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Asked and Answered: Game Day Week 6

Posted Oct 15, 2017

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

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Let’s get to it:

MICHAEL PETE FROM MORENO VALLEY, CA:
It seems to me every time there is a question about why James Harrison isn't getting any playing time you state that it's because of the play of T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, and Anthony Chickillo. My question is how do we know if Harrison still has it or doesn't if he is not even given the chance to play.

ANSWER: You do understand that this is a coaching decision and not a fan poll, right? Evaluations have been ongoing since the start of the offseason program, and what we’re seeing in terms of playing time is the outcome of all of that. But I do believe you’re going to get a chance to see James Harrison against the Chiefs today because of the success he has had going against Kansas City left tackle Eric Fisher. In the AFC Divisional Round last season, Harrison had six tackles, including three for loss, the Steelers’ only sack, and two hits on the quarterback.

When I asked Mike Tomlin if he was going to play Harrison against the Ravens because of his history of success against that team, he said, “It’s not that James plays well against the Ravens, but it’s the matchups within the game. It’s the physical matchups. How does James perform against a certain tackle is usually a determinant in having those types of discussions. Yes, those discussions are had. The personnel elements of the matchups are continually discussed, not only in the early portions of the week but also in-game. A couple of weeks ago we saw that T.J. Watt was faring pretty well against Joe Thomas, better than maybe we anticipated. The matchups themselves are continually discussed, prior to the game and in-game.”

The matchup vs. Eric Fisher will have Harrison in the lineup today. We’ll see what happens.

WILLIAM HEISE JR. FROM SUMTER, SC:
What do you think about James Harrison, T.J. Watt, Ryan Shazier, and Bud Dupree being the starting linebackers?

ANSWER: Very little.

ANDREW STINNETT FROM KNOXVILLE, TN:
I see that Joshua Dobbs is inactive this week, did he get hurt? And is Ben Roethlisberger helping him along to becoming a good quarterback?

ANSWER: Joshua Dobbs is the No. 3 quarterback, and the No. 3 quarterback very rarely is in uniform on game day. The only occasion in which a team might have a No. 3 quarterback in uniform on a game day is if the starter is injured but is still going to try to play. And while it’s a romantic notion of veteran players mentoring younger players – and this does happen – it’s rarely to the extent fans may believe. Veterans can, and do, serve as an example to younger players, but most of the hardcore work in developing young players is the job of the position coach, which Dobbs didn’t have in college, by the way.

During practice every day, during special teams periods especially, Dobbs can be seen on an adjacent field working with quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner, and sometimes coordinator Todd Haley, on his fundamentals. Things such as footwork, arm and body positioning, delivery, etc., are drilled. Also, Dobbs has taken to heart some advice Mike Tomlin gave him several weeks ago.

Tomlin told Dobbs that as the No. 3 quarterback during an NFL regular season, he’s virtually a practice squad player because of the limited opportunities to get meaningful 11-on-11 work when the focus is on getting the team ready to face the upcoming opponent. Tomlin advised Dobbs that the way for him to take advantage of the situation was to find a receiver and convince him to stay after practice and work on routes with him. Since then, Dobbs has taken that advice to heart and can be seen out on the field working with one of the wide receivers after everyone else is gone. One day it was Darrius Heyward-Bey, and earlier this week it was Antonio Brown.

MIKE FOSTER FROM EWA BEACH, HI:
The Steelers have given up 139.6 passing yards per game and 136.6 rushing yards per game, which makes them No. 1 against the pass (I'm a sarcastic optimist). This past game was the first time all 11 projected starters played defense together all year, preseason included, right? Is it strange to think that it may take a little time for them to gel and improve in time?

ANSWER: Especially when it comes to stopping the run, Mike Tomlin believes the experience gained by playing together is a significant factor. I asked him a couple of weeks ago: When a team generally plays decent run defense but then gives up a few long runs, what’s usually going on with that group?

Tomlin answered, “Lack of continuity. That’s usually the case. In our case, we have some new pieces in the puzzle. J.J. Wilcox, who has played quite a bit at the safety position, has some big-time run responsibilities. We’ve played without Stephon Tuitt, we’ve played without T.J. Watt, and it’s at the very early portions of the year. It’s that cohesion that comes from playing together, and I’ve been up front with our guys. We have a young unit, and we have to work hard daily to develop that cohesion. It’s like glue, and there are no shortcuts to it, and until we continually get to a point where we find that cohesion there’s a potential of popcorn from time to time – a run breaking out – and it’s as simple as that.”

JOSE TRABULSE FROM TIJUANA, BC, MEXICO
I`m 48 years old, and I`m a Steelers fan since I can remember. I`m just read that the Steelers are going to donate $250,000 to Mexico City because of the Sept. 19 earthquake. How can I thank them?

ANSWER: According to USA Today, The NFL, along with the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, and Pittsburgh Steelers, will contribute $250,000 to rebuild homes damaged in last month's Mexico City earthquake. The NFL Foundation, Patriots, Raiders, and Steelers teamed up to donate $200,000 to Banorte's Fundación Banorte to support disaster relief. Banorte, a Mexican bank, pledged to match the contributions dollar-for-dollar. The Cowboys will contribute $50,000 to the Salvation Army's relief efforts. As for thanking the Steelers, I believe you just did.




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