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Asked and Answered: Jan. 4

Posted Jan 4, 2018

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

Let’s get to it:

ROBERT DIMICHELE FROM NORTH EAST, PA:
I have a 1987 Steelers practice jersey (at least an Army chaplain gave it to me and said it came from a friend of his who was an equipment manager back then). No. 13 of all numbers. Any way to know who wore the jersey? It still has blood stains on it.

ANSWER: I would never accuse an Army chaplain of lying, but I can tell you this for a fact: The Steelers did not have numbers on their practice jerseys in 1987. In fact, from the early 1970s until Chuck Noll retired in 1991, the jerseys the Steelers wore at practice and during training camp did not have numbers on them. It wasn’t until Bill Cowher was hired in 1992 that this changed, and practice jerseys came to have numbers on them.

DAVID GIFFORD FROM NEW LONDON, OH:
Is Antonio Brown going to be back for the playoffs?

ANSWER: If I were to guess, I would guess that Antonio Brown will play in the Steelers’ Divisional Round Game on the weekend of Jan. 13-14. Mike Tomlin said that if the Steelers had to play this weekend, Brown would be listed as questionable, which I took as a good sign.

JAMES LABAR FROM CATASAUQUA, PA:
Can you ease my concerns if the Steelers meet the Jaguars in the Divisional Round of the playoffs? The Jaguars manhandled the Steelers during the regular season.

ANSWER: If you want to be worried about this potential matchup, there very well could be nothing to change your outlook, but allow me to point out a few things that speak to your use of the verb “manhandle.” The final score was 30-9, but the Steelers actually had a 9-7 lead midway through the third quarter. The Jaguars followed with two pick-sixes, and then late in the game Leonard Fournette broke a 90-yard run for another touchdown. I don’t believe for a second that Ben Roethlisberger is going to play that poorly again, and if that one run is subtracted from Fournette’s total, he had 27 carries for 91 yards and one touchdown on the day. Yes, the Jaguars won the game and deserve credit for doing that, but they didn’t “manhandle” anyone.

BRANDON SALES FROM ASHEVILLE, NC:
If the Arizona Cardinals end up offering their head coaching job to Mike Munchak while we are still playing, would he leave at that point? Or would he finish the season before leaving for Arizona.

ANSWER: The NFL doesn’t operate the way the NCAA does with coaches changing jobs. NFL contracts run through the end of a team’s season, whenever that end of the season may be.

JUSTIN MILLER FROM SNOW HILL, MD:
Am I over-thinking the impact of Joe Haden? The Patriots potential rematch, nobody seems to mention we didn't have Haden in the first game, and with him we should be stronger in man coverage.

ANSWER: Injuries are a part of football, and while it’s true the Steelers played without Joe Haden, Marcus Gilbert, and Vance McDonald, and they lost Antonio Brown to an injury early in the second quarter, the Patriots were playing without wide receiver Chris Hogan, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, and defensive lineman Alan Branch. Those names might not be as familiar to you as Haden and Gilbert and Brown, but they are significant players for the Patriots.

CHIP TITUS FROM HAWTHORNE, FL:
Surely we have someone on this team who can take Mike Mitchell's place. I realize that I have no NFL coaching creds but really, how is it possible to miss this gaping hole in our defense?

ANSWER: You are 100 percent correct. You have no coaching creds.

RAY GREHOFSKY FROM BLACKSBURG, VA:
I just want to address, hopefully one final time, that the Steelers "playing down" to inferior opponents is a myth. Previous years’ losses to teams like Kansas City and Miami looked bad, until both of those teams ended those particular seasons in the playoffs. This year the Steelers lost three games, and two of those three losses came to teams that finished the regular season as the Nos. 1 and 3 seeds in the AFC Playoffs. While the third of those three losses was to a struggling Bears team, that is not evidence of playing down. Pittsburgh fans should understand these players and coaches are professionals, and they play an NFL schedule against other professionals. Take a moment to be grateful for the winning tradition. Ask the fans of a team located a couple of hours to the west that has gone 1-31 over the last two regular seasons … you know, one of those inferior teams the Steelers beat regularly?

ANSWER: Your problem is that you’re trying to inject logic into the argument. It’s kind of like trying to make sense of the NFL’s catch rule.

MIKE SPRAYBERRY FROM TALLAHASSEE, FL:
In your Jan. 2 Asked and Answered, a fan applauded you for "...telling it how it is, instead of how fans wished it was." And you accepted those kind words. Heck with that! You tell me what I want to hear! Now, the James Harrison situation is a crafty ploy by the Steelers to infiltrate New England's innards with a double agent, right? Harrison emails their game plan and audibles to us one week before the AFC Championship Game, right?

ANSWER: Shhhhh. Don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.

MICHAEL PLAGGE FROM FLORENCE, KY:
Recently my 22-year-old nephew (a Steelers fan) started dating a lady who is a fan of a certain football team from the Foxborough, Ma., area. Should I intervene on the poor decision-making of my nephew for continuing to date her after finding out her true nature and poor football choices, or instead spend my energy showing the girl the error of her ways and mentor her on the advantages of supporting a proper football team like the Steelers?

ANSWER: My mother was born and raised in Cleveland, and her oldest brother was a devoted Browns season ticket-holder during a time when the Browns annually did to the Steelers what the Steelers now do annually to the Browns. My uncle used to take me to Steelers-Browns games at Cleveland Stadium back in the era when those games were played in Cleveland on a Saturday night early in each regular season. Eventually, my mother came to see the light, and at Super Bowl XXX in Tempe she was a part of Steelers Nation in the stands with a Terrible Towel. Good people will find the right path, so my suggestion would be to give the lady a chance. Then if she refuses …

MICHAEL JONES FROM WASHINGTON, DC:
A few weeks ago in response to someone worrying about blocked kicks from the edge, you wrote: "In the NFL, kicks are not blocked by guys coming off the edge unless there is a problem with the snap-hold process." But geez, guys are getting REALLY close, including on the game-winner in Baltimore. Is it an alignment thing people are taking advantage of?

ANSWER: Seriously, you’re asking me if there is an alignment issue on field goal attempts that aren’t being blocked? You know what they call a field goal attempt that’s almost blocked? They call the kick “good” and three points go up on the scoreboard.

DAVE MEAGER FROM INDIANAPOLIS, IN:
As I watched the Browns score 24 points and move the ball up and down the field in the second half on last Sunday, I couldn't help but be concerned since that was (minus Cam Heyward) our first-team defense out there. How much should this concern Steeler fans going into the playoffs?

ANSWER: Hey, judging from the above submission, Steelers fans are concerned about field goal attempts that are ALMOST blocked. Be as concerned as you care to be. I won’t try to stop you.




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