Let's get to it:
JIM BURKE FROM AJAX, ONTARIO, CANADA:
With nine seconds left in a game and lining up to kick an extra point that seems to be superfluous, has a team ever snapped the ball and had the holder just run backwards down the field to run out the clock? I'm assuming the clock starts on the snap, to negate any chance for the other team to touch the ball again.
ANSWER: You assume incorrectly. The game clock does not run during extra points, whether it's a placement kick for one point, or an attempt at a two-point conversion via run or pass. So a team cannot run out the clock during an extra point try.**
CRISTÓBAL OVIEDO FROM SANTIAGO, CHILE:
Ryan Shazier was inactive last night. Was that because of his lack of production, or did he have an injury?
ANSWER: I think it came down to Coach Mike Tomlin having to carry extra players at defensive line and receiver for this particular game. With no Stephon Tuitt and Ricardo Mathews in uniform but also nursing an injury, and with Johnny Maxey an unknown as an undrafted rookie just called up from the practice squad, there were five defensive linemen among the 46 on the game day roster. And with Sammie Coates inactive with a hamstring injury and Darrius Heyward-Bey trying to come back and play after missing several weeks with a sprained foot, the Steelers had five receivers active for the game. There was that, plus the fact Jarvis Jones has fallen to the back of the pack at outside linebacker right now, which combined to make him an extra piece for that particular game. And moving forward, I believe the decision on Jones will be made on a week-to-week basis, rather than it being the permanent closing of a door.
DAN BARTLETT FROM APPLE VALLEY, CA:
Do you think it's best to rest all the starters, especially the ones who have had injuries in the past, for the final game against the Browns?
ANSWER. It's a mathematical impossibility, as Bill Belichick was explaining to the media yesterday when asked a similar question about his plan for the Patriots' finale against the Miami Dolphins. "I mean look, I don't really understand that question," Belichick said. "We have — I don't know how many starters we have — but we have a lot more than — we can only inactivate seven players. This isn't like a preseason game where you have 75 guys on your roster. This is a regular season game. I don't really understand that whole line of questioning. I'm not saying I'm a great mathematician or anything, but the numbers just don't add up for that type of conversation so there's no point in even getting involved in it."
SCOTT SISAK FROM NEW TRIPOLI, PA:
With the Steelers clinching the AFC North and the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, in your opinion, would you rest most of the starters to avoid a disastrous injury (like happened to Oakland quarterback Derek Carr) or let them play? Also, if they do rest the starters, how much of an effect does it have on the players going two weeks in between playing games?
ANSWER: That's the thing with your question and the scenario you propose – there is no clear-cut right answer, and really no research material available to guide a potential decision one way or the other. But with 53-man rosters, and with only 46 players in uniform on game day, the number of guys who can be "rested" is limited. That said, Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown all would make my list.**
DEAN MANNING FROM CORBIN, KY:
In reading the postgame stories, I saw where Le'Veon Bell's fourth quarter receiving touchdown came on a broken play. Do they ever practice what each player, especially the eligible receivers, should do when a play starts breaking down so Ben Roethlisberger has an idea of where to start looking?
ANSWER: Yes, and that knack also comes from years of playing together, too. Ben Roethlisberger has been in the league longer than any of the eligibles on the current Steelers roster, and so all of those guys arrived here with an understanding of what "Ben being Ben" means. This stuff ends up getting worked out during the offseason program and then during the daily grind at training camp. That's part of what we're talking about when we mention the importance of the quarterback "trusting" his receivers.
BRIAN BULDAK FROM JOLIET, IL.
Really liked the color-rush uniforms. Will they be wearing them again for the Browns game or any possible playoff games?
ANSWER: No. Color-rush are one-and-done for 2016.
JOE KILBURG FROM CLARK, NJ:
It seems to me that in a few games this season, the officials seemed all too happy to hit the Steelers with some questionable penalties while letting the other teams coast on penalties that should have been called. Is it just me and the crew I watch the games with, or do you see that as well?
ANSWER: Regular readers of this feature know I have no confidence in the competence of NFL officials, and based on that I don't believe there is any favoritism involved. I think that because we watch the Steelers each week and have a vested interest in the outcomes of those games, the impression is that calls only are going against the Steelers. I believe fans of every team could make the same claim, and with some justification, because the caliber of the officiating is neither good nor consistent.
Take a look at the best photos from the Week 16 game against the Ravens. The Steelers defeated the Ravens 31-27.
NEIL GLASSER FROM MANALAPAN, NJ:
I'm confused on the tiebreakers between the Steelers and Texans for the No. 3 seed in the AFC. If the Steelers lose and Texans win in week 17, they will both be 10-6, each with an 8-4 conference record. Their records against common opponents (Chiefs, Pats, Colts, Bengals) would both be 4-1. The next tiebreaker is strength of victory, where the Steelers have a slight, but not insurmountable lead. How is it that they have clinched the No. 3 seed already?
ANSWER: Such matters are handled for the NFL by the Elias Sports Bureau, and that's where the determination came that the Steelers had clinched the No. 3 seed. In an email from Elias, it was explained this way: "PIT currently has a one-game lead on HOU for third seed in AFC. If PIT loses to CLE and HOU beats TEN, the two teams would finish tied at 10-6, so it would go tiebreakers: Head to head – the two teams did not play each other, does not apply; Conference record – both teams would finish with an 8-4 conference record; Common opponents – both teams would finish with a 4-1 record against common opponents; Strength of victory – no matter what happens in Week 17, the Steelers would finish with a better record in this category given the things that have to happen to get to this scenario."
Just for clarification, "strength of victory" is the composite win percentage of the opponents a team has defeated over the course of the regular season. Example: By Week 13, Oakland had beaten 10 teams with a combined record of 68-76, giving the Raiders a .472 strength of victory.
I understand that by your calculations, the Steelers "have a slight, but not insurmountable lead" in strength of victory, but Elias disagrees. And since Elias is never wrong, I'm going to surmise there was some error in your calculations. I have come to trust Elias completely in these issues, because the NFL does.
TOM ROWE FROM WIMAUMA, FL:
How many pro scouts do the Steelers employ? With a meaningless Browns game next up, will these scouts instead be tasked with scouting potential first round playoff opponents?
ANSWER: The Steelers will have a complete complement of scouts at all of the games involving potential opponents in the Wild Card Round, but they'll also work the other AFC games involving playoff teams because you never know which opponent you might face in a particular round. And there's also video available on every team in the league, so the scouting doesn't necessarily have to happen on site.