Mon, 21 Sep 2020

Asked and Answered: April 7

The Steelers
08 Apr 2020, 06:30 GMT+10

Let's get to it:

TOM WOOD FROM ALLIANCE, OH: Can you see a scenario where the Steelers pick a stud safety early in the draft with the idea of moving Terrell Edmunds to a hybrid safety/linebacker position since they play so many sub-packages?

ANSWER: Based on your question, I'm going to assume you perceive Terrell Edmunds to be a bust, because why else would a first-round pick have his position changed after only two seasons in the NFL. Here are some things to consider before making what would be a way-too-early judgment on Edmunds' career so far: He will play his third NFL season as a 23-year-old, which means he's at an age where he's just reaching physical maturity; and over the course of his first two NFL seasons, he played 93 percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie and 96 percent of the snaps as a second-year pro. That's a testament to his toughness, and in addition to his availability, he has posted 183 tackles so far as a pro. The original plan was to bring Edmunds along slowly during his rookie season, but when veteran Morgan Burnett wasn't able to stay healthy Edmunds stepped in and had to learn on the fly. And then last season, he had to be the veteran presence at safety when the team brought in Minkah Fitzpatrick a couple of games into the regular season.

I believe Edmunds is just scratching the surface of his potential, and I want to see how he might blossom now that he'll be getting a chance to play alongside Fitzpatrick, a first-team All-Pro in 2019 and now going to be a guy who has a better understanding of the Steelers scheme. In my estimation, Edmunds has been nothing but a team guy so far, because as a rookie he had to pick of the slack left by Burnett being unavailable, and as a second-year pro he likely was charged with filling a role to allow Fitzpatrick to integrate himself into the scheme on the fly instead of just worrying about his own assignments. I thought Steelers fans would've learned a lesson about writing off a rookie defensive player too early by watching Bud Dupree's growth as a player - Dupree will play his sixth NFL season as a 27-year-old, by the way - but maybe I was wrong. The Steelers don't perceive Edmunds to be a bust, and any draft pick spent on a safety would be to provide depth to their starters, who are Edmunds and Fitzpatrick.

CHRIS AULT FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: I've wondered for several years what do we have in Cam Sutton? Seems like he has ability, and I know he is touted for his football IQ. Does the coaching staff have plans for him?

ANSWER: That's a good question. I honestly don't know the answer, and I'm not sure even the Steelers are certain of what they have in Cam Sutton. There have been offseasons during his time here where I believed Sutton was headed to that year's training camp with a real opportunity to make a position his, but for some reason it didn't happen. Sutton now is heading into the final season on his rookie contract, which means he can become an unrestricted free agent in March 2021. Can he win a regular role on the defense? If he does not, 2020 would likely be his final season with the Steelers.

JAMES A. MOONEY FROM ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL: I am 91 years old and seem to recall that in the early years of college and professional football there were many two-way players. When did that era end? Didn't "Bullet" Bill Dudley play on both offense and defense for the Pittsburgh pro football team?

ANSWER: It wasn't until 1950 that the NFL adopted a "free substitution rule," which opened the doors to two-platoon football, which then evolved in numerous sub-packages and specialized personnel groupings that now sees teams regularly shuttle multiple players on and off the field before every snap of the ball. As for Bill Dudley, in 1946 while playing for the Steelers, Dudley led the NFL in rushing attempts (146); rushing yards (604); offensive touches, which was described as rushing attempts plus receptions (150); punt returns (27); punt return yards (385); punt return average (14.3); interceptions (10); and interception return yards (242). And for good measure, Dudley also was 12-for-14 on PATs and 2-for-7 on field goals. As late as 1955, the Steelers required their No. 3 quarterback to be able to play a position on defense, and so it came to be that Vic Eaton won that No. 3 job behind Jim Finks and Ted Marchibroda because he could play safety, and so Coach Walt Kiesling cut John Unitas.

ED SOLTIS FROM NEW PORT RICHEY, FL: With everything in limbo, with the offseason limited, with pre-draft interviews incomplete, do you think a veteran team has the advantage?

ANSWER: This is totally uncharted territory in the NFL, and so as to your question anything at this point really is a guess. Mine is that having a veteran team won't be as much of an advantage as having a stable organization, and by a stable organization I mean same head coach, largely the same staff of assistants, the same draft preparation headed by the same people, and the same offensive and defensive systems. That's because I think a group of players, regardless of their age and experience, would be more apt to hit the ground running if they don't have to learn a new system with new terminology and all that goes with it, than a group of players who not only would have to learn a new system in the classroom but also have to commit it to muscle memory on the field.

KRIS PISCZEK FROM CONNELLSVILLE, PA: I have read on multiple occasions that Coach Mike Tomlin and Steelers President Art Rooney II said they are comfortable with Mason Rudolph as Ben Roethlisberger's backup. As the draft gets closer, I have been seeing multiple sources, such as Bleacher Report suggesting the Steelers will select their "quarterback of the future" with their second-round pick. Have you heard anything from within the Steelers organization to suggest this may be true?

ANSWER: No. NO! N.O.

SAM WILEY FROM MIDDLETOWN RI: Could you please confirm that the Steelers have won the most regular season games, and have the most playoff appearances in the Super Bowl era? Thanks in advance from this native Pittsburgher who re-located to New England a long time ago.

ANSWER: First, my condolences in your change of ZIP Code. As to your question, there are two measuring sticks commonly used to refer to the NFL's modern era: There is the Super Bowl era, and there also is everything that followed the NFL-AFL merger. The Super Bowl era began with the 1966 season; the NFL-AFL merger happened in 1970; and the 1966-69 seasons are where the Steelers come up short.

Allow me to explain: Since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, the Steelers have won the most games (474) of any team in the NFL. Also, since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, the Steelers' 30 appearances in the playoffs are the most of any NFL team. But because the Steelers won only 12 games during the 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969 seasons, while the Dallas Cowboys won 42 games during that same span, it's the Cowboys who have the most wins of any NFL team during the Super Bowl era (495 to 486 for the Steelers). And because the Cowboys also made the playoffs in each of those aforementioned seasons in the late 1960s, they have the most playoff appearances of any NFL team in the Super Bowl era. So if you're trying to make the argument as a Steelers fan, use the 1970 NFL-AFL merger as your starting point, not the Super Bowl era.

MIKE FOSTER FROM EWA BEACH, HI: What are your thoughts and opinions on the Steelers playing in an extra preseason game, i.e., the Hall of Fame game? What are your thoughts and opinions on the Steelers being on HBO's Hard Knocks? I want all the Steelers stuff I can get.

ANSWER: As of today, the Steelers have been announced as one of the participants in the 2020 Hall of Fame Game along with the Dallas Cowboys, but there has been no announcement regarding Hard Knocks, which probably has to do with the uncertain nature of training camps because of the global pandemic. Based on your last sentence, you would seem to be someone who comes down in favor of the Steelers' being involved both in a fifth preseason game and Hard Knocks, but I am on the other side on both of those. There is absolutely, positively no need for a fifth preseason game under any circumstances, and the NFL is acknowledging that by including reductions in the length of the preseason in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. As for the Hall of Fame Game specifically, if the NFL decides it's somehow important to the operation of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, then the teams assigned to it should not have to play four other preseason games. Five is too many. As for Hard Knocks, my opinion is that it's unnecessarily voyeuristic. Sure, people want behind-the-scenes looks at the operation of an NFL training camp, but just because some people want it doesn't mean they should get what they want. No one can convince me that whatever revenue is derived from Hard Knocks is necessary to the league's bottom line, and as for the ratings the episodes consistently attract fewer than one million viewers.

EDITOR'S NOTE: At 7:02 a.m. on Tuesday, April 7, ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted the following: "For the first time, Hard Knocks is planning to supersize and feature two teams this summer: the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers, league sources tell ESPN. (If there's training camp)"

MICHAEL CAMPBELL FROM COLUMBUS, OH: The team currently has five quarterbacks on the roster, Can you provide information on the chances for J.T. Barrett and Paxton Lynch to move up the depth chart?

ANSWER: All I can tell you at this stage - because NFL offseason programs have been suspended - is that Paxton Lynch and J.T. Barrett will get a chance to complete for the No. 3 quarterback job behind Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can be determined or decided until on-field activities begin. I get that fans are anxious for these kinds of things to be decided, but until the players get onto the field and start taking part in actual football activities that's impossible. Patience.

DEAN STARKE FROM CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA: If I remember correctly, Ben Roethlisberger is under contract to the Steelers for the next two NFL seasons. What will his cap hit be for each of these years?

ANSWER: According to published reports, Ben Roethlisberger is scheduled to count $23.8 million on the Steelers' salary cap in 2020 and $44.5 million in 2021.

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