Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Dec. 27

Let's get to it:

BILL HEYER FROM KILL DEVIL HILLS, NC: Do you think the Steelers will ever draft a running back like Jerome Bettis instead of these lightweight guys?
ANSWER: Lightweight guys, like Dalvin Cook, or Aaron Jones, or Miles Sanders, or Kenyan Drake? You have to understand that Jerome Bettis was an anomaly – a rare big back who had nifty feet and quickness in the hole to thrive and survive in the NFL. Bettis was listed at 252 pounds during his playing days, and there were times when he was closer to 270 than 250. Here are some of the NFL's leading rushers to this point in the 2020 season, along with their listed playing weights: Cook: 1,484 yards, 5.0 average, 15 touchdowns, 210 pounds; Alvin Kamara: 777 yards, 4.7 average, 10 touchdowns, 215 pounds; Sanders: 810 yards, 5.4 average, five touchdowns, 211 pounds; Drake: 874 yards, 4.1 average, nine touchdowns, 211 pounds; David Montgomery: 906 yards, 4.5 average, six touchdowns, 222 pounds; and Jones 968 yards, 5.4 average, eight touchdowns, 208 pounds. Size alone doesn't make a quality NFL running back, because if you remember, at the end of Bettis' career the Steelers' starting running back was 212-pound Willie Parker. And maybe he didn't scare anybody with his size, but I'm betting Mike Holmgren still has nightmares about Parker kicking in the afterburners on that 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL.

BRENDAN REILLY FROM ROCKVILLE, MD: With the speed of Anthony McFarland, why have the Steelers continued to run him up the gut, rather than utilizing his speed with sweeps or screens on the perimeter with designed blocking?
ANSWER: As I have mentioned many times, it's not so much the play that's called but the execution of it. To run a sweep successfully, there has to be blocking on the perimeter, and that has been an issue. During that news conference when Coach Mike Tomlin said the team wasn't being physical enough, he specifically mentioned the blocking on the perimeter for the running game. If those guys cannot hold their blocks, running wide usually will result in a loss of yardage because those kinds of plays take longer to develop, and so far the blocking on the perimeter hasn't been good enough consistently enough.

NEIL REICH FROM TRINITY, FL: Losing Bud Dupree to a season-ending injury was huge. Alex Highsmith has played OK in both games as a replacement during the first half but seems to disappear in the second half. Washington quarterback Alex Smith and Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen had clean pockets in both second halves of the last two games. Is that just a by-product of getting used to playing for 60 minutes, so we could expect him to finish better in the coming weeks and going into the playoffs?
ANSWER: I would suspect it's a combination of continuing to learn the nuances of his position and how opposing offensive tackles will adjust to him as the game wears on, as well as already having played more games in a season than he ever did in college. And there's more to the pass rush than one outside linebacker. It's not against the rules for other players to pick up the slack in the pass-rushing department, either.

PAUL SOMERVILLE FROM HAMILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA: Has Vance McDonald disappeared from our offensive schemes, or do you think Ben Roethlisberger might now throw to him because Eric Ebron is injured?
ANSWER: This sounds like a disguised fantasy football question to me. Vance McDonald's role has evolved into being a blocking tight end, while Eric Ebron handles more of the receiving duties at the position. So unless your fantasy league gives points for blocking, I would suggest you find a new tight end.

TRACEY LITTLE FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Do you think they will either release Randy Fichtner or at least get help for their offensive schemes?
ANSWER: I have an ironclad rule for Asked and Answered: I do not cut players, and I do not fire coaches.

MEL DELANEY FROM MYRTLE BEACH, SC: After a safety, the team normally punts the ball to the opponent. Is the team allowed to kick it like a regular kickoff? If so can you offer a reason they choose to punt rather do a regular kick the ball off a tee?
ANSWER: After a safety it is legal either to punt the ball or put it on a tee and treat it like a kickoff. Each team is different in what it chooses, but those that choose to punt typically do so for height and hang-time, which theoretically would make it easier to cover.

ROBIN ADAIR FROM PETERBOROUGH, ONTARIO, CANADA: I seem to remember that there was a year the Steelers finished the season 8-8 and went onto win the Super Bowl. Am I correct?
ANSWER: You are not. The Steelers regular season records in the season in which they won the Super Bowl were: 10-3-1, 12-2, 14-2, 12-4, 11-5, and 12-4.

MICHAEL WELLS FROM DOVER, DE: Do you think General Manager Kevin Colbert will look at drafting a quarterback in the first round of next year's draft?
ANSWER: There is a huge difference between "looking" and "picking." The Steelers always "look" to pick the best player on their board, but based on their 11 wins I don't believe they will find themselves in a place where they would have a chance to pick one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2021 pool. If you're asking me to GUESS what position could hold the most value for the Steelers in the first round next April, I would GUESS offensive line.

MIKE WEAVER FROM BLACKSBURG, VA: The Bills and the Chargers wasted Tyrod Taylor's career by trading him (Bills) and then benching him (Chargers). Any chance the Steelers might look at Tyrod as a backup quarterback?
ANSWER: Once again, there is a huge difference between "any chance they might look at" and making a move to sign someone. I believe there is a chance you're biased toward Tyrod Taylor based on where you live (Go, Hokies), but he will be 32 years old before the start of the 2021 NFL season, and based on current projections for the 2021 salary cap, I don't believe the Steelers will be much in the market for signing free agents, especially quarterbacks who typically command nice money. And even the most rabid Virginia Tech fan has to admit that the Bills are better off with Josh Allen and the Chargers are better off with Justin Herbert.

ABDUL-BASIT KHAN FROM MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO, CANADA: My understanding is that the plays on the offense's first drive are scripted and after that, things go with the flow of the game. In any case, given the absolutely complete lack of success on offense in the first quarter in recent games and the total lack of creativity and unpredictability in play calling, is it time for Coach Mike Tomlin to hand play-calling to Matt Canada?
ANSWER: Let me ask you a question: On the plays where the ball hits a wide receiver in the hands and he drops it, is that a good play-call or a bad one? I believe you're putting too much emphasis on what play is called as opposed to looking at the players' execution of that play. And creativity is limited by what the players on the field are capable of executing given their real-life physical skill-set. This is not a video game. If it was a simple matter of changing the person who calls the plays and solving all of the offense's woes, I guarantee you that move would've been made a long time ago.

WILLIAM SCOULAR FROM PIERRE, SD: Now that Carson Wentz lost his starting role with the Eagles, do you think the Steelers may look at him for possibly replacing Ben Roethlisberger?
ANSWER: Carson Wentz is under contract to the Philadelphia Eagles through the 2024 season, and based on the fact they spent the second overall pick on the 2016 NFL Draft to acquire him I don't believe they will simply cut him. And any trade not only would have to satisfy the Eagles, but it also would mean taking on a contract that starting in 2021 calls for Wentz to earn $78.4 million in salary and another $20 million in roster bonuses.