Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Dec. 21

Let's get to it:

PATRICIA TEMPLER FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Why is the Steelers-Bengals Monday night game today not on a local Pittsburgh television station? I am very upset about this as I do not subscribe to ESPN, and I'm an avid Steelers fan. I don't think this is right.
ANSWER: Rest easy, Patricia. The Steelers game against the Bengals tonight in Cincinnati will be televised on WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh as well as on ESPN. It's an NFL rule that all Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football games be televised on an over-the-air network in the two local markets.

CORNELIUS KEMP II FROM LUKE AFB, AZ: How do you think Marcus Allen has played thus far? Also, what do you think of Marcus Mariota?
ANSWER: More significant than what I might think of Marcus Allen's play is what Coach Mike Tomlin thinks of Marcus Allen's play this season in his move from strong safety to hybrid linebacker. Here's Tomlin's assessment:

"I think it always has kind of been in his makeup in terms of how he plays the game. He's a downhill player. There's not a lot of difference in today's game between a strong safety and a sub-package linebacker if you look at those guys globally in terms of height-weight-speed measurable things, but also in terms of play demeanor and how they combat physical confrontation. He's always had those things in him. I think it's the evolution of the game that has brought itself to Marcus. Five or 10 years ago, I wouldn't have thought of putting somebody who was 210 pounds or so at the linebacker position down in and down out because every team you played had a 235-pound fullback who was prepared to match that. Over half the rosters in today's game don't even have a fullback on it, and so there are a lot of matchup-related things in terms of the evolution of the game that make this thing a real thing and an opportunity for him. And what he's doing with it is impressive."

As for Marcus Mariota, he is under contract to the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021 at a base salary of $10.625 million.

BOOKER BLEDSOE FROM RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA: Growing up in the 1960s, I remember one of the offense's bright spots was John Henry Johnson. Was he as good as I remember, or was this a childhood fantasy? Can you go over his stats during his years with the Steelers?
ANSWER: John Henry Johnson (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987 as part of a class that included Joe Greene. The Steelers picked him in the second round of the 1953 NFL Draft, but Johnson opted to play in Canada for the Calgary Stampeders. After one season north of the border during which he was voted the league's MVP, Johnson signed with the San Francisco 49ers. After three seasons with the 49ers, Johnson was traded to Detroit and he played three seasons for the Lions. Assumed to be washed up, Johnson was traded to the Steelers in 1960 and had the best seasons of his career. He rushed for 4,381 yards (4.4 average) and scored 26 touchdowns and caught 106 passes for another 814 yards and six touchdowns. Johnson still is the oldest player to rush for 1,000 yards in an NFL season – 1,141 yards on 251 carries, 4.5 average at the age of 33. Johnson's best game as a pro came on Oct. 10, 1964 when he carried 30 times for 200 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the Steelers to a 23-7 win in Cleveland over a Browns team that would go on that season to win the NFL Championship. Johnson was voted to four Pro Bowls – three in his six seasons with the Steelers, and he ranked third on the NFL's all-time rushing yards list when he retired.

JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: Is Matt Feiler out for the season with a chest injury, or will he be able to work his way back before the playoffs?
ANSWER: There is some hope/belief that Matt Feiler will be able to come back and play around the time the playoffs begin.

CARLOS ARVIZU FROM MEXICO CITY, MÉXICO: Is there a chance Robert Spillane could come back for at least one regular season game? How about the playoffs?
ANSWER: As is the case with Matt Feiler, there is some hope/belief Robert Spillane will be able to come back and play around the time the playoffs begin.

MATTHIAS ELFGEN FROM OTTAWA, CANADA: What is your view of the current output of our special teams unit?
ANSWER: Currently, the Steelers special teams have not been as productive as was the case through the early portion of the regular season. If you remember, there was a chunk of the season where the Steelers ranked close to the top of the NFL in kickoff coverage, when Ray-Ray McCloud was looking like the team's best returner in years – he had a 49-yard kickoff return and a 57-yard punt return – and Chris Boswell hadn't missed any field goals or extra points. Special teams has been impacted by the trickle-down effect of the injuries the team has sustained, because the "next men up" were some of the team's top special teams performers. Guys such as Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Chase Claypool and Alex Highsmith have had their special teams snaps reduced as their defensive and offensive snaps increase, and now Spillane is among the injured as well.

ROBERT TUCKER FROM BLOSSVALE, NY: I am currently on the couch with a back issue and muscle soreness all over my body after some lifting and work over a sustained period of time. I can imagine what the team is feeling after sustaining the amount of work it has in such an unusual period of time over the last five weeks. I wonder if the league and NFLPA will identify and correct this issue and not allow three games in less than a 14-day period or something to that effect causing the extreme attrition and not allowing players adequate rest?
ANSWER: A very wise man once told me that whenever the question is "Why?" The answer is "Money." There is a significant chunk of revenue derived from Thursday night football games throughout the regular season, and in each Collective Bargaining Agreement since 1993, the owners and players have divided the chunk of money labeled "designated gross revenue." That money is what's at the root of this issue, and when it gets down to brass tacks, neither side wants to mess with the golden goose.

JAMES DEMYAN FROM BETHLEHEM, PA: What do you think of the Steelers running game? I have been a Steelers fan for a very long time and have never seen such a poor running game.
ANSWER: I think the Steelers running game is awful. I don't know how you would define "a very long time" in the context of you being a Steelers fan, but today the Steelers rank 31st in the NFL in rushing, and they finished the 2003 season ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing. Certainly it's possible to split hairs and argue over degrees of "awful," but I believe ranking in the NFL is a reasonable measuring stick because it reflects effectiveness relative to the rest of the league and how the game was being played at the time. The 2003 Steelers, by the way, had Jerome Bettis on the roster, played with a fullback (Dan Kreider), and had Alan Faneca and Jeff Hartings on the offensive line. It also was the last Steelers team to finish a season with a losing record.

TOM GAHR FROM EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, NJ: It seems like a lot of passes in the NFL are being batted down by interior defensive linemen. What do you think of giving Alejandro Villanueva, at 6-foot-9, a few defensive snaps on third downs?
ANSWER: Nah. Alejandro Villanueva already has a full plate as a starting left tackle who plays every offensive snap in every game. Do you have Manute Bol's phone number?

MIKE FOLEY FROM SADDLE BROOK, NJ: Can you please stop posting and answering idiotic questions about replacing Ben Roethlisberger, playing Josh Dobbs, and all other questions about Ben's successor from so-called fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers?
ANSWER: If I'm you, I skip these next two questions.

RICHARD WILLIAMS FROM COLUMBUS, OH: What was the purpose of picking up Josh Dobbs? We have not used him all season. Seems to me to be a wasted pickup.
ANSWER: The purpose was to have a third quarterback on the 53-man roster with NFL regular season starting experience. After last season, I thought you would be wise enough to realize the advantages of not having to use the No. 3 quarterback, because that means Ben Roethlisberger has been healthy. In the NFL, the idea is NOT to use the No. 3 quarterback.

BRITTNEY PRICE FROM GREENVILLE, SC: Why has Josh Dobbs been inactive since we signed him? Steelers Nation would prefer him over Mason Rudolph as the backup quarterback.
ANSWER: Josh Dobbs is the No. 3 quarterback, and teams rarely have their No. 3 quarterback active on game days unless there is a nagging injury situation that has created some uncertainty over the availability of the other two quarterbacks. And you should understand that it doesn't matter what fans prefer when it comes to division of labor of the players on the roster. It doesn't matter what the media thinks. And it especially doesn't matter what I think.

RICK CAPPICCIE FROM SALEM, WV: If you were in Coach Mike Tomlin's ear, what would be your advice to him for our Steelers to advance to the Super Bowl?
ANSWER: Do not, under any circumstances, ever act on any advice presented in Asked and Answered. Never ever.