*The Steelers have entered their bye week. With that, we take a look back at some of the Ask & Answered highlights (and lowlights) from the first weeks of the season. Bob Labriola returns to his normal schedule next Tuesday.
ROBERT CHULACK FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
Considering the salary cap and the Steelers' need to keep the core of the offensive line intact, I propose trading Maurkice Pouncey (due to his inability to stay on the field) for a nice draft choice and then allocating his salary cap space to re-sign DeCastro.
ANSWER: This is absurd on so many levels that it's difficult to mock it properly, but I'm going to give it a shot. You want to keep the offensive line intact, and your idea for doing that is to trade a three-time first-team All-Pro center who just turned 27 "for a nice draft choice?" And let's not forget that part of Pouncey's "inability to stay on the field" can be traced back to the 2013 opener against Tennessee when David DeCastro took out his knee on the ninth play of the regular season. DeCastro is a great player in his own right, but if you ask most NFL coaches if they'd rather have an All-Pro center or an All-Pro guard, you'd end up with many more votes for the center.
JIM SLEPICA FROM KANATA, ONTARIO, CANADA
You responded to a previous question in the last segment of Asked and Answered by saying Jack Lambert was the most beloved Steelers player of all time. I'm in total agreement. I wonder though, if things had somehow worked out differently, if that distinction couldn't have gone to Troy Polamalu. I'd be hard-pressed into thinking anyone else could light up the field with as much love and affection like Troy did in his day. What's the one thing you remember most fondly about No. 43?
ANSWER: To be accurate, it was my "guess" that Jack Lambert would be recognized by most Steelers fans in a most beloved vote, but if such a vote ever was held it wouldn't surprise me a bit if Troy Polamalu was the people's choice. My favorite memory of Troy Polamalu was his pick-six in the 2008 AFC Championship Game against the Baltimore Ravens. A vintage Polamalu play, from its execution to its impact.
MARCUS ELLIS FROM SPRINGFIELD, TN:
Who was the GM during the great 1974 draft?
ANSWER: The Steelers had no one who had the title of general manager back in those days. Art Rooney Sr. was the owner, Dan Rooney was the President, Art Rooney Jr. was a Vice President, and Dick Haley was the Director of Player Personnel. Also involved in the the work on the 1974 draft class that brought Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster to the team as draft picks, plus Donnie Shell and Randy Grossman as college free agents, were Bill Nunn and Chuck Noll.
JEFF WILLIAMS FROM BEDFORD, IN:
In regards to the Steelers travel plans in November, with back-to-back road games first in Cleveland and then four days later in Indianapolis on Thanksgiving, will the team head back to Pittsburgh after the Browns game or just travel straight to Indianapolis?
ANSWER: The Steelers will return to Pittsburgh immediately after playing the Browns in Cleveland, and then they will travel by charter plane to Indianapolis on the day before the game against the Colts. Everything that would be involved in setting up a de facto practice facility for a few days is more trouble than it would be worth, especially considering how short the trip from Cleveland to Pittsburgh is, and then how short of a flight it is from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis.
KEN HAGGERTY FROM REYNOLDSBURG, OH:
I noticed that New England, Miami, the Jets, and Buffalo all have three home games in a row on their 2016 schedules, but no other teams have that. Kind of unfair for the other teams, don't you think?
ANSWER: Every NFL team's schedule might contain a perk or two, but it also contains some hell for that team to get through. Let's look at each of the teams' schedules you mention:
Buffalo has three straight home games – vs. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Miami – but before the Bills get to that three-game homestand, they have a six week stretch that goes like this: vs. New England, at Seattle, bye, at Cincinnati, vs. Jacksonville, and at Oakland. That's two trips to the West Coast, plus games against the Patriots and Bengals.
Miami's three straight home games are against Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and the Jets, but the Dolphins have two trips to the West Coast – at San Diego and at Los Angeles – and those are LONG trips from South Florida.
New England's three straight home games are against Miami, Houston, and Buffalo, but the Patriots opened in Arizona, they have a three-game stretch of vs. Cincinnati, at Pittsburgh, and at Buffalo, and then after their bye they have to make trips to San Francisco and Denver.
The Jets' three straight home games are against the Rams, New England, and Indianapolis, but that game against the Colts is on a Monday night, and the next weekend the Jets are in San Francisco. And earlier in the season, the Jets have a four-week stretch that goes like this: at Kansas City, vs. Seattle, at Pittsburgh, and at Arizona on a Monday night.
TROY HENSHAW FROM PLACENTIA, CA:
How many questions (on average) do you receive a week for "Asked and Answered," and are you the only one who reads and/or selects the ones to use?
ANSWER: I will receive over 100 questions each week, on average, and this doesn't include the people who submit the same question a few times in succession. And yes, I am the only one to read the questions. The judge was very specific about that when imposing my sentence.
ANDREW KERR FROM GRASS VALLEY, CA:
It seems to me that with the new rule of placing the ball at the 25-yard line after a touchback on kickoffs in order to limit the number of returns is backfiring. It seems teams are kicking it to the 1-yard line in order to force a return and then tackle the returner inside the 25-yard line. Instead of creating more touchbacks, it seems to me there are more returns this season than ever. Do you think they will continue this rule, or was it a fun experiment?
ANSWER: This rule was adopted on a one-year trial basis when it was voted on by the 32 NFL owners during the league meetings last March, and so it's going to stay a rule until it comes up for another vote in March 2017. I agree with your observation about the number of kickoff returns actually increasing, but let's also wait until a full season is completed, because strategy could change once the weather turns colder in the Northeast and Midwest.
But the procedure being followed for this rule change is the same procedure that was utilized for the change to the point-after-touchdown. That was adopted on a one-year trial basis for the 2015 season, and then in March 2016 it was voted in as a permanent rule change. March 2017 will be D-Day for the new kickoff/touchback rule.
THAD SPREG FROM MAKAKILO, HI:
I love this column and read it as religiously as I can. Is there a way to get it emailed to me whenever there is a new issue so I never miss one again?
ANSWER: Sorry, but this isn't Domino's. We don't deliver. But Asked and Answered appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and then whichever day is a game day for the Steelers that week. It shouldn't be that difficult to remember.