Asked and Answered

The best of Asked and Answered: July 2

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 the in July.

Let's get to it:

June 18, 2020
DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: I've seen it mentioned many times, in all sports, that a particular player was a player/coach. Is such a thing possible in the NFL under the CBA with the salary cap? It seems like a simple way to circumvent the salary cap by paying someone as both a player and a coach.

ANSWER: My understanding is that in the circumstance of a player/coach, the entire salary would be subject to the salary cap.

June 16, 2020
JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: When researching Joe Greene, it lists he wore jersey Nos. 72 and 75. When did Joe Greene wear No. 72?

ANSWER: Ken Kortas was a starting defensive tackle for the Steelers from 1965-68, and in each of those seasons he wore No. 75. As a returning veteran, he began 1969 as the "owner" of No. 75, and so rookie Joe Greene had to select a different jersey number, which became No. 72. Over the course of the 1969 training camp/preseason, Kortas lost his job as a starting defensive lineman, then he lost his roster spot, and then ultimately he lost No. 75, all to the same rookie from North Texas State.

June 11, 2020
TONY SMARSH FROM CLEARFIELD, PA: Do you believe our defense will be a little better this year with Ben Roethlisberger back at quarterback?

ANSWER: I do, and I believe that in some areas the improvement could be somewhat significant as a result of Ben Roethlisberger's return. One such area is the run defense, because with Roethlisberger the Steelers offense won't be so toothless, it won't average fewer than two offensive touchdowns per game, the team won't finish last in the NFL in red zone offense and 27th in the NFL in points per game. In 2020, Steelers opponents won't be able to be so conservative on offense because they won't have the safety of knowing they have a very good chance to win by scoring 17 points. With the Steelers putting up points, opponents will have to be more aggressive to match, which will expose those teams to the strengths of Pittsburgh's defense – sacking the quarterback and taking the ball away. And in many cases, running the ball will become less of an option for the opponent.

June 9, 2020
HERSCHEL DINKINS FROM POUGHKEEPSIE, NY: Historically speaking, what are some of the biggest mistakes the Steelers ever made at quarterback?

ANSWER: There would be two: cutting a rookie named Johnny Unitas in 1955 after drafting him in the ninth round, and trading Len Dawson to Cleveland after the 1959 season after spending a first-round pick on him in the 1957 draft. Unitas never played a snap for the Steelers, and in three seasons, Dawson started only one game and attempted 17 total passes. Both Unitas and Dawson won Super Bowls and are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

June 2, 2020
TOM HOLOWELL FROM CUYAHOGA FALLS, OH: What do you think of Jaylen Samuels' chance to make the team in 2020?

ANSWER: I wouldn't put Jaylen Samuels in the category of a lock to make the 53-man roster, but I also believe he has shown himself to be a player who belongs in the NFL. It's going to be an interesting competition for the spots behind James Conner on the depth chart this summer, and I believe Samuels, Benny Snell, Kerrith Whyte, and rookie Anthony McFarland all have a chance. As often is the case during the training camp/preseason process, the guys who are most able to avoid injuries to stay on the practice field and give themselves a chance to improve will have a decided edge.

May 12, 2020
MIKE PAGOTTO FROM LONG POND, PA: Do you think the Steelers rely too much on "chunk plays" to get themselves into scoring position? It often seems they have a large number of three-and-outs because they are trying low percentage, long vertical passes rather than trying to average 3.5 yards per rush.

ANSWER: I believe the only way for an offense to score consistently in the NFL is with chunk plays. Expecting an offense to be able to execute 12-play, 75-yard drives without any penalties, or sacks, or other negative plays on a consistent basis is just not reasonable. That was one of the things that really crippled the offense last year and made the Steelers the only team in the NFL to fail to score 30 points in any one game – the lack of chunk plays. Teams have to make the opposing defense defend the whole field, both vertically and horizontally.

April 30, 2020
PATRICK HAGER FROM MORGANTOWN, WV: Do the Steelers get the fifth-year option on Minkah Fitzpatrick's rookie contract, or is that only for the team that drafts the player?

ANSWER: The fifth-year option made the trip from Miami to Pittsburgh along with Minkah Fitzpatrick when the Steelers completed the trade for him last September. Since Fitzpatrick is going into his third NFL season, that means the Steelers will have him under contract through the 2021 season with the potential of the fifth-year option in 2022, which they certainly will exercise.