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 in July.
Let's get to it:
June 4, 2020
RICH TURNER FROM YOUNGSTOWN, OH: What would you consider the biggest Steelers-Browns game in the history of the rivalry?
ANSWER: The Cleveland Browns became part of the NFL for the 1950 season, and since then they have played the Steelers at least twice a season every year since. Even during the years when work stoppages forced the NFL to cancel some games, the Steelers and Browns always found themselves having their home-and-home series uninterrupted. On two occasions, the Steelers and Browns played three times in a season – 1994 and 2002 – and the third meeting in each of those seasons came in the playoffs. In 1994, it was in an AFC Divisional Round game at Three Rivers Stadium, and in 2002 it was in a Wild Card Game at Heinz Field. In each of those two games, the winner advanced and the loser went home, so by definition the biggest games in the rivalry were those two playoff games. For the record, the Steelers won both.
June 2, 2020
RONALD MITCHELL FROM TALLMADGE, OH: An article in the Akron Beacon-Journal provided a rundown on Browns' first-round draft choices who no longer are with the team but who still are in the NFL. Those included Corey Coleman (2016), Alex Mack (2009), Cameron Erving (2015), Danny Shelton (2015), Barkevious Mingo (2013), Joe Haden (2010), and Jabrill Peppers (2017). How do the Steelers stack up in keeping their first-round draft choices?
ANSWER: Let's go back to 2004, and chart the Steelers' history with first-round picks: Ben Roethlisberger is still the team's starting quarterback; Heath Miller retired after 11 NFL seasons with the Steelers; Santonio Holmes was traded after four seasons that included a Super Bowl MVP Award and went on to play five more years in the NFL; Lawrence Timmons played 10 of his 11 NFL seasons for the Steelers; Rashard Mendenhall played five of his six NFL seasons with the Steelers; Ziggy Hood played five of his nine NFL seasons for the Steelers; Maurkice Pouncey is a multiple first-team All-Pro and is the team's starting center; Cam Heyward is a multiple first-team All-Pro and is the team's starting defensive tackle; David DeCastro is a multiple first-team All-Pro and is the team's starting right guard; Jarvis Jones played four seasons with the Steelers and was out of football before playing a fifth with Arizona; Ryan Shazier was voted to two Pro Bowls in his four seasons with the Steelers and then sustained a catastrophic spinal injury; Bud Dupree is the team's starting right outside linebacker; Artie Burns played four seasons with the Steelers and signed a one-year contract with the Bears this offseason; T.J. Watt was voted first-team All-Pro in his third NFL season, and the Steelers already announced they will pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract; Terrell Edmunds has been a starting safety since his rookie season; Devin Bush is a starting inside linebacker; and the Steelers' 2020 first-round pick – Minkah Fitzpatrick – was voted first-team All-Pro in 2019.
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 14, 2020
KEVIN STAATS FROM FREDERICKSBURG, VA: The Steelers once had a tight end named Weegie Thompson that they could throw the ball up high to in the red zone and hope his mismatch would allow him to come down with the ball. Why don't the Steelers just sign a 7-foot-3 stiff who isn't good enough for the NBA and teach him to catch a football? He could also be used on special teams to block field goals.
ANSWER: First of all, Weegie Thompson was a 6-foot-6, 212 pound wide receiver, and of the 11 total touchdowns he scored in 92 career games with the Steelers, I am willing to bet that fewer than five of those were the jump-ball types you describe. Sign "a 7-foot-3 or taller stiff who isn't good enough for the NBA and teach him to catch a football?" What a great idea. Are you a long-lost relative of Bill Veeck?
May 5, 2020
BRYAN CLARK FROM BETHLEHEM, PA: I'd really love to see the Ravens in the AFC East, where they belong. Buffalo is far more north than Baltimore. The AFC North looks daunting this year, with two teams having No. 1 overall picks as their starting quarterbacks, and another team being quarterbacked by the reigning MVP. According to NFL rules, is it possible to petition to move a team to another division, and how would that work?
ANSWER: Let's start with this: While you seem to be intimidated by competition and are afraid of going against Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson, I can assure you the Steelers are not. And if you spent 30 seconds looking over the NFL's eight divisions, it wouldn't require an advanced degree in geography to understand that Dallas is not an eastern city and yet competes in the NFC East, Indianapolis isn't south of much beside Chicago and Detroit yet competes in the AFC South, and if Jacksonville is in the AFC South, why is Miami in the AFC East?
April 23, 2020
BRIAN DORNSBACH FROM WOODLAND PARK, CO: A few other teams have introduced new uniforms. Will the Steelers' change anytime soon?
ANSWER: I sure hope not.
April 16, 2020
ZACHARY SEFNER FROM COLUMBUS, OH: Was Tony Dungy the last Steelers player to play both offense and defense in an NFL game? Dungy was a defensive back and played some quarterback in a game during the 1970s due to injuries. Can you tell me when that took place and why he was in at quarterback?
ANSWER: Tony Dungy came to the Steelers as an undrafted rookie defensive back who had played some quarterback during his college career at Minnesota. The Steelers entered the 1977 season with only two quarterbacks on their roster – Terry Bradshaw and Mike Kruczek – and in the regular season's fourth game (in Houston against the Oilers on Oct. 9), that decision bit them in the butt. Bradshaw injured his wrist in the first quarter, and Kruczek separated his shoulder on the final play of the third quarter, which meant Dungy had to enter the game at quarterback. In that game, Dungy completed 3-of-8 passes for 43 yards, with no touchdowns, two interceptions, and a rating of 25.0. He also intercepted a pass that day while playing defense. As for the last Steelers player to play both offense and defense in a game, that would be Rod Woodson. Once Bill Cowher was hired in 1992 to succeed Chuck Noll, Woodson, who had played both offense and defense at Purdue, began lobbying for a chance to try offense in the NFL. Woodson did line up on offense for a handful of plays during his time with the Steelers, which ended after the 1996 season, and in 1993 – the season in which he was voted Defensive Player of the Year – he was credited with one carry for no yards.
April 2, 2020
JOE ASHER FROM TAMPA, FL: Tony Dungy was a Steelers player and went on to become a very successful coach. Was he the most successful former Steelers player who became a coach?
ANSWER: Tony Dungy was the only former Steelers player who went on to become a head coach of a team that won an NFL Championship – Super Bowl XLI – but I would contend that Dick Hoak also was a highly successful NFL coach who began as a player for the Steelers. Hoak was a Steelers assistant for 35 seasons under Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher, and he was an integral member of the organization during five Super Bowl championship seasons. And Hoak was a better NFL player than Dungy. I guess the answer to your question would come down to your definition of "most successful."
February 18, 2020
LEE SAKOLSKY FROM SHERRILLS FORD, NC: Thomas Davis said on NFL Network that he thought Ben Roethlisberger could have played last year but chose not to because of a weak offense. What do you say to that?
ANSWER: One comment and one question. Stop watching NFL Network. Where exactly did Thomas Davis attend medical school?