Let's get to it:
MIKE REIBMAN FROM MERRICK, N.Y.:
It's generally been voiced recently that William Gay is the Steelers' best cornerback. If I recall correctly, a few years back, when William Gay was first put into a starting role (around 2009 or 2010) that a lot of fans complained that he was the "worst cornerback in the league." What is it that has changed? William's play? Fans' perception?
First things first. Fans' perception of the quality of William Gay's play is meaningless for the purpose of this discussion, because fans have no impact on player evaluations. Can you imagine a realistic scenario in which a quality NFL coach – or even a successful NFL organization, for that matter – would cut a player because fans booed him? Or maybe even more unbelievably, would sign a player to a lucrative contract and commit a valuable role on the team to a player because fans liked him? I don't believe Gay ever was the "worst cornerback in the league," but I also believe certain players need time to develop, time to figure out the nuances of being a professional, time to hone the fundamentals of their craft. I believe Gay is the best cornerback on the Steelers roster today, and I'm certain he is a better and more complete player than he was five years ago. Had the Steelers overreacted to what some fans thought, they might have missed out on a player who recently tied Rod Woodson for the franchise record with five interceptions returned for touchdowns.**
TRISTAN FROST FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
So I understand that if we win out, we can clinch the sixth seed in the playoffs (or if we win next week against the Ravens and the Jets lose). But I have been hearing about scenarios in which we can even win the division, or gain the No. 5 seed and Denver falls out of the playoffs. Is it at all possible to still get a first-round bye if everything goes our way? Math is hard. Can you help clarify the playoff picture?
As of today, the Steelers have a chance to qualify for the playoffs as the No. 2 seed, the No. 3 seed, the No. 5 seed, or the No. 6 seed. The No. 2 seed would come with a bye in the first round, and for the Steelers to finish as either the No. 2 seed or the No. 3 seed, they would be able to attain that only by winning the AFC North Division championship. A win by the Bengals in either one of their final two regular season games – on Monday, Dec. 28 in Denver or Jan. 3 vs. Baltimore – and they would win the AFC North, and if the Bengals win the AFC North then the Steelers only can qualify for the playoffs as a Wild Card, which means as a No. 5 or a No. 6 seed. If the Steelers win and the Jets lose this weekend to clinch a playoff spot for Pittsburgh, then some of the other scenarios could be computed a week from now.
CHARLIE ULSAMER FROM FORT COLLINS, CO:
With the NFL doing these color rush games on Thursday nights ,I was wondering why the Steelers Thursday night game against the Ravens didn't have color rush uniforms? Did the league wait until after the Steelers Thursday night game to start the color rush games because the Steelers wouldn't alter their uniforms or was it just a coincidence? Do you think the Steelers would ever change their uniforms just for one game? And last but not least could the NFL force the Steelers to wear a different uniform?
The color rush foolishness didn't begin until the game between Buffalo and the Jets a few weeks ago, and the timing of that had nothing to do with the Steelers and/or their Thursday night game against the Ravens. My understanding is that the Steelers have no interest in altering their classic uniform for some harebrained marketing stunt, and I am willing to bet there are some other NFL teams – Green Bay and the New York Giants are two that come to mind immediately – that also would have no interest in that, either.
PAUL GRAFTON FROM JACKSONVILLE, FL:
By the time you read this the Steelers will have beaten Denver and the road to the playoffs will be much easier. However, at this point there is still a slim chance that Jacksonville will make the playoffs and the Steelers will not. My question is, Who will pay my bills when I am too embarrassed to come out of my house until next football season if this horrible situation should take place? I am still trying to explain to the Jaguars fans that preseason games do not mean anything.
What I can tell you for certain is that it won't be me paying your bills.
MO PECORA FROM HAMILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA:
I don't have a question, just a comment: I was reading the questions that were a part of the Dec. 17 installment of Asked and Answered. Wow, a lot of morons out there. I think your wit is priceless, and so please keep it up. I love reading your answers. You're the best, and yes, we Steelers fans do have a lot to look forward to. Look out, fans, 2005 is going to happen again.
Thanks. I try to entertain as well as inform.
NICK MITCHELL FROM GLEN-LYON, PA:
Bob, who is the backup runner to DeAngelo Williams, and is this player getting practice repetitions? And how is the recovery going Senquez Golson and his shoulder injury?
Based on Coach Mike Tomlin's decisions regarding which running backs are active on game days, DeAngelo Williams' backup right now is Fitzgerald Toussaint. I don't watch practice during the regular season, but I can assure you that Toussaint takes part in practice every day that it is held. With regard to Senquez Golson, I have no direct knowledge of how his shoulder in doing after he had surgery on it some time before the end of the preseason. Most of the time, there are not periodic updates on the progress of injured players, and with Golson I wouldn't expect much definitive information until the 2016 offseason program draws near.
DWIGHT JEFFERSON FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.:
Bob, thank you and your colleagues for giving us Steeler fans the best content and feature-filled team site in the NFL. No other team site comes within light years of what y'all give us. My question is seeking clarification on your statement on a recent episode of Agree to Disagree: What's your reasoning for seeing Markus Wheaton as the number 2 receiver over Martavis Bryant? Is it in production, how they're utilized?
My opinion was stated based on my perception of the completeness of their games at this stage of their respective careers. Martavis Bryant has a wondrous combination of size and speed, but his hands are still less than completely dependable, and he isn't always reliable when forced to make what coaches refer to as "combat catches." To me, Wheaton is more well-rounded in some of the nuances of the position, and while Bryant is a dynamic offensive weapon in many ways, at this stage of his career he's more of a one-trick pony. It's a special trick, but it's still only one trick so far.
IAN MURRAY FROM FITCHBURG, MA:
How much weight, if any, do you think the team's executives put into public opinion? There seem to be many loud and obnoxious anti-Tomlin and anti-Haley "fans" out there, and so does their crying fall on deaf ears? I realize winning is most important in the NFL, but keeping customers happy is important in any industry. For what it's worth, I think they're both doing an excellent job and I think most fans agree, but may not be as vocal about it.
Take a look at some of the festivities that happened at Heinz Field during the "Thank You Fans" Tribute.
The Rooney family business is football, and two members of the family – Art Sr. and Dan – have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If either of those men ran the business based on public opinion, they wouldn't be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If a family in the football business wants to keep customers happy, the only way that's possible is by winning. And the only way a franchise wins on a consistent basis is by doing the right thing, not the popular thing.**
ERIC MEISELBACH FROM MANVILLE, N.J.:
Why are you so hostile toward your readers? It seems like you deliberately choose questions you think are silly, and then try to shame the person who took the time to write you. How about just answering the good questions? Just an idea.
You know nothing about the "quality" of the questions I receive, or how many of them would qualify under your definition of "good questions." I can tell you I have to sift through a lot of garbage to cobble together enough "good questions" for two installments per week. I used your question for this installment, just as I used the one submitted from Mo Pecora to illustrate that many of the faithful readers of this feature come back to be entertained. How about submitting a "good question" for me to answer, instead of telling me how to do my job. Just an idea.
TERRY PETERS FROM VIENNA, VA:
No question, just thanks for your sanity. Fan since I was 4, 58 years of stress and joy. Merry Christmas, Bob.
Merry Christmas to you and yours , as well.