Let’s get to it:
MICHAEL HUGIC FROM LAWRENCEVILLE, PA: When it’s fourth-and-1, and there is a decision to go for it or not, is that decision always made by the head coach? If yes, is the play call made by him as well?
ANSWER: Yes, those kinds of decisions are made by Coach Mike Tomlin. Whether to punt, go for the first down, or depending upon the field position, attempt a field goal. At the end of each half, it’s also Tomlin who directs the offensive coordinator whether to be aggressive in going for the first down or if the plan is to call plays that force the opposing team to burn its timeouts, or if the idea is to run out the remaining time and get into the locker room. But beyond that direction – go for it on fourth down, be aggressive in search of a first down as time is winding down – Tomlin doesn’t call the particular play. There are plays in the game plan each week for those situations, and those plays are practiced throughout the week, and while there may be some conversation about which play among those to select, it’s not necessarily Tomlin making the specific play call.
BUD ROSBOROUGH FROM FINLEYVILLE, PA: While the Steelers have been a very successful franchise for a long time, we’ve also seen our share of disappointing seasons, including this one so far. When this happens, do the Rooneys get involved with game time decision-making or express their dissatisfaction with how things are going?
ANSWER: The history of the Rooney ownership of the Steelers, with regards to your question, has been to try to hire people they believe can get the job done and then allow those people do their jobs. Once a particular season is over, those people then are judged on their job performance. If it’s determined that a change is warranted, then a change is made. If not, then it’s not made. But there is not a series of events in franchise history where Art Rooney Sr., Dan Rooney, or Art Rooney II have injected themselves into the normal everyday decision-making, in terms of telling a coach who to play, or what play to call, or order the personnel department to draft a particular player or sign a certain free agent.
JOSEPH SIBREE FROM RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA: In the Saints game last Sunday, on the final touchdown, did the Saints challenge the call? I don't remember seeing a red flag thrown, and I thought only scoring plays were reviewed by the officials.
ANSWER: That play was run inside the two-minute warning of the second half, and all reviews in the final two minutes of each half and instituted by the replay official in the booth. That’s what happened there, and the review determined that the play was a touchdown.
CORT HUBBARD FROM COLUMBIA, IL: You reversed the clock stoppage times. Isn't it the last two minutes in the first half and the last five minutes of the second half? You have probably received this correction several times already. I knew what you meant. Happy New Year, and I enjoy reading your Asked and Answered segments.
ANSWER: You are correct. I did reverse the clock stoppage times. The clock is only stopped when a runner/receiver goes out of bounds in the final two minutes of the first half and in the final five minutes of the second half. At all other times, when a runner/receiver goes out of bounds, the clock restarts when the ball is spotted.
JOE KILBURG FROM CLARK, NJ: Am I the only one who believes that if a game time is set, the NFL shouldn’t move the kickoff time. Fans do travel to support their teams, a lot take flights, and changing game times can cause a fan to miss a game they planned to attend and saved money to attend. I have heard of this happening to people. I even met a couple a few years ago who would save for a couple of years to be able to afford game tickets, their flight, and a night in a hotel. Then the game time gets changed, which can cause the blue-collar, dedicated fan to miss the game.
ANSWER: I understand your point, and I can sympathize with the plight of the fans you describe, but I’m just telling you that the money the NFL gets from its network broadcast partners is too significant for the league not to make special considerations to cater to the wants of those broadcast partners. Again, I sympathize, but I cannot foresee a realistic scenario in which the flex-scheduling system is eliminated.
LES POORE FROM LYMAN, PA: Would you agree that Mike Tomlin needs to hire a coach for clock management and replay challenges? How do you lose 10 consecutive challenges?
ANSWER: No I do not, and allow me to address the replay challenge issue first. In my opinion, the mistake you and many others are making with regard to the 10 consecutive missed challenges is that all of those denials were the correct decisions. After watching NFL officiating for the last couple of seasons, you cannot honestly expect me to believe that the decision on every one of those denied challenges was the correct one. Really? Fans need to start to understand that it has less to do with a challenge being correct or not, but what is New York going to decide and/or allow, and don’t think for a minute that the score of the game at the time of the challenge isn’t a factor. And as to clock management, if I owned an NFL team, my head coach would be in charge of when and how to use our timeouts.