Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Dec. 1

Let's get to it:

GLAUCIO CAFALCHIO FROM TAUBATÉ, BRAZIL: Of course the COVID-19 situation cannot be underestimated, but it's not fair for teams that have broken the safety protocols to reap benefits for their irresponsible conduct. Do you see the NFL penalizing teams, such as the Baltimore Ravens, with a loss of draft picks if their games aren't allowed to be played on schedule?
ANSWER: As for how the NFL is going to discipline teams for violations of COVID-19 protocol, I have no idea and all I would be doing would be venturing a guess. Instead of that, I've decided to provide you with a portion of a memo from NFL headquarters to all teams the day after the Steelers at Titans game originally was scheduled to be played. That date was Sunday, Oct. 4, and so on Monday, Oct. 5, Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all teams that read, in part:

"Protocol violations that result in virus spread requiring adjustments to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams will result in additional financial and competitive discipline, including the adjustment or loss of draft choices or even the forfeit of a game."

The reason I believe the Ravens' conduct falls under what Goodell referred to as "protocol violations" is that according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, "the Baltimore Ravens … disciplined a staff member for the conduct related to the recent COVID-19 cases that affected players and staff within the franchise and resulted in the postponement of their Thanksgiving game against the Steelers. A strength and conditioning coach was punished for failing to report symptoms, not consistently wearing a mask or a tracking device, which might have contributed to the team's myriad coronavirus cases."

Now we wait and see what Goodell does.

STEVEN LINDSEY FROM MATTESON, IL: As an old and long-time Steelers fan, I do my share of bragging on the team. Six Lombardis, eight Super Bowl appearances and so forth. One of my favorite things to "throw at" fans of other teams is the consistency of having just three head coaches in more than 50 years. I also would like to use a key position on the team – the center position – to point out the excellence of the organization. Who have been the centers since the late 1960s when Chuck Noll took over as coach?
ANSWER: Chuck Noll was hired in 1969, but beginning with the 1966 season Ray Mansfield was the full-time starting center. Later in his career, Mansfield shared the job some with Jim Clack, but then Mike Webster took over the starting job full-time at the start of the 1976 season. Webster held the job until the end of the 1988 season when he retired briefly to become an assistant coach with the Chiefs before coming out of retirement to continue his playing career there. In 1989, Dermontti Dawson took over and held the job until he retired after the 2000 season. In 1999 and 2000, Dawson missed chunks of each season with injuries, and Roger Duffy filled in for him. In 2001, the Steelers signed Jeff Hartings as an unrestricted free agent, and he held the job through the 2007 season. Hartings retired, and the Steelers used veteran Sean Mahan in 2007. When that didn't work out as well as hoped, veteran Justin Hartwig fill the spot in 2008 and 2009. Then in 2010, the Steelers used their first-round pick on Maurkice Pouncey.

Webster and Dawson are in the Hall of Fame; Hartings was voted first-team All-Pro once; and Pouncey has been voted first-team All-Pro twice and was chosen as the center on the Hall of Fame's All-2010s team.

THOMAS WARD FROM LADSON, SC: The only problem I have with Randy Fichtner's play-calling is that it leaves Ben Roethlisberger in third-and-long situations more often than not. What do you think?
ANSWER: What I think is that you're one of those people who blames the play-caller every time a play loses yardage and credits the players every time a play works. And what's worse is you think that's the correct way to judge such things.

BRUCE BOSTJANICK FROM MANASSAS, VA: Does the league have a statistic for interceptions that are not the quarterback's fault?
ANSWER: And how exactly is it to be determined whose fault it is when a pass is intercepted? No, there is no such statistic.

PATRICK RILEY FROM SEBRING, FL: If the Steelers would lose one game, and the Chiefs win out, both teams would finish 15-1. How would the tie-breaker process work since they didn't play each other?
ANSWER: Read on to the next question.

BOB ASTI FROM SAINT MARYS, PA: Say the Steelers finish 6-0 in the AFC North but finish the season with the same record as the Chiefs. Wouldn't the Steelers own the tiebreaker due to a better division record since the Chiefs have a loss within their division?
ANSWER: You don't apply division tiebreakers when the two teams are not in the same division, and since this seems to be so very difficult for some to understand, here it is, direct from

• To determine home-field priority among division titlists, apply wild card tiebreakers.
To break a tie between Two Clubs:
• Head-to-head, if applicable
• Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference
• Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four
• Strength of victory
• Strength of schedule
• Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed
• Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed
• Best net points in conference games
• Best net points in all games
• Best net touchdowns in all games
• Coin toss
• NOTE: In comparing records against common opponents among tied teams, the best won-lost-tied percentage is the deciding factor, since teams may have played an unequal number of games.

MATTHEW WITHOOS FROM WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA: I know it's early still but do you have any insight on how a tiebreaker would work if both Kansas city and Pittsburgh both finish 15-1. Would it depend on who we lost to?
ANSWER: Yes, it would depend totally to whom the Steelers lost, as you can see by perusing the tiebreakers in the above answer.

KELLY HAZZARD FROM KEY WEST, FL: If a player is released because of cap issues and no other team picks him up, can the team that released him pick him up and negotiate a new more cap friendly contract?
ANSWER: Yes, as long as the player agrees, because once the player is released and clears waivers, he is free to play, or not, for any team in the league.

RICHARD FENSTERBUSH FROM BELLEVILLE, PA: Do you think we need a running back who can help close a game even if the line struggles to run-block?
ANSWER: In the NFL, there is no such thing as a running back who can be successful in closing out a game if his line is struggling to run-block. Professional defenses are too good.

MARCUS ROGERS FROM FISHERS, IN: I hope you never get tired of hearing us compliment this work you do here in "Asked and Answered." You are always playing above the line. How many times have the Steelers been ranked No. 1 in the AFC going into the playoffs? Also, what is our record in AFC Championship Games? Is our record better playing at home or on the road in AFC Championship Games?
ANSWER: The NFL began seeding teams for the playoffs starting in 1975, and the Steelers have been the No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs six times – 1975, 1978, 1992, 2001, and 2004. The Steelers have the most appearances in the AFC Championship Game at 16, with 11 of those games being in Pittsburgh, the most for either conference. The Steelers are 8-8 in Conference Championship Games – six of the eight wins came at home, and five of the eight losses came at home. Breaking it down by coaches, Mike Tomlin is 2-0 at home, and 0-1 on the road; Bill Cowher was 1-4 at home and 1-0 on the road; and Chuck Noll was 3-1 at home and 1-2 on the road.

JAMES PRUSACK FROM GRANTSVILLE, MD: When it is third-and-10, why do so many teams, Pittsburgh included, throw the ball short of the yardage needed, only to have the receiver get tackled short of the first down? It doesn't make sense to me to throw short of the first down and expect the receiver to get the yardage needed, at least not every time.
ANSWER: I don't disagree with this premise, but it also should be realized that in third-and-long situations, the defense will stack its coverage at the first down marker to prevent balls being completed beyond the line to gain. In those instances, it can be a higher percentage move for the offense to rely on the receiver to break a tackle and get the yardage with some run-after-the-catch.

CORT HUBBARD FROM COLUMBIA, IL: Alan Faneca is one of only four six-time first-team All-Pro selections not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jim Tyrer, punter Shane Lechler, and Joe Thomas are the others, and Thomas is not eligible for enshrinement yet. If my memory is correct, didn't Faneca move to left tackle to replace Marvel Smith after a season-ending injury? How many guards can do that?! Why are players with fewer first-team All-Pro selections getting into the Hall of Fame before Faneca?
ANSWER: You're asking me why members of the Board of Selectors are voting a certain way, and that's impossible for me to answer. All I can do is refer you to a story I wrote for about why Alan Faneca deserves a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You can read it here: Labriola on why Faneca belongs in the Hall of Fame.

LISA SMITH FROM WINDSOR, ONTARIO, CANADA: I'm a frontline worker at a hospital here in Windsor, Ontario. The Steelers are my passion and watching them brings me so much joy in this awful COVID world. Do you think Mike Tomlin and the team know how much happiness and excitement they are bringing to the fans this year with the undefeated season and just playing so well? We are all so grateful for this amazing distraction.
ANSWER: I'm using your submission in the hopes that this helps to spread the message to them.