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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 6

Let's get to it:

JOHN ROEBUCK FROM ALTOONA, PA: Regardless of position, who are your top three Steelers offensive linemen of all time? I'm thinking Alan Faneca, Mike Webster, and Leon Searcy.
ANSWER: At least the first two names on your "list" are in the Hall of Fame. But Leon Searcy? Searcy's Steelers career included just 48 regular season games, and he was not even voted to a Pro Bowl as a result of what he did for the franchise before leaving as an unrestricted free agent for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Have you ever heard of some guy named Dermontti Dawson, who not only happens to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but also played more than 48 regular season games for the Steelers? In fact, beginning with the 1989 season, Dawson put together a streak of 167 consecutive regular season starts for the Steelers, and during that streak he was voted first-team All-Pro six straight times.

In Bill Cowher's first season, 1992, the team used a No. 3 pick on NT Joel Steed, who struggled as a rookie and eventually was replaced in the starting defensive line by undrafted rookie Garry Howe. When training camp opened in 1993, Steed still was struggling, and the Steelers began to fear he was a bust. But after a time at Saint Vincent College that summer, the Steelers departed for a trip to Barcelona for a preseason game vs. San Francisco, which was their preseason opener and a part of the NFL's International Series at the time. During joint practices in Spain, Steed dominated C Jesse Sapolo, a seasoned veteran and a starter on four of the 49ers' Super Bowl winning teams. As those practices continued, and then the preseason got underway, Steelers scouts came to the conclusion that Steed was not a bust and that the reason for his sudden and dramatic improvement/resurgence deserved to be traced to the fact he wasn't going against Dermontti Dawson every day in practice. Steed went on to be voted to the Pro Bowl in 1997.

Here's another one: When running back Merril Hoge signed with the Chicago Bears as an unrestricted free agent in 1993, one of the first things his new team asked of him was to explain how the Steelers ran the football, because Chicago's coaches wanted to implement those things into their own offense to improve the running attack. Hoge told the story of being in a meeting room in Chicago and diagramming a goal-line running play the Steelers used frequently and with great success down at the opponents' goal line. As he drew it up and showed the center snapping the ball, getting out of his stance and pulling around the end to lead the running back into the end zone, one of the Bears coaches told him, "We don't have a center who can pull, let alone pull down at the goal line." To which Hoge responded, "Then you can't run the football like the Pittsburgh Steelers."

RONALD DAVIS FROM AURORA, CO: Joe Haden is still available, and there have been rumors he is talking to the Steelers about signing with them. He would be a great acquisition for the Steelers. What is a situation in which the Steelers could sign him?
ANSWER: I don't believe there is a realistic situation in which the Steelers would sign him. Let me start by saying I am a fan of Joe Haden, and I respected everything about him from his play to the way he conducted himself as a professional and a teammate. But Haden is 33 years old, and I just don't believe it would be wise for the Steelers to sign a player of that age right before the start of a regular season when that player hasn't even been to an offseason program or a training camp or participated in any preseason games. From Haden's perspective, I don't believe he would be all that interested in a backup role as an insurance policy, and with Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace and Cam Sutton at cornerback, Haden wouldn't be a starter. Based on those factors, I think the best thing for both sides is to remember their time together but forget about trying for a reunion.

KEVIN D'ANGELO FROM LAUREL, MD: When a player is signed to a team's practice squad, can other teams sign that player to its 53-man roster during the season? If so, does the team losing that player get compensated?
ANSWER: Players on the practice squad can be signed by another team to its 53-man roster, but the practice squad player is not required to sign with that other team. And if a team does sign a player from another team's practice squad, that team is required to keep the player on its active roster for at least three consecutive weeks. A team losing a player from its practice squad to another team's active roster receives no compensation.

JIM RIGGLE FROM HOWARD, OH: In the Sept. 1 edition of Asked and Answered, you received a question about the specifics of the bloody picture of Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle with the ultimate answer being John Baker as the man responsible. Can you tell us about John Baker's career?
ANSWER: After completing his college career at North Carolina Central, John Baker, a 6-foot-7, 279 pound defensive end, was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the fifth round of the 1958 NFL Draft. Baker played four seasons with the Rams, then one season in Philadelphia with the Eagles, five with the Steelers, and he finished up in Detroit in 1968 with one season playing for the Lions. During Baker's career (1958-68), the NFL didn't recognize sacks as an official statistic, and so there is no official tally of sacks for his career. But websites, such as, have gone back in time to review old game films and come up with a number in the sacks category for players in the era before 1982, which is when the NFL officially began to recognize and keep track of sack statistics. According to, Baker finished with 5 sacks for the Steelers in 1963, 12.5 in 1964 (one of which was the Y.A. Tittle play), 10 in 1965, 3.5 in 1966, and 1 in 1967, for a total of 32 in 62 games with the team.

In Baker's day, NFL players held offseason jobs to make ends meet, and during his career John Baker spent his offseasons working as a youth counselor with the Raleigh police. Baker's NFL career included 11 seasons with four different teams and 131 games played. He died on Oct. 31, 2007 at the age of 72.

According to an obituary written by Ed Bouchette that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "After retiring from pro football, (Baker) was the first black person appointed to the state Parole Board in North Carolina, where he served for eight years until he was elected sheriff in 1978, becoming the first black to hold that county office. He served Wake County for 24 years and, after former highway patrolman and friend Donnie Harrison beat him in the 2002 election and again in 2006, was still addressed as "Sheriff Baker" around Raleigh … Among other community work, Mr. Baker helped to raise $27,000 in scholarship funds and founded the Sheriff John Baker Charter School for jailed offenders to continue their education … His late father was Raleigh's first black police officer. They were inducted into the city's Hall of Fame (in October 2007), but Mr. Baker was too sick to attend after suffering a stroke earlier in the year."

ROBERTA CAMPBELL FROM PORTAGE, IN: I could have sworn I saw that someone had picked up wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, but I haven't seen his name since. Do you happen to know what is going on with him?
ANSWER: At this point, Tyler Vaughns has cleared waivers and is able to sign with any team interested in him, either as a member of a 53-man roster or a practice squad.

JOE MINNECI FROM SAVANNAH, GA: From what I can tell it looks as if Mike Munchak is currently not working in the NFL. Given the state of the offensive line, do you think that the Steelers should be trying to bring him back?
ANSWER: Mike Munchak and his wife wanted to be close to their daughter, her husband, their daughter's daughter, and their other daughter who lives in Los Angeles, which is the reason he left the Steelers to accept a job with the Denver Broncos in 2019. If you can figure out a way where Pittsburgh is closer to Denver and Los Angeles than hours on an airplane, and maybe Munchak might be interested in returning to Pittsburgh to coach the offensive line. Or maybe because he entered the NFL as a first-round draft pick and earned first-round draft pick money for 12 seasons, and then transitioned immediately into coaching at the NFL level, rose to the level of head coach where he earned head coach money for three years, earned NFL pensions as both a player and a coach, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and could do signings at card shows for significant sums, maybe he isn't interested in schlepping back to Pittsburgh to be an assistant coach. If Mike Munchak was interested in an assistant coaching job in the NFL, he would have one before I had the time to finish typing this answer.

JASON FATTORI FROM TAMPA, FL: I've been a Steelers fan since the 1970s, and I've always loved keeping up with news from training camp and preseason. Tyler Vaughns showed great instincts, anticipation, and hands in the preseason. I surely thought he'd at least make the practice squad. Do you have any info about him you could share that kept him off the team?
ANSWER: Making the Steelers roster as a wide receiver this summer was an extremely difficult job, even though during the offseason the team lost three of its top five players at the position. Just a few padded practices into training camp, it was pretty much assured that Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, Calvin Austin III, and Gunner Olszewski were going to make the roster. That made five wide receivers, the team wasn't going to keep more than six, and the sixth was going to have to be a player capable of making a real impact on special teams. Of course, injuries are a factor, but the Steelers were pretty lucky in that area. And once Miles Boykin emerged as a first-string gunner on the punt team while also representing himself well on offense, that was the difference-maker. I don't believe there was anything necessarily lacking in Vaughns as much as it became a case of another player (Boykin) winning the spot.

DANIEL ARBALLO FROM LOS ANGELES, CA: I noticed Larry Ogunjobi and Dan Moore Jr. both wearing jersey No. 65 during the preseason. How is it decided who will wear No. 65 come the regular season?
ANSWER: Because Dan Moore Jr. has more seniority when it comes to playing for the Steelers, he will get first choice on No. 65. Maybe Larry Ogunjobi can convince Moore to give up No. 65, but it ultimately will be Moore's choice one way or the other. And based on the fact that the depth chart released yesterday showed Ogunjobi will be wearing No. 99, Moore's choice was to stick with No. 65.