Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Dec. 21

Let's get to it:

Why did Todd Haley only call running plays during the last two out of three times Pittsburgh had the ball? They moved the ball up and down the field all day with mostly passes, and he just cost them the game by running it and trying to run the clock out.


ANSWER: You must subscribe to the "never let facts get in the way of my opinion" club, but I'm going to clear up the inaccuracies here for you anyway. On the second-to-last possession, which was a three-and-out, two of the three plays were passes. One ended up as a run when Ben Roethlisberger couldn't find an open receiver and had to scramble, but the play called was a pass. On third-and-4, Roethlisberger threw another pass, this one to JuJu Smith-Schuster, but he was stopped less than a yard short of the line to gain by safety Eric Rowe, who made a nice play on a physical wide receiver.**

On the third-to-last possession, which started at their own 3-yard line, by the way – not exactly a spot on the field to be throwing the ball all over the place – the first eight plays were five runs that gained 20 yards, which is a 4.0 average, and three passes. Then came the holding penalty on Al Villanueva that messed everything up.

For the game, the Steelers called 28 running plays that gained 133 yards (4.8 average) and 35 passes, including the two sacks and the three times Roethlisberger scrambled out of the pocket.

If you wanted to criticize a particular play, such as the draw to Fitz Toussaint on second-and-23 during that third-to-last possession, I would have listened, but your blanket criticism is based on inaccuracies and generalizations.

I've won numerous electric football championships, so I have an informed opinion. If we play the Patriots again, Al Villanueva should play both ways, and when he's on defense have him play bump-and-run against Rob Gronkowski, with help from Mel Blount (sign him out of retirement; he should be well-rested). Also, because Ben Roethlisberger has considered retirement, we should immediately and exclusively run the wildcat offense to prepare for next year. Your thoughts?

ANSWER: My only thought on this is that there was never a more disappointing Christmas gift during my childhood than electric football. The way it was shown in advertisements made it seem like the most realistic football board game ever invented, but after Santa granted my wish and brought it for me that Christmas, I never could get it to work the way it did in those TV ads. Painstakingly arranging the pieces, hitting the switch, and then being totally frustrated as all 22 pieces on the board simply vibrated into a big circle in the middle of the field. No matter how you arranged the "players," you always got the same thing once you hit the switch: a big mass of little plastic men in the middle of the field.

While Jesse James' catch was under review was there any discussion as to what they would do if it wasn't a touchdown? The review seemed to take a bit longer than a normal review. I was just wondering why there was so much confusion on the last play after being allotted that time to come up with a game plan.

ANSWER: This is the way Mike Tomlin explained what transpired while Tony Corrente was being told by Al Riveron what the interpretation of the Jesse James play was to be:

"A lot of things transpired during that time period, and it starts with a review and what potentially could happen coming out of the review," said Tomlin. "We had a couple of scenarios. There was a "touchdown, drive over" scenario. There was the scenario that actually transpired where it was ruled incomplete. But there was another scenario that was more critical, more time specific that was being discussed by us. It was presented to us by the officials during the review process – that if it gets ruled "completed catch, down inbounds" that was probably the most significant element of the our discussion as we approached the last play. While they were in review, that was being discussed, because if his knee was down in the field of play, there would be a 10-second runoff, they'd spot the ball, wind the clock, and we'd be faced with a running clock in that circumstance.

"So that was probably the most significant element of our discussion when they were in review, and that was presented to us by one of the officials – that they may come out with a completed-ball-knee-down-in-the-field-of-play ruling – and he gave us an alert that it might include a 10-second runoff and a running clock. Ten-second runoff and a running clock, that was the scenario that maintained most of our attention of what could happen when they came out of review. What did happen when they came out of review was probably the least of the scenarios from my expectation, which was ruling it an incomplete pass."

Had Corrente come out and handed down a "completed catch, down inbounds" judgment, the Steelers' reality would have been this: second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, with 18 seconds left, no timeouts, and then clock would start as soon as the ball was put in play by the umpire. Remember how that worked out for the Ravens at the end of the game at Heinz Field the previous Sunday.

"There were multiple (offensive) plays being called for the reasons I explained," said Tomlin. "There were multiple potential circumstances depending upon what transpired when they came out of the review."

My question is very simple, don't you think the Steelers have a big problem with the coaching staff? I think we were outcoached again by Bill Belichick.

ANSWER: I also have a question that's very simple: If Jesse James' touchdown catch had been upheld on replay, does that mean Bill Belichick got out-coached? If Belichick is such a great coach, a defensive genius, how did he allow the Steelers – who had 52 seconds and one timeout – to move from their own 21-yard line to the Patriots 10-yard line in 18 seconds? Eighteen seconds. Imagine if that had gone the other way, and the Patriots had moved that far that fast. New England was very fortunate to win that game, and it needed a replay review that will be debated for years to come, plus it needed seven on-field officials to ignore a blatant hold/interference penalty in the end zone on Eli Rogers in the final 10 seconds to sneak out of town with a three-point win.

On JuJu Smith-Schuster's last reception, what was Le'Veon Bell doing? Does he need to get himself a set of pom-poms? I know he's a really good back, but to be great he needs to put out more effort on that play. In my opinion, just another of the "little things" that we didn't do to win the game. Do you think his lack of effort on this play will be discussed with him?

ANSWER: Pom-poms? OK, Terry Bradshaw, you started this, so here we go. If you're referring to JuJu Smith-Schuster's 69-yard catch-and-run, I respectfully submit to you that you don't know what you're talking about. On the play, Bell first blocked Patriots safety Devin McCourty to prevent him from making a play on the receiver along the sideline that would have prevented him from making a first down, and then when Smith-Schuster cut back toward the middle of the field, Bell chipped another Patriots defender – without blocking him in the back to draw a penalty – to allow Smith-Schuster to get into the open field and complete the play. This is one of the plays that Tunch Ilkin diagrammed on the most recent episode of Chalk Talk, which airs on on the day after the game. I encourage you to watch it, but before you do maybe a trip to the optometrist is in order, and please take Al Riveron along with you.

During the 2-point conversion that put the Patriots up, 27-24, why was Rob Gronkowski not flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct seeing as he clearly pointed and laughed at Sean Davis?

ANSWER: He stood over him while doing it, too. I wondered the same thing.

Who's the Steelers rookie of the year, JuJu Smith-Schuster or T.J. Watt?

ANSWER: I believe the results will be announced some day next week, and while I don't have a vote, I wouldn't be shocked if the outcome might have changed depending upon when the voting was done – before or after the game against the Patriots.

Antonio Brown took kids from the Holy Family Academy holiday shopping.

On Monday's edition of "Good Morning Football" on NFL Network, Peter Schrager said – and I rewound it just to make sure – "If the Patriots lose their remaining two games and the Jaguars win their remaining two games, then the Jags would be the No. 1 seed." How?

ANSWER: That would be true if those two things happen along with the Steelers losing one of their final two regular season games – at Houston and against Cleveland at Heinz Field. That would make the Patriots 11-5, while the Steelers and Jaguars would both be at 12-4, and since Jacksonville beat Pittsburgh head-to-head the tiebreaker would go to the Jaguars.

I thought Terrell Watson was an all-around better fit for the Steelers than Fitz Toussaint. Any idea why Watson was placed on the practice squad?

ANSWER: The Steelers see Fitz Toussaint as more important on special teams, and I'm not talking about as a returner.

Wasn't Jack Lambert a 6-foot-4 inside linebacker? Wouldn't it make sense to draft one or two who can do what Lambert did?

ANSWER: Great idea. Just point me to the tree where the 6-foot-4 Hall of Fame linebackers grow, and I'll get those directions to General Manager Kevin Colbert tomorrow.

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