Let's get to it:
SCOTT JUNG FROM SEVERNA PARK, MD:
In following William Gay on social media, I saw that he was selected for another random drug screening. Unlike other fans who put random in quotes, I still hold some hope that he is not being held to a different standard. Is there some magic formula to the testing? Previous failures, age, etc., that would affect his number of tests? Obviously he publicizes it, but is the list of those tested available? Who is second on the Steelers for being tested (and a number)?
ANSWER: Despite what the public might believe as a result of the way drug test results regularly are leaked to the media, all of this is supposed to be confidential. Of course, as the person being tested, James Harrison cannot be disciplined for sharing the information, but no one else associated with the process is allowed either to reveal who is being tested, or how often, or what the results are. According to terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, random tests can be administered as often as 10 times over a 30-day period. Oh, and Harrison never has failed a test.
PAUL GRANZEIER FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
Since the Steelers have a lot of cap space, why didn't they keep Randy Bullock on their practice squad?
ANSWER: I don't know where you got your "information" that the Steelers have a lot of cap space, but they do not. And Randy Bullock is not eligible for the practice squad, because he has too many years of service in the NFL. By the way, Bullock signed with the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 13, and him being on the Steelers' practice squad – even if he was eligible – couldn't have changed that.
LOU BOLOGNIA FROM HERMITAGE, TN:
Just wanted to echo the kudos to Randy Bullock for his contribution. Everyone seems to be happy with his performance (obviously). Is it customary for teams to award a ring to a player who has contributed to the long journey of chasing the Lombardi Trophy even if he is no longer on the roster?
ANSWER: I don't imagine there have been too many situations, barring injury, through 50 Super Bowls where "a player who has contributed to the long journey of chasing the Lombardi Trophy" is not on that team's roster for the actual winning of the game, but the awarding of Super Bowl rings is the prerogative of the winning team. But with Randy Bullock now a member of a different team, I seriously doubt that would be an option in this case should it get that far.**
JACK BODELL FROM JACKSONVILLE, FL:
In the Baltimore-New England game, Justin Tucker executed an on-side kick. He stepped in front of the ball then came back and kicked to the other side. Why is that not offside when he steps in front of the ball?
ANSWER: I asked special teams coordinator Danny Smith this question, and he told me that the kicker on a kickoff never can be called offside. That in many cases, the kicker's plant foot might land over the line as he's swinging his kicking leg through the ball, and in all cases the kicker never can be offside. Also on a kickoff, in the event of high winds when an official requires another player on the kickoff team to hold the ball on the tee, he also cannot be flagged for offside, regardless of where he's lined up.
LAURA HANEY FROM RUFFEN, NC:
I saw in an earlier edition of Asked and Answered where you wrote that the team on top of its division got homefield advantage in the playoffs. How do they find out who gets homefield advantage if the two top teams are tied for first?
ANSWER: What I wrote in that Asked and Answered was that every division champion gets a home game to open the playoffs. That is drastically different than homefield advantage, which spans the entire time a team is in the playoffs. Within a division, ties are broken according to the following steps: head-to-head results; record within the division; record against common opponents (minimum of four); and then record within the conference. There are several more tiebreakers the NFL uses, down to a coin toss. But thankfully, it never has come to a coin toss.
CRAIG HILLSMAN FROM CLARKSVILLE, TN:
I'm pretty sure I read that the Christmas Day game against the Ravens had a chance to be flexed to NBC. Would that just be for the local market or would that be for the national market as well?
ANSWER: If the NFL decided to flex Ravens-Steelers to a different network, that would affect the telecast of the game nationwide. But this has become a moot point with the NFL's announcement on Dec. 12 that there would be no changes to the Christmas Day schedule. So it will be Steelers-Ravens on NFL Network, and Broncos-Chiefs on NBC.
LANCE BOOMHOWER FROM ANGLETON, TX:
You may have explained this before, but if you did I missed it. In week 14, Titans wide receiver Harry Douglas placed a low block on Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. Can you please explain the difference between that being a legal block, and an illegal chop-block that would have drawn the flag?
ANSWER: A chop-block is defined as one player delivering a low block on an individual who is already being engaged by another player. The Harry Douglas-Chris Harris Jr. situation was one-on-one in the open field. That was a cut-block, which is not illegal in that situation.
TOM JANUSZEWSKI FROM YORK, ONTARIO, CANADA:
My question is in regards to Sammie Coates. I have broken many of fingers in my playing days, and the recovery has usually been less than five weeks. Is it still an injury issue with him, or more of a confidence/talent thing? I know through college he had a lot of problems with drops. With his physical tools and Ben Roethlisberger under center, he should be an elite receiver against single-coverage sets.
ANSWER: I'm going to start with this answer from Coach Mike Tomlin's news conference on Tuesday, Dec. 13: "(Coates) just needs to show that he's capable of consistently overcoming the adversity that comes in the form of a hand injury. Obviously, he's healthy enough to play for us. He's been playing and has been a really positive contributor on special teams. We just have to continue to work through the present circumstances. I know you guys think there's more to that story than what it is, but it's not. The guy's got two broken fingers on one hand. It makes it difficult to catch the ball consistently. Particularly, when he's working back toward the quarterback. Until we can get some comfort or clarity in that area, his offensive contributions are going to be limited."
And with all due respect to your "playing days," I seriously doubt that they included catching an NFL football coming at the speed generated by Ben Roethlisberger's right arm.
GUY BRETON FROM QUÉBEC, CANADA:
Agree or Disagree: Ben is a liability on the road.
ANSWER: Disagree. Strongly.