Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Dec. 10

Let's get to it:

CHRIS BEZONI FROM PLAINFIELD, IN:
I know this may be premature, but what are your thoughts on James Harrison getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? He has had a long, productive career, won one NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, and he turned in the greatest defensive play (possibly the greatest overall play) in Super Bowl history.

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I would vote for him. If you're just asking me, I believe James Harrison belongs in the Hall of Fame over Kevin Greene, but helping Greene's candidacy is that he finished his career with 160 sacks over 15 seasons, while Harrison currently has 76.5 sacks and is coming up on the end of his 13th NFL season.**

I have written this before, but I'll repeat myself here because it's pertinent to your question: In any election – and being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame requires being elected – the outcome often reveals more about the voters than it does about the candidates. If you had asked: Does James Harrison belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, my answer would be: yes. If you're asking me whether he will be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I cannot answer that, and citing qualifications, as you have, doesn't necessarily mean anything. I cannot quantify the damage in the voters' minds done to Harrison's reputation by the number of times he was fined plus the one-time one-game suspension levied on him because of violations of the player-safety initiative, which I still believe was an arbitrary and unfair course of action by the league in the middle of a season in which what wasn't illegal in Week 1 of a particular season suddenly was drawing penalty flags and fines in Week 6 of the same season. To some degree, the voters in the election have to like the candidate, and how many national pro football media members would say they like James Harrison? Are voters more likely to vote for a candidate they like or one they believe is qualified?

Bottom line: I hope he makes it, but I'm not at all confident that he will. Those are my thoughts.

LUKE SMOKER FROM DOVER, DE:
Is Tyler Murphy on the Steelers practice squad? Also, if I remember correctly the Steelers got a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2016 in a trade during the roster-cut-down to 53 players back in the summer. What were the conditions of the trade?

Yes, Tyler Murphy is on the Steelers practice squad. The trade you reference sent punter Brad Wing to the New York Giants for that conditional pick in the seventh round of the 2016 draft. Those conditions already have been met, and the Steelers will get the New York Giants' seventh-round pick in April.

BILL PRESTON FROM SPRING HILL, FL:
Perhaps you can explain the rationale of why Jacoby Jones hasn't been released? In view of the fact the Steelers are going into the last four games and possible into the playoffs, you would think they would want to ensure they have the best possible bench they could assemble. It seems logical they should cut Jones and promote B.J. Finney from the practice squad who can play guard and center, a position where the Steelers don't have a lot of depth.

From the tone of your question, I'm going to guess you really have no interest in any explanation that doesn't agree with your opinion on this matter, but I'll offer an explanation anyway. Players on the practice squad report to work every day with the rest of the team, they attend meetings and take part in practice, so just using your own example for the purpose of this exercise, Jacoby Jones being on the roster does not preclude B.J. Finney from doing the necessary work each day to improve himself as a potential NFL player. Even if Finney was on the 53-man roster, he would not be active for game day – the Steelers have seven offensive linemen in uniform on a game day: the five starters, plus backups Chris Hubbard and Doug Legursky – and I'm guessing Jones won't be active either, at least for a while. If there was an injury to an offensive lineman during a game, and the Steelers needed reinforcements there, they could activate Finney from the practice squad on, say, the day after that game and create a roster spot for him by cutting Jones, as an example. So, there's no reason to cut Jacoby Jones right now, except to satisfy some fans' blood lust.

ERIC SMITH FROM ORANGE, CT:
Given the performance (or lack thereof) of Jacoby Jones, could the Steelers release him and re-sign Dri Archer? I was not one of the fans calling for the Steelers to release him, although I did accept Coach Mike Tomlin's explanation for his release.

This being the United States of America, Dri Archer is free to make his own decisions, and as of right now he evidently has no interest in accepting the spot on the Steelers' practice squad that had been offered to him after he had cleared waivers in early November. There reportedly were other teams also interested in adding Archer to their practice squads, but he turned them down, too. My personal opinion is that Archer doesn't want to get back into the NFL via a practice squad, but that might be his best/only path right now.

SILAS LOWE FROM TAHLEQUAH, OK:
Kudos to the offensive line. Do you think any of them have a chance to go to the Pro Bowl this year? Oh wait, they all will be at the Super Bowl. My bad.

I could see both David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert receiving some recognition from Pro Bowl voters. Whether they actually make the AFC squad could depend upon how the Steelers offense performs over the next couple of weekends, in games against Cincinnati and Denver, both with 10-2 records right now and both with defenses that rank among the NFL's best this season.

LUIS MOTTA FROM PANAMA:
For starters, I love Asked and Answered. In making my own personal and inexpert predictions for the AFC Wild Card race, I think the Kansas City Chiefs will get the No. 5 seed, with both the Jets and Steelers ending up at 10-6. Apart from head-to-head and the conference record, which would be the same at 7-5, what comes next in the tiebreaker procedure?

Under the scenario you list, the next tiebreaker for the Steelers vs. Jets would be: "best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four." The common opponents between the Steelers and Jets in 2015 are Cleveland, Indianapolis, New England, and Oakland. Assuming the Steelers complete the sweep of the Browns, they would end up 4-1 in these common games, and if the Patriots complete their sweep of the Jets, the Jets would be 3-2 in these common games. Under that scenario, the Steelers would win the tiebreaker over the Jets and advance to the playoffs. But if the Jets would manage an upset over New England on Dec. 27 in Foxborough, or if the Browns would defeat the Steelers on Jan. 2, then the teams' records in those common games would be tied, and then it's on to the next tiebreaker, which is "strength of victory." That involves point differential, which has too many moving parts with this many games remaining. Let's hope it never gets to that.

GARY KIRKWOOD FROM ROCKY MOUNT, N.C.:
I enjoy Asked and Answered. I always look forward to learning something new. My question is: why  do the Steelers always have five late games? We enjoy the day games.

Some guy said to me one time when we were sitting around and trying to solve the problems of the world. He said to me, "What I've learned over the years is that whenever the question is, "why?" The answer is "money." Because of the billions of dollars the television networks annually pay the NFL to broadcast games, the networks get some input into which matchups are played at 1 p.m., which ones are played at 4:25 p.m., and which ones are played at night, in primetime, either Sundays or Mondays. Because the Steelers consistently deliver boffo ratings for the networks – and because of Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback to go along with a host of weapons that can deliver a lot of offensive fireworks – the Steelers are a very attractive team for primetime slots. The NFL does limit primetime appearances to five per team per season, or I have no doubt the Steelers would get scheduled for even more than five night games a year. Just so you know, you're not alone in preferring the day games. The coaches and players share your sentiment, as does Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney.

BRIAN BRANCH FROM MODESTO, CA:
In the game against the Colts, tight end Jesse James seemed to be a target for Ben Roethlisberger, and then all of a sudden, nothing. What happened?

What happened? Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton happened. You have Jesse James on your fantasy team, or what?

STEFFAN HAGEN FROM RAPID CITY, SD:
I love Asked and Answered, and I read it every week. I was wondering if the way the Steelers are going now, do you think they will be able to make the playoffs and make a legitimate run if they get in?

There is some feeling within the team's offices that it's going to be tougher for the Steelers to make the playoffs than it will be to win games once they get into the playoffs. That's looking quite prophetic right now.

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