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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 29

Let's get to it:

EDWARD WATSON FROM GRAHAM, NC: What was Chuck Noll's record against Don Shula all-time?
ANSWER: In the Chuck Noll vs. Don Shula coaching matchup, Noll was 5-9 in the 14 all-time meetings between the Steelers and Dolphins, and that included a 1-2 record in the playoffs.

MARK DIXON FROM ETTERS, PA: In looking at the Kevin Dotson trade, for each of the draft picks given up, we got lower picks and gave up Dotson, and so it seems like we paid the Rams to take him. Is this correct?
ANSWER: In the Kevin Dotson trade, the Steelers acquired the Rams' 2024 fourth-round pick and their 2025 fifth-round selection, while the Rams received Dotson, plus the Steelers' 2024 fifth-round pick and their 2025 sixth-round selection. The way I look at it, the Steelers received the highest draft pick, which was a fourth-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, and the Rams got the lowest draft pick, which was a sixth-round pick in 2025. I would agree that the Steelers didn't exactly reap a bonanza in trading Dotson, but I believe you would have to agree they weren't exactly trading John Hannah, either.

BRYCE KYBURZ FROM AUSTIN, TX: When a quarterback is in the "pistol" formation, what is this referencing? What is the difference between the "pistol" and shotgun formations?
ANSWER: In the pistol formation, the quarterback lines up about 4 yards behind the center, and the running back in the formation would line up behind the quarterback. In the shotgun formation, the quarterback is typically aligned 7 yards behind the center, and if there is a running back in the backfield he would be next to the quarterback. It is said the pistol formation allows the quarterback to be close enough to the line of scrimmage to read the defense but also far enough away from the line of scrimmage to give him extra time and a better vision of the field for passing plays.

JIM WOLFE FROM ARLINGTON, TN: Sorry for asking a non-Steelers question, but I saw that Josh Jacobs and the Raiders agreed to a new contract. I thought that the time had passed for players and teams to agree to a new contract since Jacobs had been franchise tagged?
ANSWER: The July deadline to which you referred has to do with players under the franchise tag to sign a long-term contract. Jacobs and the Raiders agreed to a one-year contract, and there is no deadline for a player under the franchise tag and his team to come to agreement on a one-year contract.

PATRICK VEST FROM TORRANCE, CA: When a rookie gets injured before the season starts, like Calvin Austin III last year, and Cory Trice Jr. this year, I know the team pays him unless he's released/injury settlement. But if they don't release him, does that year count as a year served on the 4-year contract?
ANSWER: Yes, it does. And the difference between the two players you reference in your question is that Cory Trice Jr. was placed on injured reserve before the cut-down to 53 players, while Calvin Austin III went onto the injured reserve list after the cut-down to 53 players, which would have allowed the Steelers to activate him at some point in 2022. Trice cannot play at all in 2023.

KEITH MILLER FROM CANTON, NC: I am a firm believer that third down efficiency – both offensively and defensively – is a key factor in winning games. How did the Steelers do in those categories during the preseason?
ANSWER: The Steelers converted 17-of-41 (41.5 percent) on third downs during the preseason, and their defense allowed the three opponents to convert 13-of-35 (37.1 percent) on third downs. To put those respective percentages into some kind of context, 41.5 percent on offense would have ranked 12th in the NFL during the 2022 regular season, and 37.1 percent on defense would have ranked 7th in the NFL during the 2022 regular season.

EDWARD SLONIGER FROM PUNXSUTAWNEY, PA: How do think the Steelers will address the backup center position? Obviously a very important position, and so do they continue to give Kendrick Green chances or wait to see what's available after teams cut rosters to 53?
ANSWER: The following is an excerpt of a Q&A I did with Coach Mike Tomlin about 48 hours before the preseason finale in Atlanta against the Falcons.

Q. Pending tonight's game against the Falcons, how would you assess your situation at backup center?
A. We're really comfortable with the number of candidates we have. We've got some guys with real NFL experience there. Nate Herbig has been a guy who's played center at this level. Kendrick Green is a guy who has been a starting center at this level. We've got a couple of other guys who are center-capable. Ryan McCollum is center-capable. Spencer Anderson is center-capable, and so we've probably got more depth in terms of guys who are capable and also more depth with guys with experience than I can recall.

Q. Would you go into the regular season with a backup center who had not played the position for you at least in a preseason game?
A. If I had to, certainly. If he's got larger experience that makes me comfortable, and I've seen things within the practice setting that makes me comfortable, then certainly.

My belief is the Steelers will go with one of the options already on their roster to fill the role of backup center. Signing someone who has been on another team throughout the offseason would be adding someone to the mix with no idea of the team's offensive system, and the individuals he would be playing with (including the quarterbacks) would have no familiarity with him.

LARRY HEMINGER FROM SAN DIEGO, CA: How does the timing and the process work to build the practice squad? When we release our players, do we get a first chance to add them to our squad, or do all teams have an equal chance?
ANSWER: The first step is cutting the roster to 53 players, and then there is a 24-hour period where other teams can place waiver claims on those who were waived or can try to sign veterans who were released and not subject to waivers. Once the 24-hour period passes, those players who were not claimed on waivers or signed by other teams are eligible to be signed to practice squads. And in general, it's a free-for-all at that point, very similar to the end of the draft when teams are permitted to sign undrafted rookies. Here is a rough timeline that governs that process:

• Tuesday, Aug. 29, 4 p.m. EDT: Deadline for all teams to have their rosters at the 53-man limit. There are two categories of players: waived players (players with fewer than four years of credited NFL service), or termination of vested veterans (players with four years or more of credited service). Vested veterans can sign with any team. Waived players are subject to the claiming system.

• Tuesday, Aug. 29, 7 p.m. EDT: Teams will be informed via NFL email of all players who have been released.

• Wednesday, Aug. 30, Noon EDT: Deadline for teams to submit claims on any waived players.

• Wednesday, Aug. 30, 1 p.m. EDT: Teams will be informed of any players they have been awarded under the waiver system. Once notified, each team has one hour to notify the league of a corresponding removal of a player or players from their 53-man roster to make room for the claimed player or players.

• Wednesday, Aug. 30, 6 p.m. ET: Deadline for teams to submit their 16-player practice squads to the league. The league will post each team's practice squad in an email to teams by 8 p.m. the same day.

DAVID COSTELLO FROM ROSCOE, IL: Can you explain what tackles being considered an "unofficial" statistic means? I've scoured the Internet trying to find a clear explanation on what it means. The league website lists a leaderboard for tackles. Does it mean tackles can't be factored in for NFL awards/honors, Hall of Fame consideration?
ANSWER: Dealing specifically with tackles statistics, the main reason why tackles are considered an unofficial statistic is because tackles are credited on a game-by-game basis by the home team's statistics crew. As one example, when the Steelers host the Ravens, the Steelers stats crew assigns/credits tackles to the Ravens players and when the Ravens host the Steelers, the Ravens stats crew assigns/credits tackles to the Steelers players. And since this is what happens every week of a regular season – the home team's stats crew assigning/crediting tackles for the visiting team – there really is no uniform standard applied in this particular category. That's why tackles statistics are considered "unofficial."

BRADLEY COLLINS FROM LINCOLN, RI: On the personal foul penalty assessed to safety Trenton Thompson in the third quarter, I get that he dropped his head but he clearly hit with the shoulder. It seems to me that if he had kept his head up he would have been at risk for a neck injury (I am a physician by the way, but not a neurosurgeon like Dr. Joe Maroon). To your knowledge was that call the new normal? I love defensive football and hate to see them put at unnecessary risk, especially when a head down hit with the shoulder may be safer.
ANSWER: To put this as simply as I can, I believe NFL officials are instructed/encouraged to throw the flag on these kinds of situations and then have things sorted out in the days following the game. In other words, err on the side of penalizing any hits that might even be close to borderline if for no other reason than to influence players from even getting close to the line when it comes to legal vs. illegal contact both from using the head in a tackle or hitting the head during a tackle.