Let’s get to it:
JEFF BANKOVICH FROM ELIZABETH TWP., PA: If a player is elected to play in the Pro Bowl and does not participate, does he receive a game check?
ANSWER: If the player shows up for the week but doesn’t get into the game, he gets a check based on whether his team won or lost. If he chooses not to participate, then he doesn’t.
GUSTAVO ZAPIAIN FROM GATINEAU, QUEBEC, CANADA: Who would you select as the Steelers rookie of the year and why?
ANSWER: In my view, it would have to be Terrell Edmunds. He has started 13 of the team’s 14 games to this point in the season, which breaks down to more playing time than any other rookie, and over the past several games he has played just about every defensive snap. He currently is fourth on the team in tackles with 64, and he also has one sack, three hits on the quarterback, one interception, four passes defensed, and a fumble recovery. On special teams, Edmunds has four more tackles, which places him fifth on the team in that category. Among the rookie class, there is no one close to that level of production.
DON GREGOR FROM BEND, OR: What happened to Landry Jones after being released by the Steelers? Was he signed by another team?
ANSWER: Landry Jones had a few workouts with different teams after being released by the Steelers in the final cut-down to 53 players at the end of the preseason. He was signed by the Jaguars a few weeks before the Steelers visited Jacksonville, and then in a typical Tom Coughlin move, he was cut the day after the game, which the Steelers won. Since then, he has been out of football.
BILL JANUS FROM HAINESPORT, PA: If James Conner comes back this week, can you see him and Jaylen Samuels in the backfield at the same time?
ANSWER: No. The Steelers do not utilize a split-backfield, and they have not used a split backfield since Chuck Noll retired following the 1991 season. That’s 27 years ago, by the way.
JOSEPH ZOOK FROM ARODA, VA: That question last week about bringing Landry Jones back – how much you wanna bet that same person was crying for Landry to be cut? Questions like that make me shake my head.
ANSWER: Get a load of the next one …
JAMES BARR FROM ERIE, PA: When the Steelers were called for too many men on the field during the New England game, why did no one from the Steelers staff lasso a zebra to inform them of their mistake? That was a terrible call during a critical part of the game and could have had a huge affect on the outcome. It seems apparent to me that too many decisions (challenging the spot of the ball, for instance) and non-decisions such as this, show a lack of good judgment by the coaching staff during games.
ANSWER: You, and fans like you, are unbelievable. Now it’s also Mike Tomlin’s fault when the officials make a bad call. Do you actually believe that a coach complaining about a bad call, or pointing out to an official that it was a bad call, has any impact? Seriously? Do you not think Tomlin pointed out to referee Bill Vinovich that the Chargers’ right tackle committed a false start on that touchdown pass Philip Rivers threw? Or that Tomlin and Danny Smith both didn’t go ballistic over the block-in-the-back that wasn’t called on Desmond King’s punt return for a touchdown in the same game? Did it have any impact? Did the calls magically get changed? Did Al Riveron come out publicly and admit those mistakes? No. No. No.
On the play after that too many men on the field penalty, Tom Brady found Chris Hogan wide open for a 63-yard touchdown play that clearly included a busted coverage by the Steelers. When asked after the game whether Artie Burns was at fault on the play, Tomlin said, “No, and that play wasn’t even his fault, so I want to be clear in saying that. That play that we gave up was not his fault. I accept responsibility that it was our fault. I was too busy arguing a sequence of events prior to that really to make sure we had proper communication in that sequence, so we essentially spotted them seven (points).”
What “sequence of events” do you think Tomlin was “busy arguing?” And did it have any impact?
JOE WERNER FROM WEST HENRIETTA, NY: It seems to me that on many pass interference penalties, the flag gets thrown late, often several seconds after the play ends. With other penalties, such as holding, offside, etc., the calls are fairly instantaneous. Can you provide any insight on why there is such a lag time on pass interference penalties being called?
ANSWER: I’m sorry, I cannot, except for this: A very wise person once told this: Whenever the question is “why?” – the answer is “money.” I would offer you this version of that principle: Whenever the question is about NFL officials, the answer is “incompetence.”
BILL LANPHERE FROM GENESEO, TN: With the enormous number of blown/missed calls by NFL officials this year, do you think it will be addressed in the offseason to a greater extent? In my opinion they are affecting the outcome of too many games.
ANSWER: At the root of the problem, I believe, is that the NFL doesn’t agree with your assessment. I saw one report stating the NFL claims that 95 percent of all officials’ call are correct. Ninety-five percent. Imagine.
KEVIN MARTIN FROM WILLIAMSBURG, VA: Since the initiation of instant replay, I believe the officiating in the NFL has gotten progressively worse. It appears as if the officials let play continue believing that replay will fix things. This puts players at risk as many plays continue after they should have been blown dead. With the NFL's commitment to player safety, do you believe this policy puts players at unnecessary risk? Do you also believe the officiating quality has declined since the advent of instant replay?
ANSWER: I don’t know that I would correlate instant replay to a decline in player safety, but I certainly believe it has led to a decline in the overall level of officiating because some officials are gun-shy to make a call they fear could be overturned on replay, while others seem to have adopted the attitude of letting replay handle the tough situations. A classic example came in the Steelers game against the Patriots last Sunday when a New England player had the ball stripped and recovered by a Pittsburgh defender. At first, the referee said the runner was “down by contact,” but then when Coach Mike Tomlin threw the challenge flag, the description of the play was changed to “forward progress was stopped,” which is not reviewable.
KENNETH SMITH FROM WINCHENDON, MA: Why not give Darrius Heyward-Bey a chance at cornerback? Being an excellent athlete, I remember New England’s Troy Brown did it a while ago and really like the idea.
ANSWER” ‘Tis the season.