Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Jan. 2

Let's get to it:

I see that the Pittsburgh chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America have voted JuJu Smith-Schuster the Joe Greene Great Performance Award as the Steelers top rookie. There is no question that JuJu had a great year. Do you really think he had a bigger impact than T.J. Watt? I see Watt's ability to rush the passer, play the run, and drop into coverage, and he seems to be a complete linebacker in just his rookie season. He was an impact player all year. JuJu has gotten better all season, and he has become an impact player. I'm not sure he was an impact player in September and October. What do you think?

ANSWER: I think that it's rare for the voters to have more than one viable candidate, and this was one of those years. Often, the outcome of an election depends upon when the voting takes place, and the voting this year happened during the game against New England at Heinz Field. If you remember, JuJu Smith-Schuster had a spectacular 69-yard catch-and-run in that game to put the Steelers in a position win. Then, there also was this: According to the NFL, Smith-Schuster became the youngest player in league history to generate more than 1,000 all-purpose yards. Smith-Schuster's 143 receiving yards and 122 kick-return yards against the Browns pushed his full-season total of combined yardage to 1,157. He also scored eight touchdowns – seven receiving and one on kickoff returns.

T.J. Watt also had a very good rookie season. It started in the opener in Cleveland when he posted two sacks and also added an interception. Watt finished with seven sacks, one interception, and eight passes defensed, and his statistics represent the new-age Steelers outside linebacker, a guy who can contribute as a rusher and also in coverage.

One final point: there have been plenty of notable players who didn't win the Steelers rookie of the year award, including Greg Lloyd, Rod Woodson, Dermontti Dawson, Joey Porter, Casey Hampton, Lawrence Timmons, Antonio Brown, Cam Heyward, David DeCastro, Ryan Shazier, and Stephon Tuitt.

I would like to give thanks to Steeler Nation for the showing on Christmas Day. Being from Houston, as much as I try to explain to the Houstonians about our fan base, they just didn't understand until Christmas Day.

ANSWER: Here is Mike Tomlin's take: "I think our new players, guys like Joe Haden, they really gain an appreciation for Steelers Nation when we're in an environment like last weekend in Houston, Texas, and we feel the love and support. Steelers Nation is that – it's not only nationwide but it's worldwide. Hopefully, we continue to meet the needs of the Nation. It doesn't surprise me anymore. That Monday night in San Diego (Oct. 12, 2015) was one of those moments when it was really surprising. To see Phillip Rivers working on a silent count in San Diego that far away from Pittsburgh during a Monday night game is amazing. I think about Washington, D.C., in 2008. Monday night ball, the night before the presidential election, and those guys working on a silent count. Some of those moments stick with you forever."

With the win over the Browns, the Steelers swept their division opponents. Have they accomplished that before (AFC North or AFC Central), and if so what was the overall result to the season?

ANSWER: The 1975 Steelers were 6-0 in the AFC Central Division and went on to win Super Bowl X; the 1994 Steelers were 6-0 in the AFC Central Division and lost the AFC Championship Game; the 2002 Steelers were 6-0 in the AFC North Division and lost a Divisional Round Game in overtime; the 2008 Steelers were 6-0 in the AFC North Division and won Super Bowl XLIII. We'll see how the 2017 Steelers fare in the playoffs over the next few weeks.

Why do the Steelers play down to teams with a losing record?

ANSWER: If you're referring to the game against the Browns on Dec. 31, you do realize the Steelers had six Pro Bowl players plus Cam Heyward on the inactive list.

Your 'Labriola on' article about the James Harrison departure was top notch, high quality journalism. The unbiased insider view of how that occurred, and how the team reacted was exactly what real fans were looking for. We all know that you catch a lot of flak for telling it how it is. Thanks for telling it how it is, instead of how fans wished it was.

ANSWER: Thanks for the kind words.

You do realize that for approximately 1 minute and 30 seconds on Sunday the Steelers were the No. 1 seed?

ANSWER: You do realize how meaningless that is?

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