Let's get to it:
GARY JONES FROM SPARTANBURG, SC:
Based on how well the last few weeks have gone for the Steelers, is it reasonable to say that the last three, four drafts have been quite successful in retooling the talent pool, especially on defense? And that all the criticism of Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin was highly unwarranted?
ANSWER: Whoa. Injecting reason into this is against the rules of engagement. I'm sure you'll be getting a letter from the Commissioner informing you of your punishment for that egregious offense.
Anyway, I have offered the opinion that the Steelers have done a pretty nice job of transitioning from a veteran team that won a lot of games and a couple of Lombardis to a team that's looking like it can be capable of competing for more championships, and they have done this over a relatively short period of time and with no losing seasons. After finishing 12-4 in 2011, the Steelers were facing the reality of having to replace Aaron Smith, James Farrior, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, and Brett Keisel either immediately or in the near future; they had to rebuild an offensive line that had become a liability to Ben Roethlisberger's professional health. The 2016 season is the fifth one since that undertaking had to begin, and in the previous four the Steelers were 8-8 twice, 11-5 division winners once, and a 10-6 Wild Card participant once. In 2015, the injuries to Le'Veon Bell, Le'Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown left the offense gravely shorthanded in the AFC Divisional Round Game in Denver against a Broncos team the Steelers had defeated, 34-27, a month earlier. Today, the Steelers are a win over the Ravens away from clinching the AFC North Division title.
Starting with 2011, their drafts have yielded Cam Heyward, Marcus Gilbert, David DeCastro, Le'Veon Bell, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree , Sammie Coates, Artie Burns, Sean Davis, and Javon Hargrave, plus a host of other guys who may develop into the kind of contributing role players all contending teams must have sprinkled throughout the roster.
All things considered – and the fact the Steelers' record never bottomed out meant they never were drafting in the top 10 during this rebuild – I believe the player personnel department and the coaching staff have generally done a nice job of bridging one era to the next without a protracted period of losing. To summarize, the Steelers have rebuilt their roster without having a single losing season and only missing the playoffs twice over the four-season period when most of the work was done.
Take a look at the best photos from the Week 15 game against the Bengals. The Steelers defeated the Bengals 24-20.
VICTORIA MAILLE FROM BLOOMINGDALE, OH:
As someone without NFL Network, is there any chance one of the Pittsburgh stations will carry the Dec. 25 game against the Baltimore Ravens?
ANSWER: As @SteelersPRBurt has been tweeting for days now, here's the deal: "Game will only air on NFLN, except on WPXI exclusively in Pittsburgh. Game will not be streamed LIVE on Twitter."
Jay Simmons from Cohutta, GA:
This question came up Sunday from a group of fans younger than the Terrible Towel: at what playoff game did Myron Cope introduce the Towel?
ANSWER: It was the 1975 AFC Divisional Round Game against the Baltimore Colts. The game was played at Three Rivers Stadium. The Steelers won, 28-10.
PEPE ANDERSON FROM CHARLOTTE, NC:
Who is available either from the practice squad, or someone's else practice squad who has spent time with the Steelers to help on the defensive line, if Stephon Tuitt or Ricardo Mathews can't play the rest of the way?
ANSWER: The Steelers currently are carrying two defensive linemen on their practice squad: Johnny Maxie, an undrafted rookie from Mars Hill, and Caushaud Lyons, a first-year player from Tusculum. My advice would be instead of combing through other teams' practice squads looking for needles in haystacks, expend your energy praying for Stephon Tuitt's health.
JIM NEAL FROM FAYETTEVILLE, TN:
Win and the Steelers are in. I get that, but what if we lose? Let's say we lose to the Ravens next week. Are we still in if we beat the Browns the following week assuming the Dolphins lose one? And what if we win out and the Raiders lose two in a row? Do we become the No. 2 seed?
ANSWER: I'm going to clue you in on a trade secret: ESPN has a website that allows you to plug in whatever scenario you choose when it comes to the outcomes of the games this weekend and next weekend, and then it spits out which teams make the playoffs, what their seeding would be, and which team would be the opponent in that given scenario. That website is: espn.com/nfl/playoffs/machine. It has all the answers, and I use it regularly.
TERRI LUCERO FROM BAYFIELD, CO:
What happened to Antonio Browns segment of "What It Is?" Can you ask to bring it back? I really like seeing the guys goof off in the locker room.
ANSWER: "What It Is" returns to Steelers.com this week. Look for it on Wednesday or maybe Thursday.
JOE O'TOOLE FROM ROCKAWAY, NJ:
Love Asked and Answered. William Gay is a freak of nature. Can you tell me his contract status?
ANSWER: James Harrison will become an unrestricted free agent following the 2016 season.
DAVID MAURO FROM LOWELL, MI:
What do you want for Christmas?
ANSWER: A win over the Ravens. Duh.