Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Game Day Week 12

Let's get to it:

Are the Steelers wearing their color rush uniforms on Thursday night?

ANSWER: No. The Steelers are the visiting team, and so they will wear their normal white jerseys and gold pants. The Steelers' will debut their color rush uniforms on Dec. 25 vs. the Baltimore Ravens.

How can Ben Roethlisberger expect opponents to fear other receivers if he continues to focus his first look on Antonio Brown, who continues to receive double and triple coverage primarily because he obviously is Roethlisberger's first choice for almost every pass he attempts? Have to change that mind-set.

ANSWER: How do you know Ben Roethlisberger's first look is always to Antonio Brown? You make that statement as if it's a fact, and it's just not. There are plays designed to get the ball to other receivers, and Roethlisberger executes those in the same way he would any others. Opponents will fear other receivers who are open, and until those receivers get open consistently, Roethlisberger will look for Brown, as would any self-respecting NFL quarterback who has a two-time first-team All-Pro wide receiver on his team. You want the Steelers to develop other weapons in the passing game besides Antonio Brown, and I agree. But that doesn't happen as a result of the quarterback forcing the ball to other guys. That's the mind-set that has to change.

Looking at the Thanksgiving Day NFL schedule, all three home teams – Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, and Indianapolis Colts – also played at home on the weekend before Thanksgiving. Not having to travel is a slight advantage in regards to practice time, I would think. Also, of the three visiting teams on the holiday – Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, and Pittsburgh Steelers, only the Steelers will be coming off an away game the previous week, even more of a disadvantage. Do NFL teams get to see a draft of the schedule for their review/comment prior to the official schedule release? What kind of input to the schedule do teams usually provide?

ANSWER: I'm not sticking up for the NFL, but allow me to clarify just a couple of things. The Steelers road trip on the weekend before Thanksgiving was to Cleveland, and the players and coaches were back in Pittsburgh around 7 p.m. on Sunday, so that alone doesn't create a real hardship when it comes to the preparation process, as opposed to the Redskins, who might have been at home but had to play a Sunday night game against the Packers.

You ask, "What kind of input to the schedule do teams usually provide?" My answer is that there's a big difference between a team providing input and the league acting on any of that input. The bottom line is that no team ever is completely pleased with its schedule, and the NFL never gives a team everything it wants.

In the first play from scrimmage after the Browns touchdown, Ben Roethlisberger threw an out-route to Antonio Brown where he ran out of bounds. But the clock continued to run. Is that correct, or was there a mistake there? I always thought the clock stopped when the player went out of bounds.

ANSWER: A bit of context is required to answer this question properly. The Browns touchdown – on a pass from Josh McCown to Gray Barnidge – came with 9:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. Years ago, in an effort to increase the pace of games, the NFL passed a rule where the clock stops for players going out of bounds only in the final two minutes of the first half and the final five minutes of the second half. Had the play you described taken place with 4:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, or with 1:45 left in the second quarter,  the clock would have stopped and not re-started until the next snap.

When looking at winning teams since the 1990s, having three dominant offensive weapons – quarterback, running back, wide receiver – appear to be enough. There's no better example than Dallas with Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith. Why do the Steelers need more offensive weapons? Especially since many people would rank Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown among the best in the league at their respective positions. Is it because of the Steelers defense, or is it the offensive line, or both? How many weapons do you need to win?

ANSWER: More than three. Since you brought up the 1990s Dallas Cowboys, let's start by taking a closer look at those teams. Yes, there were the three players you referenced, but the Dallas offense was more than Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith. You forgot tight end Jay Novacek, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a first-team All-Pro during his six seasons with the Cowboys. In 13 playoff games, Novacek caught 62 passes and had six receiving touchdowns. Then there was Alvin Harper on the opposite side of Irvin. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Harper was a down-the-field threat. During the 1992-93 seasons, both of which ended with the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl, Harper had 71 catches for 1,339 yards (18.9 average) and nine touchdowns. That gave the Cowboys five weapons working with an offensive line that was stocked with Pro Bowl players. That's how you win multiple Super Bowls.

Since officials miss so much, do you think it would help to add another official or two on the field? Or don't you think more eyes on the plays would help?


ANSWER: In my opinion, adding more on-field officials will result in more penalties being called, because all of the zebras in the herd are going to want to have an impact in every game they work. Better officials, not more of what you already have, is the answer.**

Is it just me or does the defense spend too much time trying to strip the ball from the offense? I see too much yardage being given up instead of making the tackle.

ANSWER: Stripping at the football is to create takeaways. Give me the takeaways, and I'm not as worried about the yards. Remember the AFC Wild Card Game in Cincinnati last season. If Ryan Shazier isn't stripping at the ball, Jeremy Hill doesn't fumble to set up Chris Boswell's game-winning field goal.

Sean Davis was in for every snap on defense against the Browns. Was that mostly to get him playing time or is he now our official starter?

ANSWER: Sean Davis indeed played all 56 defensive snaps in Cleveland against the Browns, and what I can tell you for sure is that there's no "mostly to get him playing time" going on in late November. The Steelers are trying to win games, and so this indicates a coaching decision that Davis as a starting safety gives the team a better chance to win than Robert Golden.

I've always thought that the winner of the Super Bowl should host the following year's Super Bowl. It would add a nice bonus and spread the Super Bowl around. Give Pittsburgh and other northern cities a chance. Could this work?

ANSWER: No. Your big mistake comes in viewing the Super Bowl as a football game, when in reality it has evolved into a two-week entertainment extravaganza that culminates with a football game. Because of the logistics of a Super Bowl, the security issues, the hotel rooms required, etc., a host city needs more than a single year to plan and prepare. And it's just a reality that some cities and some stadiums just aren't capable of hosting a Super Bowl. Just because the Green Bay Packers win a Super Bowl, why subject the next season's two teams and their fans to a trip to Green Bay for a game on the first weekend of February? This idea has no chance, nor should it.

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