Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Jan. 14

Let's get to it:

ELLEN CAUDLE FROM CHATTANOOGA, TN:
Why isn't it ever mentioned that the Steelers had the toughest schedule and still managed to get to 10-6? Why isn't it ever mentioned that Ben Roethlisberger is an elite quarterback? Aaron Rodgers wasn't great this season, but he is always mentioned as an elite quarterback. Why is it always mentioned that the Steelers defense is not that good even though it is in the rebuilding stage? It takes time to rebuild, and Dick LeBeau wasn't going to be there forever.

I'm going to try to deal with these in order:

Here is the lead paragraph of the column I wrote following the regular season finale against the Browns that appeared on Steelers.com on Jan. 4: "CLEVELAND – The Steelers are in the playoffs, and for that they deserve some credit. Credit for winning 10 games against what was the NFL's toughest schedule this season, as calculated based on their opponents' 2014 records. And credit for winning those 10 games despite a series of injuries that claimed a couple of first-team All-Pros on offense, the starting left tackle, and the quarterback for various lengths of time."

Onto the next item: This whole "elite quarterback" concept to me is much ado about nothing. The primary way to judge NFL quarterbacks is by the amount of winning for which they're responsible – playoff appearances, performance in playoff games, playoff won-loss percentage, and then the number of Lombardi trophies with their names engraved on them. A secondary category could be: number of Player of the Year awards won. In my mind, there is no category of accomplishment in which Aaron Rodgers deserves to be included that Ben Roethlisberger does not.

That said, this playoff season is set up in such a way that Roethlisberger has an opportunity to completely re-form his status among the current crop of NFL quarterbacks, because these Steelers are a team that wins primarily because of its offense, which is led by Roethlisberger. If the Steelers advance to Super Bowl 50 and win it, I believe Roethlisberger will receive the bulk of the credit that would go to an individual player for the team's accomplishment, and he would deserve it. The quarterback is that important in today's NFL.

As for the defense, it has been mentioned by me on several of the Steelers.com platforms that it remains a unit in transition, that Keith Butler deserves a lot of credit for the way it has improved over the course of the season, and that in my opinion it has become better faster than I believed it would. In conclusion, I suspect you are spending too much time consuming your Steelers news at outlets other than Steelers.com, and I would gently suggest you stop doing that if you want your information presented in the manner suggested in your question.

STEPHEN DREWETT FROM CARDIFF, WALES:
What is the situation regarding Landry Jones? Is he injured or just out of favor behind Landry Jones?

Mike Vick is not injured, nor is he "out of favor." He is the No. 3 quarterback behind Landry Jones, and that status is based on the respective performances of the two players over the course of the season. Remember, too, that Vick didn't join this team until Aug. 25, and so he didn't have the advantage of the offseason program, he missed training camp, and just about all of the preseason.

CHRISTOPHER BIERY FROM PICKERINGTON, OH:
Where's Mike Vick? I remember the thoughts going through my mind when I first heard Vick was going to be signing with the Steelers. I couldn't help but think of the trick play involving Antwaan Randle El and Hines Ward during Super Bowl XL. I feel like Vick is underused, and he was not given an opportunity to mesh with the team before he was thrust into a high pressure situation. Perhaps this is just my bias, hoping to see the Vick from the Falcons, but he has to have some of that jazz left in his tank, and I would love to see a couple trick plays utilizing his running ability. Landry Jones doesn't seem too promising, and it is clear that when Ben Roethlisberger goes down, he has to get right back up or we lose.

I see this as being misplaced expectations by you. First of all, the Mike Vick who played for the Atlanta Falcons and was the league's most dazzling quarterback is gone. That was when he was 25-26 years old, and he's 35 now. Also, the Steelers didn't sign Vick to be a trick-play artist; they added him to the roster for his veteran presence at the quarterback position because back in late August there were still a lot of questions about Landry Jones' ability to play winning football. Also, the life of a backup quarterback in the NFL requires him to be able to deliver with little practice and in a moment's notice – there aren't concessions made because the guy "was not given an opportunity to mesh with the team before he was thrust into a high pressure situation." And finally, there is evidence from this regular season that refutes your contention that "it is clear that when Ben Roethlisberger goes down, he has to get right back up or we lose," because Vick came through in the win in San Diego, and Jones rescued Vick and the Steelers by coming off the bench and making the plays that led to a victory over the allegedly unbeatable Arizona Cardinals.

MARK GREENAWAY FROM CARLISLE, PA:
Jim Nantz and Phil Simms mentioned at least twice during the CBS broadcast of the Steelers-Bengals Wild Card Round game that the crew doing the game was not a crew that had previously worked together. Why in the world does the NFL not grade the entire crew and award them the playoff games? I would think the cohesion of the crew during the most important games of the season should be paramount when awarding them these assignments, and it was not there on Saturday night.

I would think that, too. Again, as it is with many things about how the NFL chooses to operate, I have no logical explanation for you.

Photos from the last matchup vs the Broncos at Heinz Field on December 20th, 2015.

MICHELE KING FROM CARLSBAD, CA:
What is up with Maurkice Pouncey? I never heard anything about him since he went on the injured reserve/designated-to-return list. What was the point if he wasn't going to play in playoffs?

There is nothing up with Maurkice Pouncey at this time. When the Steelers placed him on IR-designated-to-return, the belief was that he would be able to return at some point to play this season. But as is the case with a lot of medical issues, what was believed at one time has changed. If the Steelers know now what they knew then, maybe they would have just put Pouncey on IR.

GLORIA PRYE FROM MCCLURE, PA:
Hi Bob, where can I get a copy of the NFL rule book?

Click here for the rule book that can be downloaded as a pdf file: http://operations.nfl.com/the-rules/2015-nfl-rulebook/

TERRY LUCERO FROM MILARGO, N.M.:
So I was wondering why is it that in the Divisional Round of the playoffs the No. 1 seed faces the lowest seed remaining and the No. 2 seed faces the highest. You would think that it wound be the opposite, right?

I'm going to guess that the confusion here comes from different interpretations of highest seed and lowest seed. As the No. 6 seed, the Steelers are the lowest-seeded team in the AFC Playoffs. Even though 6 is a higher number than 5, for the purposes of the way the NFL is explaining itself in terms of seeding, 6 is lower than 5.

BOB RUSSAK FROM HASTINGS ON HUDSON, N.Y.:
We have all heard about the "concussion protocol"  What exactly is the procedure, and what are the determinants that clear a player to return to play?

The following is a simplified breakdown of the NFL concussion protocol, as it appeared in The Washington Post: "For those seeking a better understanding of what the NFL concussion protocol requires, here's a look at its five steps:
REST AND RECOVERY. Players may stretch and work on their balance, but they don't work out beyond that. In addition, they're advised against spending time on computers, any electronic device and social media. They don't take part in team meetings.
LIGHT AEROBIC EXERCISE. Under supervision of the team's medical staff, the player can start cardiovascular exercise, such as riding a stationary bike and using a treadmill, and work on more dynamic stretching and balancing. The workload is increased gradually and halted entirely if concussion-related symptoms recur. Players can attend team meetings and study film.
CONTINUED AEROBIC EXERCISE, INTRODUCTION OF STRENGTH TRAINING. Building gradually on the work of step 2, the player can start weight training.
FOOTBALL-SPECIFIC WORK. The player adds non-contact football drills, such as throwing, catching and running to his repertoire of exercise. No contact allowed with other players, tackling dummies or sleds.
FULL FOOTBALL ACTIVITY, FULL CLEARANCE. The player resumes practicing with the team, with no limitations. Once the team physician clears him to compete, the player is examined by the independent neurological consultant, who also reviews any relevant neurological tests.

BILL PRESTON FROM SPRING HILL, FL:
Why doesn't Coach Mike Tomlin clamp down on the players who continue to do excessive celebrations in the end zone? William Gay especially, which results in penalties and gives opposing team good field position in most instances.

To clarify, it's not William Gay who is being penalized in either of the two situations I believe you are referencing – those being the pick-six in Cincinnati during the regular season, and then the touchdown-that-wasn't during the Wild Card Round game last Saturday. As the scorer of the touchdown, Gay can dance, but as soon as he's joined by a teammate or teammates, it becomes a choreographed celebration and thus a penalty. So if there's to be any clamping down, it would be with the other players on the field, and personally I hope to see Gay dancing in the end zone in Denver this Sunday after he scores another defensive touchdown.

KEVAN McGUIRE FROM ISLE OF WHITHORN, SCOTLAND:
I like to listen to Steelers Nation Radio on my laptop and mobile phone, but I don't know when the live shows are on, or when they are repeated. Can you tell me where I can see a schedule for Steelers Nation Radio, and if there are any other radio apps I can download to get my Steelers fix while doing my landscaping? Cheers, and keep up the good work.

First of all, please understand that all times I'm going to list are Eastern Standard Time, and I acknowledge I have no idea how that translates to Scotland. That said, here goes: Inside the Locker Room with Tunch Ilkin & Craig Wolfley airs Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-noon; Inside Steelers Nation airs Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m.; Monday Night Quarterback airs on Mondays from 6-8 p.m.; The Mike Tomlin Press Conference airs on Tuesdays from noon-1 p.m.; Steelers Insider airs on Tuesdays from 6-8 p.m.; Countdown to Kickoff airs on Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m. All of those shows – plus other content – is then put on the loop where they repeat at various times during the course of the week. Hope this helps.

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