Asked and Answered

The best of Asked and Answered: July 16

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

Bob returns to his normal schedule next week.

Let's get to it:

July 9, 2020
LARRY MORRISON FROM PENSACOLA, FL: I grew up watching the 1970s Steelers. Few players have ever reminded me of Joe Greene. Are there any players you have watched over the years who remind you of the great Joe Greene?

ANSWER: With Joe Greene, his contributions went beyond the statistics he generated and the plays he made at critical times, because Greene had to chart a course for a franchise that had been lost in the wilderness for the 37 years of its existence before his arrival in 1969. Greene not only had to play well, but he also was the one player who was able to change the culture of losing and through the force of his will create an atmosphere in the locker room where the goal of winning a championship was able to take root. Greene was an extension of Chuck Noll and he reinforced Noll's message, and when the best player and the unquestioned alpha male takes on that role he becomes a force on and off the field.

July 7, 2020
MARK BENSON FROM AKRON, OH: Where does Ben Roethlisberger rank among all-time NFL quarterbacks in career wins?

ANSWER: Ben Roethlisberger's record as a starter in the NFL is 144-71-1, which places him seventh on the all-time list behind Tom Brady with 219, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning each with 186, Drew Brees with 163, John Elway with 148, and Dan Marino with 147. Roethlisberger's winning percentage of .669 is fourth among all quarterbacks currently ranked in the top 30 in total victories, behind on Brady at .774, Joe Montana at .713, and Manning at .702.

June 9, 2020
JOHN MUSGRAVE FROM FORT WAYNE, IN: I just read something about Cam Heyward's deal being up at the end of 2020 and that he and the Steelers are hoping to talk about an extension soon. What odds do you give the deal getting done to keep him in a Steelers uniform for the rest of his career?

ANSWER: I would put the chances at 100 percent. Cam Heyward, in my opinion, is one of the great players/people in franchise history, and I cannot imagine a realistic scenario where a contract extension doesn't happen.

May 21, 2020
CHIP BENNETT FROM TAMPA, FL: Is there a cap on salary for the practice squad? I know there is a minimum salary, but I don't know what that number is. Also, can a team pay anything they want to a player on a practice squad? I can see teams really liking a developmental quarterback and paying him more to make it less likely someone poaches him.

ANSWER: The minimum salary for a practice squad player in 2020 is $8,400 per week, and while teams can pay more than that, all salaries for players on the active roster, injured reserve, physically unable to perform, and the practice squad must fit under the salary cap, which is $198.2 million per team in 2020. One thing to remember is that players on the practice squad weren't good enough to make the 53-man roster, and if a team "really likes" a player it would be smart to keep that individual on the 53-man roster. Another factor to consider is that the weekly pay for a rookie earning the minimum in the NFL in 2020 will be $35,882, which is significantly more than any team would be willing to pay for a guy who couldn't make the active roster. Also, only the players on the active roster are earning time toward their pensions and free agency. Then on top of all that, a team signing a player off another team's practice squad is required to keep that player on its active roster for at least three weeks. So if you're a guy on a practice squad and another team wants to sign you to its active roster, you're either going or you're a fool.

May 5, 2020
DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: The Steelers have two good run-blocking receivers in JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington. How can the additions of Derek Watt and Chase Claypool help their rushing attack, and how important is it to have a legitimate passing threat to improve the ground game?

ANSWER: I wrote a story about this that appeared on Steelers.com on Friday, May 1. It is headlined, "Labriola on how the Steelers can run the ball." Click here: Labriola On to read the story, and I believe it will answer your question while providing some additional insight.

April 21, 2020
SHAUN CHALMER FROM MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: Besides Devin Bush and Diontae Johnson, is there a second-year player you're really looking forward to seeing make a bigger jump and potentially be a decent player for the team?

ANSWER: There are a few players entering their second pro seasons who fall into this category, but to pick just one I would go with Justin Layne, the cornerback from Michigan State. Listed at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, Layne was the team's second pick in the third round, the 83rd overall selection, and he turned 22 years old in January. Over the course of his rookie season, Layne sent former No. 1 pick Artie Burns to the inactive list by taking his job as a gunner on the punt team, and he finished the season having played 93 snaps on special teams. When he was drafted, the Steelers described Layne as a developmental cornerback because he began his college career as a wide receiver. There is no such thing in the NFL as having too many good cornerbacks, and the possibility exists that both Cam Sutton and Mike Hilton become unrestricted free agents in March 2021. If Layne makes the kind of jump Coach Mike Tomlin expects from second-year players, maybe he turns out to be an answer to some of the team's potential questions at the cornerback position.

April 9, 2020
SCOTT BURDEN FROM LOUISVILLE, KY: What was the Steelers' highest-ranked season, as in overall offense and overall defense? What were the rankings, and how did they fare that year?

ANSWER: Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, the Steelers never have finished a season in which they were ranked No. 1 in the NFL in both offense and defense. In 1979, the season that ended with the Steelers winning Super Bowl XIV, they were ranked No. 1 in offense and No. 2 in defense.

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