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Asked and Answered: Dec. 7

Posted Dec 7, 2017

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

Let’s get to it:

ANDREW BAKER FROM SUFFIELD, OH:
You have expressed your opinion that Cam Sutton is not ready, even indicating once or twice that you are surprised he is on the roster. After one half of a game, are you ready to eat crow?

ANSWER: You have boiled down my previous comments, and I again will provide some context to those. Cam Sutton, the first of the Steelers’ two third-round picks in the most recent draft, was plagued by a hamstring injury that limited his ability to participate in on-field drills through much of the offseason program, through even more of training camp, and all but a handful of snaps over the four preseason games. When he was able to practice, Sutton gave indications that he could become an asset to the secondary, but so much of playing in the NFL is knowing what to see and where to be, and the absence of physical repetition for rookies is a recipe for disaster.

Because of that persistent hamstring injury, Sutton began the season on the injured reserve list, and then during the 21-day window when he was allowed to practice in an attempt to convince Mike Tomlin to designate him as a player to return and add him to the 53-man roster he was able to practice daily while also showing the coaching staff he had stayed up-to-date mentally on assignments within the scheme of the defense. Then when Marcus Gilbert was suspended for four games for taking a banned substance, a roster spot was opened and it became a no-brainer to have Sutton fill that spot. Had Gilbert not been suspended, maybe Sutton still would’ve been added to the roster, but that’s nothing but speculation at this point.

Add in Joe Haden’s injury and Mike Mitchell’s injury and the trickle-down impact of fewer defensive backs on special teams, and that’s why Sutton was made active for games immediately after being added to the roster. And then in the game against the Bengals, well, desperate times demand desperate measures. With A.J. Green torturing Coty Sensabaugh, Mike Tomlin made a move at halftime. Yes, Sutton broke up a pass for Green on the first play of the third quarter, and Green didn’t add receptions or any yards to the seven catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns he managed in the first half. But it’s foolish to assume Sutton was solely responsible for that, and it’s also true Green had a 61-yard touchdown catch nullified by a holding penalty on Gio Bernard.

Sutton has exceeded expectations – and I’m talking about the expectations of people who matter, of which I am definitely not one – and he has shown he can be a contributor, but I advise you and other Steelers fans to keep in mind that he’s a rookie with very limited exposure to NFL football.

CHRIS GRIMES FROM MASSILLON, OH:
When I was looking at the individual statistics from the Bengals game, Ben Roethlisberger was listed as having one reception for 4 yards. I wonder when this occurred? Maybe I missed it.

ANSWER: Or maybe the statistics you were viewing were incorrect. Ben Roethlisberger had no receptions in the game against the Bengals. He did have one rushing attempt for 4 yards, which converted a critical third-and-4 on the third quarter drive that ended with Le’Veon Bell’s 35-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.

RICHARD THOMAS FROM WILKES BARRE, PA:
With the visors players wear on their helmets, is it the player or the league who decides if it is tinted or clear?

ANSWER: Tinted visors have to be approved by the league. Clear visors do not.

VINCE GRABOWSKI FROM RACINE, WI:
With the exception of the few games that they each missed during their careers, how many consecutive cumulative games and what years did Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster, and Dermontti Dawson combine to start at center?

ANSWER: Ray Mansfield came to the Steelers in 1964, but he didn’t become the starting center until 1966, and his final season as the starting center was 1975. He retired following the 1976 season. Mike Webster was a fifth-round draft choice in 1974, and he played some guard as a rookie before splitting games at center with Mansfield in 1975 – Mansfield played the first and third quarters, while Webster played the second and fourth quarters. Webster became the full-time starting center in 1976 and held the job through the 1988 season. Dawson was a second-round pick in 1988, and he started his professional career as a right guard, but he took over for Webster at center in 1989, and he held that job through the 2000 season. So how many consecutive cumulative games is that? A lot.

MARK STIMMELL FROM FERRY PASS, FL:
What will happen if we lose the game to New England Patriots?

ANSWER: I can tell you what won’t happen: the world will not end.

PAUL WILLIAMSON FROM RICHMOND, VA:
I used to think there was a fine or something for when a player tosses a ball or gives it to a fan in the stands. Perhaps not a fine, but does the player have to pay out of his pocket if he does give the ball away?

ANSWER: Throwing the ball into the stands used to draw a fine because it was seen as a potential danger to the fans from people fighting over the football. Handing the ball to a fan is not a fine, and players do not have to pay for the football.

ITHAN ZIMMER FROM EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ:
Regarding the question asked on other coaches interviewed when Mike Tomlin was hired, wasn't Ken Whisenhunt in the mix? I seem to recall his name in there.

ANSWER: I didn’t attempt to list everyone interviewed but only to provide the names of the people who deserved to be considered finalists. Early on in the process to hire Bill Cowher’s successor, the Arizona Cardinals wanted to interview Ken Whisenhunt for their job opening, and the Steelers encouraged Whisenhunt to do so.

MARK LABASH FROM TULSA, OK:
I have read several reporters who believe that Eli Manning would be a great choice for Ben Roethlisberger's backup. What are your feelings about that?

ANSWER: I’m sure I’ve heard stupider things, but I can’t think of what they are right off the top of my head. First of all, to you and the many others who are torturing me with this Eli Manning stuff: Eli Manning is under contract to the New York Giants through the 2019 season and thus isn’t scheduled to become a free agent until he’s 39 years old. My guess – since Giants have fired Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese – is that Manning will finish his career with the franchise that drafted him, and if he’s going to be a backup/mentor, it will be to the player the Giants tab as their quarterback of the future.

JOE KIBLER FROM SOUTHPORT, NC:
I was watching other games Sunday due to Steelers playing on Monday, and in the Giants vs. Raiders game, Geno Smith was strip-sacked by Khalil Mack and the play was reviewed. During live play and certainly watching the replay, it was evident to me that Mack swiped right down the facemask of Smith. First, is that legal? Second, if not, then could the referee not review all aspects of the play and reverse the turnover?

ANSWER: Penalties are not reviewable. Not penalties that are called, or penalties that are missed.

ALEX ABERNETHY FROM ZANESVILLE, OH:
Please help me settle an argument: Predict the score of a game between the best team in college football (let's say Clemson) played the worst tam in the NFL (let's say the Browns). I say Browns, 56-0.

ANSWER: I will answer this question with a question: How many NFL players are on the best college team in the country in any given season, and by that I mean how many actually will make an NFL roster? Ten? Twenty? No more than that. How many NFL players are on the worst team’s roster in the league? Fifty-three. You might contend that those 53 stink compared to other NFL players, but they’re still NFL players. Pick any score you like, but the NFL team will win handily.




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