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Asked and Answered: Dec. 19

Posted Dec 19, 2017

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

Let’s get to it:

GREGG MCGILLIVRAY FROM WILMINGTON, DE:
The catch was made. He ran with the ball then fell but was not down by contact. The ball broke the plane of the goal line. How is that not a touchdown?

ANSWER: I’m with you 100 percent. This might make you angrier than you already are, but copy this link and paste it into your browser. Go to the site and watch what I believe is the exact same type of situation, only this one was ruled a touchdown on the field, was automatically reviewed, and the ruling on the field stood. It’s an Xavier Grimble touchdown from a game vs. the Bengals at Heinz Field in 2016:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap3000000704268/Xavier-Grimble-dives-into-the-end-zone-for-a-20-yard-touchdown

CHAZ KELICAN FROM WARDENSVILLE, WV:
I get the catch rule, don't like it, I think the NFL is controlling play too much. Let the great plays go, it’s better entertainment. My question: on the Jesse James "catch", during replay did anyone see actual evidence the ball was on the ground? I saw it move but could not see if his other hand was under the ball. Not conclusive in my mind.

ANSWER: To me, that was the whole point. One of the cornerstones of the replay rule when it was initially implemented was that there needed to be clear, indisputable video evidence to overturn a call made on the field. That standard was thrown out the window years ago, and now it’s just guys in New York making it up as they go along and then finding language in the rule book to justify their decisions in the aftermath.

BRUNO STOECKLI FROM VERO BEACH, FL:
Coming back to the overturned touchdown by Jesse James: it seems to me the ball was not in the end zone when his knee touched the ground. Wouldn’t that be a second-and-goal from the half-yard line?

ANSWER: In the NFL, the guy with the ball isn’t down until he’s touched by a defender. Jesse James hadn’t been touched by a defender, and so he wasn’t down when his knee hit the ground.

HECTOR CASTANON FROM STATEN ISLAND, NY:
How is it the ground can't cause a fumble while rushing, but the ground can cause an incomplete pass? Also, in a rushing play breaking the plane of the goal line is a touchdown, but during Jesse James’ catch breaking the plane is not. Why?

ANSWER: I have no answer for you on that one. Truly and sincerely, I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation for that, and I doubt that there is one. A reasonable one, I mean.

MARK DIXON FROM LEWISBERRY, PA:
When a player is injured, as what happened with Antonio Brown, do the players on the field get updates of his status, or is the focus strictly on the game?

ANSWER: The focus remains on the game.

CHRIS TOPHE FROM ANTWERP, BELGIUM:
Let's forget about Jesse James' catch for a second. Yes, the fake spike was a bad call and rather poorly executed. However, it sure looked as if Eli Rogers was tripped (maybe accidentally) by the pursuing defender. Shouldn't that have been pass interference?

ANSWER: Held, too. And you saw that all the way from Belgium. Funny how the pack of zebras on the field didn’t.

MATTHEW POWNALL FROM FORT MYERS, FL:
Since the Steelers can still win home-field advantage if they win and the Patriots lose, when does the conversation on sitting starters begin?

ANSWERS: Unless and until the Steelers get to a point in the regular season where their playoff positioning is guaranteed but there still is a game left to be played, that conversation will not happen.

JOSHUA CAMPBELL FROM CINCINNATI, OH:
What is the status of Tyler Matakevich? Will he be back for the playoffs?

ANSWER: Tyler Matakevich was active for the game against New England and played on special teams.

JON HUGHES FROM EAST HADDAM, CT:
If I recall correctly, Marcus Gilbert has returned from his four-week suspension. Will Chris Hubbard be replaced by Gilbert? Personally I believe that Hubbard has done an amazing job as the second string right tackle and should remain in the starting lineup.

ANSWER: I have heard a couple of Steelers assistant coaches refer to Gilbert as the best right tackle in the league, and so my guess would be that Gilbert returns to the starting lineup. Putting Gilbert in the starting lineup also would free up Hubbard to go back to the role of an extra blocking tight end, which helps the running game tremendously.

TODD JOHNSON FROM LANCASTER, PA:
I know part of the reason you praise T.J. Watt is because of his pass defense. Did he cover Rob Gronkowski at all, and if not how do you think he would do well knowing he had to cover him every down?

ANSWER: I wasn’t watching the game with that specific matchup in mind, and so I cannot say for sure if, or how often, T.J. Watt was used in coverage on Rob Gronkowski. I have praised Watt for his coverage skills, but that praise was offered with the caveat that Watt is an outside linebacker. The Steelers once assigned Troy Polamalu to cover Gronkowski, and Polamalu was a safety, an NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and a future Hall of Fame inductee, and he couldn’t shut him down. Gronkowski has been a matchup nightmare for NFL defenses from the day he was drafted into the league. I don’t know that anybody on any team has the answer.

BRUCE WILSON FROM MEMPHIS, TN:
Rule 11 Section 2 Article 2(a) “A touchdown is scored when the ball is on, above, or behind the plane of the opponents’ goal line (extended) and is in possession of a runner who has advanced from the field of play into the end zone. (b) a ball in possession of an airborne runner is on, above, or behind the plane of the goal line, and some part of the ball passed over or inside the pylon”. In Jessie James’ case, he caught the ball (no dispute) and stretched across the goal line (no dispute), This should be the end of the discussion. What happens after that is immaterial. To clarify...the bobble came after the touchdown was made so why did the referees re-litigate the catch?

ANSWER: I think your mistake is injecting logic into this. I’ve made that mistake myself in cases involving NFL officials and officiating. Gets me every time.

CHAD LEE FROM FRUITLAND, IA:
I have a feeling that if we win the Super Bowl, Ben Roethlisberger will retire. If he does retire, who would be the leading candidate to be the starting quarterback in 2018?

ANSWER: Get back to me IF the Steelers win the Super Bowl and IF Ben Roethlisberger then retires.

BURGESS COFFIELD FROM KAYSVILLE, UT:
It was obvious Sean Davis (6-foot-1, 210) was no physical match for Rob Gronkowski (6-6, 265). So why don't the Steelers take the next two or three weeks and practice Jesse James (6-7, 261) at inside linebacker. If we play New England again, he can cover Gronk. The answer is so simple I'm not sure why I'm the first to think of it.

ANSWER: Pure genius.

KWEKU HAYFORD FROM SILVER SPRING, MD:
I know you hate change position questions, but if teams can put a tight end in the end zone for Hail Marys, why can’t the Steelers double Rob Gronkowski with Jesse James and a cornerback? This way you have someone matching the fast moves, AND you have someone who can jump up for a contested catch and at least knock it down (maybe intercept it). There is less field to cover.

ANSWER: Heaven help us.




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