Let's get to it:
S. BETH GOLLMAR FROM ATHENS, GA: As a Steelers fan here in Georgia, the opportunity to see the team play in person is an infrequent opportunity. I was at the game vs. the Falcons on Dec. 4, and there were lots of Steelers fans in attendance waving their Terrible Towels. Which away games seem to generate the largest number of Steelers fans? Not counting AFC North games.
ANSWER: Strictly from a geographic perspective, games played in the South – Georgia, Florida, New Orleans, North Carolina – always are popular with Steelers fans because of a combination of those venues either containing a lot of family members of current players or being in close proximity to a lot of family members of current players. Steelers fans also have a presence in games played in Southern California, especially San Diego before the Chargers moved north. Beyond geography, another factor is the availability of tickets and the willingness of the home team's fans to decide to try to make a little extra cash by selling their tickets to Steelers fans.
KEVIN PIRSTL FROM STEGERSBACH, AUSTRIA: The game against the Ravens was just painful to watch. Could you explain how it is not possible to stop the run when you know that they are going to run the ball 99 percent of the time? Especially in the second half?
ANSWER: This is not a video game. It's played by flesh-and-blood men who are engaged in a series of physical confrontations that make up every play in a football game. Too often last Sunday, the Ravens offense won those physical confrontations. That's how one NFL team can run the ball on another NFL team even though everyone watching know it's going to be a running play. It has been said that the job of an offensive lineman is moving an opponent from "Point A to Point B against his will." When an offensive line does that consistently, what you get is what happened to the Steelers vs. the Ravens.
MATT CLARK FROM LOS ANGELES, CA: Often, including the Ravens game, defensive players (T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward especially) talk about lack of execution. Is this poor coaching, players trying to do too much, or opposing teams out scheming (which, of course, comes back to coaching)?
ANSWER: Ah, someone else who believes that what happens weekly in NFL stadiums is a video game, or a board game. You or I could be taught the game plan and learn it, and regardless of how great the schematics might be, or how on point the play-calling might be, if the guy across the line of scrimmage from you or I is kicking our butt play after play, the result is going to be ugly.
Here's a story to illustrate what I mean. Toward the end of Chuck Noll's coaching career, the Pittsburgh Symphony traveled to Saint Vincent College during Steelers training camp to perform a benefit concert, and part of the show was to have Noll serve as a guest conductor during the Symphony's playing of John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever." Noll was reluctant at first, because he didn't believe he had the expertise to pull it off, but then the Symphony's full-time conductor took a stab at convincing him. He told Noll that the musicians were professionals and knew the material, and all the conductor (or guest conductor) really needed to do was get them started and then they would take over. And at that point there was nothing more the conductor could do to impact the performance one way or the other. Noll thought for a moment, and then said, "Sounds a lot like my job."
Once the music starts, it's in the hands of the musicians. Once the game starts, it's in the hands of the players.
MARK LECOMPTE FROM BROSSARD, QUEBEC, CANADA: What is the association of the term "yinz" and the Steelers?
ANSWER: It has to do with the dialect spoken in Western Pennsylvania, often referred to as "Pittsburghese." According to dictionary.com, "Yinz" is the Pittsburgh equivalent to y'all. It is used to address two or more people as a second-person plural pronoun. "Yinzer" historically was used to identify the typical blue-collar people from the Pittsburgh region who often spoke with a heavy Pittsburghese accent. The term stems from the word yinz, a second-person plural pronoun brought to the area by early Scottish-Irish immigrants. That explains how "yinz" and "Yinzer" are associated with the Pittsburgh area, and it's obvious how the Steelers are associated with the same geographical area.
DAVID SWEENEY FROM BLOOMINGTON, IN: I know Connor Heyward it technically listed as tight end/H-back, but could he be used as a slot receiver?
ANSWER: Actually, Connor Heyward is listed as a TE/FB, and I don't know that he has the speed or the short-area quickness typically associated with an NFL slot receiver. Heyward can line up in the slot as a TE/FB and be involved in the offense from there, and while I believe he has a nice NFL future ahead of him I don't know that his skills translate to being a slot receiver.
DAVID HORCHAK FROM CHERRY TREE, PA: Did I miss something? The Steelers have had Chris Boswell as their placekicker for years, as they should. But he was injured, and they used/had Nick Sciba in relief for one game and then went outside for Matthew Wright. Now, Boswell is back, and they cut Wright. If the Steelers trusted Wright over Sciba, why cut him instead of moving him to a backup role or even try to keep him on the practice squad?
ANSWER: The something you are missing is an understanding of the rules. In order to get a player from the 53-man roster onto the practice squad, the team first must waive him, wait to see if he clears waivers (which last for 24 hours) and then determine if the player is interested in signed a practice squad contract. NFL teams do not keep backup placekickers on their active rosters if their "starting" placekicker is healthy.
TIM KISSELL FROM STREETSBORO, OH: In the last Asked and Answered, you answered a couple of questions about playing to win and how that is important to Mike Tomlin and the Rooney family. If winning is so important, then why won't they change out coaches during the season? That doesn't seem like wanting to win to me.
ANSWER: I answered this question in the Nov. 24 installment of Asked and Answered, and I will repeat that answer for you here: Once Dan Rooney assumed primary control over football operations in the mid-1960s, his philosophy was that it always was a bad idea to fire coaches in the middle of the season. His reason was that after you fire a coach in the middle of the season, an interim replacement has to be hired/appointed. Then if the interim hire/appointee has some success, then maybe you are influenced/convinced to hire him full-time even though he might not be the choice if a complete search was conducted. So, Dan Rooney's belief was that if you're going to fire/replace a coach, you do it at the end of the season and then conduct a wide-ranging search for the best possible replacement.
MICHAEL MOLINARO FROM GAHANNA, OH: Do the Steelers have any input on the NFL schedule? For example, do you believe someone from the league office called and said "Hey, we have you playing at night on Christmas Eve? You OK with that?" I have season tickets but can't give them away to the Raiders game. Christmas Eve is a special night for many, many people and spending it at Acrisure is not a tradition anybody with a child will find satisfying. I find it odd that the NFL wouldn't give that game to a West Coast team who could be home well in time to put Santa's cookies by the tree.
ANSWER: Since you describe yourself as a Steelers season ticketholder, I'm going to assume you are aware of this being the 50th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, which happened on Dec. 23, 1972. The way the calendar breaks in 2022, Christmas Eve is on a Saturday, and Christmas falls on a Sunday, and the NFL has games scheduled for both of those days. I am not going to tell you or try to convince you that a football game is more important than spending time with your family and enjoying all of the traditions associated with the Christmas season, but I am willing to bet that Raiders at Steelers at 8:15 p.m. on Dec. 24 gets great television ratings, and those broadcast fees are part of the engine that drives the league. Also, not everyone celebrates Christmas, and not even everyone who celebrates Christmas has children of the age who would have interest in putting "Santa's cookies by the tree." I get that you're not in favor of football on Christmas Eve, and while that's a legitimate opinion, I also believe the TV ratings and the attendance at Acrisure Stadium that night will show that many, many people are. And to answer your basic question, no, the NFL doesn't ask teams' permission when scheduling their games.
BRETT ROSSOMANNO FROM PACIFIC, MO: As a Steelers fan living in St. Louis, I usually don't get to see the Steelers unless they are playing a game that is broadcast nationally. When the NFL flexes a game out of prime time, are there any efforts made to move those two teams back into a national broadcast slot somewhere else in their schedule?
ANSWER: The reason that a game is flexed out of a primetime slot is because it has been judged by the league and its broadcast partner as not being an attractive matchup to a national audience. So, no, there is no effort made to place that team or those teams into a different nationally televised time slot.
BROOKS LAVER FROM HARRISONBURG, VA: I know this is way too far in advance, but what is the major position that needs to be addressed this upcoming draft/offseason?
ANSWER: You are correct, it is way too early, and allow me to remind you that the Steelers don't draft strictly on the basis of need and haven't since Chuck Noll was hired in 1969.