Asked and Answered

The best of Asked and Answered: June 23

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 on Monday.

Let's get to it:

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June 14
Why don't we (the Steelers) go after a No. 1 placekicker fresh out of college with a super-strong leg and accuracy? I know they are hard to find, but someone we could hold onto for some time like the Ravens have with Justin Tucker? I believe whomever the scouting department finds would be well worth a first- or a second-round pick and would give us a legitimate chance to win 90 percent of the time.

ANSWER: OK, sounds good. I'll just mark you down as being in favor of using a No. 1 or a No. 2 draft pick on a kicker. Got it. And not to ruin it for you, but Justin Tucker was signed by the Ravens as an undrafted rookie.

I've always been told the only stupid question is the one not asked. Then I read the one about signing Drew Brees as a backup.

ANSWER: Welcome to my world.

Have the Steelers shown any interest in Ryan Fitzpatrick?

ANSWER: See what I mean?

May 26
Will Gay seems to have blossomed under Carnell Lake. Joey Porter was added to the staff and coaches outside linebackers, and now Alan Faneca reportedly is joining the coaching staff this summer. Are these guys really the best "position coaches" available, or is it more about infusing this "younger" team with tradition and winning attitude? Or is it both?

ANSWER: You also could put inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky into the group you mention, and Lake, and Olsavsky, and Porter not only all are teaching positions they themselves played at the NFL level for a number of seasons, but they are teaching the positions they played at the NFL level for this franchise in this system. There is value in that. There is a credibility factor involved as well.

Lake and Olsavsky and Porter came to the conclusion that they wanted to be coaches, and each put in some work in the profession before the Steelers hired them. Faneca will assist this summer as a coach during OTAs/minicamp, and that is probably an example of the Steelers allowing him to dip his toes into the water of coaching to see if he's interested, because there is a significant time commitment for a professional football coach. The Steelers see Faneca as part of their family, and so he has been welcomed back for the rest of this offseason program. Right now, that's the extent of it.

In a hypothetical matchup between an all-star Steelers team from the 1970s and an all-star Steelers team of 2000-present, what would you see transpiring in that game?

ANSWER: Beyond the natural evolution of the human species – particularly professional athletes who have gotten so much bigger, stronger, and faster, and also are exposed to better nutrition and advances in conditioning – a significant factor, in my mind, would be the rules. Are we playing NFL football a la the 1970s, or are we playing NFL football a la the 21st century? Can Mel Blount have his hands on Antonio Brown until the ball is in the air? Or is it the 5-yard chuck rule? Just as one example. The sport, just like the men who now play it, is so very different than it was 40 years ago that comparing one era to the other becomes guesswork. The thing about the 1970s Steelers that makes them the greatest dynasty of the Super Bowl era is that they went back-to-back twice. Whatever qualities that were required for them to accomplish that back-to-back thing twice are significant and cannot be undervalued. That resolve, singleness-of-purpose, whatever you want to call it, also is a powerful force, and it was a reason those teams won championships the way they did.

April 28
Who are your top three cornerbacks in Steelers history?

ANSWER: The first two are easy picks: Mel Blount and Rod Woodson. As for No. 3, there are a couple of candidates, but I'm going with Dewayne Woodruff. A sixth-round pick from Louisville in the 1979 NFL Draft, Woodruff became a full-time starter for the Steelers in 1981, and with the exception of a 1986 season in which he spent the year on injured reserve after a serious knee injury in the third preseason game, he started 103 times through the 1989 season. In those 103 starts, Woodruff had 32 interceptions, and as a nickel back in 1990 he had three more. That's 35 interceptions total during his time as a regular part of the secondary, and Woodruff also had two interceptions during the 1979 postseason, which ended with the Steelers winning Super Bowl XIV.

If you could go back through the Steelers' franchise history and pick four defensive backs, with no other changes to the defense, who would your choices be for which positions? Bonus question, who are your "nickel" and "dime" backs?

ANSWER: My starting cornerbacks are Mel Blount and Rod Woodson. My starting safeties are Troy Polamalu and Darren Perry. My fifth and sixth defensive backs would be Dwayne Woodruff and Carnell Lake, with Lake being a guy I know can line up and cover somebody man-to-man because he moved to cornerback to help save the Steelers in 1995 and 1997. And as a disclaimer, I'm only considering guys I had a chance to watch play, which eliminates Hall of Fame defensive back Jack Butler.

April 5
As a former collegiate player, coach, and now recruiter, I like to think I'm an intelligent fan. I'm a die-hard Steelers fan, but the stupidity of some of these other fans concern me. My question is: Can I buy you a beer? These people put you through a lot.

ANSWER: Thanks for the sentiment. I appreciate it.

March 29
Did the Steelers ever have the first overall pick in the draft? If so, what year, who was the pick, and did he help the team win games?

ANSWER: It happened twice. The first time was in 1942, and the Steelers used the first overall pick on Virginia single-wing tailback Bill Dudley. With the Steelers still utilizing the single-wing, Dudley led the team in rushing, passing, and scoring that season, and it ended with the Steelers posting a 7-4 record, the first winning season in a franchise history that started in 1933. Then World War II happened, and Dudley didn't resume his NFL career until the final four games of the 1945 season, and the Steelers were 1-3 in those on the way to a 2-8 finish. In 1946, Dudley led the NFL in rushing, punt returns, and in interceptions with 10 for the 5-5-1 Steelers. Dudley was traded to Detroit the following year.

The other time the Steelers had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft was in 1970. The guy they picked was Terry Bradshaw. You might have heard of him.

March 24
I saw that you mentioned Tim Tebow in the March 22 Asked and Answered, and what I'm hearing is that the Steelers are going to sign him as a tight end, draft quarterback Paxton Lynch at pick No. 25, move Ryan Shazier to running back, and try Ben Roethlisberger out at safety. Is that correct?

ANSWER: You forgot Maurkice Pouncey to guard, and it's actually Alejandro Villanueva to tight end. Tebow will compete with RG III to be the No. 2 quarterback and the focal point of all of the gadget plays and zone-read options runs that will be installed to take advantage of skills that worked so well against the Vanderbilts and the Kansases of college football. Sheesh, pay attention. We're trying to win a championship here.

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