Let's get to it:
ADAM STATTI FROM FORT MYERS, FL:
Considering the great running backs that this franchise has had throughout the years, Le'Veon Bell's accomplishment of breaking the Steelers' single-game postseason rushing record is remarkable. If you had to assign percentages between the two, how much of that is Bell and how much is the offensive line?
ANSWER: I don't believe it's any more possible to separate Le'Veon Bell's running from the blocking than it is to place percentages on which is more important to good pizza – the sauce or the crust.
MIKE DETWILER FROM ALIQUIPPA, PA:
When Bud Dupree crushed Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore, how is that roughing the passer when he was clearly a runner at that point?
ANSWER: I got nothing for you on that one. I also didn't believe that was a penalty, but one of the things I think is at work among NFL officials is that any hard hit – especially to a quarterback – is going to get flagged and then they allow the league office to sort it out over the next few days in terms of adding a fine onto the punishment or maybe an admission to the team that it was an incorrect call.
SHANE LUCAS FROM BUFFALO, OH:
Is it harder to prepare for a team like Miami that you lost to soundly in the regular season, or a team like Kansas City that you beat soundly earlier in the year?
ANSWER: My opinion on this issue is that it shouldn't be hard to prepare for an AFC Divisional Round Game against any opponent. There is too much at stake, just in terms of the difference between winning and losing a game at this stage of the season. Win this game, and you're one win away from being in the Super Bowl. Everything these guys have worked for and dreamed about all their lives is in sight. That's what should matter. Not the opponent and what might have been the outcome of a game between the same teams earlier in the season, because that game doesn't mean as much as this game.
DOUGLAS KELLAR FROM WARREN, OH:
I'm sure this is the 10,000th time you are being asked this: Should Ben Roethlisberger have been in a game where the Steelers were up by 18 points with four-plus minutes left?
ANSWER: Let me just start with this: Aaron Rodgers took every snap in Green Bay on Sunday night, and the Packers defeated the Giants, 38-13. Russell Wilson took every snap for the Seahawks in Seattle's 26-6 win over the Lions on Saturday night. Mike McCarthy, Pete Carroll, and Mike Tomlin all have won Super Bowls, just to reiterate their credentials. And both Rodgers and Wilson, along with Ben Roethlisberger, attempted passes on offensive series that took place with less than four minutes left in their games. One other thing worth mentioning: Ben Roethlisberger had shed the walking boot by early afternoon on Monday and is not expected to be hampered in any way for the game in Kansas City against the Chiefs.
Take a look at the best photos from the Week 18 Wild Card matchup against the Dolphins. The Steelers defeated the Dolphins 30-12.
Now, on to this: Taking out Le'Veon Bell was doable and necessary, because what the offense is mainly going to be doing is running the football, and Bell is a running back. So you put somebody else in there to eat those carries. Pulling a quarterback is different, though, because there is no position on a team more critical to ball protection than the quarterback, so having Roethlisberger on the field to handle the football makes sense to me.**
And Tomlin's personality as a coach is to play to win and play the best players in the effort to win. He's not going to be victimized by a comeback created by his own decision to "rest" his difference-making players. That's the kind of coach he was before he was hired here, and it's the kind of coach he has been since he was hired here. If Art Rooney II didn't like/agree with that approach, he would've done something about it by now.
I'm sure that the idea for the play-call on third-and-8 from the Miami 46-yard line with 4:34 remaining was a quick throw to get a first down, and executing that properly to the degree of getting the ball off quickly before the quarterback is exposed to a hit isn't too much to ask. During the play, however, Ben Roethlisberger did what he is wont to do, which is pull down the ball and start moving around in an effort to make a play.
The issue is a great one for those in the talk show business, and that's fair because it is one that elicits strong opinions and long discussions. And if Tomlin is to be criticized for leaving Roethlisberger in the game, imagine what it would be like if he had pulled his quarterback and the Steelers lost a playoff game because "he had taken his foot off the gas?"
This is the way the Steelers' coach coaches and the way their quarterback plays. If you want to get angry at one, or both, for their styles have at it, but I'm guessing that at some point you've also cheered Tomlin for his aggressiveness and refusal to play not to lose, and you've also jumped to your feet as Roethlisberger was extending some play before completing a pass down the field in some critical situation.
ERIK MONTGOMERY FROM ROCHESTER, NY:
Do you believe that Terry Bradshaw's comments about Mike Tomlin are in the back of the players' minds when they are preparing throughout the week? They all seem to be huge fans of Tomlin and seem to be more fired up than ever.
ANSWER: I have no way of knowing for sure, but if that's their reaction it's fine with me.
ROB SWAGERT FROM BIRMINGHAM, AL
Couldn't the officials have called taunting on Antonio Brown's second touchdown reception? If so, under the new rules I understand it would've taken away the touchdown reception.
ANSWER: When Antonio Brown pointed at that Miami player on his way to the end zone to complete that 62-yard touchdown play, that technically could have been flagged as a penalty for taunting. That penalty would have counted against the number of unsportsmanlike conduct infractions that could lead to the ejection of the player, but the penalty is a dead ball foul, meaning it would have been assessed on the ensuing kickoff. In the NFL, the touchdown counts.
DENNIS WOODS FROM BETTENDORF, IA:
Why do you always have to be right? I'm sick and tired of your pathologically narcissistic answers to the questions posed by well-meaning and concerned Steelers fans. Maybe it's time for you to get a new gig … Wait, scratch that. Keep up the beat-downs. Someone needs to remind people when they are being stupid, and no one does it better than you.
ANSWER: You had me going there for a while. Well played.