Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Dec. 1

Let's get to it:

NIK CERASO FROM CHARLOTTE, NC:
I noticed in the previous two games (and more vs. the Browns than the Colts) the Steelers had Ryan Shazier blitzing from outside. He has had success coming off the edge, and so is this because of injuries or is it a new plan to get him at the outside linebacker spot a few times a game?

ANSWER: Mike Tomlin was asked about taking the inside linebackers and aligning them on the outside and using them to rush the passer. Here's what he said: "They're versatile guys. They're inside backers, but both guys (Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier) were outside-like backers in their schemes in college. Both guys work very hard at developing that aspect of their game. They realize being a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers means that you're a blitzer. You're an interior blitzer, you're an edge blitzer, and they embrace that work. They work get-off-the-ball the way edge people do. They work their rush moves in the way that rush-men do, because it's an aspect of the job. And all you have to do is look at the sack totals. I think we've got solid contributions from Lawrence and from Shay (Ryan Shazier) and even from Vince (Williams) in that area."

RACHELLE RUNDELL FROM INNISFAIL, ALBERTA, CANADA:
I have a question regarding the stickers on the back of the Steelers helmets. I believe they are stickers of the branches of the United States military – Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. I also noticed not all the teams wear these? It's nice to see the Steelers wear these in support of the Armed Forces. Why do only some teams choose to do this?

ANSWER: My information is that all teams received the decals to wear for one game, likely as part of the month-long Salute To Service initiative the NFL celebrates throughout November. In theory, the decals were to be worn for one game by each team, but the league didn't really make an issue out of it if a team elected to wear the stickers in more than one game. Over the course of the month, I'd be willing to bet each team wore the decals at least once.

AJ ESCOMIENDO FROM LONG BEACH, CA
I believe that Heath Miller was one of the classiest players to ever play the game of football, and he will probably go down as one of the best tight ends in Steelers history. He is beloved by the fans and within the organization as well. Is there a reason why the Steelers would let Landry Jones wear his number? Or are they just running out of 80s numbers to wear?

ANSWER: I do not disagree with any of the statements you make about Heath Miller, but I think it's unfair to disparage Cobi Hamilton by implying that he's unworthy to wear No. 83. Emmanuel Sanders wore No. 88 when he played here, and Weslye Saunders wore No. 82. Because of the increasing number of roster spots being allocated for wide receivers and tight ends in today's NFL, it's just not possible to "retire" these jersey numbers in the 80s.

MARK DOCK FROM MT. PLEASANT, PA:
During the 1970s the Steelers draft philosophy was "draft the best available athlete." They didn't seem as concerned about position and most of those teams that won Super Bowls did not have a single player that wasn't drafted by the Steelers. No trades, free agents, etc. That philosophy really seemed to work. Why have they abandoned such a successful draft strategy?

ANSWER: It's called free agency. Back in the 1970s, when a team drafted a player that team held onto his rights until it decided it didn't want him anymore. That strategy cannot work these days, because players can leave as unrestricted free agents. As a result, a team can find itself short of players at a particular position following the free agency period, and if that team is one – like the Steelers – that doesn't believe in building its roster via free agency, then it will find itself drafting for need.

JEREMY JAMES FROM CARY, NC:
If the Steelers had been in the same situation as Denver at the end of overtime, do you agree with a 62-yard field goal attempt, or do you go for the first down, or punt the ball and play for the tie?

ANSWER: Here are the details of the situation: fourth-and-10 from the Chiefs 44-yard line with 1:08 left in overtime with the score tied, 27-27. I'm playing to win, but I think a 62-yard field goal isn't as likely as making the fourth-and-10, and so I go for the first down. Turning the ball over on downs means Kansas City takes over at its own 44-yard line, but missing the field goal means Kansas City took over at the Denver 48-yard line, which was the spot of the attempted field goal. A slight difference, I would agree, especially for a team that likes to brag about its defense being great, but you asked me what I would have done.

JOSEF HOELSCHEIDT FROM DORTMUND, GERMANY:
Being a regular reader, I remember that each players' annual salary is paid in 17 equal parts over the 17 weeks of the regular season. What if a team gets to the playoffs? Do the players get extra money? Or do they play then "just for the success?"

ANSWER: Ah, playing for the success, as you put it, is a quaint notion, but that's not the way of the professional sports world. Nor should it be, but that's my personal opinion. Anyway, players do receive extra money for advancing through the playoffs, and I can tell you what players got for the various rounds at the end of the 2015 season: Wild Card Round winners: $25,000; Wild Card Round losers: $23,000; Divisional Round winners and losers: $25,000; Conference Championship winners and losers: $46,000; Super Bowl winners: $102,000; and Super Bowl losers: $51,000.

So to summarize, the Steelers beat the Bengals in the Wild Card Round and then lost to the Broncos in the Divisional Round, which means each player received an extra $50,000 for last year's playoffs.

SCOTT RING FROM MONTREAL, CANADA:
If both the Steelers and Ravens finish the season with the same record and we beat them at home on Christmas Day, who wins the division?

**

ANSWER: Still too early to know definitively, because after the head-to-head tiebreaker comes record within the division, and then record in common games (minimum of four). Both teams have too many games remaining against division opponents. Who's going to lose to whom to make both teams end up in a tie? Without knowing that, the question cannot be answered at this time.**

BILL PRESTON FROM SPRING HILL, FL:
My question is the response Coach Mike Tomlin made during a postgame interview after a Steelers loss in which he said something to the effect of "we were undisciplined." If a team is undisciplined, doesn't that reflect directly on the coach in most cases? The mere fact that after previous penalties for end zone excessive or improper celebrations they continue. Why wasn't this nipped in the bud after the first penalty of the season. To me end zone celebrations are silliness and a lack of class.

ANSWER: OK, first of all, what you're doing is asking a question about touchdown celebrations but trying to disguise it in broader terms. This is a celebration question, and this one time I'm going to engage it:

Virtually everything a team does reflects "directly on the coach in most cases." Good and bad, even though you're not interested in any of the good at the moment. But in terms of the celebration stuff, I'm going to try to inject some reality into this whole celebrations issue. Fans can accept this or not, but I'm going to try to give y'all a peek behind the curtain at some realities of the business.

Antonio Brown celebrates after touchdowns. Cannot stop it. Me, you, thousands of other observers may not see the need for what even can be called "showboating," but you're not going to be able to remove that from the culture of professional sports. People the age of current players put their lives out for all to view and comment on via social media. Does that make any sense to you? Me, neither. But it happens. They're going to do it. There's nothing you can do to change the behavior. Just as your generation did stuff to annoy your elders – and I don't care how young or old you are, every generation did something to annoy its elders – there will be celebrations after touchdowns.

So, OK, let's move on. Antonio Brown celebrates, gets penalized, and fined. I can all but guarantee you that it was addressed after the first occurrence. It was done internally, in some way communicated that it was a bad idea. Maybe teammates, maybe an assistant coach, maybe Mike Tomlin. Whatever, a message was delivered, but it was going to remain a private issue. It was going to remain a private issue, even if somebody in the media asked a question about it. Another thing to understand: A news conference is not a court of law. Just because you're asked a question by a media member, it's not perjury if you intentionally mislead with your answer, because it would serve no purpose to shame a grown man in public.

Then he does it again, and gets fined again. What's your move, Mr. Preston? Cut Antonio Brown? Bench him? Make him inactive? Limit his playing time? First of all, you'd have to deal with the NFLPA about disciplining an All-Pro receiver because he dances after touchdowns. But are any of those – the benching, or cutting, or making him inactive – real options to you? Really? Not to me. Not to every other player in that locker room. NFL jobs – and I'm talking players, coaches, scouts, personnel people, everybody – are kept because you win, and do the Steelers have a better chance of winning with Antonio Brown and everything he brings good and bad, or without him? And since the league already fined him, a team cannot impose any other financial penalties, and so you'd be paying him not to play, even if the union lets you get away with that.

What I can tell you is that Antonio Brown works extremely hard. He wants to be great. He wants to make dynamic contributions at key moments in critical situations. He likes to dance after touchdowns. Is the dancing a deal-breaker for you? It's not for me. And while I understand that what I have outlined is a situation where a player is shown favoritism, here are another two things I believe:

That his teammates know what Antonio Brown brings and contributes, and they see up close the way he works and the way he performs every day all the way back to OTAs in May, and dancing after a touchdown doesn't trump all of that. And the other thing is what a Hall of Fame coach once said about how he treated his players: "I didn't treat them all the same, but I treated them all fair." Allowances have to be made for greatness.

My advice to you is the same advice I give myself: Learn to deal with it.


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