Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Dec. 29

Let's get to it:

TERRY SUCHMA FROM SOUTHPORT, N.C.:
Why is tackling by the hair legal? It would seem to present similar injury risk as grabbing the facemask and horse-collar tackling.

According to NFL rules, a player's hair is considered part of the uniform, and therefore using it to tackle a player is legal. Troy Polamalu once was tackled by grabbing onto the hair flowing out of the back of his helmet, just as DeAngelo Williams was in Baltimore. It is legal. Why it's legal is a question only the NFL could answer.

TONY SIMPSON FROM BELFAST, UNITED KINGDOM:
What is our record over the last five years (home and away) against teams with a losing record, and how do you fix it?

I have no idea, and I don't have the kind of free time it would take to undertake such a research project. Maybe you do, but I don't. And here's a question for you: The Steelers lost in Kansas City this season to a Chiefs team that was 1-5 at the time. Today, the Chiefs are 10-5, and so how do you categorize them?

MICHAEL BALABAN FROM CHARLESTON, S.C.:
First time writing in. Looking back through the last three years, on ESPN's website, we have played a team with a losing record 26 times and have only won 10 of those games for a .385 winning percentage. The notion that we play down to competition is somewhat backed up by the statistics. At what point do Mike Tomlin and the Rooneys address this and make a change? I'm not saying Tomlin needs to be fired, but when will the Rooneys or Tomlin have enough of this ineptitude? What do you attribute this to?

I'm not going to dispute your facts, because I have no interest in doing the work to check them, but I did look up a couple of things that I would like to point out: In 2014, the Steelers lost to the Ravens in Baltimore on a Thursday night during Week 2 of the schedule. The previous week, the Ravens lost to Cincinnati, so when the Steelers played them in Week 2, they were a team with a losing record. Those Ravens went on to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs. Same situation in 2013, but only this time it was the Bengals. The Steelers visited the 0-1 Bengals in Week 2 of the 2013 season and lost, and that Cincinnati team finished 11-5 and won the AFC North. Under your scenario, and the statistics you cite on ESPN.com, both the 2014 Ravens and the 2013 Bengals were teams with "losing records," which is mathematically accurate but also paints a distorted picture of what they turned out to be. Same thing this year with the Chiefs, a 1-5 team at one time but now a 10-5 juggernaut suddenly being anointed as "the team nobody wants to face in the playoffs."

There also is a misconception, I believe, in how business is conducted here on a daily basis throughout the course of a 17-week NFL regular season. I am here daily, and I can tell you there was no difference between the week leading up to the game against Denver and the week leading up to the game against the Ravens. The schedule was the same. Meetings, practice, extra video, a good number of players coming into the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on their day off for extra work. Coaches in their offices early, and then staying late into the night. There is no shirking of responsibilities after a win, and I give you Antonio Brown as an example. This is a guy who does his work – practice, meetings, extra work after practice – and then goes to a Gold's Gym afterward in the evening for another workout. Every week this happens. Same thing. Yet in the game against the Ravens, he had a touchdown reversed because he didn't secure a catch in the end zone, and in a game the Steelers lost by three points, that mathematical difference right there covers Baltimore's margin of victory. Are you trying to tell me not making that play was because of a lack of preparation? Or because the Ravens came into the game at 4-10 and he was overlooking them? He ran the route, the ball was delivered, the touchdown was overturned on replay. I guarantee you that play, and many others like it from that game, had nothing to do with taking the opponent lightly. That's an over-simplification.

Check out the highlight photos from the Steelers vs Ravens game. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 20-17 on December 27th 2015.

VINCENT PIRAINO FROM STROUDSBURG, PA:
I love all of the stuff you do, because not only is it informative, but it's entertaining, too. I've been a Steelers fan since I was 9 or 10, thanks to two of my teachers who were from Pittsburgh, and this is before the Steelers ever won a Super Bowl. I'm trying to plan my work schedule, and I'm a diehard who hates missing any game let alone big ones. Would you happen to know the inside scoop on the possible schedule – days or times – of possible playoff games?

Following the loss in Baltimore, the Steelers' path to a playoff spot happens by defeating the Browns in Cleveland while having the Jets lose to the Bills in Buffalo. If that happens and the Steelers qualify, they would enter the playoffs as a Wild Card, which means a road game on the weekend of Jan. 9-10. On Saturday, Jan. 9, the time slots are 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and on Sunday, Jan. 10, the time slots are 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The most coveted time slots by the networks are the late games each day, and based on the fact the winners of the AFC South (Indianapolis or Houston) and the NFC East (Washington) will have the worst records in the playoffs, those games could get the early time slots on Saturday and Sunday. I don't know if any of this helps, and you also have to understand I could be wrong.

BILL  HAMMOND FROM VERONA, PA:
Does the NFL impose a limit on the number of coaches a team may have?

The NFL does not. A team's owner might.

HUAN PHAM FROM SACRAMENTO, CA:
When a player is on Injured Reserve – Senquez Golson, Cortez Allen, and Shaun Suisham in particular – does he continue to draw his full salary? Thanks and happy holidays.

Yes. Players on the injured reserve list are paid their full salary.

RONALD CONNELL FROM BAKERSFIELD, CA:
After games like the one last Sunday against the Ravens, people will blame the defense (Antwon Blake, Ryan Shazier no takeaways, etc.) but in my opinion, we held the Ravens to 20 points, and that's not at all that bad. I believe that our offense is more than capable of supplementing any short-comings the defense may have. It seemed to me that Ben Roethlisberger had an off day, and our receivers (for the most part) looked like they had no fight in them. Do you agree? Thank you for Asked and Answered.

Here is my take on the game against the Ravens: http://bit.ly/1ROD43j

JAMES MILLER FROM SINGER ISLAND, FL:
Has it really been 43 years since the Immaculate Reception? Where has the time gone? I was 16 and listened to that game on the radio. God, what I would give to go back to that day knowing what I know now, and I'm sure I'm not only one. Is it just my perception or has everything in this country and in the world gotten so much worse? What happened? What the hell happened? I do still enjoy football, maybe not as much, but I still do.

I agree with you on one thing: "God, what I would give to go back to that day knowing what I know now."

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