Let's get to it:
ADAM STATTI FROM FORT MYERS, FL:
Which team do you think would be the best first round matchup for Steelers in the playoffs? By best, I mean "easiest."
ANSWER: First of all, I don't like to anger the football gods by assuming the making of the playoffs, but I admit to having perused some of the possible scenarios. Based on a very preliminary perusal and knowing that the Steelers haven't clinched anything, I believe the team's best/most realistic positioning would be to win the AFC North Division and enter the postseason as the No. 3 seed. There is a possibility the Miami Dolphins also qualify for the AFC Playoffs as a Wild Card team, the No. 6 seed. That would mean the Dolphins come to Heinz Field for a rematch of the Oct. 16 game at Sun Life Stadium. I don't know that the Dolphins would be the "easiest" opponent for the Steelers, but they would be a familiar one, and also one to provide the Steelers with an opportunity to settle a score.
ROB MONROE FROM NORRISTOWN PA:
What does it take to get an intentional grounding call? Dalton threw one ball almost into the stands, with not a receiver in sight.
ANSWER: There are many ways now for a quarterback to get rid of the football legally to avoid a sack while not being flagged for intentional grounding. If he's out of the pocket, all he has to do it throw the ball beyond the line of scrimmage. Close to the goal line, he can throw the ball out of the back of the end zone. He can throw it at the feet of any eligible receiver. And I'm sure there are more options, all of which are designed to protect the quarterback.
TERRY GARDNER FROM MUNCY, PA:
When looking at defensive stats, are sacks included in the tackles for loss numbers, or are they completely separate numbers?
ANSWER: They are supposed to be considered different categories. Coach Mike Tomlin told me that in his view, tackles-for-loss refer to the running game. And of course, sacks refer to the passing game.
CURTIS PRICE FROM STATE COLLEGE, PA:
I've noticed that in the past few games Ryan Shazier is getting either limited playing time, or hasn't seen the field. Do you know why? Is he injured, or it's because his performance level dropped?
ANSWER: Jarvis Jones is not injured, and playing time at outside linebacker from this point forward will be distributed based on production. It has less to do with Jarvis and more to do with William Gay.
DAVID DAVIS FROM NEW CASTLE, DE:
Why didn't Jarvis Jones get any play time last weekend against Cincinnati?
ANSWER: See above.
HENRY HEER FROM YULEE, FL:
In the statistics for the quarterback and wide receivers, does a completed pass negated by an offensive penalty count in attempts/completions and yards gained columns?
ANSWER: No. If you ever have an opportunity to see an official gamebook – and they can be found on NFL.com – you will see in the play-by-play that it is designated as "no play." Here is an exact entry from the official gamebook from the Steelers' game last week in Cincinnati against the Bengals: "3-7-CIN 13 (6:19) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass short right to 84-A.Brown for 13 yards, TOUCHDOWN NULLIFIED by Penalty [36-S.Williams]. PENALTY on PIT-26-L.Bell, Chop Block, 15 yards, enforced at CIN 13 - No Play." This means everything that happened on the play – the throw, the catch, the yards, the touchdown, the tackle if there had been one – none of it counts.
GONZALO D. VILLANUEVA JR. FROM LAREDO, TX:
If we beat the Ravens on Christmas, do we win the AFC North even if we lose to the Browns the following week and the Ravens win their last game?
ANSWER: If the Steelers defeat the Ravens on Sunday, they will be 10-5 and Baltimore will be 8-7. Then with only one game remaining for each team, the best the Ravens could finish is 9-7 and the worst the Steelers could finish is 10-6. Simple arithmetic.
SCOTT JAMES FROM SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA:
Have the Steelers ever had a season where we had zero players selected for the Pro Bowl?
ANSWER: Yes. For the 2000 Pro Bowl, which was played based on the 1999 regular season, the Steelers had no players selected for the AFC squad. In 1999, the Steelers finished 6-10 and lost seven of their last eight games. I cannot say whether any Steelers ended up being injury replacements, but when the initial Pro Bowl team was announced based on the voting, there were no Steelers players selected.
TOM GINNETT FROM ELLENBORO, WV:
Why no flag on the hit on Ladarius Green?
ANSWER: I have nothing for you on that one. The play you reference came in the fourth quarter, 3:37 left in the game. It was a third-and-8, and Ben Roethlisberger completed a pass deep over the middle to Green for 28 yards, and on the play I thought Bengals safety George Iloka delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit on Green at a time where he arguably was a defenseless player. No flag, but I still wonder if Iloka will be fined.
BILL CHIARAMONTE FROM ERIE, PA:
During the Cincinnati game Vontaze Burfict took a pretty hard hit, and it looked to me like he was very woozy. How was it possible he came back in the game?
ANSWER: In the press box, Vontaze Burfict's absence was explained as him being taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a possible concussion. Apparently, the independent neurosurgeon who had been assigned to that game by the NFL cleared him. That is possible. Not every hard hit results in a concussion.
DAVE DENNER FROM FARMINGTON, NY:
I'm worried that Ladarius Green played his last snap with the Steelers. Why do you think they've been so quiet about his latest concussion?
ANSWER: Played his last snap? What are you talking about? So quiet? You must not have been paying attention. At the game, it was announced that Ladarius Green was taken into the locker room to be evaluated for a possible concussion. Then at his news conference on Tuesday, Coach Mike Tomlin said, "Ladarius Green is in the concussion protocol. He is visiting Dr. Micky Collins (at the UPMC Concussion Clinic) right now. He is being evaluated right now, so I don't have an update on him. We will follow the protocol to the letter as we always do. We will keep you guys informed of his status. Oftentimes it is the case, his participation or level of participation is an indication on where it's going or where it's maybe not going."
Yesterday, the team's practice report listed Green as not having practiced because of a concussion. I don't know what else you're expecting in terms of an update, but I'm here to tell you that it doesn't get more detailed than this.
ABBY BLEIER FROM ROCHESTER, NY:
I'm a Steelers fan who is confused as to why Ben Roethlisberger will not be playing against the Ravens this weekend. It says he has no injury. We need him.
ANSWER: What? What is going on here today? On Wednesday's practice report, the Steelers listed Ben Roethlisberger as not having practiced, but that it was not injury related. Such a designation typically means the player was given a day off by the coach. How you have extrapolated that into meaning Roethlisberger isn't playing on Sunday against the Ravens is beyond me.
BILLBOB BRUBAKE FROM SIMPSONVILLE, SC
I loved the way Chris Boswell ran down Cincinnati's Alex Erickson to make a shoestring tackle and prevent a touchdown on that kickoff return. Any ideas on how to watch the Ravens game without seeming rude to out-of-town family on Christmas Day?
ANSWER: The only thing that comes to mind is to make yourself so obnoxious that the out-of-town family is happy to be rid of you for a few hours on Christmas Day, which you then can use to watch Ravens at Steelers. The key is finding the right balance between being obnoxious enough not to be missed for a few hours and being so obnoxious that your family locks you out of the house. Good luck in finding that balance.
ENRIQUE LOPEZ FROM MORENO VALLEY, CA:
I know it's early, but in your opinion, what would do you think the Steelers should address in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft?
ANSWER: You are absolutely correct. It is early. Way too early.
JASON CAMPBELL FROM ROCHESTER, NY:
I have used my Christmas wish to get rid of Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley. They are the worst. Why don't they call plays for touchdowns instead of field goals? I'm tired of winning by small amounts. I want blowouts. And cheerleaders.
ANSWER: So you want blowouts and cheerleaders. And I want intelligent questions submitted by reasonable and knowledgeable fans. Learn to live with disappointment. I have.