Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: August 30

Let's get to it:

ELIJAH SPENCE FROM BOWIE, MD:
Do you think the No. 2 wide receiver spot is solidified yet?

ANSWER: I think the top five wide receiver spots are solidified. The top five wide receivers on the roster right now are Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Eli Rogers, and Markus Wheaton. They are listed alphabetically, because the Steelers will utilize multiple personnel groupings in different situations based on a variety of factors to be considered in the moment. There will be times when the Steelers have two receivers in the formation and neither of them is Brown. That doesn't mean Brown has been demoted. Fans need to stop looking at the wide receiver position in terms of ranking the players and then believing that's the order in which they'll be deployed on the field. If you really need to know who the No. 2 wide receiver is, wait until about a month into the regular season and then see which guy has been targeted the most after Brown.

CHRIS SAYLOR FROM WEST CHESTER, PA:
We still seem so skinny at safety. It seems to be something we're largely ignoring, not trying out a lot of players there, and there are still free agents like Donte Whitner out there. Mike Mitchell can be inconsistent, Robert Golden is unproven, and Robert Golden is a question mark. What is the plan at safety? Should we be concerned, and shouldn't we be working out more players at the position?

ANSWER: I have to admit, I never heard 'skinny' used in that context as a synonym for 'thin,' but just about everything else in your question has been rehashed already, but hey, I've got some free time right now, so why not? I wouldn't call the Steelers' situation at safety a strength, but I don't believe the outlook is as dour as you portray. Sean Davis will open the season in the slot, but that shouldn't be taken to mean he's there permanently for the rest of his career. There are going to be a lot of moving parts to the Steelers secondary this season, in my opinion, and that's why I believe the coaches have been trying guys at different spots – Doran Grant for example.

Specifically about Donte Whitner, he's 31 years old, and in 146 career NFL games he has 11 interceptions. Total. That's not making many plays on the football. I believe the Steelers prefer to coach their young guys and try to develop them as opposed to signing an aging veteran on the downside of his career as a stop-gap. If there would be an emergency situation at safety, I believe the Steelers would turn to Will Allen.

JC CHUTA FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
Most fans are NOT optimistic about the state of the current Steelers backup quarterbacks. Ben will miss a few games – that has become a fact of life. We just don't see Landry Jones or Bruce Gradkowski being able to help the team. Landry is an interception risk, and Gradkowski just cannot stay healthy. Any chance the Steelers pick up a former quality quarterback?  And I like Tebow A LOT better then Landry/Gradkowski.

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ANSWER: First of all, who is the "we" in the "We just don't see Landry Jones or Bruce Gradkowski being able to help the team." Secondly, why would you believe "we" has any say in the matter, or any expertise to decide the issue? Your question arrived too late to be included in the last episode of Asked and Answered, so your "position" was stated before the game against the Saints.  I admit that, but here are the pertinent statistics from that game, because they'll be used as evidence for a subsequent point I then will make:**

On the 11-play, 61-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates, Landry Jones completed 6-of-8 for 51 yards (one drop, and one throwaway) and the score. He also converted all three of the third-down situations on the drive with completed passes. In the first half, Jones was 12-for-15 for 116 yards, with one touchdown, no interceptions, and a rating of 121.1, and he finished the game with 19-of-22 for 206 yards, with one touchdown, no interceptions, and a rating of 120.8.

Jones isn't Ben and he's never going to be Ben, but when he plays with Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell and Markus Wheaton and Le'Veon Bell, along with Sammie Coates, and there's a game plan, and they've practiced the game plan, Landry Jones is capable of helping the team get out of the stadium with a win. That's what a backup quarterback is supposed to give the team when the team has a franchise quarterback as the starter.

And finally, after you read the next two questions, you might want to consider your sample size when you write, "Most fans are NOT optimistic about the state of the current Steelers backup quarterbacks."

KERRIGAN JOHNSON FROM FEDERAL WAY, WA:
Will you please tell these "fans" to shut up about moving on from Landry Jones after that performance against the Saints: 19-of-22 completed performance the week after throwing four interceptions?

ANSWER: My defense of Landry Jones as a legitimate NFL backup should not be understood as being accepting of four interceptions in a half. Under any conditions, that's unacceptable quarterback play.

ANDY TAKACH FROM OOLTEWAH, TN
Just a comment. Been following the Steelers since the late 1960s having grown up 40 miles from Pittsburgh. Looks like the alien body-snatchers have returned Landry Jones to us. Folks really need to give it a rest. In all my years of following the Steelers, I have seen every one of our quarterbacks (including Hall of Fame players) have some dismal games. He knows the system. He knows the personnel. He will come through if needed.

ANSWER: I typically don't publish unsolicited comments, but I included this one as an example of the many other similar ones I've received as a rebuttal to Mr. Chuta's contention that "Most fans are NOT optimistic about the state of the current Steelers backup quarterbacks."

JAMES TOWNER from ELMIRA, NY:
Were you surprised that the Steelers did not try a two-point point conversion in the Saints game?

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ANSWER: Initially I was, but then I came to understand what could have been the reasoning behind it. It would seem to be important to practice it in a game situation, but the Steelers do 7-Shots every day in practice, and so maybe they didn't want to show any of their two-point plays in a game that doesn't count. Also, going into the game against the Saints, Chris Boswell had been able to attempt just two PATs and a 37-yard field goal. Boswell is young enough that he can use the in-game repetitions, and he got some quality chances in the Superdome and converted them all – three more PATs and field goals of 40 and 48 yards.**

JIM ANDREE FROM WINTER HAVEN, FL:
My question isn't football related per se but has to do with the travel plan. With the team at 90 players right now, and with trainers coaches, equipment, etc., has the airline ever expressed that the weight was an issue? Who all does fly on the charter flights?

ANSWER: Everyone and everything fit onto the plane to New Orleans, and it was able to take off and land safely. It's a big plane, and there are a lot of people on it for a preseason game. All players – even some who are injured and won't/cannot play – all the coaches, including the interns only around for the summer/preseason, and the typical football staff that includes trainers, video, digital media, the KDKA-TV personnel who broadcast the game.

PETE FERRARI FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
What is the Steelers' game day routine like when playing on the road?

ANSWER: The kickoff time has something to do with it. For example, the schedule is different for a 1 p.m. game as opposed to an 8:30 p.m. kickoff, for example. But in either case, most of the meetings take place upon arrival on the day before the game – special teams meeting, position meetings, unit meetings, and then a full team meeting. On the day of the game – using the trip to New Orleans as an example – there was breakfast available, a Mass for anyone interested, more meetings, a pregame meal four-and-a-half hours before kickoff, and then the first buses left for the stadium three-and-a-half hours before kickoff.

DANIEL KERSTETTER FROM ENOLA, PA:
If there is a home game at Heinz field and kickoff is at 1 p.m., what time do these guys eat last and what kinds of things do they eat?

ANSWER: The pregame meal is available starting four-and-a-half hours before kickoff, and you can get just about anything you want. Seriously. Breakfast food. Pasta. Steaks. Chicken. Fish. Today's NFL players are meticulous about what they eat, especially in season, and so the menu is crafted with that in mind.

ROB FOSTER FROM AKRON, OH:
Did the Steelers and Eagles form a team together during World War II?

ANSWER: Yes. It was for the 1943 season, and the team came to be known as the Steagles. In 1944, the Steelers and Chicago Cardinals also formed a team that came to be known as Card-Pitt. Of course, the reason was because of the depleted manpower as a result of the war effort.

MIKE LEACH FROM COSHOCTON, OH:
It just dawned on me, I haven't seen or heard much on Bud Dupree  yet this year. I see he's still listed on the roster, is he injured or just not getting any attention yet this year?

ANSWER: Bud Dupree first injured a groin on July 31 and then aggravated it during the first of two joint practices vs. the Lions. He has not played in a preseason game yet this summer.

DAVID SHAFFER FROM HARRISBURG, PA:
As I watch this game with the Saints I think the first-team offense looks great. I'm concerned about the yardage given up by the first-team defense. Is that more the result of the lack doing anything special and watching how the players perform? Or is this just a limit of the talent we have on the field now?

ANSWER: I thought the defense did a lot of good things vs. the Saints. After the Steelers opened the game with a touchdown, the defense held the Saints to a three-and-out, and then after another touchdown, the defense allowed only one first down before forcing another punt. Drew Brees completed some passes for some yardage, but the Saints only scoring drive with him at quarterback was helped considerably by two penalties for illegal contact. Then in the fourth quarter when it was backups on backups, the Saints' six possessions ended with three Steelers takeaways, two punts, and the end of the game.

TOM FRANTZ FROM MEADVILLE, PA:
Does Stephon Tuitt start at cornerback this year because of his talent or lack of talent in the defensive backfield in general?

ANSWER: You can look at it either way you care to, but Ross Cockrell will start at cornerback when the Steelers open the season on Sept. 12 against the Redskins.

KIPP SLUMS FROM SHELTON, CT:
How can we get on-the-field passes for before or after the game?

ANSWER: For home games, you have two options: Steelers Nation Unite, or the 1st-IN-Goal Program. For details on either/both, go to Steelers.com and click onto the "Fan Zone" header. Good luck.


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