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Steelers Steelers Q & A with Ed Bouchette

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Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Q: In your April 30 article, "Steelers Move On Without Holmes," you mention that "(James) Farrior would have preferred the No. 58 he wore ... but the Steelers wouldn't give him Jack Lambert's old number." After thinking about this, I cannot recall ever hearing about retired numbers in the Steelers organization. Do the Steelers retire numbers, or do they make some off limits? If so, whose numbers can we expect not to see? What would someone have to do to ever be considered for one of these?

Gary Smith of Pittsburgh

BOUCHETTE: The only number officially retired by the Steelers is 70, in honor of Hall of Famer Ernie Stautner (who also wore No. 89 for one season, 1951). They stopped retiring numbers after that when they realized they would not have enough to use at certain positions. For example, John Stallworth's No. 82 and Lynn Swann's No. 88 are routinely given out because there aren't enough numbers for wide receivers (who also can now where numbers in the teens as well as the 80s). No one else wore No. 58 after Lambert. Other numbers that haven't been issued after their careers ended include Joe Greene's 75, Terry Bradshaw's 12, Donnie Shell's 31, Franco Harris' 32 and Mike Webster's 52. They issued Jack Ham's No. 59 for one year to a nondescript linebacker, Todd Seebaugh, and no one's worn it since. There are other numbers that haven't been used in years, too. The last to wear No. 13 was Bill Mackrides in 1954. Johnny Clement wore 00 (1946-48) and Jack Collins No. 0 (1952), the only ones to wear those jersey numbers. Curiously, no one wore the No. 8 in 60 years until quarterback Tommy Maddox claimed it last season. Future unofficial retired numbers? Perhaps Jerome Bettis' 36. They issued No. 95 to Joey Porter his first season and so many comparisons were made between him and Greg Lloyd that Porter asked for another and he now wears 55.

Q: Not a question, but a suggestion. April 30, 2002: Kicker Gary Anderson is now available. Hello, Steelers!!! Anybody there? A decent kicker could have put us in the Super Bowl last year. Hello Steelers!!! Anybody there?

Bill Rote of Springfield, Va.

BOUCHETTE: The Steelers would have reached the Super Bowl if a punt wasn't returned for a touchdown and had they blocked better for a Kris Brown field goal attempt in the championship against New England. The Minnesota Vikings might have reached the Super Bowl in January 1999 had Anderson not sent a late chip-shot field goal try wide in a three-point loss in the NFC Championship to Atlanta at home. Anderson turns 43 in July, hasn't kicked off in years and can't make them beyond 45 yards anymore. He was a great kicker and the NFL's career scoring leader, but his time is up.

Q: Was Jerome Bettis' groin injury worse than diagnosed or were we (and the media) misled about the seriousness of this situation? Given the excellent performance of the team during his absence late in the season, did not the Steelers blow the Super Bowl by (again) placing all the offensive game-plan emphasis on Bettis coming back strong against the Pats? Can the Steelers risk committing to a Bettis running game (and the pathetic quarterbacking of Kordell Stewart) when they are so close to being the dominant team in the AFC?

Eston Petry of Fairmont, W. Va.

BOUCHETTE: Bettis' injury is what it was, a pulled groin muscle. He would have played in the first playoff had he not had a bad reaction to a pain-killing injection. The injury wasn't as bad as the one he had after the 1996 season, when he played in New England and ran for 43 yards in a playoff loss. In hindsight, maybe they should not have used him so much against the Patriots this time. But the blocking wouldn't have been any better no matter who was running. Special teams lost that game. And what quarterback were you watching? Stewart made the Pro Bowl, one of three quarterbacks from the AFC, and was voted the Steelers' MVP by his teammates. Why would you not commit to Bettis this year? He was leading the league in rushing when he was hurt in the 11th game. It was a groin pull, not an amputation.

Q: Why do the Steelers helmets have the logo on just one side. I have heard many reasons for this. Could you clear that up?

Lou Ambrosini of Fredericksburg, Va.

BOUCHETTE: When they first put the logo on the helmet in the early 1960s, they weren't sure if they'd like it or not, so they only put it on the right side. Dan Rooney told me that so many people like you began wondering why they did that, they decided to maintain the intrigue and left it that way, and it has become an enduring question through the years.

Q: Has the Steelers training camp schedule at St. Vincent College been released? If not, when and how can I get a copy of it? I would like to drive in and view some of the practices with my family.

Mark A. Chupa of Milwaukee, Wis.

BOUCHETTE: They report to Latrobe the evening of July 24. No schedule has been issued but you can count on a few things: They will run on July 25 and hold their first practice July 26. Practices are only open to the public in the afternoon and when they have just one practice, it's always in the afternoon, except brief ones the morning before a game. They don't practice the day after a game. They also may hold a scrimmage a week into training camp against another team, possibly the Washington Redskins, who train in Carlisle, Pa.

Q: Can you explain to me why NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue would want to hold the Super Bowl in New York or Washington, DC during 2007 in the middle of winter, considering how rough the weather can truly become at that time of year? And why can't the commissioner realize that such would leave the southern and western teams at a distinct disadvantage as opposed to northern teams that play regularly in the snow and cold?

James Patrick Thompson of Daytona, Fla.

BOUCHETTE: Tagliabue mentioned it because of the terrorist jet crashes in those two cities. It got a lot of play in New York, where the NFL has its offices. Don't look for it to happen, though. Most of the owners don't want it and they still run the league. They do play the championship games in bad weather in January, as you saw this year when New England beat Oakland in the playoffs in a snowstorm. However, could you imagine if the Super Bowl were held in Giants Stadium and on the day of the game, a snowstorm dumped two feet on New York and the game had to be postponed? The millions in lost revenue and the potential for logistic nightmares just isn't worth it to them. It's bad enough they have to hold one in Detroit in a domed stadium. Remember, some people also have been urging the Olympics to be staged in Pittsburgh, too.

Q: Will the Steelers look to upgrade the passing game by pursuing big name wide receivers like Michael Westbrook or Keenan McCardell, both of whom will likely be available on June 1? Also, will they look to add an experienced pass-catching tight end like Tony McGee? I know they don't throw to the tight end much but wouldn't it be nice to have McGee as an option on passing downs? As a bonus, all of these guys may be available for the veteran minimum salary.

John Vincic of Toronto, Canada

BOUCHETTE: The Steelers drafted two rookie receivers and signed a veteran tight end, John Allred. However, if a veteran receiver or tight end pops loose and they think he can help them, I would not discount them signing him.

Q: If Jerome Bettis begins to struggle or is injured again, is there any chance Amos Zereoue could be the feature back? I feel he has developed into a complete back and can score any time he touches the ball. If he is re-signed he seems to be the heir apparent if/when Bettis retires.

Charles Ricciardi of Strongsville, Ohio

BOUCHETTE: It remains to be seen if Zereoue could handle the ball 20-25 times a game in order to be the feature back. The only way anyone will find out is for it to happen. Zereoue should get more carries this year because they would like to ease the burden a bit on Bettis.

Q: Mini-Me? Does Kordell Stewart still believe he's a future hall of fame quaterback, and that this nickname he's chosen for Antwaan Randle El is a compliment? Let's hope the architects designed the stadium's locker room tunnels big enough for Kordell's head.

Bill McFadden of Newark, Md.

BOUCHETTE: I thought it was a clever, funny line by Stewart. I don't think he believes or even wants Mini-Me to stick on Randle El. It was a way to point out the similarities in the two players who were great college quarterbacks and were asked to play receiver in the league. Stewart, of course, overcame many opinions that he should stay one.

Q: After this past season, do you think the Steelers will get Kendrell Bell, and Amos Zereoue more active in their offensive and defensives schemes? Or do you think that their roles will be the same as last year?

P.J. Lewis of Winchester, Va.

BOUCHETTE: A story I wrote Monday pointed out that the Steelers plan to use Bell on passing downs this season (he came off the field in their dime defense as a rookie), and will try him at right defensive end. Joey Porter would move from that spot in the dime to middle linebacker, Earl Holmes' position in the dime defense last season. I believe Zereoue will have more carries this season, but Jerome Bettis is still the main man.

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