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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Jan. 22

Let's get to it:

The Steelers will wear their white jerseys with gold pants for today's AFC Championship Game against the Patriots.

I watched the press conferences for New England and Pittsburgh. The glaring contrast in leadership qualities between the two head coaches was dramatic. Mike Tomlin displayed intelligence and respect, while Bill Belichick displayed arrogance and ignorance. I understand they "have the hardware," but that doesn't entirely define great leadership. If ever given the chance, I take Mr. Tomlin 10 times out of 10 as my team's coach. My wife claims I have a man-crush going here, so if you could back me up I would really appreciate it. Either way, thanks for all you do.

ANSWER: I would maintain that a coach's performance at press conferences doesn't have a whole lot to do with his ability to prepare his team for a game and then lead them to victory in that game. Bill Belichick, at least in these press conference settings, hardly comes off as a people person, but his record with the Patriots and the four Lombardis his teams won serve as compelling evidence that he is one of the best in his field. Where I will agree with you is in your assessment of Mike Tomlin. At every news conference he has, he's the smartest guy in the room, and the job he did in his news conference this week – the one where he addressed the Antonio Brown locker room video incident – was masterful. Tomlin is book smart, football smart, and a leader. I have written this before, and I'll do it again right here right now: If I owned an NFL team, I would hire Mike Tomlin to coach it.

If a quarterback is stripped of the ball behind the line of scrimmage, is that considered a sack?

ANSWER: Yes. The lone exception would be in the case of an obvious attempted running play by the quarterback, but that rarely happens in the NFL.

Ben Roethlisberger's quarterback rating has always been higher when he was outside the pocket, scrambling. Does Todd Haley have any designed scrambles to help loosen up the defense? I know he wants to protect Ben but staying in the pocket all the time just gives defenders a target zone to the quarterback.


ANSWER: I'm going to start with your first sentence: "Ben Roethlisberger's quarterback rating has always been higher when he was outside the pocket, scrambling." Where did you get that statistic? Or did you just throw it out there based on your impression of what you think you've seen? But for entertainment's sake, I'm going to accept it as fact. So, your plan is to call a bunch of designed scramble plays for a 34-year-old quarterback with a foot injury. Excellent. How about some zone-read out of the shotgun where Roethlisberger keeps the ball himself, too? Nobody would expect that.**

After hearing about the number of Steelers who are dealing with the flu in advance of the AFC Championship Game, I am wondering if flu shots are offered or available to the players?

ANSWER: Flu shots were made available to players, coaches, and even staff who travel with the team for road games months ago. The Steelers have done that for years and years and years.

Do the Steelers know what a flu shot is? I recently read that the illness stated for a number of players who did not practice was indeed the flu. It seems unimaginable that when football season and flu season coincide, why in the world wouldn't a player get a flu shot? It's hard for me to understand why a player would chance missing a game/Super Bowl for the simple reason he didn't/wouldn't get a flu shot.

ANSWER: Yes, Dr. Fortini, the Steelers do know what a flu shot is, and as I explained in the previous question, flu shots are made available EVERY year. There also is this bit of medical information available on the CDC's website:

"How well the flu vaccine works (or its ability to prevent flu illness) can range widely from season to season. The vaccine's effectiveness also can vary depending on who is being vaccinated. At least two factors play an important role in determining the likelihood that flu vaccine will protect a person from flu illness: 1) characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as their age and health), and 2) the similarity or "match" between the flu viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against and the flu viruses spreading in the community. During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating viruses, it's possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed. During years when there is a good match between the flu vaccine and circulating viruses, it's possible to measure substantial benefits from vaccination in terms of preventing flu illness. However, even during years when the vaccine match is very good, the benefits of vaccination will vary across the population, depending on characteristics of the person being vaccinated and even, potentially, which vaccine was used."


Always so quick to find fault and place blame for everything that happens. I never have been able to understand that way of viewing life, but it does seem to be a common denominator among a faction of Steelers fans. Despite best efforts to prepare and anticipate, sometimes life just happens. Since some players got the flu, it has to be Mike Tomlin's fault, or Kevin Colbert's fault. Aaron Rodgers got the flu, too. Whose fault is that?**

Who is out for the Steelers for Sunday's game?

ANSWER: No players were listed as out on the team's status report that was released on Friday. Fitz Toussaint (concussion), Ladarius Green (concussion), and William Gay (shoulder, triceps) all were listed as questionable.

I notice sometimes the offensive linemen are in a three-point stance, sometimes in a pass-blocking stance. For the defensive line, I almost always see the front three in a three-point stance. Does the NFL specify how they stand?

ANSWER: No. Players must be set for a full second before the snap of the ball. Most often in the one-on-one battles along the line of scrimmage, leverage wins. That why defensive linemen are in a three-point stance usually, because if they're standing up and the offense calls a running play they are more easily blocked and moved out of the way.

My question is how does getting ready for a big game like this and having to travel to a place like New England affect the way players prepare themselves while still getting the rest they need? Do they give the linemen a day off work while they work with the backs and receivers, or do they just all have one or two certain days off, because rest is very important to stay healthy for a big game.


The best photos of C Maurkice Pouncey from the 2016 season.

ANSWER: Mike Tomlin has been managing this issue going all the way back to training camp. For example, Ben Roethlisberger very rarely practices on Wednesdays, and there are other veteran players given similar considerations. Le'Veon Bell was given some time this past week to rest his body, and there have been many other examples of this tactic being employed, as I mentioned, going all the way back to Saint Vincent College in August.**

When a player's name is on the injured list, but not listed as a specific injury or illness, what could some other reasons be? I only ask because a few key players were on the list as "not injury related."

ANSWER: Those players have been given the day off by Coach Mike Tomlin, or otherwise excused for personal reasons, such as a death in the family.

Do you think it is likely that the Steelers bring back James Harrison after retirement to be a strength and conditioning coach?

ANSWER: I think it is very unlikely that James Harrison would have any – and I do mean any with an exclamation mark – interest in that once his playing career is over. It's not exactly a high-paying job, especially when compared to an NFL player's salary, and the time commitment is significant – seven-days-a-week through large portions of the calendar year. Harrison initially retired because he wanted to spend more time with his family, and I believe that's what he will do once he decides he's finished playing football.

My wife wanted to know this: Of the championship games the Steelers played in, how many did they win wearing black jerseys vs. white jerseys.

ANSWER: OK, Mrs. Fernandez, here it is: The Steelers have won eight AFC Championship Games. In the ones they played at home – 1975, 1978, 1979, 1995, 2008, 2010 – they wore their black jerseys; and in the ones they won on the road – 1974 and 2005 – they wore their white jerseys.

Do people not realize that Google is a click away? How many tackles did James Harrison have last week? How many times did Le'Veon Bell run the ball in 2014? People: Stop clouding this Asked and Answered with questions that you could easily be asking Google and finding the answer by clicking the first link that pops up. The first one I typed in was: "Why are people dumb?"

ANSWER: Hey, Tony, Google is my secret weapon, but I also appreciate the sentiment. I also have wondered the same thing, especially since it's such a simple way to get answers to so many things. But I need this job, and to be honest, I prefer the questions I can answer with Google over the questions that would require a Magic 8-Ball. Anyway, I went to Google and typed in, "why are people dumb," and a few of the links that popped up were entertaining/humorous. This time, you made me laugh. Thanks.

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