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 4, 2020
ISRAEL PICKHOLTZ FROM ASHKELON, ISRAEL: How important is Ben Roethlisberger's tackle of Nick Harper to his NFL legacy? Will it be part of the presentation when he comes up for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Or is this something that just Steelers fans appreciate?
ANSWER: You are referring to Ben Roethlisberger's tackle of Nick Harper late in the fourth quarter of the 2005 AFC Divisional Round win over the Colts in Indianapolis. It's my opinion that tackle was what allowed Bill Cowher to win a Super Bowl and therefore get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and it also preserved Jerome Bettis' legacy to allow him to get into the Hall of Fame. To me, what that play showed definitively is that beyond being a great quarterback, Roethlisberger also is a superior athlete, even among professionals. I remember making the case in the press box in the RCA Dome that day to many Peyton Manning apologists about who was the better quarterback in that game. Do you think anyone with a shred of football intelligence believes for a second that Manning could make that tackle in the open field to save the game that day? Me neither.
May 26, 2020
DAVE STARCHER FROM BUTLER, PA: Why did the Steelers put up with the kicking woes in the 1970s? I have watched Roy Gerela and Bobby Walden have some horrible kicks? No offense to either guy, but was the bar much lower back then for specialists? Also many times I heard announcers say that the Cowboys got such a tremendous bargain from the Steelers by getting Preston Pearson for $100. Can you explain why we let Pearson go and how that $100 happened?
ANSWER: On your first question, I'll allow statistics to provide the answer. In 1975, when both Bobby Walden and Roy Gerela were part of the Steelers team that won Super Bowl X, the NFL's No. 10 placekicker in terms of accuracy was Joe Danelo with a field goal success percentage of 68.8. Garo Yepremian led the NFL at 81.3 percent, and Gerela finished No. 2 at 81.0 percent. In 2019, Josh Lambo led the NFL with a 97.1 field goal accuracy percentage, and in 2018 when fans were calling for Chris Boswell's head he was successful on 65 percent of his field goal attempts. When it comes to punting, in 1975, Ray Guy (who is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame by the way) led the NFL with a 43.8-yard average; in 2019, Tress Way led the NFL with an average of 49.6 yards per punt. To emphasize even further, Jordan Berry frequently is identified by fans as a punter the Steelers should replace, and in his five NFL seasons, he has bettered Guy's league-leading average from 1975 twice and posted a 43.7 average in a third.
The Steelers waived Preston Pearson after the 1974 season because they had this guy named Franco Harris who had taken over the job and most recently was coming off setting a single-game Super Bowl rushing record. In those days, claiming a player off waivers cost the claiming team $100. During his six seasons in Dallas, Pearson averaged 3.7 yards per carry while catching 189 passes for 2,274 yards and 11 touchdowns. As a running back, Pearson was a better receiver.
May 14, 2020
MEMET SRATT FROM NEW YORK, NY: A lot of commentators are saying the Steelers have one of the easiest schedules in the league in 2020. It's true they don't have a division winner's schedule. However, the intra-division games, some difficult road games and having three of the last four games on the road seem to be pretty tough to me. What do you think about their schedule?
ANSWER: The way the NFL determines strength of schedule is by adding the opponents' won-loss records from the previous season and then comparing those totals on a team-by-team basis. Based on that procedure, the Steelers' schedule is the second-easiest in the NFL with a combined opponents' 2019 winning percentage of .457; Baltimore has the easiest schedule with a combined opponents' winning percentage of .438; and New England has the most difficult schedule with a combined opponents' winning percentage of .537. I personally believe that is a ridiculous way of trying to calculate strength of schedule, because NFL teams change so much from one year to the next, but that's the way the NFL does it and therefore that's what is used in such discussions at this time of the year.
May 12, 2020
JACKSON LATTA FROM PRESTONSBURG, KY: I love to see the University of Kentucky guys get picked up by the Steelers, and I'm an old-school Dermontti Dawson fan. That got me thinking – which college program has the most players represented in the Steelers Hall of Honor?
ANSWER: There's a tie between Notre Dame (Jerome Bettis, Rocky Bleier, Johnny "Blood" McNally) and Penn State (Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Dick Hoak) with three apiece.
May 5, 2020
HARRY MASH FROM FULLERTON, CA: I'm 83 years old, born in Pittsburgh and left with my folks in 1950. As we were driving past Forbes Field, I asked my Dad, "Why can't the Steelers ever beat the Browns?" He said, "Because all the big strong guys from Pittsburgh play for the Browns. They pay more money." Could this have been so?
ANSWER: The Cleveland Browns didn't join the NFL until the 1950 season, and so the first-ever games in the series weren't played until then. The Browns certainly were a dominant team during the 1950s, and in the annual home-and-home series against the Steelers that decade, Cleveland owned a 16-4 edge. And that 16-4 edge for the Browns came despite the Steelers sweeping the season series in 1959. The Browns outscored the Steelers by a combined, 540-293, during the 1950s, but that was because they had better players and better coaches. But when it came to paying players, let me remind you that the Browns were owned at the time by Paul Brown, whose son, Mike Brown is now the owner of the Bengals. I don't believe paying players a lot of money runs in that family.
April 21, 2020
DAVID ZIPPARO FROM ROCHELLE IL: Back in the day the draft was 17 rounds. Now, it's seven rounds. Can you tell us when it changed to seven rounds and why?
ANSWER: If you really want to go back in time, the NFL Draft began as a nine-round exercise when it was instituted in 1936, then was 10 rounds for two years, then it became 20 rounds from 1940-42, then 30 rounds from 1943-59 with the exception of 1949 when it was 25 rounds. Starting in 1960, it was back to 20 rounds, and it stayed that way until 1967 when it became 17 rounds. Starting in 1977, the draft became a 12-round exercise, and it stayed under that format until 1993 when it became the seven-round lottery it remains to this day. The changes from 17 rounds to 12, and then from 12 rounds to seven were collectively bargained with the NFL Players Association.
April 9, 2020
MICHAEL ORENCHUK FROM COLUMBUS, OH: I read somewhere that Hines Ward dropped to the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft because he didn't have an ACL in one of his knees. I believe the Colts and Buccaneers both were interested in taking him earlier. Is this true? Did we luck into getting a future Super Bowl MVP because he was missing an ACL?
ANSWER: In a story about the NFL Scouting Combine written by Teresa Varley that appeared on Steelers.com, Ward told the story of not having an ACL in his left knee and how that was discovered: "Ironically for me, going (to the Combine) and being tugged on (by NFL doctors) was the first time I found out I didn't have an ACL in my left knee. It was shocking news to me. Here I am, I played sports my entire life, and I got to the Combine and I don't have an ACL. I was like good, I can't tear it. They told me it wasn't good. I was a high risk draft choice." According to a Yahoo! Sports story, Ward broke his kneecap in the fourth grade and the doctors never accounted for the ligament.
Because all medical information gleaned at the Combine is shared among all NFL teams, such a discovery would have caused some teams to flag Ward as a medical risk. Whether the Colts and Buccaneers were definitely among those teams isn't known.
March 12, 2020
JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: With the Steelers selected to play in the Hall of Fame Game, which adds a fifth preseason game to their schedule, what amount of compensation do the players receive for the extra preseason game?
ANSWER: NFL players are not paid for preseason games. They get a stipend for the number of days/weeks they are in training camp based on their years of experience.