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Asked and Answered: Feb. 9

Posted Feb 9, 2017

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

Let’s get to it:

BILL TODD FROM LINWOOD, NJ:
I was impressed with how well our rookies – Artie Burns, Sean Davis, and Javon Hargrave – played as the year went on. When was the last time the Steelers had three rookies starting on its defense?

ANSWER: It was 1971, and the rookies were named Dwight White, Jack Ham, and Mike Wagner.

JOHN TEDESCO FROM MUSKOGEE, OK:
Do we know what happened with Justin Gilbert?

ANSWER: If you’re referring to why the Steelers cut him on Feb. 6, I have a decent idea. The rookie contract Justin Gilbert signed with the Browns in 2014 included a $1.2 million roster bonus to be paid in 2017 along with a salary of $970,023. For a player who hadn’t done anything with this team yet, the Steelers saw that as too high a price to pay, when there are going to have to be salary cap dollars allocated to Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown this offseason for sure, along with getting ready to deal with the expiring contracts of Stephon Tuitt and Ryan Shazier. The Steelers are not opposed to having Gilbert competing for a roster spot in 2017, but not at that guaranteed price. They have not closed the door on Gilbert’s return, but it would have to be at a lesser price than $2.2 million for 2017.

RONALD WALL FROM SHADY VALLEY, TN:
In the aftermath of the AFC Championship Game should the Steelers look into getting a new defensive coordinator? There appeared to be a lack of adjustments. The zone approach doesn't seem to work.

ANSWER: Tell me, what approach would you suggest? Man-to-man? Like the Falcons used in Super Bowl LI? How did that work out for them? Tom Brady completed 69.4 percent of his passes for 466 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots scored 31 points in the second half plus the first possession of overtime, and four of those scoring drives were 13 plays for 75 yards, 12 plays for 72 yards, 10 plays for 91 yards, and eight plays for 62 yards. Now you’re going to tell me that the Falcons defense was fine in the first half, but that they just got tired in the second half because they played so many snaps. You know how you fix that? Stop them on a third down to get off the field, and then those defensive players can sit their butts on the bench and rest.

I am so weary of the theory that there is some magical scheme that’s going to prove to be Tom Brady’s kryptonite. It’s not the Xs and the Os, boys and girls, it’s the Jimmys and the Joes. Whatever the plan is, it must be executed at a high level, and it must be executed for 60 minutes, maybe longer. The Steelers didn’t come close to doing that, and the Falcons did it for a half. The outcomes were the same. Maybe you’d feel better losing, 34-28, in overtime after blowing a 28-3 lead, than you’d feel losing, 36-17, and never being in the game. To me, the margin is meaningless. A loss is a loss.

ANTHONY LAROSA FROM WEST HEMPSTEAD, NY:
So now that Super Bowl LI has been decided, and we all got a chance to see what a team that plays man coverage and has four down linemen who can bring pressure can do against the Patriots, do the Steelers now try to follow that blueprint?

ANSWER: You mean the blueprint that allowed 34 points in a loss? The Steelers’ defense was awful, and it allowed 36 points in a loss. Good idea. Those two points were critical.

ERIC SMITH FROM ORANGE, CT:
Since it’s being said repeatedly that the Steelers don't have defensive backs with man-to-man coverage skills, do you know why, as the Steelers rebuilt their defense over the past few years, they didn't draft, sign as free agents, and/or develop players with those skills?

ANSWER: You don’t “develop” cornerbacks and safeties with the kind of man-to-man coverage skills you’re talking about, the kind that can lock up receivers all over the field against a quarterback like Tom Brady. Players either come into the NFL with the requisite skills to play that style, or they don’t. How many of those kinds of players would you guess are available in a typical draft class? Now, how many of those kinds of players do you believe the Steelers have had a chance to draft? You talk like shut-down cornerbacks grow on trees. There might be one or two in an entire draft class. There is no such thing as a shut-down cornerback tree you can just visit and pluck a couple of them off the low-hanging branches.

WESLEY PLANTHABER FROM HUNTINGDON, PA:
Senquez Golson was drafted as a slot corner, but he has been injured and has not played a snap in the regular season. How does that work with a four-year contract? Do those years count toward his free agency?

ANSWER: Yes. Senquez Golson’s four-year contract, which he signed as a rookie in 2015, is set to expire following the 2018 season.

STEVE THATCHER FROM CRETE, NE:
With the new rules in overtime, if you win the toss and drive down and kick a field goal, can you then end the game with a successful onside kick.

ANSWER: Yes. You are correct. In that scenario, the team that kicked the field goal and then recovered the ensuing onside kick would win the game.

TONY MORRISON FROM PORTLAND, OR:
What does UPMC stand for?

ANSWER: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

SCOTT BLANKENSHIP FROM FAIRVIEW, NC:
I live about an hour from Mars Hill, obviously not a college football powerhouse. It was nice to see Johnny Maxey get a shot at making the Steelers and was excited for the kid making the practice squad. Seeing him added to the roster and get some playing time must have been a dream come true for the young man. How did he perform in the limited opportunity he saw, and what does his future look like in the NFL?

ANSWER: When he was on the field, Johnny Maxey looked like he belonged, which is a significant factor for a player from a place like Mars Hill. His future in the NFL is going to be up to him. As far as his ceiling, I believe we’ll have a much better idea when training camp rolls around in late July.

RYAN FUNK FROM ELKTON, MD:
What is Pittsburgh's intention with Le’Veon Bell? As a Pittsburgh fan, I'd love to keep him. Should I be investing in his jersey or Antonio Brown’s.

ANSWER: Buy both.

JON JEWELL FROM ROCKFORD, MI:
Are any Steelers coaches on the short lists for positions/promotions with other teams?

ANSWER: No.

MARY KAMIENSKI FROM MONTVILLE, NJ:
When will the 2017 schedule be posted? I need to make reservations in my timeshare in Pittsburgh. We only make one game per year, and it's really expensive when I have to pay for the rooms. I haven't been able to use my timeshare yet because I don't book early enough.

ANSWER: The NFL typically releases the dates and times for the upcoming regular season around the middle of April. Last year, the exact date was April 14.

CHUCK LIPTZ FROM OWINGS MILLS, MD:
At halftime of games at Heinz Field, why do the Steelers walk down a set of steps to exit the playing field instead of walking through the tunnel with no steps? Maybe it's because I'm getting old, but steps are harder on my legs.

ANSWER: Based on the configuration of Heinz Field, down those few steps is the quickest, most direct route to the locker room. Since halftime is exactly 12 minutes long, time matters in that situation.

ZARED HOLLABAUGH FROM JESSUP, MD:
Now that it's the offseason do you tend to receive more questions that make you question the future of humanity?

ANSWER: There have been a number of recent current events that have me questioning the future/intelligence of humanity, but in terms of questions posed to me via this forum I would have to say, yes.

MIKE BURNS FROM YORBA LINDA, CA:
Do you think maybe we should be looking for a new head coach? It seems like we play the same zone defense every time we play New England, and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick laugh at us and pick us apart. I also get the feeling that Ben Roethlisberger would like to see a change as well.

ANSWER: Zared, I included this one just for you. To prove my point.




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