Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Game Day Week 11

Let's get to it:

JERSEY UPDATE: The Steelers will wear white jerseys today for the game against the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.

You have answered a question I had a while ago, and so thank you for that. My question this time is how many times have we won and lost to the Browns?

ANSWER: The Steelers have played more games against the Browns franchise than any other in the NFL. The series began in 1950, and Cleveland won 16 of the first 18 meetings. So dominant were the Browns until Chuck Noll was hired in 1969 that the Steelers didn't take the lead in this series until 2007, which was Mike Tomlin's inaugural season as the team's coach. Since the Browns' last series sweep in 1988, the Steelers are 39–11 in games against them. They currently lead it, 70-58.

Watching Steelers games from about 10 years ago and comparing them to today, they seem to be missing a piece: a big, nasty group of defensive linemen. Cam Heyward is a great player, but I think he needs some serious help. Maybe drafting a nose tackle would go a long way toward helping slow down the run and the opposing team's passing attack?

ANSWER: The Steelers' depth along the defensive line hasn't lived up to the task of providing Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt with some snaps off so that they could be fresher over the course of an entire season, and now Heyward is injured and out for the rest of the year. Ricardo Mathews seemed like a gigantic upgrade over Cam Thomas, but he has played little and through nine games had five tackles and one quarterback pressure. I don't know about drafting a nose tackle, since the Steelers are in their base 3-4 alignment – which is the one employing a nose tackle – less than one-third of the time, but there is no argument that the team needs help along the defensive line.

With all the injuries to the wide receivers and Sammie Coates playing primarily special teams, could the Steelers look to the practice squad and maybe call up Demarcus Ayers?

ANSWER: I don't see that happening unless there are additional injuries, or unless one of the injured receivers has to be placed on injured reserve. Eli Rogers and Demarcus Ayers are both slot receivers, and you really only need one of those at a time. That how I see it today, but things could change and there's still a lot of regular season left for those things to change.

Are the only players listed on an injury report those who are part of the 53-man roster? Bud Dupree is getting more involved in practice, yet he isn't mentioned on the latest injury report. Is that a result of him not being on the active roster?

ANSWER: You are correct in that the only players required to be listed on the daily practice reports are the ones on the 53-man roster, and since Bud Dupree completed two weeks of practice without being moved onto the active roster he was not required to be included on the practice report.

It seems the officials are missing a lot of wide receivers pushing off. In the last game when Dez Bryant caught his 50-yard touchdown pass, it looked like he pushed off several times. Do the officials simply allow the offense more leeway when it comes to contact? It seems to be much worse this year than years past.

ANSWER: Officials are less likely to flag wide receivers for the same kind of hand-fighting that seems to result consistently in pass interference or illegal contact fouls on the defense. I also believe star players – both on offense, such as Dez Bryant, and on defense, such as Richard Sherman – get a lot of the benefit-of-the-doubt when it comes to an either-or call.

Has anyone asked Antonio Brown why he ran out of bounds on the last play of the Dallas game instead of lateraling the ball? Obviously it's a long shot to score on that play, but running out of bounds is not the answer.

ANSWER: Mike Tomlin said he talked to Antonio Brown about that, but Brown has steadfastly defended himself for what he did, and there have been some teammates who have come out in agreement with him. I'm with you, however. Running into the teeth of the defense the Cowboys have set up and then also allowing yourself to get caught along the sideline served no purpose.

Just want to say that I look forward to reading this column more so than any other sports-related news (aside from perhaps my fantasy scores). Anyway, this has been bugging me ever since I started watching NFL football: I notice that the players and coaches spend a lot of time arguing with – or perhaps discussing with – the officials during the course of a penalty or a call being made. Is the decision of the officials actually influenced by input from the players or coaches?

ANSWER: No, but maybe they believe arguing this call helps them get the next call. Or maybe it's just frustration over the continuing incompetence of NFL officials.

Ludicrous? Really? I believe Greg Hardy is unemployed.

ANSWER: To provide some context to this one, for the Nov. 15 Asked and Answered, Patrick Charles asked, "Is there anyone out there in free agency who can rush the passer? Is it me or does the defense not seem to be improving?" My answer was: "All of the players capable of rushing the passer are on rosters right now. The idea that there are some unemployed pass rushers on the open market right now is ludicrous." And now he comes back and suggests Greg Hardy. My contention is that any consideration of Greg Hardy, any suggestion of adding Greg Hardy is ludicrous. Really.

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