Let's get to it:
VINCENT WALKER FROM WICHITA, KS: I recently won an auction for a helmet signed by Mel Blount. I read more about his achievements with the Steelers and learned he even had a pass interference rule change named after him. He continued to dominate even with the rule change. Where would you rank him among all-time Steelers cornerbacks?
ANSWER: Mel Blount is No. 1, and Rod Woodson is No. 1a in my highly subjective ranking of the best cornerbacks in franchise history. Woodson was a great player, but a lot of his production in terms of takeaways came after he left the Steelers following the 1996 season. Both were tough and physical. Both were highly competitive. There's really not a lot to differentiate them, except for the length of time they played with the Steelers. Blount played in 200 career games with the franchise, and Woodson played in 138.
WILLIAM STREET FROM CASPER, WY: With the current COVID-19 issues in Cleveland, regardless of what the NFL chooses to do, could the Steelers choose to forfeit and take the week off? The risk of going into the playoffs hit by another COVID-19 outbreak is frightening. Maybe I'm a little too concerned?
ANSWER: That would never happen. Steelers President Art Rooney II has too much respect for the NFL and the league's fans worldwide to forfeit a game willingly.
STEPHEN MITCHELL FROM TALLAHASSEE, FL: What are the odds that Ben Roethlisberger wins the Comeback Player of the Year Award? How do his odds compare to Alex Smith's? What is the criteria that they even use in choosing the Comeback Player of the Year?
ANSWER: According to sportsbettingdime.com, as of Dec. 8, Alex Smith was the odds-on favorite to win the Comeback Player of the Year Award at minus-5000, while Ben Roethlisberger was listed at plus-1200.
This from Wikipedia on the criteria used for the Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year: "The Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award is presented annually by the Associated Press to a player in the National Football League. While the criteria for the award is imprecise, it is typically given to a player who has overcome adversity from the previous season – such as an injury or poor performance. If a player can come back from such adversity and play at an elite level, they will be favored to win the award. The winner is selected by a nationwide panel of media personnel. Since 2011, the award has been presented at the NFL Honors ceremony held the day before the Super Bowl."
DENNIS SLEEGER FROM YORK, PA: Could you explain to me exactly what constitutes an RPO? They say the Steelers don't run it. Does the quarterback have to be under center?
ANSWER: I believe you're confusing RPOs, which are run-pass options plays, with read-option, which is a designed run in which the quarterback reads the defense before deciding whether to hand the ball to a running back or keep it himself and run (usually around the end). The Steelers don't use the read-option, but they employ plenty of RPOs. I'll allow Coach Mike Tomlin to explain RPOs:
"RPOs provide an opportunity for you to get out of a potential bad play if the defense is overplaying the run. That's why it's called RPO: it's run or pass option, but the run element of it is first. Generally you're committed to the run play unless you see a certain look from the defense that puts you in a disadvantageous situation, and then you have an outlet via the pass to level the playing field. And usually when the defense overloads the box, it creates certain one-on-ones, and that's what you saw on the play to Chase (Claypool in the fourth quarter of the Eagles game). They loaded the box (on fourth-and-1), and we threw the ball out to Chase, and he was able to win the one-on-one vs. the cornerback who was in off-coverage."
DAVID LaVECK FROM ROCHESTER, NY: The offensive line is fine with me, because we are a passing team and they are elite at pass blocking, so what's the problem? The only one I can see is when it's 1-yard to go for a first down. What can be done here, because it just can't be blocking?
ANSWER: I disagree. The fact the Steelers have been completely unable to craft a representative running game throughout this season is unacceptable, and the issues with the inability to do that certainly start with the play of the offensive line. And in short yardage, most of the time, there is no push. Contending for a championship requires that an offense be something more than strictly one-dimensional, and while that doesn't have to mean being effective running the football every game, it also shouldn't mean being as incapable as the Steelers have shown themselves to be lately.
DAVID AGOSTA FROM LITTLETON, CO: Why announce that Ben Roethlisberger is sitting against Cleveland so early in the week? Doesn't this give their defensive coordinator additional time to scheme for a backup?
ANSWER: My experience tells me that it's very, very difficult to keep something like this quiet for an entire week, and in the social media times in which we live I believe it would be impossible. And the Browns staff isn't stupid, because playing Ben Roethlisberger in this kind of a regular season finale that included no real bye for the Steelers with the playoffs the following week would be the definition of stupid.
BILLY UDICIOUS FROM RUSH, NY: Do you agree with me that Jordan Berry has done a great job keeping us in games regarding field position?
ANSWER: Since being brought back after the failure of the Dustin Colquitt experiment, Jordan Berry has punted 54 times for an average of 45.9 yards, with three touchbacks and 21 inside the 20-yard line. What has impressed me about Berry is that he hasn't had any of those clunkers when the Steelers need him to kick them out of bad field position, which he was prone to do during his first go-round with the team.
PAT FLYNN FROM OAKDALE, PA: Exactly how is an NFL dropped pass defined? Does a player need to get both hands on the ball before it is dropped to be considered a dropped pass? Does the ball have to be within a certain radius of the players numbers?
ANSWER: A dropped pass, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. There is no strict, official, detailed definition of a dropped pass.
CHRIS O'BRIEN FROM JESSUP, PA: Is James Conner less than 100 percent healthy, or are the Steelers protecting him based on his injury history? Last week he was used for the goal line plunge and a couple of critical situations, but it seems he could be used more throughout the game than the 10 touches he had against the Colts.
ANSWER: The Steelers are trying to win games. The idea is not to get James Conner more touches, but to use him in the situations that put him in the best position to help the team win. If that ends up meaning Conner gets a lot of touches, then great. If that means he gets a handful, then that's the way it should be.
JON NICHOLAS FROM WEST VALLEY, NY: Do you think it would be wise to try and trade up in the first round to get Zach Wilson and let him learn behind Ben Roethlisberger until he's done?
ANSWER: Zach Wilson figures to be a top 10 pick, and the fact he's a quarterback could mean he's drafted closer to fifth overall than 10th overall. What is the opposite of wise? The move you suggest would be that.
ANTONIO MAYEN FROM QUERETARO, MÉXICO: Now that Dwayne Haskins is a free agent, do you think it's realistic and that it might be a good option to sign him as a backup so he learns next year behind Ben Roethlisberger?
ANSWER: Stealing from an idea first put forth by Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, there may not be room on the roster for Dwayne Haskins after the Steelers add Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, trade for Sam Darnold, and then use a first-round draft pick on a quarterback, maybe by trading up to get Zach Wilson.
PHILIP WINTERS FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: I just read Asked and Answered for Dec. 31. My question: Don't you think you ought to relax?
ANSWER: That's one opinion, or maybe you need to develop a sense of humor. Keep reading.
JULIO GARCIA FROM WINSTON SALEM, NC: You wrote, "This is not a talk show, and I'm not your therapist." I love it. I know this isn't a question, but thank you for all the good laughs and great content.
ANSWER: Happy New Year to you and your family.