Asked and Answered

The best of Asked and Answered: June 30

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

Let's get to it:

November 8, 2021
STEVE KEISTER FROM KINNELON, NJ: What are some examples of Steelers who have turned down bigger money elsewhere to stay in Pittsburgh?

ANSWER: There could be situations where specifics of a negotiation aren't known, and so I don't believe there's such a thing as a complete list of players who have accepted less money to remain with the Steelers. There is one example of a player taking less that I am comfortable with mentioning and that is Jerome Bettis. The system of free agency tied to a salary cap went into effect in 1993, and the Steelers acquired Bettis via trade in 1996. Bettis could have gotten more when he was an unrestricted free agent following the 1996 season, but he accepted the Steelers offer because he felt comfortable with the organization and how he was being treated in Pittsburgh. My memory of that situation is Jerome's mom, Gladys, was influential in him staying with the Steelers because of the mutual respect between player and the franchise, in light of how her son was treated by the Rams and Coach Rich Brooks. Later in his career, Bettis took salary cuts on his existing contract to stay with the Steelers. And then just last offseason, there were the examples of Ben Roethlisberger accepting a salary cut, and there were reports that JuJu Smith-Schuster could have signed with the Ravens for more money than he ended up accepting from the Steelers on a one-year contract.

November 21, 2021
TRAVIS LEWIS FROM WEST ALLIS, WI: What were Levon Kirkland's stats during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers? I remember him being a great player, and yet we hear little about him.

ANSWER: Levon Kirkland was the second draft pick of the Bill Cowher era, a second-round choice from Clemson (38th overall) in the 1992 NFL Draft. In nine seasons with the Steelers, Kirkland played 144 games (124 starts), and he finished with 849 tackles, including 17 for loss; 11 interceptions; 11 passes defensed; 14 forced fumbles; eight fumble recoveries; 18.5 sacks; and one defensive touchdown. Kirkland was voted to the Pro Bowl following the 1996 and 1997 seasons, and he was voted first-team All-Pro in 1997. Kirkland led the Steelers in tackles with 10 and added a sack in Super Bowl XXX.

November 11, 2021
BARDEL BYBEE FROM VANCOUVER, WA: After Ben Roethlisberger's game winning drive in the game against the Bears, I noticed some sites note it as his 38th and some others note it as his 51st. Why the difference?

ANSWER: The discrepancy has to do with the subject of the "note." Against the Bears, Ben Roethlisberger rallied the Steelers from a tie or deficit in the fourth quarter for the 50th time in his career and the fourth time in 2021. Also against the Bears, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to an offensive scoring drive in the fourth quarter with the team trailing by one score to either tie or take the lead for the 38th time in his career.

December 9, 2021
ANDRE ARTIS FROM SOUTH CHESTERFIELD, VA: How do Steelers scouts go about effectively evaluating a player who's on another team`s practice squad? Just wondering how we identified Adams as a good prospect.

ANSWER: In the specific case of the Steelers, what they often do is start by referring to their own evaluations they compiled when the particular player was coming out for the NFL Draft. This is what Coach Mike Tomlin said about Montravius Adams in the run-up to the game against the Ravens: "We liked him a lot when he came out in the draft. I went down to Auburn for his Pro Day and took him out to dinner and all of those things. And that often reflects the moves that we make in free agency or in the open market. Oftentimes we have a past relationship where there was something about him that was attractive to us. He's big and strong and athletic. When he came out, he was somewhat raw from a technical standpoint, we realized that, and that's probably one of the reasons why he's bounced around the league a little and he was available to us. But the talent is attractive to us. It was attractive to us then. He's had a good week's work. We're excited about giving him an opportunity to put his hand in the pile and contribute this week."

Besides that, there has to be video of the player even if it's only preseason, and the Steelers – or any other team – can access that through NFL Films.

May 10, 2022
TIBOR OUYANG FROM NORTH LAS VEGAS, NV: How come the Steelers don't try to get players like Jalen Ramsey on their roster? It seems like poor secondary play always burns them in critical situations and limits their opportunities to progress as an organization, and they have not had nearly the same success drafting defensive backs like they have receivers. I know they added Levi Wallace from Buffalo, which is a step in the right direction, but do you think they need to do more by way of free agency or trades?

ANSWER: Acquiring cornerbacks the caliber of Jalen Ramsey via free agency or trades is prohibitively expensive, and finding them in the draft usually can be done only in the top half of the first round. Since you brought up Ramsey, let's use him as an example. He originally entered the NFL as the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and when his relationship with the Jacksonville Jaguars soured, he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams. To acquire him in that midseason trade in 2019, the Rams sent two first-round picks, plus a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars, and then to keep Ramsey happy, the Rams signed him to a 5-year, $100 million contract that included a $25 million signing bonus and $71.2 million guaranteed.

As for drafting cornerbacks, I contend Kevin Colbert has gotten somewhat of a bad rap for his "inability" to identify top talent at the position. Including the 2022 NFL Draft, the Steelers have drafted 18 cornerbacks during Colbert's tenure. Of those 18, 10 were third-day picks – fourth round or later – only Artie Burns was a first-round pick (25th overall), and only Burns and Ricardo Colclough (38th overall) were top 50 picks. Outside of the top 50 players in a draft class over a couple of decades is not the place to shop for Jalen Ramseys.

May 10, 2022
DAVID SIMPSON FROM BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND: The elephant in the room: Can Mitch Trubisky throw to his left?

ANSWER: Only when the elephant isn't double-covered. Gotta be able to read whether the giraffe moves over from the middle to take away the deep-third, because a starting-caliber giraffe has a lot of length.