Let's get to it:
JOSH SCOBIE FROM RUGBY, UK: With the defense being such a powerful aspect of our team currently, aside from Bud Dupree do we have any other impending free agents?
ANSWER: In addition to Bud Dupree, the impending unrestricted free agents among Steelers defensive players who are listed first or second on the current depth chart include Javon Hargrave and Artie Burns. On the injured reserve list, Sean Davis is an impending free agent. And Mike Hilton is an impending restricted free agent. Players entering the final years of their contracts and could become unrestricted free agents in 2021 are Cam Heyward, Mark Barron, Joe Haden, and Anthony Chickillo.
JOHN CHANDA FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA: Is it true that back in the late 1970s, Ed Sabol of NFL Films approached Art Rooney Sr. about calling the Steelers America's Team, but that Rooney told him he was more interested in being Pittsburgh's team? If that is true, wouldn't that make the Cowboys "America's Second Team?"
ANSWER: The way the story goes, after becoming the first team to win three Super Bowls by defeating the Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII, the Steelers were approached by NFL Films and asked whether they would agree to be called "America's Team" in their annual highlights film. Art Rooney Sr. declined and said he was happy being Pittsburgh's team. That would make the Cowboys the second choice.
NEIL GLASSER FROM MANALAPAN, NJ: I hate to jinx this, but would it be correct that Steeler rookie quarterbacks have won 22 consecutive starts? Devlin Hodges with two, Ben Roethlisberger with 14, and Mike Kruczek with six?
ANSWER: First of all, Ben Roethlisberger was 13-0 as a rookie. Tommy Maddox started the first two games in 2004, and then Roethlisberger didn't play in the regular season finale because at 14-1 going into the game the Steelers already had clinched the top seed in the AFC Playoffs. Beyond that, have no fear about jinxing anything, because as a rookie in 1986 Bubby Brister started two games and the team lost both of those on the way to a 6-10 finish. I stopped doing any more research at that stage.
SUNIL GEORGE FROM PRINCETON, NJ: Let's say that both the Ravens and the Steelers end the season with 11-5 records. Who would win the AFC North Division?
ANSWER: To get to 11-5, the Steelers would have to win their last four games, but to get to 11-5 the Ravens would have to lose three of their last four. Which of those four games are the Ravens going to win? And without knowing that, there are too many variables to say definitively which team would finish in first place in the division.
BRIDGE MUHAMMAD FROM OLIVE BRANCH, MS: When JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner return to the roster, will the Steelers have to release a wide receiver and/or a running back?
ANSWER: No. JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner have been on the 53-man roster all along. So once they're healthy enough to return to play, they won't have to be added to the 53-man roster, because they're already on it.
GREG BULLOCK FROM N. FT. MYERS, FL: Does the player, coach, or doctor decide who can play in a given game? Or is it a combination of all three? Thank you for providing info that I can't seem to get anywhere else.
ANSWER: In most cases, it's some combination of all three. The first thing is whether the player is cleared medically by a doctor based on whatever his specific injury happens to be. The player certainly has input as far as whether he feels well enough to play and believes that he can do it well enough not to be a detriment to the team. And then the coach has a say in terms of if and how he wants to use that particular player vs. the week's opponent.
JACOB JENSEN FROM WATERLOO, IA: First off, I wanted to say I love reading the articles you write, especially Asked and Answered. My question is, do you think this defense could lead the Steelers on a deep playoff run. I know that after everything that's happened this year (Ben Roethlisberger being out for the season, starting 1-4 , etc.) we should just be happy to make the playoffs, but something about this just feels special. I am definitely not expecting a Super Bowl this year, but am I crazy to think this team could get hot and maybe make a run?
ANSWER: This particular Steelers team is different from its recent predecessors in that the question with those centered around whether the defense was good enough to sustain a run through the playoffs against the caliber of teams qualifying for the postseason. This year, it's the opposite – can this offense be sufficiently effective and efficient to sustain a run through the playoffs against the caliber of teams qualifying for the postseason. I believe this defense, placekicker Chris Boswell and punter Jordan Berry are, as the football phrase goes, good enough to win with. The defense, in fact, is dynamic, and Boswell is back to his 2017 form. If the Steelers can cobble together enough offense without turning the ball over to put the defense in bad spots, I believe a run is possible. However, it's also fair to understand that this wounded roster could lose any game remaining on its schedule. It's important to recognize and understand the difference between possibilities and expectations, because sometimes Steelers fans have trouble with that.
ROY PERRIN FROM FUQUAY VARINA, NC: Do you think Chris Boswell has done enough this year (so far) to earn another Pro Bowl trip? If not, what do you think he needs to do? He's only missed a couple of kicks this year if I'm not mistaken.
ANSWER: Because there is only one placekicker per conference named to the Pro Bowl, Chris Boswell's path to being so recognized also depends upon the competition for that one spot. Since Boswell is in the AFC as is Justin Tucker, I don't know if Boswell can do enough to be selected over him. Going into this weekend's games, Tucker has made 22-of-23 field goal attempts (95.7 percent), while Boswell is close behind at 23-of-25 (92 percent). Based on name recognition, I just don't know whether Boswell would be able to surpass Tucker in the minds of the voters.
DEAN HARRIS FROM DOWNINGTOWN, PA: You have written that instant replay doesn't work and never will. Take the recent example of Jarvis Landry being called out of bounds and instant replay reversing the call. If that was a Steelers receiver at Heinz Field and a call such as that was reversed, I think the whole crowd would believe it does. Haven't you seen instances where is does work?
ANSWER: There certainly can be singular instances cited where instant replay has worked and corrected an officiating error, but as the saying goes, a blind squirrel occasionally will find an acorn. Sure, instant replay changed that call on the field, allowed Jarvis Landry's catch, and the Browns came out of it with a field goal. But are you certain that was the correct outcome? I'm truly not, and it has nothing to do with the fact the reversal helped the Browns in a game against the Steelers. At the root of the problem, in my mind, is this: when replay first was passed back in the 1980s, the standard for reversing the call on the field was said to be "irrefutable visual evidence." That play didn't meet that standard, and so what we have now are officials or people in New York at the league office injecting themselves into games when there are on-field officials a few feet away from the play in question being overruled. And one last issue: the use of super-slow motion replay can distort what actually happened on the field at full speed. You're never going to convince me that replay is a good thing, and I'll never convince anyone in authority that it should be abolished. C'est la vie.
JOHN MAIR FROM RIDGE, NY: Do you believe that there is any truth to the Kevin Colbert going to the Panthers rumors?
ANSWER: None. Absolutely none.