Sat, 04 Feb 2023

Asked and Answered: Dec. 1

The Steelers
02 Dec 2022, 05:30 GMT+10

Bob Labriola

Let's get to it:

CORY SEEGERT FROM FARGO, ND: If you had to choose, would you take T.J. Watt or James Harrison?

ANSWER: T.J. Watt is the more complete player, and I'll use his statistics as a pass defender to illustrate my point. Going into the Monday night game vs. the Colts, Watt had 6 interceptions and 36 passes defensed in 80 regular season games with the Steelers. James Harrison's career with the Steelers included 177 regular season games, and he had 7 interceptions and 33 passes defensed. Yes, Harrison authored the greatest defensive play in Super Bowl history with an interception he returned 100 yards for a touchdown, but over the course of his career he was not impactful in coverage. Also, in 80 regular season games, Watt has 73.5 sacks, while Harrison had 80.5 for the Steelers in 177 games.

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DJ KLAKAMP FROM ERIE, PA: Have the Steelers ever had any players who did not play football at the college level? I seem to remember a lineman back in the 1980s who was a wrestler.

ANSWER: During the modern era, I can recall two Steelers players who did not play college football. The first was defensive end Ray Seals, who not only didn't play college football, but he never attended college. Seals entered the NFL as a free agent with Tampa Bay in 1989, and he had 15.5 sacks in five seasons with the Buccaneers. The Steelers signed Seals in 1994 as an unrestricted free agent, and in 29 games with the Steelers he had 15.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries.

The other player was guard Carlton Haselrig, who was a 6-time NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion while attending the University of Pitt-Johnson, which competed in Division II and did not have a football program. NCAA wrestling rules at the time allowed for the Division II champion is each weight class to receive an automatic spot in the Division I tournament, and Haselrig was so good that he won both Division I and Division II championships in the heavyweight class in three straight years. The Steelers picked him in the 12th round of the 1989 NFL Draft, and after a short and unsuccessful stint as a nose tackle, Chuck Noll moved Haselrig to guard after seeing him work in one-on-one football drills. Haselrig became a starting guard for 36 regular season games and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1992.

JOE CONNORS FROM HILLSBOROUGH, NC: I have noticed on safeties when the team kicks more often than not it chooses to punt the ball. Today's placekickers can hit kickoffs 70 yards and out of the end zone, so why punt it?

ANSWER: Statistically, punts are measured from the line of scrimmage while kickoffs are measured from the spot of the kick, and so the distance difference on a free kick after a safety wouldn't be as much as one might think initially. And NFL punters can register hang times of 5 seconds, and that's likely the reason teams typically choose to punt the ball on a free kick following a safety.

NATE GEISLER FROM BOISE, ID: The Monday Night Football announcers were talking about Mike Tomlin having an 18-3 record in these games. What was Chuck Noll's and Bill Cowher's record on Mondays?

ANSWER: Since the Steelers defeated the Colts last Monday, Coach Mike Tomlin's record is now 19-3 (.864), which is the second-best all-time record among head coaches with at least 10 appearances on Monday Night Football. John Madden (11-1-1, .885) is the only coach with a better record on MNF. Chuck Noll's record was 15-14 (.517), and Bill Cowher's record was 18-8 (.692).

JAVIER MORI FROM LAS VEGAS, NV: I know Ben Roethlisberger started during his rookie year in 2004 with a Super Bowl-caliber team. What, if any, were Roethlisberger's flaws since he was a No. 1 pick just like Kenny Pickett? Were pundits questioning the pick as many are with Pickett, or was Roethlisberger looked at as a franchise-type quarterback early on in his rookie year?

ANSWER: There was little questioning of the Steelers using their first-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft on a quarterback, maybe because the other veteran quarterbacks on the roster were Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch, and maybe because there wasn't an obvious area where the Steelers could have spent their first-round pick instead of using it on a quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger did not come to the Steelers as a finished product, but it was clear to anyone who watched him practice at Saint Vincent College during training camp that he possessed difference-making skills. Also, the Steelers were forced into starting Roethlisberger because of a training camp injury to Batch and then an arm injury to Maddox in the second game of the regular season, and so there was a curiosity as to how the rookie would perform but not necessarily an immediate high expectation. Oddly enough, one of the issues that had Steelers fans moaning during the early stages of the 2004 season was Coach Bill Cowher's decision to use Jerome Bettis as a goal-line/short-yardage running back, which led to a bizarre stat line in the opener where Bettis finished with 5 carries for 1 yard, with 3 touchdowns, in a win over the Raiders. The fans actually booed when Bettis went into the game in place of Duce Staley, because after Staley rushed for 91 yards on 24 carries the fans thought he "deserved" to score the touchdowns.

MICHAEL JOHNSON FROM HOUSTON, TX: As hard as it might be, please explain why taking all of your team to the end zone to celebrate an intercepted pass 2 minutes into a game and wasting 3 minutes of "real" time is not a delay of game penalty but throwing or kicking the ball away from the field of play is?

ANSWER: I love these easy questions. And like so many previous examples of these "easy questions," the answer is the same: Because that's the rule. In 2020, because of empty stadiums created by the pandemic, the NFL had a camera/monitor set up in the end zone of every stadium and "encouraged" players to gather with their teammates and celebrate takeaways as a way to give the television audience an enhanced in-game experience. If it bothers you so much, maybe you could make good use of those "3 minutes of real time" to make a quick trip to the refrigerator to freshen your beverage.

GEORGE JANOCSKO FROM MUNHALL, PA: I was born at Magee Hospital on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 30, 1952, just blocks from Forbes Field. My father wanted to go to the Steelers-Giants game but was detained at the hospital. He told me the Steelers beat the Giants, 63-7, that day, and he always held it against me that he missed one of the greatest victories in Steelers' history. Was his recollection of this game true?

ANSWER: Yes. On Nov. 30, 1952, the 3-6 Steelers hosted the 6-3 New York Giants at Forbes Field, and the 63-7 final remains the most lopsided victory in franchise history. A combination of injuries to Giants quarterbacks and turnovers set the stage for the blowout win. After an injury to starting quarterback Charley Conerly, the Giants turned to Tom Landry, who threw four interceptions, and then to Fred Benners, who threw three more. The Giants passing numbers at the end of the day were 11-of-39 for 177 yards, with 1 touchdown, 7 interceptions, and a rating of 14.96. The Steelers led, 28-0, at halftime, and then added 4 more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to complete the 63-7 final. The loss ended up costing the Giants a spot in the NFL Championship Game, which instead went to Cleveland, which lost to Detroit, 17-7, for the title.

RUBE GINDER FROM EAST PALESTINE, OH: As a season ticket holder, I'm looking to see when the Steelers will announce the day and time of the last home game between the Steelers and the Browns?

ANSWER: Just so you understand, the NFL will determine the details for the Week 18 schedule, including which games will be played on Saturday, Jan. 8 and which games will be played on Sunday, Jan. 9, as well as kickoff times for all of the weekend's games. The individual teams will have no input into the NFL's decision, which will be designed to present its broadcast partners with matchups that have the playoff-determining games in the most advantageous timeslots. My guess is there won't be any definitive decision from the NFL on this until after Christmas.

TREMAYNE PERRY FROM NEW BERN, NC: In a game I was watching a few weeks ago, one team's offense was facing a third-and-2. The offense was flagged for a penalty on the third down play, which the defense declined, working off the assumption the offense would punt. After the defense declined the penalty, if the offense stayed on the field to go for it on fourth down, could the defense reverse its decision?

ANSWER: No.

ERIC SCHOBEL FROM POMPTON PLAINS, NJ: Will the 2023 second-round pick the Steelers will be receiving from the Bears be the Bears' own pick or one they received from another team?

ANSWER: It will be the Bears' original pick, which as of today would be No. 33 overall, since there are only 31 first-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft because Miami forfeits its choice as punishment for tampering.

KRISTEN BAKICH FROM CANTON, OH: I watched the Monday night game vs. Indianapolis and saw several Matthew Wright kickoffs returned. Since the new kickoff rules were implemented, it seems the trend has been to boom the ball out of the end zone and settle for a touchback. Is Wright being coached to not kick it through the end zone, or does he not have the strength to kick the ball that far? How does he compare on kickoffs to Chris Boswell?

ANSWER: I cannot say for sure whether Matthew Wright purposely was not kicking the ball out of the end zone against the Colts, but when Dallis Flowers returned the second half kickoff 89 yards, he fielded the ball 8 yards deep in the end zone. For his career, 25 percent of Wright's kickoffs have been touchbacks, while 51 percent of Chris Boswell's career kickoffs have been touchbacks.

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