Best of Asked and Answered: Friday, August 21

Let's get to it:

GREGG CHARLTON FROM MERIDEN, CT: Do you think James Harrison's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII belongs in the same category as the Immaculate Reception in terms of historical significance in franchise history?
ANSWER: It does not, and here's why: When James Harrison was returning that interception for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Steelers were established as one of the league's most successful franchises. From the time of the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, they had won more games than any other NFL team. They already had won five Lombardi Trophies and six AFC Championships and many, many division titles. They had played in countless postseason games. They had been acclaimed the Team of the 1970s after winning four Super Bowls over a six-season span. When Franco Harris was running with the ball down the sideline at Three Rivers Stadium after catching it off his shoe-tops following a collision at midfield between French Fuqua and Jack Tatum, the Steelers had won no championships, no playoff games, and only one division title. The Immaculate Reception paved the way for the Steelers' success that too often now is taken for granted, and Harrison's spectacular play in Super Bowl XLIII is a part of that. Allow me to compare it to American history: Abraham Lincoln was a great president, but he doesn't get a chance to be great unless George Washington did what he did to pave the way for him. Abraham Lincoln is the 100-yard interception return in Super Bowl XLIII. George Washington is the Immaculate Reception.

STEVEN LINDSEY FROM MATTESON, IL: Like you, I was excited about the Eric Ebron signing. It's just that I keep thinking back to the Ladarius Green debacle. Was it just a physical ailment that downed Ladarius Green because I don't recall him playing at all for the Steelers?
ANSWER: When Ladarius Green was waived by the Steelers just one season after they added him, he immediately became a candidate for recognition as the worst free agent signing in franchise history. His injuries included a surgically repaired ankle and reported headaches stemming from concussions. In a story that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when Green was waived, a source indicated that Green's issues had more to do with his headaches/concussions than anything involving the surgically repaired ankle. To my knowledge, Eric Ebron does not have a concussion history similar to the one Green had when he came to Pittsburgh.

KEN WILSON FROM MILTON, PA: With a lot of college conferences canceling their football seasons and maybe hoping to play a limited spring schedule, most pundits believe that star players will opt out to prepare for the NFL Draft. Can these players forfeit their college eligibility and effectively become free agents to sign with any NFL team?
ANSWER: Those college football players to whom you are referring only will be able to enter the NFL after going through the draft process. Any college players who choose to opt out of spring football and also are eligible to enter the NFL Draft, they would become part of the pool of players eligible to be selected during the 2021 NFL Draft. If they enter the draft pool and are not picked, only then could they sign with a team as a free agent. Certainly, none of the star college players would go undrafted, and so they would be bound to whichever team picked them in the 2021 NFL Draft.

TOM MCCORMICK FROM FINDLAY, OH: I know that there are practices in full pads, but are there any rules in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that prevent a scrimmage? Without preseason games, I wanted to understand if they could simply line up on the 20-yard line and attempt to drive the ball down the field to the end zone to simulate a game day drive?
ANSWER: There are no rules prohibiting that.

MARK ADKINS FROM ST. AUGUSTINE FL: In the past I have asked why certain Steelers are not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and there is no sane reason why L.C. Greenwood and Alan Faneca have not been elected. With that being said, I saw in a recent Asked and Answered where you wrote that your vote in 2021 would be for Bill Nunn. Does that mean you have given up on getting Greenwood or Faneca elected?
ANSWER: Let's begin with some clarifications. First thing: I don't have a Hall of Fame vote, and so I have no impact on who does or does not get elected. Second: I was asked who I would vote for in 2021 besides Alan Faneca. That was the context in which I listed Bill Nunn, and let me be clear: With all due respect to all Steelers who currently are eligible and not yet in the Hall of Fame, none are more worthy than Nunn. Don't forget, Nunn was the one whose scouting and relationship with the HBCUs brought Greenwood to the Steelers in the first place. Bill Nunn is a historically significant individual when it comes to how and why the NFL is what it is today. He deserves to have a bust in Canton.

PAUL LUKACS FROM VIENNA, OH: Has the loss of Mike Munchak impacted the Steelers' ability to establish a solid running game? It appeared that the team struggled with in-game adjustments last year.
ANSWER: I have addressed this on many occasions, but fans either don't like my answer or don't believe I know what I'm talking about, and so I'm going to turn the platform over to David DeCastro, a two-time first-team All-Pro guard. These snippets were taken from a recent Zoom call with the Pittsburgh media:

Q. Did you guys notice a difference without Mike Munchak and his voice in the run game?
DECASTRO: Munch [Mike Munchak] was great. You can't really sugarcoat it. He was a great coach, smart. I just think the injuries really took a toll. Losing a quarterback like Ben [Roethlisberger], you lose a guy who allows you to have a passing game that really opens up the run. Yeah, maybe there's a factor of Munch. He's one of a kind. I'll vouch for him on that. We had a lot of factors going last year being the disaster it was on our side of the ball.

Q. Other than the injuries, what are other things you think you need to get back to in order to improve the run game?
DECASTRO: You guys love talking about the running game like it's the starting point of the offense. I just always try to tell you guys: It's a combination. You can't have a good running game without a good passing game, without an honest, balanced offense. If they can just stack the box and run a safety down and you can't throw over the top or you can't keep them honest, then it's easier to stop the run. We just weren't good at all.

NATHAN GEISLER FROM BOISE, ID: With most Super Bowl MVPs being offensive players, in your opinion who would have been your Steelers defensive MVPs in each of their six Super Bowl victories?
ANSWER: This is an interesting way of looking at the Steelers' six Super Bowl wins. If there was such an award as a Super Bowl Defensive MVP Trophy, and if I was around to have a vote for all six games this is the way I would've gone:

• SUPER BOWL IX: Dwight White. Not only did White drag himself out of a hospital bed (literally) the morning of the game after contracting pneumonia, but he started at defensive end and played the whole game. He finished with three tackles and gets credit for scoring the first points of the game by being the player to touch Fran Tarkenton down in the end zone for a safety. The whole front four was dominant against the Vikings, who finished with 17 rushing yards on 21 carries (.8 average), but White gets my vote for overcoming a week in the hospital to inspire his teammates by playing 60 minutes of championship football in what was at the time the most significant game in franchise history.

• SUPER BOWL X: L.C. Greenwood. White could have won the fictitious Defensive MVP Award in back-to-back Super Bowls after finishing the game with six tackles and three sacks, but his running mate at defensive end was just a little bit better. Greenwood finished with seven tackles and three sacks during a game in which the Steelers sacked Roger Staubach seven times, with all seven recorded by defensive linemen (Greenwood with three, White with three, and defensive tackle Steve Furness with one). Jack Lambert also deserved some consideration after finishing the game with 14 tackles, not including that one throw-down of Cowboys safety Cliff Harris.

• SUPER BOWL XIII: Jack Lambert edges out Jack Ham. This game ended in a 35-31 Steelers win with the teams combining for nine touchdowns, 39 first downs, 674 total net yards and a 58.1 percent (18-of-31) conversion rate on third down, and so it was in no way a defensive showcase. Lambert finished the game with 12 tackles, while Ham contributed 10 tackles and a pass defensed. While not in legitimate competition for the "award," Greenwood finished the game with six tackles and a sack, which means that in two Super Bowl victories over the Cowboys, he combined for 13 tackles and four sacks as a defensive lineman.

• SUPER BOWL XIV: Lambert. Not only did Lambert lead the team with 14 tackles, but his fourth quarter interception in Steelers territory protected what was a 24-19 lead at the time and spurred the offense on a drive that ended with a 1-yard run by Franco Harris for the final points in a 31-19 victory.

• SUPER BOWL XL: While Joey Porter in many ways was the defensive catalyst for the run through the AFC Playoffs, the key defensive performance against the Seahawks was turned in by Ike Taylor. The Seahawks offense managed 396 total net yards and seven of their 12 offensive possessions ended in Steelers territory, but Seattle converted just 1-of-3 in the red zone and scored just one touchdown. Taylor had seven tackles, and his fourth quarter interception at the Steelers 5-yard line ended another Seahawks threat with the score, 14-10, and four plays later the outcome was iced on a touchdown pass from Antwaan Randle El to Hines Ward.

• SUPER BOWL XLIII: Do we even need to talk about this game? James Harrison is the winner, and it should be by a unanimous vote. The only other contender would be LaMarr Woodley, who had four tackles and two sacks, including the sack-strip in the final seconds that was recovered by Brett Keisel to clinch the game for the Steelers.

JOHN BRAGG FROM FAIRMONT, WV: For whatever reason, I find a lot of interest in jersey numbers and who picks/gets what number when they change teams. I've heard a variety of "rules" for changing a jersey number. If Ben Roethlisberger wanted to change from No. 7 to No. 14, what would he have to do to get that accomplished?
ANSWER: If a player changes teams, there is nothing prohibiting him from changing jersey numbers and no conditions attached to him wanting to make such a move. You use Ben Roethlisberger as an example, so let's stick with him. If Roethlisberger decided upon coming back from surgery on his right elbow that he wanted to change his Steelers jersey from No. 7 to another number, he would have to pay for every Steelers No. 7 jersey in the NFL's merchandising inventory. For a player as popular and famous as Roethlisberger, that would be a gigantic price tag, which serves the NFL's purpose of discouraging such things.