Let's get to it:
BENJAMIN KARP FROM MANHATTAN BEACH, CA: When watching a game on television, the observer is generally unable to actually see Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmonds perform in pass coverage. In contrast, when watching a game live, one can focus on the safeties and see them take routes away, see the opposing quarterback be forced to look away, etc. In short, when we don't see much of Fitzpatrick and Edmonds, is it a good indication that they are doing their job tremendously well? Like a "stat that doesn't show up in the stat book."
ANSWER: It can be a good thing when safeties get through a game without being noticed, much in the way it can be for an offensive lineman who plays an entire game without being noticed. But there are other ways in which safeties can attract attention in a positive way for themselves and their team, and the most significant of those is taking the ball away. It might be OK for Minkah Fitzpatrick not to have to make any tackles down the field after receivers catch passes, but what's better is if he's intercepting the ball or forcing a fumble on a receiver who has made a catch. While taking routes away and forcing the quarterback to go elsewhere with the football and maybe even making him hold onto the ball longer to allow the pass rush more time to make a sack are all good things, I look at things like takeaways, passes defensed, forced fumbles, fumbles recovered, and the number of completions by the opponents of 25 yards-or-more as being tangible statistics that indicate the caliber of the safeties' play.
DAN WILLIS FROM PORTISHEAD, UK: With the Steelers the sixth seed in the AFC and assuming they make the playoffs, is there any realistic possibility Ben Roethlisberger starts at quarterback in the Wild Card Game?
ANSWER: Ben Roethlisberger is out until next season. If the Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl, he couldn't play. If the NFL moved the Super Bowl back two months, he still couldn't play. Look for Roethlisberger around the time OTAs start, which typically happens in mid-to-late May.
MICHAEL McCHESNEY FROM ZELIENOPLE, PA: With the much deserved attention being given to Coach Mike Tomlin, I think it's important to remember that this team was assembled by General Manager Kevin Colbert. With the proven draft picks on defense, the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick, and the overall depth of this team, is this Colbert's best work as well?
ANSWER: I am going to correct a few things in your submission, and I want to tell you in advance that I'm doing it to try to explain how the Steelers do business instead of it being a rebuke directed at you. This Steelers roster, and every Steelers roster, is not assembled by any one individual. The scouting department is headed by Kevin Colbert, but there are scouts involved in the process of evaluating and grading players during the preparation for each upcoming draft, as well as coaches being involved, plus input from the medical people, and Steelers President Art Rooney II. I point this out so that you understand that the move to trade up in the first round of the 2019 draft for Devin Bush, as an example, was not conceived and acted upon by Colbert alone. And I can guarantee you any move to trade a future first-round draft pick is not done autonomously, either. The same applies to free agent signings and contract extensions, and really any personnel moves by the team. None of that is done in a vacuum without input and consultation from Coach Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney II. Certainly, as the head of the personnel department, Colbert deserves a lot of credit for how the Steelers' roster has held up under some difficult circumstances this season, but it shouldn't be viewed as an unusual occurrence, either. Colbert was hired in 2000, and in the 19 full seasons between then and today, the Steelers have won two Super Bowls, three AFC Championships, nine division titles, made 12 appearances in the playoffs, and had only one losing season.
DAMIEN FRANK FROM QUINCY, CA: I enjoy listening to the Steelers radio broadcast through Steelers.com every week. My question is that Craig often will refer to Tunch as "Cha-Looch." Can you help shed some light on the significance of that nickname? Thanks.
ANSWER: Craig Wolfley is a big fan of Asked and Answered, and so when I forwarded him your submission he was happy to take the time to answer your himself. Here is his answer:
"Years ago Tunch and I, while loafing in the offseason, watched a movie called, "The Pope of Greenwich Village." starring Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts. Excellent movie by the way. It was filled with great lines that we would constantly hurl or harass each other with. In the movie, Mickey and Eric played cousins, and Rourke's played character was named Charlie. The slang for Charlie was "Cha-Looch," which is what Eric Roberts called Rourke. Growing up, my grandfather used to call me and the other grand-kids 'Charlie,' I'm assuming, because there were so many of us he didn't know all of our names. But instead of saying, 'Hey, buddy," he would say, 'Hey, Charlie, c'mere.' So one day years ago, it came together while we were on the air and I began calling him Cha-Looch. And it stuck. Simple as that."
BRAD JONES FROM SILVER SPRING, MD: During the previous two seasons you were lamenting about how the defense was woefully lacking in causing turnovers and had to do something to change that if the unit was ever to be successful. This season the defense suddenly leading the league. To what do you owe this turnaround; new players, coaching, or luck?
ANSWER: The primary difference as I see it is the kind of players the Steelers have been able to add to their defense over the past few seasons, among them T.J. Watt, Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Terrell Edmunds, Minkah Fitzpatrick; then you pair those guys with Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt and Bud Dupree and some others to create a unit capable of creating situations that lead to takeaways. High-pedigree players all, and some of them are able to list "ball skills" as a particular strength. That's the most significant factor, and luck also is a factor as well. To me, coaching is the most overrated aspect, because if you remember fans were calling for defensive coordinator Keith Butler's head in 2018, and after the Steelers added Nelson and Bush and Mark Barron and Fitzpatrick and Dupree is healthy and playing well, Butler seems a whole lot smarter.
FRANK FERRI FROM COZUMEL, MEXICO: Is Devlin Hodges going to get any kind of additional compensation other than his meager tryout contract? Are the Steelers able to pay him more for performance? And what is his contract value as an undrafted tryout player?
ANSWER: I don't know how you pay the bills, but I wouldn't refer to Devlin Hodges' compensation as "meager." Anyway, for the two weeks on the Steelers' practice squad, Hodges made at least $16,000, because that's the minimum mandated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Then with the NFL minimum salary for 2019 at $495,000, and with Hodges on the roster for 15 of the 17 weekly paychecks that make up an NFL regular season, he also will make at least an additional $436,764.71. Finally, there is a collectively bargained mechanism known as "Performance-Based Pay" that compensates players based upon playing time and salary levels. As an example, the NFL disbursed $134.16 million in "Performance-Based Pay" after the 2018 season. If Hodges finishes the season as the starter, he'll probably qualify for something from that fund as well. Add it all up, and the total hardly can be referred to as meager.
BOB PURAT FROM NEWTOWN, CT: Considering that it's pretty much a given the Steelers have found their future starting safeties in Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, is there a possibility that Sean Davis replaces either Kameron Kelly or Jordan Dangerfield as a backup? He's a good player and could help the team in different sub-packages.
ANSWER: Sean Davis is on the injured reserve list and out for the rest of the season. Considering that he can become an unrestricted free agent in March 2020, and considering the starting safeties will be Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick, I believe Davis will shop himself on the open market and most likely will be playing for another NFL team next season.
TIM TRATHOWEN FROM COLUMBUS, OH: I know it's a mock draft, but I have seen in these mock drafts that the best fit for the Steelers would be J.K. Dobbins from Ohio State. Are the Steelers in absolute need of a running back, or are there more pressing positions that need addressed first?
ANSWER: Mock drafts are a gigantic guessing game even when they come out days before a particular draft. If you're paying attention to mock drafts now, you have way too much free time on your hands.
NICK PITNER FROM RUSSELL, PA: I keep seeing people ask about Devlin Hodges replacing Ben Roethlisberger next year. I love the way he is playing, but that just won't happen in my opinion, even if he wins the Super Bowl. Do you think the team would see him as a possible backup next year, or even to be our No. 3 quarterback next year? Or is this just a fun run that we are having, and Mason Rudolph goes back to being the backup, with Duck possibly flying elsewhere?
ANSWER: First of all, it's way, way, way too early to be worrying about this, because nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. Devlin Hodges will start on Sunday night against the Bills, but if he starts throwing interceptions and those turnovers are preventing the Steelers from having a chance to win the game, he will get pulled. Next year? It's premature even to be thinking about next week. Hodges' job is not guaranteed, but then that goes for everybody wearing a Steelers helmet. If Hodges finishes this season as the starter, and because he is under contract to the Steelers for the 2020 season, I would imagine he goes to training camp next summer as a prime candidate to be one of the three quarterbacks the team keeps on its 53-man roster for the 2020 season.
MATTHEW RICHARDSON FROM MOODY, AL: Realistically, do you think this will be the only year for Duck Mania? Will Devlin Hodges end up being a one-hit wonder with Ben Roethlisberger coming back next year?
ANSWER: Right now, I would suggest all Steelers fans hope that there's one hit for him to be considered a wonder. Because we haven't even gotten to that point yet.