Let's get to it:
CORTEZ FAIRBANKS FROM CINCINNATI, OH:
I tell my friends all the time that Ben Roethlisberger owns Paul Brown Stadium. What is his overall record as a starting quarterback there?
ANSWER: Ben Roethlisberger is 19-7 as a starting quarterback vs. the Bengals, including a 2-0 record in the playoffs. He has passed for 6,032 yards vs. Cincinnati, which is his most against any single NFL opponent. Breaking it down, Roethlisberger is 12-2 overall against the Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium, which includes playoff wins in 2005 and 2015. As a starting quarterback against the Bengals at Heinz Field, which is where today's game will be played, Roethlisberger is 7-5. And in the interest of full disclosure, Missi Matthews was the one who dug out these facts for the Friday edition of Steelers Live. I wouldn't want anyone to think I was in violation of the "no research" rule.**
MATTHEW ROHLF FROM LANSDALE, PA:
If my memory serves me, which is a big if these days, it seems that no matter how strong either team is, the Steelers and Bengals always seem to split their games every year. Which got me wondering, when was the last time a team in our division went 6-0 for the season?
ANSWER: In the past 12 regular seasons, the Steelers and Bengals have split their regular season series five times. I can tell you that the last time the Steelers were undefeated in their division was 2008, which is when they defeated the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game along the way to winning Super Bowl XLIII. Looking up the other three teams' division records would have been a clear violation of the "no research" rule.
CARL MEROLA FROM HANCOCK, WI:
What is the logic/reason behind "inactive" players on game day? Why aren't all 53 players available?
ANSWER: This is a frequently asked question, but since this is a Game Day edition of Asked & Answered it's pertinent to today. I believe the phrase is "competitive fairness," and it's one used by the NFL to cover a wide variety of issues and policies related to the administration of the league schedule so that the outcome of the hundreds of competitions is as inherently fair as is reasonably possible. Keep that in mind as I explain the following scenario:
Injuries are a part of football, and so you accept that it's going to be very rare for a team to have all of its 53 players physically capable of playing in any particular game, even the opener, and you also have to acknowledge that it would be a competitive advantage to have more healthy players available than your opponent. How can you make it as close to being as fair as possible over all of the games to be played during the 17-week season and then the playoffs? Well, if you build in a buffer in terms of the number of players each team can dress, you have a better chance of matching teams with the same number of physically capable players. And that's the whole purpose of game day inactives – to increase the chances of the two teams competing in that game to have the same number of physically capable players available.
NICK DELFINO FROM MANHATTAN BEACH, CA:
How are quarterback William Gay, running back David Cobb and cornerback Justin Gilbert assimilating to the Steeler's system? How do they look in practice?
ANSWER: Zach Mettenberger is the No. 3 quarterback, and David Cobb is on the practice squad, which means Mettenberger is getting virtually no repetitions during practice and Cobb is running the upcoming opponent's plays for the Steelers defense. Neither of those guys has any realistic chance of getting on the radar this season without a rash of injuries. Their real chance to "assimilate" won't come until next summer in Latrobe, provided they're there. As for Justin Gilbert, he was in uniform for the game in Washington, and I would expect him to be in uniform today against the Bengals. When a guy is in uniform on a game day, it's usually not long until he gets onto the field, especially on special teams.
CHARLIE BOHAN FROM LAKE WORTH, FL:
What is the game plan for defense for this weekend?
ANSWER: Stop the run, get pressure on the quarterback by rushing only four guys, don't give up any big plays that change the course of the game with a single snap, and finish as a plus in turnover ratio. That's pretty much the game plan for the defense every week, but I'm only guessing this time because Keith Butler hasn't gotten me my copy yet.
EMMA MONTGOMERY FROM ALEXANDRIA, VA:
This is not a question but a friendly comment. This past Monday – Sept. 12 – was my 79th birthday, and the Steelers gave me an excellent birthday present. They won their game against the Redskins, 38-16, and I just wanted to thank them in some type of way. I have been a Steelers fan ever since they played in Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. I have been a fan for over 65 years and wish them Godspeed on their quest to win Super Bowl LI this winter.
ANSWER: Happy birthday, Emma.
MARK McFADDEN FROM LAKEWOOD, CO:
Put in a retraction: Art Rooney Jr. was 22 years old in 1974 and in college, and he was not a vice president of the organization then.
ANSWER: A little background for the readers: This refers to a question I got a few installments back asking about the General Manager in 1974 who was responsible for the draft that yielded four Hall of Fame players over the first five rounds. In explaining that the Steelers had no one with the title of general manager in 1974, I wrote that Art Rooney Jr. served as a vice president and headed the player personnel department.
Back to Mr. McFadden: Art Rooney Jr. is Dan Rooney's brother. The person to whom you refer is Art Rooney II, Dan Rooney's son, who was 22 years old in 1974 and is now the Steelers President. So, instead of a retraction from me, I expect an apology from you.
DAVID ROMFOE FROM MINNEAPOLIS, MN:
Best game-time food: nachos or pizza?
ANSWER: That's a trick question. Because it's both. Nachos early, and then you close with the pizza.
RANDY HILTABIDEL FROM WINDBER, PA:
Love the column, and with such a great win in Washington, D.C., there is only one question going into the Cincinnati game: Who Dey?
ANSWER: Bill Cowher gets all the credit for this one, because he's the one who answered this question, first in the visitor's locker room at Paul Brown Stadium following the 2005 AFC Wild Card Game, and then again at the podium during the parade in Downtown Pittsburgh after Super Bowl XL: "We Dey."