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Asked and Answered: Feb. 14

Posted Feb 14, 2017

Another installment of Bob Labriola answering your questions about the Steelers and the NFL.

Let’s get to it:

SCOTT BARSHINGER FROM WELLSVILLE, PA:
I know that with the Steelers using a lot of Chris Hubbard this past season as an extra blocking tight end, he did a lot of reporting in to the referee when entering the game. Is that something that must be done prior to each play?

ANSWER: The concept of having Chris Hubbard, or another lineman, check in as an eligible receiver has to do with the concept of competitive fairness. In the NFL, players wear jersey numbers that correspond to the positions they play, and so if a team wants to deviate from that and have a guy with a traditional non-eligible jersey number line up in a position where by rule he becomes eligible to go out for a pass, that player has to check in with the referee, and then the referee notifies the opposing team. Hubbard, or any other player in a similar situation, has to report to the referee for every play in which he lines up in an eligible position. If it’s first-and-10, and Hubbard reports to the referee, and then on the very next play if he’s still in the game he has to report to the referee again. Every time, he must report.

Here’s the other side of that rule: a player who reported as eligible on first down cannot go back and then play a non-eligible position on second down, unless there has been a stoppage of play – timeout, end of the quarter, touchdown scored, etc. If a guy reports as eligible on first down, leaves the field for second down, he then could come back in to the game and play a non-eligible position on third down.

JOSH HERSHBERGER FROM MIDDLEBURY, IN:
What is your opinion on adding strength to the offense by drafting another running back or perhaps a fullback? Adding to the position would give diversity to the offense, while creating another threat for Ben Roethlisberger to work with.

ANSWER: You’re really asking two different questions, but let me start with this: I’m not drafting a fullback. Rosie Nix is good enough at the job, and having two on the roster is a waste of a spot. As for drafting a running back, I’m in favor of that but only as a guy who becomes Le’Veon Bell’s backup. Forget the concept of a two-back offense where both guys run the ball and catch the ball, because in that situation one guy also has to be blocking for the other, and players coming into the NFL these days don’t have that skill-set.

DREW KACZMAREK FROM LAS CRUCES, NM:
Can a team at the beginning of overtime attempt an onside kick? If the team recovers the onside kick and moves into position to kick a field goal and makes it, is the game over?

ANSWER: Yes.

BARRY BERNARDO FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA:
Who are the teams the Steelers play next year?

ANSWER: In addition to the home-and-home series against the three AFC North opponents – Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Cleveland – the Steelers’ other five home games are against Green Bay, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New England, and Tennessee. Their other five road games are against Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, and Kansas City. The dates and times of the games figure to be announced by the NFL sometime around the middle of April. Last year that announcement came on April 14.

MIKE UNDERWOOD HUNTSVILLE, AL:
Are the Steelers going to re-sign Zach Mettenberger? If not, why?

ANSWER: Zach Mettenberger is under contract for the 2017 season at a base salary of $690,000. The Steelers do not need to make any decision on re-signing him until one calendar year from now.

LAYNE PENROD FROM RIVERDALE, UT:
If you had to pick just one, what would be the single most important thing the Steelers need to do in the offseason to make sure they continue down this path of success?

ANSWER: In terms of a personnel move(s), it would be to add to their ability to rush the passer.

JAMIE MOYER FROM LAREDO, TX:
It seems that, save the few games he played this season, Ladarius Green was unable to help in the manner in which Mike Tomlin and his staff had hoped. Jesse James and Xavier Grimble were very capable, and while neither comes close to Heath Miller, he was never a stretch-the-field guy either. Does it make sense to keep Green on the roster given how well Jesse James has played, especially the last half of the season? And the fact that Martavis Bryant should return.

ANSWER: There is no need to make a decision on Ladarius Green’s future with the Steelers now. Rosters are at 90 players, and so there’s no shortage of spots. He’s not getting paid until the regular season starts, so there’s no money to be saved. In terms of the cap, it might be worse to cut the guy now because of the dead money that would be assessed based on the signing bonus the team gave him last March. And what if whatever health issues ruined his 2016 are not a factor in 2017?

LORI VERNA FROM NORTH HUNTINGDON, PA:
Other than Le’Veon Bell, which free agents are the most important for the Steelers to re-sign?

ANSWER: First, I’m only going to deal with the guys who are unrestricted free agents, because movement in the other categories is all but non-existent. In my opinion, that list would include James Harrison, Landry Jones, Markus Wheaton, and Ricardo Mathews. Harrison is the only starter on that list, but bringing the other three guys back would lessen or eliminate the urgency to add guys at quarterback, wide receiver and as a backup defensive lineman.




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