let him play more snaps to see if he can be more productive?
ANSWER: More isn't always better. Chase Claypool is a rookie who got to this NFL season with no offseason program, OTAs, minicamp, or preseason games, and so it's faulty reasoning to believe he has a complete grasp on the offense and how defenses are trying to neutralize him. It only makes sense for Claypool to be worked into the lineup in increments, and when it comes to the wide receiver position, who starts isn't all that meaningful because personnel groupings are constantly changing based on down-and-distance as well as the play-call. Neither Lynn Swann nor John Stallworth were full-time starters as rookies, and that was in an era when teams hardly ever played three wide receivers at a time. The idea of this regular season for the Steelers is to win as many games as possible, not to see how productive they can make their rookie wide receiver. I'm in favor of allowing Claypool's role within the offense to evolve naturally, because that's what is best for the team.

STEN DRESCHER FROM AUSTIN, TX: Where do you put Jack Ham and Andy Russell on your list of the Steelers' best tandems of outside linebackers? Like Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd, Ham and Russell were first team All-Pro selections in 1975.
ANSWER: A couple of things: Andy Russell never was voted first-team All-Pro, and Jack Ham was a first-team All-Pro in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1979. Also, the question had to do with the Steelers' best tandems of 3-4 outside linebackers. Ham and Russell never played in a 3-4 defense during their Steelers careers.

REGGIE HESS FROM CHESTERTON, IN: If I remember correctly, didn't Bryan Hinkle tell the Steelers to put him on waivers to help them sign other players? He also said that he would not sign with any other team. Am I correct?
ANSWER: Not exactly, but you do have the basic idea. One of the predecessors to free agency in the NFL was something called Plan B, where each team could protect a specific number of players while exposing the rest to being signed by other teams. The strategy many teams employed during Plan B was to protect more of their up-and-coming players and expose their veterans figuring older players wouldn't be as attractive to other teams. One year, Hinkle told the Steelers to make him available during Plan B and that if they did he wouldn't sign with any other team, which allowed them to protect a young guy and not have to fear losing Hinkle. Hinkle was never waived, but he did not accept any other offers, and his team-first move allowed the Steelers to protect one of their up-and-coming players.

KEN WILSON FROM MILTON, PA: Just read that the Watt parents won't be able to see all three sons playing on Sunday. Couldn't the Steelers assign them as special assistants for the game and get them onto the field for the game?
ANSWER: First of all, the Watts will be able to watch the game on television, so it's not accurate to claim they won't be able to see their three sons play on Sunday. Also, the NFL has been able to navigate this global pandemic with a series of strict protocols that not only have kept its players, coaches, and staff safe, but it also has allowed the league to complete training camps and start the regular season on time. Bending or breaking the rules of protocol to get the Watts on the field to watch a game that's going to be televised would be stupid and unnecessary.

DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: As a veteran player, is Dan McCullers' salary for the year with the Bears guaranteed? Do the Bears have to keep him on the roster for the whole season? Can they move him to their own practice squad at some point this year? I ask these from the standpoint of trying to figure out the chances of him returning to the Steelers this year.
ANSWER: Dealing with your questions in order: No, for a veteran to trigger that guarantee he has to be on the team's initial 53-man roster, and McCullers was released coming out of training camp; no, the Bears do not have to keep him on their active roster all season; and yes, McCullers still has practice squad eligibility. And my feeling is that there's not a realistic scenario in which the Steelers have interest in bringing McCullers back.

JOHN MAKAR FROM KERNERSVILLE, NC: When the Steelers traded Josh Dobbs to the Jaguars, they received a fifth-round pick. Was that pick for the 2020 draft, and if so, who did the Steelers take with that pick?
ANSWER: According to the Steelers 2020 Media Guide, that fifth-round pick acquired in the Josh Dobbs trade was for the 2020 NFL Draft, but they sent it to Seattle in the trade for tight end Nick Vannett.

DAVID VILENICA FROM RICES LANDING, PA: In a recent Asked and Answered, you mentioned that Louis Lipps was drafted in 1984 and he had several Pro Bowl selections. Does he still hold the Steelers all-time return yardage record? If not who does?
ANSWER: What I wrote was that Louis Lipps was a No. 1 pick in 1984 and that he was voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two NFL seasons. As of today, the franchise leader in career punt return yards is Rod Woodson with 2,362, with Lipps having 1,212; and the franchise leader in career kickoff return yards is Woodson with 4,894, with Lipps having 246 on just 14 career kickoff returns.

PHIL HAYWOOD FROM BIRMINGHAM, UK: I am hesitant to try and correct you, but the roster shows tackle Brandon Walton is on the practice squad and he wears No. 62.
ANSWER: Don't hesitate. When you're right, you're right.

JOHN DEE FROM BALTIMORE, MD: With David DeCastro expected to be back in the starting lineup today and Kevin Dotson returning to a backup role, does Derwin Grey get released?
ANSWER: David DeCastro was on the initial 53-man roster this season and never came off it, and so there is no roster move required to get him back into the starting lineup. Derwin Gray was promoted from the practice squad when Stefan Wisniewski went on injured reserve, and Jerald Hawkins was signed when Zach Banner was placed on injured reserve.

CHRIS WELBURN FROM GLASTONBURY, CT: Who has been selected to have the "green dot" and wear the helmet containing the device allowing him to receive the defensive calls from the sideline?
ANSWER: Devin Bush. Coach Mike Tomlin has referred to Bush as the "bell cow" on defense.

TOBIAS ENGELHARDT FROM HAMBURG, GERMANY: After his remarkable meltdown about one year ago, I haven't heard much about Antonio Brown this year. Obviously he seems to be "out of football," but do you know what his current status is?
ANSWER: Antonio Brown was suspended by the NFL for eight games for multiple violations of the league's personal-conduct policy. Brown's suspension stems from his no contest plea to burglary and battery charges from a January incident in Florida, and accusations he sent intimidating texts to a woman who accused the receiver of making past unwanted advances toward her. At the time the suspension was announced, Brown's agent Ed Wasielewski confirmed that Brown accepted his suspension and wouldn't appeal. Brown's suspension began on opening weekend even though he wasn't on an NFL roster. It's possible Brown could return after Week 8 if signed, but his suspension could be extended if additional violations are found related to an ongoing civil suit in Florida. The league is also looking into civil claims of sexual assault and rape against the 32-year-old receiver. As part of the discipline, Brown was "directed to continue his program of counseling and treatment," and "he is expected to fully cooperate with his clinicians," according to a report on NFL.com.

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