Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Jan. 16

Let's get to it:

DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: Looking at the defensive side of the ball it is obvious to me that the Steelers should be trying to re-sign Ahkello Witherspoon to a multi-year contract. Have Taco Charlton and Montravius Adams shown enough in your opinion to be given more than a one-year deal to return next year?
ANSWER: Opinion certainly has changed. Ahkello Witherspoon has gone from being presented by fans as an example of a stupid trade by General Manager Kevin Colbert to a player many of the same people now are clamoring to be signed to a multi-year extension. It's going to be an interesting offseason in terms of the Steelers outside cornerbacks because both Witherspoon (who will be 27 in March) and Joe Haden (who will be 33 in April) can become unrestricted free agents at the start of the 2022 league year, which will be at 4 p.m. on March 16. When it comes to a new contract, I believe Witherspoon has played well enough to merit interest from the Steelers, as has Montravius Adams. As for outside linebackers, Taco Charlton has provided decent play when called upon, but I also believe Derrek Tuszka is a player who could be a productive piece of the puzzle moving forward, and Tuszka will be a restricted free agent in 2022 and not due for unrestricted free agency until 2023.

HANS LANGE FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: If John Madden were alive, the Raiders kicking a field goal to put the Steelers in the playoffs would have killed him. If Al Davis were alive, do you think he would have stopped the kick?
ANSWER: Al Davis didn't fear the competition from any team. Remember, Davis' motto was, "Just win, baby." It wasn't, "Just tie, baby."

JUNE BOOTH FROM OLIVEHURST, CA: I do not know a lot about how the team practices for upcoming games. For example, there were five teams that beat the Chiefs during the 2021 season. Are those game videos viewed for any helpful plays to see how those five teams won? And on the flip side, in the games the Chiefs won, are the videos watched to see what the other team could have done to stop them? Along with our own game tape?
ANSWER: There is not enough time during a week of preparation to go through all of that video, and a lot of it could turn out to be wasted time based on the respective teams' personnel. When a team prepares for an opponent – and typically the preparation is no longer than three working days, because the day after a game is used to review the previous performance, then players get a day off, then there are three days of work, and then another day for finishing touches – the work done is within the context of the preparing team's personnel and strengths. If a team defeated the Chiefs by rushing for 200 yards, that doesn't have much practical application to a Steelers team that finished 29th in the NFL in rushing. It's important to work hard if you want to succeed, but just as important is working smart. Time should be allocated only to the most pertinent of issues.

LUIZ ALMEIDA FROM SALVADOR, BAHIA, BRAZIL: What happens if a playoff game ends up tied after overtime? Has this ever happened before?
ANSWER: There are no ties in NFL playoff games. They would just keep playing under the sudden death format until there is a winner.

CHRIS WALTER FROM MILLER PLACE, NY: I read that the Steelers were requesting a review of the aborted snap play that could potentially give T.J. Watt the single-season sack record? Any updates on this? Apparently, the league was supposed to make a decision by Wednesday.
ANSWER: After a request made by the Steelers, the Elias Sports Bureau reviewed the play against the Ravens that was recorded as an aborted play with no sack given to T.J. Watt. When the review was complete, Elias sided with the on-site stats crew at M&T Bank Stadium and denied the appeal. There was no reason given for that decision.

BRANDON BEARER FROM CARROLLTOWN, PA: Do you agree with Elias Sports Bureau denying T.J. Watt the sack that would've broken Michael Strahan's record? It seemed to me that they were in empty formation which in most cases is a pass play with a possibility of a quarterback run. Is that the gray area that made them come to that conclusion?
ANSWER: I don't know enough about the rule to have an opinion on whether the rule was interpreted correctly, and I would caution you not to put too much stock in what seems to make sense. A lot of the NFL rulebook doesn't make sense, at least to me.

RANDY REGIER FROM YORK, NE: It's been noted T. J. Watt earned his 22.5 sacks in 15 games compared to 16 games for Michael Strahan. Is it true Michael Strahan was handed sack number 22.5 from Brett Favre in 2001 when Favre took the snap and surrendered himself to Strahan gifting him the sack record?
ANSWER: I'm not going to denigrate the manner in which Michael Strahan got to the total of 22.5 sacks in 2001, and neither would I have done that to T.J. Watt had he broken the record based on an after-the-fact scoring change by the Elias Sports Bureau. Doing so to either man, in my mind, would be petty.

KEN WALDROP FROM ONTONAGON, MI: I get the money-making part of the NFL. My question is when they chose to move the Raiders-Chargers game to a night game, do you think the NFL put the Steelers at a competitive disadvantage and put money ahead of the integrity of the game?
ANSWER: There was no competitive disadvantage created for the Steelers. They beat the Ravens, help up their end of the scenario and will play the Chiefs tonight in a Wild Card Round Game on Saturday night. In this instance, all's well that ends well. I do believe steps have to be taken to avoid this kind of scenario in the future, but this time everything worked out as it should – no tanking or not playing to win.

DAVE KITLAK FROM UHRICHSVILLE, OH: Why hasn't Zach Banner factored into the offense more?
ANSWER: The emergence of Zach Gentry as a legitimate NFL tight end has eliminated the need to use Zach Banner as an extra blocker, and the only thing I can tell you is there must have been a determination made that Banner only can play right tackle. And the Steelers apparently are not interested in moving Chuck Okorafor to left tackle to put Banner at right tackle when Dan Moor was injured.

KEVIN W. MCCARTHY FROM WINTER PARK, FL: The Steelers have had a remarkable knack for finding and developing wide receivers, or so I thought. Reflecting on Ben Roethlisberger's career, was it the receivers having a great quarterback who could deliver the ball, Kevin Colbert and the scouts drafting hidden gems, or great receivers, coaching, and offensive coordination? Certainly, it all counts, but has Ben's ability to get the ball delivered into the receivers' hands been underappreciated?
ANSWER: Ben Roethlisberger's arm strength, accuracy and sense of timing over the course of his career certainly hasn't been underestimated by me. In the early stages of his rookie training camp, when the four quarterbacks on the 90-man roster were Tommy Maddox, Charlie Batch, Roethlisberger, and Brian St. Pierre, one of the receivers generally out on the practice field when Roethlisberger was the quarterback was an undrafted rookie named Zamir Cobb from Temple. There was nothing particularly exciting about Cobb as a player, but he did catch the balls that were thrown right to him, and Roethlisberger threw a lot of balls right to him during that training camp. Cobb looked good enough through the training camp phase and into the preseason that he was perceived as a legitimate candidate to earn a spot on the roster, but he sustained a broken leg before final cuts. Roethlisberger's ability to get the ball delivered into Cobb's hands, and then Cobb's ability to catch it almost resulted in a very unlikely player earning a spot on the 53-man roster.

MICHAEL WOLOZYN FROM OIL CITY, PA: If T.J. Watt records at least another ½ sack during Sunday's Wild Card Round game with the Chiefs, does that count toward the yearly total or just toward playoff appearances only?
ANSWER: In the NFL statistics accumulated during the postseason are not added to statistics accumulated during the regular season.

GREG HASSELBACH FROM TOPEKA, KS: Everyone is aware of the offensive line issues this season. In your opinion, do you think the Steelers will consider a line consisting of Dan Moore at left tackle, Kendrick Green moving to left guard, Kevin Dotson at right guard, and Chuks Okorafor/Zach Banner at right tackle?
ANSWER: OK, there was more to your submission about possible offensive line configurations, but I stopped things where I did because Coach Mike Tomlin is not among those who believe Kendrick Green cannot handle the starting center job and should be moved to guard as a result. Last week, during a taping of the Mike Tomlin Show, which airs on the Pittsburgh Steelers Radio Network as part of the network's pregame show on flagship station 102.5 WDVE, I asked Tomlin two questions, which appear with his answers:

Q. How would you evaluate (Kendrick Green's) transition from playing mostly guard in college to being a starting center in the NFL?
A. I thought the transition was really clean. I thought he did a really nice job, but I thought that he wore down over the course of the season. There were four preseason games, and then 17 regular season games on the schedule. I think the attrition element of it affected him particularly as we got into the holiday season. But strictly from a transitional standpoint – the learning of the assignments, the gaining of cohesion, doing things relative to the position – I thought that was very fluid.

Q. So you think he's physically capable of the move from guard to center?
A. No question.

Based on that, and the definitive way Tomlin spoke, I see it as foolish to entertain scenarios where Green is not at center. At least for now.

JONATHAN NEWBOLD FROM WHITEVILLE, NC: Thanks for the breakdown on players' earnings during the playoffs. Does the league pay the money to the players or the team? If the team pays, does it count towards the salary cap?
ANSWER: The league disburses the money to the involved teams after each round, and then the teams distribute it to the players. And that money does not count on a team's individual salary cap.

PERCY SONDAG FROM DOYLESTOWN, PA: Be honest, how much did you sweat/swear/scream when it started to seem that the Raiders-Chargers game was really going to end in a tie?
ANSWER: Honestly? OK, I swear and scream more often doing an installment of Asked and Answered.

ROBERTA CAMPBELL FROM PORTAGE, IN: I wanted to send a Thank-You card to Ben Roethlisberger. Can you please provide the address again?
ANSWER: Correspondence can be addressed to the player and mailed to 3400 S. Water Street; Pittsburgh, PA, 15203.

JASON BRECHT FROM ANAMOSA, IA: The football gods obliged, and we get at least one more game with No. 7 at quarterback. Whether it is his last game or not, a HUGE thank you to Ben Roethlisberger for 18 fantastic years. Eighteen years of knowing you always had a chance to win any game and to be a contender during a season is not something many fans get to experience. He never gave up and was the tough mentally and physically. He should have led the league in drawing roughing the passer penalties, instead it became almost comical the few times a flag was thrown. Ben will be greatly missed. Enjoy the next chapter of your life, and God bless.

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