"Ask Vic" is published on Monday and Thursday through the offseason.
Karl from Carmichael, CA
With your incredible Steelers career, I was wondering if you had any stories about the incredible jazz saxophonist that used to play at Steelers games in the '70's, Harold Betters.
Betters was to the Steelers as Al Hirt was to the Saints. I knew Betters as a trombonist and I can still hear his trombone pounding out his hit song "Rambunctious." I heard it first at Pitt Stadium, where the Steelers played in the '60's. Betters was the feature attraction at the Encore Lounge in Shadyside for 17 years. He's one of the great Pittsburgh jazz musicians, a list that includes George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Errol Garner, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Mary Lou Williams, Roger Humphries and Billy Eckstine. Warning: If you Google "Harold Betters Rambunctious," be prepared to hum it all day long.
Andy from Allouez, WI
What are your thoughts regarding the head coaching position at Pitt now officially named the "Chris Bickell '97 Head Football Coach"? Was it worth the $20 million?
Get ready for it, folks. The colleges are going to sell everything they have now. How about the "Vic Ketchman BS '73 Kent State Golden Flashes"? The colleges are going to eat up as much of that NIL money as they can, and I don't blame them for doing it.
Jon from Omaha, NE
Vic, would it be possible (however unlikely) for a team to have so much dead money and current obligations to high-priced players they can’t field a complete roster under the cap? If so, what would the NFL do?
So far over the cap they can't get under? It would've happened to Washington had it not been saved by an 11th-hour CBA agreement, which was such a bad deal for the owners it was vacated a few years later. The league would've likely created an exemption for Washington so it could continue to play, but the penalties would've been huge: lost draft picks and cap space, fine, etc.
Ray from Jacksonville, FL
Tom Coughlin is now caring for his terminally ill wife. He has raised a lot of money through his Jay Fund, which provides money and services to families with children who have cancer. Can you share with readers that he is not the crusty curmudgeon they saw on the sidelines?
Tom is a closet nice guy and he has a huge soft spot for those who are ill. He befriended a man in Jacksonville who was afflicted with Lou Gehrig's disease; Tom spoke with the man on a regular basis. As I was going through chemo, I found out Tom was calling my wife to find out how I was doing. You couldn't have a better friend, especially if you're sick. When Will McDonough passed, Tom made sure he attended Will's funeral. Another notable coach who absolutely should've been in attendance was not. Tom built his reputation on being hard on the healthy, but the real Tom is the one who is soft on the sick.
Jack from Jacksonville, FL
Watching a University of Miami receiver pose for cameras after catching a touchdown to narrow the deficit to 30 reminded me a little of middle linebacker Mike Peterson flexing after making a routine tackle against the Bengals with the Jaguars trailing 21-3. What did you think at the time of Del Rio's reaction to Peterson's display? Have your thoughts changed since then?
Jack's reaction was spot on, I just wish he had delivered his message to Mike in person instead of in a team meeting, which created an unnecessary confrontation. Mike was as dedicated a football player as I ever covered. He allowed frustration to spill over into a silly display. Frankly, all of these silly displays and body language expressions are inappropriate at any and all times of a game.
Joseph from California
Would you be comfortable sharing a fond memory of Tunch Ilkin with us? I'll respectfully understand if it's still too tender of a time to reflect.
He was every writer's go-to guy. I always felt as though my questions were welcome and he never answered any of them in a dismissive way. He was a reporter's dream and a friend to all. I remember Tunch for being one of the first tackles to use the squat stance in obvious passing situations. Tunch played in what I call the Steelers' forgotten era. He arrived after the Steelers had won four Super Bowls. Similarly, he followed the legendary Myron Cope into the broadcast booth. I guess you could say Tunch was given big shoes to fill twice, and he must've done a pretty good job of it because he enjoyed a long and distinguished career in both capacities. One of the truly good guys has passed, but the memories he provided live in those he touched.
Roger from Chesterton, IN
What’s the best depth in a position you’ve ever seen?
Bradshaw, Gilliam, Hanratty.
Lane from Winter Garden, FL
Vic, Meyer signed six WRs to the practice squad. Does he have a feel for the NFL or is he just figuring it out as he goes?
I'm only seeing five, but that's still Nutsville. In Meyer's defense, a rebuilding team such as the Jaguars will have a very fluid practice squad throughout the season, as they continue their search for talent at any position that might upgrade the roster, but I've never considered wide receiver to be a tough place to find talent. I've always favored using the practice squad to store and develop big guys, especially offensive linemen. If you're looking for talent, that's where you begin because that's where the supply is shortest. Wide receivers? Dime a dozen.
Michael from Moberly, MO
You have previously mentioned your admiration for Joe Whitt Jr. I have been able to witness him on this season of "Hard Knocks". He is an impressive communicator; I could easily see how you think he has serious leadership potential. I hope his career is not negatively impacted by the offensive obsession. It seems that quality defensive coaches aren’t getting the looks needed to advance because everyone wants the next McVay.
How about the next Belichick?
Kasey from Charlotte, NC
Did you see the panel interview Tom Brady had? For the readers who didn’t, he had an interesting take on the evolution of the game since he started. He said the biggest changes he’s seen with the player safety movement has been the onus on player safety has been put unfairly on the defense. When he first started in the NFL, he wouldn’t make certain throws against certain teams/coverages because it could result in his receivers being hit hard. But now since the league has cracked down on hitting, offensive players take chances with throws or maybe don’t slide because they know they’re going to be protected and there isn’t much the defense can do. What do you think?
We knew all of that. Rules changes have always unfairly attacked the defense. Mel Blount was personally attacked. Think of the safeties that were effectively legislated out of the game. Deacon Jones' head slap. Hines Ward's peel-back block is one of the few limits on the offense. The game had to be softened, and it still has miles to go. Going low on a receiver as he's catching the ball can cripple a player. Why isn't that included in the "defenseless receiver" rules? The custodians of the game have to lead it in a positive direction without damaging its allure. How far is too far? That's the question they have to answer. I would also ask: Can it be done?
Bill from Sheboygan, WI
What did you think of the Penn State-Wisconsin game?
Random thoughts: Why did Paul Chryst run out the clock at the end of the first half? He was in attack territory. ... Wisconsin lacks skill-position players on offense; that's nothing new. ... I don't agree with the targeting penalty and I think it's palpably unfair to ice a kicker with a 10-minute review that revealed nothing. ... Penn State has big-time athletes on defense. ... Why does James Franklin continue to run that read-option offense without a running quarterback? ... What did the Big 10 have to gain by sending Ohio State and Penn State into ambush openers against the weak Western Division? Jim Leonhard will be the head coach at Wisconsin, and it might happen sooner than later. He knew what he was doing when he snubbed the Packers.
Hannah from McFarland, WI
What is an in-line tight end compared to whatever the other kind of tight end is?
An in-line tight end is tight to the formation. The other kind is split wide or in the slot or in motion, etc. He's more of a scheme tight end or a matchup wide receiver. As far as I'm concerned, if he's not tight to the formation, he's not a tight end.
Mike from Chicago, IL
Thanks for your insight on football and otherwise. Toward the otherwise, it seems you are liberal on a lot of things. I was just curious, were you always like that or was it something that just happened over time?
Franklin of Ames, IA
What’s the best gift you’ve ever given without realizing what you were giving?
I gave my two sons the gift of life, but I wasn't thinking of it as I was doing it.