Let's get to it:
MIKE ZEMLOK FROM PROSPECT, CT: With Bud Dupree out for the year, would the Steelers consider signing Clay Matthews?
ANSWER: I don't know what the Steelers are planning, but I would have no interest at this stage. When I would've gauged Clay Matthews' interest would have been late in the training camp process or early in the regular season. Now, he's a 34-year-old man who has been out of football since the end of the 2019 season, and asking/expecting him to join a new team in December would be unreasonable from a learning-the-scheme standpoint, and I also would have concerns about whether his body would be able to handle the demands of professional football going from close to a calendar year of relative inactivity to the intensity of a drive to a Super Bowl. Remember, the NFL gave the Ravens extra time to get their bodies ready for a game against the Steelers because of injury concerns, and those guys had missed only a week of practice. Matthews has been away for almost 12 months. Also, back in early September, Matthews tweeted that he had been contacted by the Denver Broncos after Von Miller's season-ending injury but the sides couldn't come to an agreement, which indicates to me that the notion he could be had at a low price probably wasn't true.
SCOTT SOKOLOWSKI FROM NORFOLK, VA: With Cam Sutton filling in for Steve Nelson this week can you give us some of his stats for this year? Just curious about number of snaps, passes defended, etc., at Nelson's position.
ANSWER: I can give you Cam Sutton's statistics so far this season and the number of defensive snaps he has played, but since Steven Nelson has started every game in 2020 and played 96 percent of the defensive snaps himself, I have to tell you Sutton's numbers were not accumulated playing Nelson's outside cornerback spot. Anyway, in his 304 defensive snaps, Sutton has 21 tackles, including one for loss, one sack, one interception, four passes defensed, and three forced fumbles.
HENRY WILHOIT FROM LONDON, ENGLAND: On Dec. 1, you explained tiebreakers. That helps someone who likes to figure things out on their own. Was it ever so tight that the decision had to come down to a coin toss?
JIM PRUSACK FROM GRANTSVILLE, WV: The penalty flag thrown on the Steelers for roughing the passer in the game against the Ravens was atrocious. Is there any way or chance that the NFL would or could modify this rule, or would they just make it worse?
ANSWER: There's nothing inherently wrong with the rule, because driving the quarterback into the ground is dangerous. But the problem comes with the enforcement of the rule. I don't disagree that the penalty was a bad call in that instance, but if properly enforced, the rule has a purpose.
BURTON HARRIS FROM GREENSBURG, PA: I still don't understand why the Steelers paid all that money for Derrick Watt in free agency. When we get to third-and-short or inside the 5-yard line they don't have him in there to block. I thought that is why they picked him up.
ANSWER: I thought that as well, at least in the kinds of situations you describe. At this point, I just don't see that kind of power running becoming a consistent or a regular part of the Steelers' offense. I'm guessing here, but maybe the lack of an offseason and a scaled back training camp and then no preseason, plus the fact Derek Watt was injured and missed a decent bit of training camp prevented that from developing the way you describe.
ROD KEEFER FROM EDMOND, OK: Prayers and best wishes to Bud Dupree for a full and speedy recovery. Do you think the Steelers might look at converting Derek Watt to outside linebacker to replace him? It might sound ridiculous at first, but T.J. Watt was a tight end in college and the pass rush gene seems to run in the family.
ANSWER: It more than sounds ridiculous, it is ridiculous. So since T.J. Watt played tight end and linebacker in high school and went to Wisconsin as a tight end recruit before moving to defense full-time, you believe his brother should be able to move from fullback to a 3-4 outside linebacker down the stretch of an NFL season with a team that's contending for a Super Bowl. And the reasoning is because he has two brothers who can rush the passer. Solid thinking.
RON SENKALSKI FROM ERIE, PA: What's going on with the turf at Heinz Field? We've lost two starting linebackers to knee injuries and neither one was touched. We can't afford to keep losing good players to injury because of bad turf.
ANSWER: That's grass at Heinz Field, not artificial turf, and there's nothing "going on" with it that deserves to be blamed for a couple of non-contact knee injuries. Bud Dupree is a big, strong, fast, powerful man, and the stress and torque he places on his knees on every snap of the ball sometimes can cause ligament tears. Always looking for someone or something to blame. Why not blame inane position switch questions submitted to Asked and Answered?
RAYMOND DAY FROM TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA: Why is Avery Williamson not playing?
ANSWER: Coach Mike Tomlin was very clear that Avery Williamson was acquired via trade to provide depth at inside linebacker. The starters are Vince Williams and Robert Spillane. Against the Ravens, Williamson played 25 snaps and made two tackles.
DONNIE BROWN FROM VAN BUREN, ME: Is there anyone more deserving of the Comeback Player of the Year Award than Ben Roethlisberger? Has any Steelers player won this award in the past?
ANSWER: I will concede that what Washington quarterback Alex Smith overcame on his way back to the NFL from an injury and an aftermath that almost cost him his leg makes him an extremely compelling candidate, but if I had a vote, which I do not, I would consider how the individual plays in what is considered his "comeback" season. Based on what Roethlisberger has contributed to the 11-0 Steelers vs. what Smith has done for Washington in 2020 would influence me to cast my vote for Roethlisberger. Tommy Maddox, who won the award after the 2002 season, is the only Steelers player ever voted that award.
GLENN BOWSER FROM OSTERBURG, PA: What is the job of the personal protector on the punt team?
ANSWER: He sets the protection based on what the opponent is showing in terms of a rush, and he sets the formation and calls for the snap of the ball to the punter. Then his final job before the ball is kicked is to look for leaks in the protection and plug them. After the punter kicks the ball, the personal protector joins the coverage.
CORNELIUS KEMP III FROM JACKSON, MS: When a team is docked a draft pick due to COVID-19 violations what happens to that pick? Does it goes to the other team? Is it a part of complimentary draft picks?
ANSWER: When the NFL issues discipline in the form of a lost draft pick, the pick is forfeited. The pick does not go to any other team, nor is it thrown into the compensatory pick pile. For the sake of this question, let's pretend the 55th overall pick is the one that's forfeited for violations of the league's COVID protocol. So come draft day, the team with the 54th overall pick takes its turn, and then the next team up is the one with the 56th overall pick.
ROBERT POKLEMBA FROM NAPLES, FL: I notice that the NFL is now fining teams for violations of COVID-19 protocols. What becomes of the monies that are collected from these infractions? Surely the NFL does not need the revenue.
ANSWER: All money collected via fines does not go to the NFL, but instead is donated through the NFL Foundation to assist Legends in need. Programs are mutually agreed upon by the NFL and NFLPA in the CBA. Since 2009, about $4 million a year has been used to assist former players.
GRANT MAESHIRO FROM HONOLULU, HI: One measure of a NFL head coach is the coaching tree they cultivate. Tony Dungy first hired Coach Mike Tomlin into the NFL ranks 19 years ago. Who has Tomlin brought into the NFL so far, and of these who has shown the potential to be an NFL head coach someday?
ANSWER: I disagree with your basic premise, that an NFL head coach should be judged by whether he develops assistant coaches into head coaches. If I'm an NFL owner and looking to hire a head coach, I'm more interested in his ability to put together a staff that helps my team win games and compete for and win championships. I'm way less interested in him developing head coaches for the competition. It's accepted that the NFL's best coach today is Bill Belichick, and here is a list of the "branches" on his "coaching tree:" Bill O'Brien; Nick Saban, a great college coach but a failure in the NFL; Romeo Crennel; Charlie Weis; Eric Mangini; Josh McDaniel; and Matt Patricia. Each one of those guys was fired at least once in the NFL. In all fairness, the jury is still out on three others: Mike Vrabel, Joe Judge, and Brian Flores. But Belichick's general failure to develop quality NFL head coaches does not diminish his career accomplishments one iota, in my opinion.
ROBERT MOOREY FROM IRMO, SC: Is it reasonable to assume that the head coach's pedigree (i.e., Mike Tomlin played and coached defensive backs) would translate to a team's strength?
ANSWER: Mike Tomlin played wide receiver in college, coached wide receivers and defensive backs in college, and coached defensive backs in the NFL.