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Asked and Answered: Jan. 23

Posted Jan 23, 2018

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

Let’s get to it:

JAMES WOOD FROM CHARLES TOWN, WV:
Do you think the Steelers will make any moves this year for better cornerbacks?

ANSWER: I would suggest that those moves have been made recently – drafting Artie Burns and Cam Sutton and Brian Allen, signing Mike Hilton and Joe Haden – and some time needs to be given to allow them to grow as individuals and as part of a unit. I’m not discounting the possibility that the team could look to add players at that position, but it’s rare to have more than five cornerbacks on a 53-man roster, and I just listed five who, barring injury, figure to make the roster in 2018. As a result, I would suspect the Steelers might use their premium draft picks to fortify other positions, and their anticipated salary cap situation doesn’t figure to allow them to sign a high-priced free agent cornerback.

SAM KELLER FROM CENTRAL, PA:
I just wrote you a multiple page essay full of frustrating questions that I and probably a lot of Steelers fans would want answered, but I realize you aren't the coach or are on the coaching staff.

So a question I have: Have you ever had a short leash on what you can or cannot post about the organization? Or have you found yourself so frustrated that you wanted to go full bombastic in an article but knew you could not, and knew you must have tact due to the fact that you have to see these men and women in the organization every single week? Normal fans like myself only see what we see on television, read, or hear on the radio. You are around it and in the thick of it all year. Can you comment on this alone?

ANSWER: In a previous installment, I explained some of the unwritten rules I follow in doing Asked and Answered, and those rules are similar to the ones I have followed during my 30 years in this job. I will do it again here in response to your question.

I do not fire coaches or call for their firing. I do not cut players or call for them to be cut. I don’t do those things, because I am not qualified to make those kinds of decisions, because while you may describe me as being “in the thick of it all year,” I am not in meetings, I don’t understand football enough, nor do I have the depth of understanding regarding the jobs that players and coaches have, to offer an informed opinion about whether they should be fired.

I also do not publish submissions from fans that are nothing but rants that conclude with: “Your thoughts?” Or “What say you?” Those are not questions. Those are opinions disguised as questions – and not disguised very well, I might add – and those opinions often are based on incorrect facts or are based on some misunderstanding of what’s actually happening.

I am not edited by the Steelers organization, and I can tell you that nothing I ever have written has been censored in any way. But it’s also important to point out that I was trained as a journalist, and so I don’t find myself “so frustrated” that I “wanted to go full bombastic in an article.” That would be unprofessional, but I have found that fans don’t care about that. Fans want someone to be the voice for their frustration or anger, and then those fans want someone to be blamed for that frustration or anger.

That’s not my job, and that’s not the purpose of Asked and Answered.

JIM WINIARSKI FROM NOTTINGHAM, NH:
Is there anyway we could trade Le’Veon Bell and build a stronger team a la the Herschel Walker trade the Dallas Cowboys pulled off?

ANSWER: Because that was already done once, and teams throughout the league have seen how one-sided it turned out, I believe finding takers for that kind of a trade would be very unlikely – and by that I mean one player in return for a bushel of high draft picks. Another issue is that all trades are suspended at this time of the NFL calendar, and no trades will be verified by the league office until the start of the new league year, which in 2018 is March 14. One other factor working against trading Bell is his contract situation, and by that I mean it would be difficult to get a team to surrender assets in return for a player it wouldn’t have under contract for years into the future. Nobody would give you much in return for a guy playing on a one-year franchise tag, especially when that guy is on record as saying he might retire rather than play under that one-year franchise tag.

GARY HARRELL FROM NORFOLK, VA:
The Steelers have a habit of losing to teams that they should beat. I feel once they fix that, No. 7 is on the way. What do you think?

ANSWER: This from Bill Barnwell of ESPN: “I thought we were done but we’re not, apparently. The league wins 64.5 percent of the time against sub-.500 teams. Mike Tomlin’s Steelers are 74-28, which is a .725 win percentage.” And here’s another issue I have with this kind of question: what defines a team “that they should beat” and who is making that assessment and what criteria is being used in coming to the conclusion that a particular team is one that the Steelers should beat?

SCOTT WELLS FROM HUNTSVILLE, AL:
Without looking at your Magic-8 Ball, do you think cornerback Senquez Golson will try out for the team this year?

ANSWER: I think that ship has sailed. The additions of Cam Sutton and Mike Hilton have made taking another chance on Golson less likely, in my opinion.

RICH HETRICK FROM CHICAGO, IL:
How much involvement does the quarterback have with planning the offensive strategy for a particular game? Does he have a voice in planning or is it his role to simply execute and only deviate from the set plan when he sees something on the field at the time the play is called?

ANSWER: Generally speaking, there aren’t plays in a particular game plan that the quarterback hates or isn’t comfortable executing.

EARL MILLER FROM COLUMBIA, SC:
Do you think our failures on defense were a result of schemes or lack of execution by the players?

ANSWER: Both. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but problems very rarely can be traced to a single factor or a single individual. Also, don’t eliminate the talent factor, such as the impact Ryan Shazier’s injury had because there wasn’t anyone else on the roster capable of doing the things he did.

GEORGE BROOKS FROM ANTIOCH, TN:
With the recent "in-house" hiring/promotion of a new offensive coordinator, obviously we'll likely keep terminology and philosophy. But do you think there's a chance that the team will increase the usage of the no-huddle offense more?

ANSWER: It’s not realistic to operate out of the no-huddle as much as fans want the team to operate out of the no-huddle. There are a lot of other factors involved, such as weather, crowd noise on the road, injuries, players’ understanding of the offense to the degree necessary to run no-huddle all the time. Also, if the offense isn’t converting third downs at a decent rate, all the no-huddle offense does is get the ball back to the opponent quicker. Simply operating out of the no-huddle isn’t the cure-all for everything that ails the Steelers. It’s just not.

MARK WHITE FROM EASLEY, SC:
After seeing Josh Dobbs this year, do you see him being the backup over Landry Jones in 2018?

ANSWER: Josh Dobbs will get a chance to compete to move up the depth chart, but what exactly did you see from Landry Jones in 2017 that indicates he should lose that job? In his only real playing time, he started against the Browns in the regular season finale, Jones completed 23-of-27 (85.2 percent) for 239 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and a rating of 99.3 in quarterbacking the Steelers to a win. Quit hating on Landry Jones and actually look at how he’s playing NOW. I don’t wanna hear about what happened two years ago in a preseason game. Jones is a quality NFL backup quarterback, and that’s his job right now.

MIKE MARIC FROM VERNON, BC, CANADA:
I believe it was pretty clear that the inside linebacker depth was an issue when they had to sign Sean Spence off his couch to try and fill in after Ryan Shazier’s injury. So would it be fair to assume that this will be a priority in the draft and free agency?

ANSWER: I expect inside linebacker to be an offseason priority, but I don’t believe you find a Ryan Shazier-type player in free agency, because if a team has a guy like that it’s going to keep him. The draft is the place to look for that caliber of player.

KEN METZ FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
Why is it that a quarterback who is playing and with input from his linemen can't call his own plays? Or am I that of touch with is going on?

ANSWER: All I know is that’s not the way it’s done in the NFL these days. With some exceptions, as in some no-huddle situations or audibles or run-pass option situations, quarterbacks get the play-call from the sideline. Josh McDaniels calls plays for the Patriots; Mike McCarthy calls the plays instead of Aaron Rodgers; Sean Payton calls the plays instead of Drew Brees. I’m just telling you how it works.

MARK LABASH FROM TULSA, OK:
While I agree Le’Veon Bell is a great running back, a lot of his success can be attributed to his offensive line. Why not stay with the Steelers with a better chance at a Super Bowl trophy vs. following the money to a team that doesn't have such a great line and having your stats drop like a rock?

ANSWER: That’s a personal decision by the player, and what you need to remember is that it’s a business. There is money involved, and I cannot speak for someone and say how much money should be a sufficient amount of money for him and his family. Football is physically demanding sport, and guys could sustain life-altering injuries. If an NFL player’s career lasts into his early 30s, he could live another 40 years, and as of now players don’t receive health care for life. Imagine what that alone would cost.




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