Asked and Answered

The best of Asked and Answered: July 12

With Bob Labriola enjoying a summer break, we've gone through recent editions of Asked & Answered and selected a few memorable questions…and answers.

Let's get to it:

November 8, 2021
JASON GODFREY FROM ENOREE, SC: Najee Harris wins Offensive Rookie of the Month. Are there bonuses for these types of recognition? Like the Steelers Digest Player of the Week and so on?

ANSWER: There are no financial considerations attached to winning the Offensive Rookie of the Month Award, as an example. I once considered having the Steelers Digest Player of the Week awarded with a guest slot of doing Asked and Answered, but the NFLPA stepped in and threatened me with an unfair labor practice charge in violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

April 12, 2022
ROGER HOWARD FROM SEVEN VALLEYS, PA: Eliminate regular season overtime? I like it. Fortune favors the bold. It seemed that earlier in Coach Mike Tomlin's tenure the Steelers went for 2-point conversions fairly often. Where do they rank among the "boldest" teams in the NFL these days?

ANSWER: With the recent explosion of analytics and some coaches' strict adherence to percentages that advocate going for it on fourth downs regardless of field position, I feel confident the Steelers under Coach Mike Tomlin would be viewed as one of the more traditional teams in the league when it comes to being "bold." However, I can cite a couple of relatively recent examples of Tomlin going against conventional wisdom in situations that either could have led to overtime or in overtime itself.

The first instance came during Week 5 of the 2015 season, with the Steelers in San Diego on Oct. 12 for a Sunday night game vs. the Chargers. Ben Roethlisberger was inactive for the game, and the Steelers started Mike Vick at quarterback. With Philip Rivers posting a game that had him complete 35-of-48 for 365 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception, and a rating of 99.7 that allowed the Chargers to own a decided edge in time of possession (33:43-26:17), the undermanned Steelers were battling and searching for a way to pull out a win. After a Josh Lambo 40-yard field goal with 2:56 remaining gave the Chargers a 20-17 lead, the Steelers took possession at the 20-yard line following a kickoff that went for a touchback. Vick converted a third-and-1 with a 15-yard completion to Darrius Heyward-Bey, then on a third-and-6 Vick escaped and ran for 24 yards to the San Diego 17-yard line, and then on a third-and-10 he completed a 16-yard pass to Heath Miller that put the ball on the Chargers 1-yard line. With five seconds remaining, and after a Chargers timeout, Tomlin eschewed a tying field goal and had his team line up in the Wildcat. In a one-play, win-or-lose situation, the ball was snapped directly to Le'Veon Bell who got the ball across the goal line as time expired. The Steelers won, 24-20.

The next instance came during Week 5 of the 2019 season, an Oct. 6 game vs. the Ravens at Heinz Field. Ben Roethlisberger had injured his right elbow and was done for the season, and the Steelers were starting Mason Rudolph at quarterback, with Devlin Hodges serving as the backup. The Steelers were in good shape against their division rivals until a blatant cheap shot by Earl Thomas concussed Rudolph and knocked him out of the game. That meant the Steelers were down to Hodges, but on the strength of a defense that was torturing Lamar Jackson to the tune of 19-for-29 for 161 yards, with one touchdown, three interceptions, five sacks, and a rating of 54.9, the game went into overtime. The Steelers won the overtime coin toss and instead of taking the ball Tomlin opted to take the wind on a day that also included rain. Tomlin later explained his reasoning this way: down to Hodges at quarterback, it seemed unlikely the offense would be able to go down the field to score after Justin Tucker's inevitable touchback on the kickoff, which meant that after a punt the Ravens only would need a field goal to win. Tomlin decided to flip the switch on the Ravens, depend on his defense on overtime's opening possession, and then the Steelers could win with a field goal from Chris Boswell, who would have the wind at his back. When the Steelers defense forced a three-and-out on the opening possession of overtime, and the offense started at the Pittsburgh 32-yard line following the Baltimore punt, things were progressing according to plan. But on second down, Hodges completed a 10-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who fumbled, the Ravens recovered and ended up with the ball at the Steelers 34-yard line. Three running plays gained 6 yards, and then Tucker came on to kick a 46-yard field goal and give the Ravens a 26-23 victory.

December 16, 2021
TOM NAYPAUER FROM CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, OH: Did Bill Cowher ever win the Coach of the Year Award?

ANSWER: In 1992, Bill Cowher won two versions of the NFL Coach of the Year Award, from the Associated Press and The Sporting News, and then in 2004 he won The Sporting News version of the award for a second time.

April 5, 2022
RON WILLIAMS FROM ASTORIA, OR: John Stallworth has some percentage of ownership of the Steelers. Can you tell me if there are any other former players who also have some ownership?

ANSWER: John Stallworth is the only former Steelers player who is a member of the franchise's ownership group.

April 7, 2022
RASMUS PETERSEN FROM VANLOSE, DENMARK: Will there be a kicking competition this summer during training camp, or will Chris Boswell and Pressley Harvin III assume those tasks again?

ANSWER: The only placekicker in the whole NFL in the same stratosphere as Chris Boswell in my opinion is Baltimore's Justin Tucker, and so there's no one who is available who's capable of offering legitimate competition for that job. As for Pressley Harvin III, my sense is the Steelers really want it to work with him, and so it would have to be a situation where Harvin clearly loses the job before the Steelers would go in a different direction at punter in 2022. My belief is that if the Steelers were interested in a down-to-the-wire competition for the punting job, they would have kept Corliss Waitman.

May 17, 2022
EDWARD BAUMAN FROM LANDISVILLE, NJ: Don't you think the Steelers opening eight straight seasons on the road is a little much? It is always good to win the first game of the season, and the Steelers have a better chance at home. I have been a Steelers fan since 1945.

ANSWER: The Steelers opening on the road to begin each regular season since 2014 is strictly a result of Major League Baseball creating a schedule that calls for the Pittsburgh Pirates to be at home on the weekend following Labor Day, which is the traditional opening weekend of the NFL regular season. This procedure is necessary because the teams share parking lots and staging two games on the same day would put too much stress on the ingress and egress and ultimately create an unpleasant experience for the fans attending both games. One might think that the simple courtesy associated with being a good neighbor would have incentivized the Pirates to work out some arrangement with Major League Baseball to consider this when formulating the schedule – because the Pirates schedule comes out more than six months before the start of the baseball season and almost a full year before the NFL releases its schedule – but that has not happened lately.

April 19, 2022
ED TEMPLE FROM JOHNSON CITY, TN: I remember as a boy my uncle taking me to my first Steelers game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1978. Other than the Steelers and Pirates, did any other teams play in that stadium?

ANSWER: During its life from 1970 through the close of the Steelers' 2000 season, Three Rivers Stadium hosted some high school football games, some Pitt football games, the home games for the one unsuccessful season of the USFL's Pittsburgh Maulers, and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. And there may have been some others, too.