Wed, 16 Jun 2021

Asked and Answered: May 6

The Steelers
07 May 2021, 06:30 GMT+10

Bob Labriola

Let's get to it:

GRAHAM ANDERSON FROM PLYMOUTH, UK: Could you please remind us of the story where the Steelers forfeited a draft pick because Mr. Dan Rooney had made an agreement with a player that turned out to be against the rules?

ANSWER: The player's name was Will Wolford, and the Steelers signed him as an unrestricted free agent during the 1996 offseason. Wolford had been a left tackle during his career with Buffalo and then Indianapolis, but the Steelers told him they were signing him to play guard, which meant a lesser rate. Dan Rooney told Wolford that if the team needed him to play left tackle there would be a salary "adjustment" that came along with it. In 1998, the Steelers needed Wolford at left tackle, and so Dan Rooney prepared to pay the bonus that was part of the verbal agreement he had with Wolford. The NFL informed Dan Rooney that if he paid Wolford the bonus, the Steelers would be punished with the loss of a draft pick. But Rooney told the NFL that he had given the player his word and that his word was more important to him than a draft pick. Rooney paid Wolford, and the NFL punished the Steelers by having them forfeit their third-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.

VICTOR RAYGOZA FROM SOUTH GATE, CA: Am I the only one who gets this strange feeling that the reincarnation of Maurkice Pouncey and Heath Miller are in this draft class?

ANSWER: Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Slow down. Don't hang those kinds of expectations on a couple of rookies. It's not fair to them.

ROD KEEFER FROM EDMOND, OK: The Steelers picked exactly as I hoped they would in the first and second rounds of the draft. From that point, at times it felt as though they were drawing names out of a hat. How and where do the scouts, the general manager, and the coaches get information to assess talent that writers and other "experts" don't have?

ANSWER: The Steelers scouts, plus Kevin Colbert, plus the coaches including Mike Tomlin watch video of games - the whole game and seasons worth of games instead of only highlights - talk to coaches, and others associated with the particular college program, and often meet parents. Colbert and the scouts make visits to college campuses to watch video, attend practice, and often stay for a game. Colbert, Tomlin, scouts, and assistant coaches attend Pro Days where they can spend more time with the prospects and maybe talk to more people. Do you think the "experts" who do those mock drafts that so many fans treat as gospel do a fraction of that work/research? Me neither.

JEFF ELINOFF FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: How many Steelers players drafted in the second round and later are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? How many were first round picks?

ANSWER: The first-round draft picks were Bill Dudley, Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Jerome Bettis (No. 1 pick by the Rams and acquired by the Steelers in a trade), Troy Polamalu, and Alan Faneca. The non-No. 1 picks, along with the round in which they were drafted, were Ernie Stautner (2), John Henry Johnson (2), Jack Ham (2), Mel Blount (3), Jack Lambert (2), Mike Webster (5), John Stallworth (4), Jack Butler (undrafted), Dermontti Dawson (2), Kevin Greene (5 by the Rams and signed as an unrestricted free agent), and Donnie Shell (undrafted).

JOE ASHER FROM TAMPA, FL: In your May 4 installment of Asked and Answered, a question was asked about Harris 2.0. While I like the idea, since Franco Harris' No. 32 hasn't been retired, and he actively campaigned for Najee Harris, do you think the Steelers would allow No. 32 to make a second appearance on the team?

ANSWER: I hope not. Not only would it be disrespectful to the team's rich history, in my opinion, but I also believe Najee Harris deserves a chance to make his own history with the Steelers franchise.

MICHAEL CAMPBELL FROM RENO, NV: In the last Asked and Answered, I loved the humorous question and answer about Harris 2.0. So I'm guessing No. 2% for LouderMilk is a big "no."

ANSWER: Good one, I'll give you that. But moving forward let's all keep the puns to a minimum, as in no more.

STEVE SAMICK FROM ST MARYS, PA: Now that the wish-and-hope season is in full swing, how many seasons does a drafted player need to play to be considered a successful pick?

ANSWER: I don't know that there's a specific criteria for that distinction. I guess it's like beauty - it's in the eye of the beholder.

WILLIAM HELD FROM JEANNETTE, PA: With one of the teams' concerns being the offensive line, did it surprise you that, of the undrafted rookies, the team signed six defensive players and the two offensive players signed were wide receivers? Would you have thought that they should have added additional offensive linemen?

ANSWER: There are a few things at play here. After the draft, there had been 46 offensive linemen selected, and there is not an infinite number of guys at those positions who are NFL-caliber prospects. Also, by the time the draft ended, the Steelers had 14 offensive linemen already on their roster, and teams need to keep track of numbers in order to have enough players at each position to conduct a productive training camp, and the flip side of that is having too many players at a position prevents the coaching staff from getting an accurate read on who can play and who can't because there aren't enough repetitions to go around. More isn't always better.

SAM MIKHAIL FROM BETHESDA, MD: Now that Alejandro Villanueva officially has moved on by signing with the Ravens, who do you think will be the starter at left tackle?

ANSWER: Why do fans believe it's so necessary to make those kinds of decisions immediately? Can't we wait until - I don't know - the first practice of training camp is over? Is that too late to guess about something that won't actually happen for another seven weeks or so after that?

PATRICIA RADCLIFF FROM RIDGELEY, PA: As a 68-year-old who has been a Steelers fan for over 50 years, I hate to show my ignorance but while following this year's draft on Steelers.com and NFL.com there were two positions I never had heard of. Can you tell me what an EDGE and SAF are? Thanks for your knowledge and humor.

ANSWER: SAF stands for safety. T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree play Edge, which really is nothing more than an updated term for an outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment.

MATHEW McKENNA FROM BROOK PARK, OH: Since Mel Kiper Jr. is such an expert on draft picks, why is it that no NFL team has signed him to head up its scouting department?

ANSWER: Mel Kiper has created a cottage industry for himself, and you have to admire him for that. He makes a lot of money spouting opinions that may or may not end up being correct, and there is absolutely, positively no accountability for those opinions. He gets paid either way, right or wrong. Genius.

FREDERIC BONIN FROM ROUYN-NORANDA, QUEBEC, CANADA: Do you think it is more impactful to have a good running back or a good offensive line?

ANSWER: I don't see it as an either-or situation in the least. A good offensive line with a schlub at running back isn't going to be any more successful than a great running back behind a Swiss cheese offensive line.

DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: The 1974 NFL Draft saw four of the first five players taken by the Steelers go into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. The trivia question is who was the one player from those first five picks who didn't make the Hall of Fame? I looked it up and found out the player was Jimmy Allen, a cornerback from UCLA who spent four years with Pittsburgh and four years with Detroit. Overall he had 31 interceptions in his career, seven for Pittsburgh as a backup and 24 for Detroit as a starter. What I couldn't find out on my own was if he was traded, released, or played out his contract and was an early unrestricted free agent?

ANSWER: Good job on the research, and allow me to fill in a few more details. In the 1974 AFC Championship Game, in which the Steelers defeated the Raiders in Oakland to advance to Super Bowl IX where they would win their first championship, wide receiver Cliff Branch was giving Mel Blount fits. A first-team All-Pro in 1974, Branch finished that 14-game regular season with 60 catches for 1,092 yards (18.2 average) and 13 touchdowns. In Oakland's Divisional Round victory over Miami the previous week, Branch caught three passes for 84 yards (28.0 average) and a touchdown, and come the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game he had eight receptions for nearly 180 yards and another touchdown. With four minutes left in the game and the Steelers nursing a 17-13 lead, Coach Chuck Noll and defensive coordinator Bud Carson pulled Blount and replaced him with Allen, a rookie. Allen allowed Branch to catch only one more pass, and J.T. Thomas' interception of Ken Stabler led to a Steelers touchdown that iced the 24-13 victory. Noll went back to Blount for Super Bowl IX, and Allen was relegated to special teams. Allen won a couple of Super Bowl rings with the Steelers, but he rarely played because of Blount except on special teams, and by 1977 he issued a "play me or trade me" demand to the Steelers. By the end of the 1977 season, Noll had grown so weary of the constant distractions that Allen became part of his housecleaning. In the 1978 offseason, Allen was traded to the Lions for a fourth-round draft pick.

RUSH ARMSTRONG FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Do you realize that you are in fact actually awful at your job? That you aren't even 10 percent as smart as you think you are? And also that you fit in perfectly with the dinosaur Pittsburgh sports writers? Thanks.

ANSWER: You're welcome.

TIMOTHY RICHARD FROM SULPHUR, LA: I just wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you. Now that I've canceled DISH Network to save money and quiet the talking heads on my television - ESPN, NFL Network, Fox Sports, et al., I have the greatest time delving into the insane sanity that are your columns on Steelers.com. Love the sarcasm/wit with which you face-palm all the self-important "fantasmic GMs and owners" spewing nonsensical "wisdom" over what the team should've done ... and what will happen next season. I've been a Southern Louisiana fan of the Steelers since 1968, and I shudder to think of the fans these days commenting on the early years of this franchise. I for one sincerely appreciate you and the Steelers franchise for providing the enjoyment that gets me through each week.

ANSWER: I'm going to assume Rush Armstrong disagrees with you.

ROBERT BELL FROM MONTGOMERY, AL: Do you think Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins can develop into a starter after Ben Roethlisberger retires?

ANSWER: Maybe. Maybe not. But I believe one, or both, is going to get a chance.

DAVID PAINTER FROM LIGONIER, PA: I would like to see the Steelers start Mason Rudolph at quarterback and have Ben Roethlisberger be the backup. It would provide experience where needed, maybe more consistency, and Roethlisberger may do better and be more consistent. Thoughts?

ANSWER: I have a better chance of being elected Pope. And I'm married.

PAUL KAMMERMEIER FROM BLOOMFIELD, NY: I noticed a question in Asked and Answered about training camp and fan attendance. Also been thinking about attendance at games once the season starts, which is something all Steelers fans would love to see again, and so I'd like to ask you to use your pulpit to encourage everyone to GET VACCINATED. As a biomedical scientist, I would assure all fans that the vaccines are remarkably effective at reducing COVID infections and hospitalizations, and they're freely available to everyone. The risk is not in getting the vaccines, but in not getting them. Not getting them allows the virus to linger, and prolongs our pain, which makes fan attendance at camp and games less likely (not to mention other facets of life).

ANSWER: You said it better than I could.

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