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Asked and Answered: Game Day Week 5

Posted Oct 8, 2017

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

Let’s get to it:

TIM GAYDOSH FROM MOUNT AIRY, NC:
In a recent article/interview with Ryan Shazier, he talked about “going underneath blocks.” What does that mean? I get the idea of being out of position and staying in the scheme but haven't heard that term before.

ANSWER: In my mind, the phrase “going underneath blocks” refers to the defender getting himself in the area in between the blocker and the guy with the ball. Rather than take on the blocker head-on, defenders who have the quickness and speed can avoid what often is a physical mismatch and still get the guy on the ground. If you’re Ryan Shazier, you have a chance to go underneath blocks and still do your job, but when players try that tactic and fail it can create a huge gash in the defense that could allow the back to break off a big gain.

SCOTT JAMES FROM SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA:
What is Ryan Shazier's contract status with the team? He is a absolute weapon and has to be one of the most underrated linebackers in the league.

ANSWER: Shazier was a first-round pick in 2014, and under the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, first-round picks sign four-year contracts that include a team option for a fifth year. The Steelers already have exercised that option, and so Shazier is bound to the team through the 2018 season, and he is scheduled to earn $8.7 million in 2018. Of course, the Steelers and Shazier could negotiate an extension, and I expect talks to happen following the 2017 season.

JIM REICH FROM YARDLEY, PA:
I know that others have chimed in about this issue, but I think it deserves further consideration. This deals with the number of carries Le’Veon Bell got last Sunday in Baltimore (35). I get that the coaches want to get Bell going, and with that, the running game. I also recall last year's game in Buffalo where he got a similar number of touches. He broke records, all right. But I have to wonder how many hits a guy can take. I am old enough to remember Earl Campbell. He was a phenom for several years, running around and through people, but defenses stacked up against him. It wasn't that long before Campbell was just whipped. I recall also that Art Rooney II was upset with the number of times Ben Roethlisberger was being hit and sacked. Ben is hit much less frequently. I know Roethlisberger is the franchise quarterback, but isn't Bell a tremendous asset as well? Can't they spell him with James Conner and Terrell Watson more often?

ANSWER: I wish the fans who complain about the Steelers “taking their foot off the gas” would get together with the “pull Le’Veon Bell from the game more often” and figure out which way they want to go. Then once y’all have figured it out, get in touch with the “why does Le’Veon Bell get Wednesdays off” faction and come up with a comprehensive opinion/plan. Remember, last Sunday was a critical game against the Ravens in Baltimore – a division rival and an AFC opponent, both of which are critical in the tiebreakers system – and my suspicion is that you looked at it in hindsight and decided that 35 carries was too many. OK, maybe it was a lot, but when precisely would you have pulled Bell? To me, the game was too close throughout and the running attack was too important to the Steelers’ success to be messing around with backups, and then at the end of the game Bell was needed to close things out. Thirty-five carries per game is too many on a consistent basis, but if it’s necessary to win a game, then it’s necessary to win a game. You gonna write me to complain if Bell carries it 42 times in a win over the Patriots? Oh, and you cannot compare a quarterback taking hits and a running back taking hits. Different job descriptions.

MANNY CARULLA FROM TWIN FALLS, ID:
There's a lot of talk circling the return of Cam Sutton. While I am a fan of him and his potential, I don't necessarily see the team bending over backwards to push him into the lineup (barring a crazy injury bug biting the secondary). He would first have to beat out Coty Sensabaugh and Brian Allen, both of whom have game tape showing their worthiness on special teams. Sensabaugh "was deserving" of a roster spot in Mike Tomlin's words, along with his six years of experience in the league. Sutton supposedly is eligible to return from injured reserve for the game against the Colts on Nov. 12. That equates to 10 fewer weeks of actual game time and padded practice than the two aforementioned defensive backs. Am I crazy to think that barring multiple injuries Sutton is going to be considered a practice squad body, at least for the 2017 season?

ANSWER: You’re crazy to be worrying about this now, that’s for sure. One thing you should understand about the way Dan Rooney taught the decision-makers to operate is that you never make a decision until it’s time to make a decision. It’s not that time yet, and there’s almost a full month of practices and games before it’ll be time to make some decision involving Cam Sutton. What I can guarantee you is that there’s no way Sutton is a practice squad player this season, because in order to become a practice squad player this season he would have to be exposed to waivers where he could be claimed by any of the other 31 teams.

CHAD BRISLEY FROM KENNERDELL, PA:
I know that the defense dictates where the ball goes, but why have we fallen head-over-heels with the big play. Why can’t the Steelers make an effort at long, time consuming drives that result in points on the scoreboard. Wouldn't this open up lanes down the field and in result help Le’Veon Bell in the run game?

ANSWER: First of all, I have a feeling that your complaint isn’t so much about going deep as it is with going deep with the pass being incomplete. You don’t really have anything against that kind of play necessarily; you just hate it when it doesn’t work. No offense can rely solely on long, time-consuming drives, simply because the players on those offenses are human and therefore not perfect. The difference between a 72-yard touchdown pass and a 10-play, 72-yard touchdown drive is nine more opportunities for a drive-killing offensive penalty, nine more opportunities for a player on the defense to make a big play, nine more opportunities for a turnover, nine more opportunities for somebody on offense to make a drive-killing mistake. A 10-play drive for a touchdown requires the offense to execute 10 straight plays, but one big play only requires the offense to execute once. Attacking down the field is somewhat like running the football in that if the defense doesn’t respect your ability to do it, or at least respect your willingness to try, then everything else you try to do will become more difficult.

BOB HASTIE FROM DESTIN, FL:
Can you post transcripts for Asked and Answered Live?

ANSWER: The full transcripts for Asked and Answered Live are posted on Steelers.com immediately after the live session is over. If you go to Steelers.com and click on any of the previous installments that are listed on the home page under my picture, there will be a list of all of the archived installments on the right side if you’re interested in catching up. Enjoy.

EUGENE MCLAUGHLIN FROM DONEGAL, IRELAND:
Mine is not really a question, but I just wanted to say I think Antonio Brown was fully justified in tossing that cooler last Sunday. He was obviously thirsty, and the cooler was empty. I think I would have had the same reaction.

ANSWER: Thank you for being the only person to get right to the heart of this issue. And imagine if the cooler had been filled, but it was the wrong flavor of Gatorade? Oh, the humanity.




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