"Ask Vic" is published on Monday and Thursday through the offseason.
Isaac from Nashville, TN
Vic, is it possible to run with power out of the shotgun?
You want the pistol. The backs are positioned behind the quarterback.
Frank from Lampman, SK
What year did you begin covering the Steelers?
It was 1972. I was a college intern. The sports editor sent me to training camp. My first pro football story was on a journeyman guard named Bruce Van Dyke.
Steve from Lake Stevens, WA
What were the accommodations at Three Rivers Stadium like compared to modern venues?
The suites had an industrial feel to them, but the Allegheny Club was chic. Three Rivers was the signature stadium of a bad design era. Its charm was it had none. There were no long-range views, such as the one at Heinz Field. There was a feeling of detachment from the outside world. I liked it. When the field-level seats began bouncing, you knew you were watching something good.
Eric from Minneapolis, MN
What clues will the draft and free agency give us about Joe Barry's plans for the defense?
It'll likely tell us where Barry believes the defense needs to improve.
Jason from Austin, TX
Vic, what kind of growth do you think the NFL gained by having a relatively uninterrupted season? Do you think they attracted more viewership this past season than they would have if COVID didn't happen?
The NFL was the only good thing to happen in sports in 2020. It endeared itself to its fans and further entrenched itself as an entertainment giant. We'd be miserable without the NFL to entertain us. That message was reinforced in 2020.
Benjamin from Burlington, VT
Vic, I can't truthfully say I have much experience with vehicles that aren't automatic transmission. Is your reference to stick shifts more that they're more fuel efficient, that you have more control, or a bit of both?
When I was young, automatic transmission was a luxury and you paid extra for it. I learned to drive a stick on hills, and if I held the clutch, my dad would bark at me, "You're gonna burn it up."
John from Charlottesville, VA
Can you explain a little more what adding a voidable year does to the cap hit when prorating a signing bonus? What happens to the proration when the last year or two is voided?
The proration accelerates into the applicable year. A voidable contract is the same as cutting a player, except it's decided when the player will be cut when he signs the contract.
David from San Francisco, CA
Your father and Ted's father are from the Great Depression era, no?
Mine was. He was four years old when the Depression began. At age 18, he was in the Philippines. When he came out of World War II, poverty and war were all he had known growing up. That kind of combination has a lasting effect on a person. He'd take us out for soft ice cream, but you didn't dare ask for chocolate dip. I always knew where the line in the sand was.
Dave from Madison, WI
I find the era of quarterbacks calling plays fascinating. Was that a common approach for teams or were only a few players trusted with that responsibility? How did coaches give feedback to the quarterbacks on the plays they were calling?
It was common for quarterbacks to call their own plays, but some coaches used messenger guards to shuttle in the plays. That's what Paul Brown did. Coach Noll, who was one of Brown's messenger guards, used the same tactic to send in a play he wanted run. That's how we knew whether it was a Bradshaw play or a Noll play. It made for some fun in postgame press conferences. "Was that touchdown your play, Chuck?" He'd smile and nod his head.
Bill from Menominee, MI
Forgive my ignorance, but how often do teams trend under the cap during a current league year? If they're under the cap, can they restructure midway through the season to front-end load a player's contract through bonuses to allow more cap space in future years?
Once upon a time, when teams had cap room left late in the season, they'd do a new contract with a player to eat up that space; leave nothing to waste. The rule has since been changed to allow teams to bring space over to the next season.
Rodney from Kalgoorlie, Australia
What were your thoughts on the 1987 players strike, the replacement players, etc.?
It was heaven for a reporter. The stories were wonderful. I remember the Steelers had a retirement press conference for a personable local player who was being released and replaced. Some of those players stuck. Steve Bono was the Steelers' replacement quarterback.
Jor from Bloomington, IN
When did Tom Brady first catch your attention?
It was in the Michigan-Alabama bowl game. He was super. He was everything a scout could want in a prototype drop back quarterback. I asked one of my scout friends why Brady wasn't rated higher. This was before Brady ran poorly at the combine. As I recall, the scout's answer reflected on Brady being a Drew Henson backup. I didn't get it then and I still don't get it. The best evaluators of football talent in the world blew it. That's the answer.
Jonathan from St. Joseph, MO
How do you feel about Big Ben's return?
I think the Steelers should move on. Roethlisberger can still throw, but I doubt the Steelers can build an offensive line in front of him that can allow for his lack of mobility. I think this should be the jumping off point for the Steelers: Clear the cap, rebuild the roster.
Ted from Philmore, MN
Is Robert Tonyan really worth any extra money? His touchdowns, in my opinion, are all Aaron Rodgers. Stick any average tight end in there and he'd do the same thing. No?
I don't like throwing money at tight ends unless they're really special. The Packers threw money at Jimmy Graham and the Lions at Jesse James. Both are busts. The Lions cut Tonyan and then he goes to Green Bay and replaces Graham. James was fine in Pittsburgh, then he went to Detroit and the Steelers signed Eric Ebron, who the Lions drafted 10th overall. That kind of merry-go-round approach to free agency is costly and often results in regret and re-do. In the salary cap era, teams have to be better than that. It's a game of replacement. Yes, I believe Tonyan could be replaced affordably and without much difficulty.