Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Jan. 28

Let's get to it:

Take a look at some of the most famous people who follow @Steelers on Twitter.

It seemed as if we were a little bit more active this year in the free agent market in terms of pursuing well-known players, with examples being Anthony Chickillo, Michael Vick, and Jacoby Jones. Do you foresee us doing the same thing this year and possibly scoring a big-name free agent, or even trading up in the draft to get a high-quality player.

Incorrect premise. The Steelers didn't acquire any of the three players you list via the "free agent market," at least not in how you mean it. Brandon Boykin came to the team via a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles; Landry Jones was out of football after his contract had expired some five months earlier, and Jacoby Jones was awarded via a waiver claim after he was cut by the San Diego Chargers in early November. As a general rule, the Steelers typically allocate the bulk of their available salary cap dollars to re-signing their own players as opposed to spending big bucks on unrestricted free agents. I really cannot see that changing to any large degree this offseason. As for trading up in the draft, that's always something the Steelers are willing to consider, and they did consider it last year. But they couldn't find a trading partner in either of the first or second rounds, and so nothing happened.

Through your years of covering the Steelers, who are some of your favorite players to cover? What would be one of your most memorable moments of being around the team? Thanks for Asked and Answered. I look forward to them each week.

There have been a large number of players for whom I developed a great respect as professionals, but I usually remember them as being part of specific Steelers teams that won championships, that were fun to watch, or both. There are too many to list here, mainly because there is a very real possibility of forgetting someone and leaving him out. As for a memorable moment, for me it would have to be this one: when Dan Rooney raised the Lombardi Trophy at Ford Field after the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. A very, very emotional moment, much in the same way it must have been when Art Rooney Sr. was handed the Lombardi Trophy in the Tulane Stadium locker room after the Steelers won Super Bowl IX.

With the injuries that the Steelers sustained throughout the year, it gave many players the opportunity to step in and have bigger roles than before, whether they were rookies or had been backups for a couple of years. This could be shown by looking at Sammie Coates, or Jordan Todman and Fitz Toussaint, or Alejandro Villanueva. Which of the players, offense or defense, would you like to see more of after getting a first look at what they could really do this year?

There are some players I hope not to see at all in 2016, and that has everything to do with the fact that if they're playing, then a more accomplished star is injured. This would describe anyone the Steelers might have as a backup quarterback, for example. Al Villanueva looks like he's going to be difficult to unseat as the starting left tackle, but of the players you list the one whose potential intrigues me the most is Sammie Coates. He seems to me to be a more physical version of Martavis Bryant but with the same potential to be a dynamic player. If Coates makes the improvement Coach Mike Tomlin demands of players going into their second NFL seasons, the Steelers will have a passing attack that should keep opposing defensive coordinators awake at night.

Going into the Denver game, with Ben Roethlisberger playing injured, it was assumed the Steelers would have three quarterbacks active on game day. I seem to recall that there are specific NFL rules regarding when the Nos. 1, 2, and 3 quarterbacks can and can't play. Specifically, if the No. 3 quarterback enters the game then the No. 1 quarterback can't return to the game. Is this correct? Or am I just old and confused?

It used to be correct, but it isn't anymore. It was correct during the period when teams could have 45 players active on game day and then designate a third quarterback to be the 46th player. During that period – without getting into the minutiae since those rules no longer apply – the substitution rules regarding quarterbacks were somewhat similar to baseball's substitution rules in that once a player was removed from the game he couldn't re-enter. When the rules were changed to allow 46 players, regardless of position, on the game day roster, then those restrictions on the substitution of quarterbacks were lifted.


As a point of clarity, however, any assumptions the Steelers were going to have three quarterbacks active for the playoff game in Denver were incorrect. If anything, it was speculation that turned out to be wrong, because after the team concluded its practice on the Friday before that game, Coach Mike Tomlin's plan was to have Mike Vick inactive. And that didn't change between then and the time when he had to turn in his list of inactives 90 minutes before kickoff.**

At the end of the AFC Championship Game, if Denver had returned the intercepted 2-point conversion attempt to the end zone, how many points would they have gotten, and then which team would have had to kick off? Maybe our young, hungry defense will get one of those next season.

Had the Broncos returned the intercepted Tom Brady pass on that 2-point conversion attempt all the way into the opposite end zone, they would have been awarded 2 points. Then the Patriots kick off to the Broncos, or in the reality of that situation, the Patriots would have attempted an onside kick.

Do you think it's time the Steelers try to find their quarterback of the (hopefully distant) future?

One more time, and I hope everyone else who has this question is paying attention, because I hate having to answer the same question over and over and over again. In my opinion, Ben Roethlisberger's successor is still in high school. What fans should realize is that it really makes little sense for a team to pick a starting-caliber quarterback with the idea of having him wait for three-to-four years before getting into the lineup. Players with this kind of talent typically are high draft picks, and so there is an investment there, and then all rookie contracts are for four years, with a team option for a fifth-year. Since players with four accrued seasons are eligible for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of their contracts, it wouldn't make a lot of sense for a team to have someone who was a high draft pick reach unrestricted free agency without having a real good idea of what kind of player he's going to end up being. So drafting a replacement for your starting quarterback before your starting quarterback is on the cusp of retirement is foolish, in my opinion. I don't believe Roethlisberger is on the cusp of retirement, and so I'm not shopping for a replacement until he is.

Is Sean Spence looked at as a starter or, because of his injuries, trade bait?

Sean Spence is not a starter. The starting inside linebackers are Ryan Shazier and Ryan Shazier, and Spence is a contributor both in certain personnel groupings in sub-package football and on special teams. Also, Spence can become an unrestricted free agent in March, and so he cannot be traded.

Thank you so much for doing Asked and Answered. In the NBA, MLB, and NHL the playoff matchups are best-of-seven game series. In my mind, that system prevents a team from being eliminated because it had a single bad game. Why doesn't the NFL do at least best-of-three series for the same reason? (The reason I ask this is because we beat Denver in the regular season, but lost in the playoff game. They were better than us that one time.)

First of all, football is more physically demanding than those other sports you list, and playing more than one football game per week isn't really advisable, especially during the stage when the sport is going through the process of crowning its champion. Imagine a best-of-three in the Wild Card Round, then a best-of-three in the Divisional Round, then a best-of-three to crown the conference champions, and then I'm assuming you'd go best-of-three in the Super Bowl. The NFL postseason would last until April. Plus, I believe it's special for fans who buy a ticket to an NFL playoff game to know that it's an elimination game for somebody. And if you have a ticket to either a conference championship game or the Super Bowl, you know there is going to be a trophy presentation when it's over.

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