Let's get to it:
ALLEN JACKSON FROM GREENVILLE, SC:
Is it just me or is Jesse James becoming a threat in the pass game? He's having an awesome run. What are his regular season statistics and his playoff numbers?
ANSWER: During the regular season, Jesse James caught 39 passes for 338 yards (8.7 average) and three touchdowns. In two playoff games, he has six catches for 89 yards (14.8 average) and no touchdowns. Five of those catches for 83 of those yards came against the Chiefs. Those statistical splits indicate James had a great receiving game in Kansas City, which is to his credit, but I cannot understand why there is such a rush to anoint players as good or bad at something. Let it develop at its own pace, and time will reveal the answer. In the meantime, if he's open, throw him the ball.**
TIM MCDOWELL FROM BUFFALO, NY:
An NFL website had a story about the 20 most important non-quarterbacks in the conference championships, and No. 20 on that list was Ladarius Green, because "he's a rare tight end who can stretch the field (16.9 yards per catch)." Tight ends who can stretch the field, while still valuable, are not as rare as they used to be. Isn't Jesse James doing pretty well? He had some big catches against Kansas City, and that block he set for Antonio Brown vs. Miami was pretty cool.
ANSWER: It's not an either/or proposition with Ladarius Green and Jesse James. If Green is able to play, that doesn't mean James will be inactive. Each player has contributed, and coordinator Todd Haley loves multiple tight end formations. My belief is that if Green is able to play against the Patriots, it would be a tight end not named Jesse James who is inactive.
RAYMOND JOURNIGAN FROM CROWLEY, TX:
Which key players will we be getting back who have not played in the playoffs for the Patriots game? And will we have four good receivers for that game?
ANSWER: The only guy who fits that description is Ladarius Green, and we'll know more about that as the week progresses and we see whether he's able to move himself through and then out of the concussion protocol. Everyone else on the injury report detailed by Mike Tomlin at his presser on Tuesday has seen action with the Steelers in the playoffs. And I'll use this question as a reminder to all of the people who continually submit questions about this: players on the injured reserve list are out for the rest of the season, and the Steelers, Patriots, Falcons, and Packers are still in their respective seasons.
ED TROUTMAN FROM BEAVER ISLAND, MI:
Why doesn't the NFL schedule both NFC divisional games on Saturday and both AFC divisional games on Sunday? This would eliminate any perceived advantage for the Conference Championship games.
ANSWER: The boffo ratings during the Sunday Divisional Round Games and the time slots in which those were achieved – Green Bay at Atlanta at 4:15 p.m. and Pittsburgh at Kansas City at 8:20 p.m. – has created the feeling that next year's playoffs will see the elimination of games in the Sunday at 1 p.m. time slot. If that happens, your suggestion could become a reality, but the networks are going to have to agree. I don't know why the networks would have a problem with it, but if they do it will be a factor in the final decision. Simple arithmetic. Or maybe it's economics.
JASON ALLEN FROM BUFFALO, NY:
Thankfully, this is a moot point, but do you think the Steelers would have considered going for it on fourth down at the end of the game had Ben Roethlisberger not completed his pass to Antonio Brown? I was just thinking the likelihood of converting on fourth-and-3 would be better than punting from their end zone to one of the best returners while being ahead by only two points.
ANSWER: I believe Mike Tomlin definitely would have considered it. The only issue with going for it in that situation is that because of the line of scrimmage being the 19-yard line, it's virtually conceding the game-winning field goal if you don't make it.
LAYNE PENROD FROM RIVERDALE, UT:
Do you think our offense is a bit predictable at times? I understand that Le'Veon Bell is the go-to guy now in the backfield, but couldn't we mix things up a bit and flank him wide as a threat and use Le'Veon Bell in the backfield? I know I'm armchair quarterbacking here, but if you have that many weapons I feel you should display them in different schemes so that you don't become too predictable.
ANSWER: Predictability has way less to do with it than these other two factors: Who is the better player; and is the opponent stopping what you might refer to as "too predictable?" Why help the opponent out by doing something different that it might have a chance to stop, instead of just doing and re-doing and re-doing what that opponent has shown itself unable to stop? And all due respect to DeAngelo Williams, but every carry you give him instead of Le'Veon Bell is giving a carry to an inferior player. Bell – if he didn't miss the season's first three games and was as productive in those as he has been since his return – is a first-team All-Pro and a back who's every bit as much in the MVP conversation as Ezekiel Elliott. Williams isn't that kind of player.
Take a look at some memorable Conference Championship games throughout Steelers history.
CHRIS KOENIG FROM BALTIMORE, MD:
In the run-up to the Chiefs game last Sunday, you'd postulated a simple theory for Steelers' success: be positive in the turnover ratio and minimize/remove Tyreek Hill's impact. Both occurred and we're now on our way to Foxboro. Do you have any special formulas for a win at this week's game, oh wise one?
ANSWER: Thank you for providing the opportunity for me to point out that I was right (for a change), and now, showing that I have no ability to quit while I'm ahead, I will offer this for the game against the Patriots: at this stage, the turnover issue is critical, so one part again is going to be finishing with an even or plus in the turnover ratio, and the other for this game will be finishing with a better touchdown percentage in the red zone than New England.
BILL HUBANS FROM HURON, OH:
On behalf of Steelers Nation, I would like to thank you and the excellent staff for all the great coverage of Steelers football. To be able to watch Mike Tomlin's press conference anywhere in the country immediately after it's over is amazing. I have learned so much from you guys. Keep up the great job.
ANSWER: Thanks for the kind words. And just a personal observation, but I thought Mike Tomlin's news conference this week was spectacular in the way he was forthcoming in a clear and concise way concerning a number of issues, starting with the Antonio Brown locker room video.
ROB GRIFFITHS FROM MADRID, SPAIN:
I am ceaselessly amazed at the ignorance/inanity of the questions you have to deal with. I actually burst out laughing at a comment that we ought to fire Todd Haley as there "is far too much talent to be struggling against teams we should be beating easily." In what world do these "fans" live? Let's fire Haley and Tomlin, move Shazier to safety, bring back Heath, get DeAngelo running the ball and move Bell into the slot. Oh, and obsess about the status of players on the practice squad.
My question is more of a plea: please stop asking asinine questions. Let's just enjoy the fact that we have just won two playoff games, and that we're playing for a Super Bowl berth. For some franchises, this happens once every 25 years.
ANSWER: Since you brought it up, this will be Super Bowl LI coming up, and this will be the Steelers' 16th appearance in the AFC Championship Game. That works out to 16 Conference Championship Games in 51 years, which is one such appearance every 3.1 seasons. Indeed, something that should be enjoyed, and appreciated for the long-term accomplishment that it is.
JOSEPH COUNT FROM NORTH AUGUSTA, SC:
Why are you always so rude when answering the question? A simple yes or no would suffice, Mr. Scrooge.
ANSWER: Bah, humbug.