Let's get to it:
CHRIS HANN FROM SARASOTA, FL: A couple of weeks ago I posed a question in regards to short yardage situations with the Steelers offense, specifically with regards to using Joshua Dobbs because of mobility after seeing Indianapolis utilize Jacoby Brissett in that way. After seeing Dobbs in the Cleveland game, what is your perspective in regards to the Steelers' short-yardage situation?
ANSWER: Throughout his first stint with the Steelers, Joshua Dobbs was not a highly accurate passer, especially with the underneath, possession-type throws, which means putting him into the game in short-yardage or goal-line situations would telegraph to the defense that it's a running play. I'm also not a proponent of taking a Hall of Fame quarterback off the field to run a gadget play, because I have to believe defenses going against New Orleans have to be happy every time Sean Payton either removes Drew Brees or splits him out wide of the formation to snap the ball to Taysom Hill. And finally, I've never understood why NFL teams bring in extra blockers and pack everybody in tight in short-yardage and goal-line situations, because it would seem to me that a more effective way of getting that job done would be to spread the defense and then have the back pick his way to gaining the necessary yardage. But what's necessary to accomplish that is good execution by the offensive line and the perimeter blockers, and that's actually what's necessary for any short-yardage running play to succeed. Using Dobbs occasionally as a change-of-pace in those situations could be effective, but execution will trump trickery every time.
TOM DUNN FROM BELLEAIR BLUFFS, FL: If Josh Dobbs is active for Sunday's game, who will be left off the active roster? What's the ripple effect of such a move?
ANSWER: This is the proverbial other shoe dropping with any plan to utilize Dobbs as an occasional running quarterback/gadget play practitioner. Since he doesn't play special teams, Dobbs would be a luxury on the game day roster, because after Mason Rudolph passed for over 300 yards with a couple of touchdowns against the Browns in the regular season finale, there is no doubt about who will serve as Ben Roethlisberger's backup. It might seem to be a simple matter of putting a running back on the inactive list since Dobbs would be a de facto running back in the role being described, but those guys usually are contributors on special teams. If I were asked to guess who might be inactive if Dobbs gets a helmet as a third quarterback, I would point to Anthony McFarland, who doesn't have a definitive role on offense and isn't used on special teams.
ROBERT CARR FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA: What is Ben Roethlisberger's record as a starting quarterback in the Wild Card Round?
ANSWER: The Steelers are 3-3 in the Wild Card Round with Ben Roethlisberger as the starting quarterback. The wins came in 2005, 2015, and 2016. The losses came in 2007, 2011, and 2014.
RICHARD MATOR FROM CANAL WINCHESTER, OH: When I watch the games we lost, it looks apparent that the team didn't seem motivated. In fact, T.J. Watt even said it was hard to get motivated without fans in the stands. being there. Isn't Coach Mike Tomlin responsible for that?
ANSWER: Andy Russell, who played 12 seasons for the Steelers, including the first eight of Chuck Noll's tenure as head coach, frequently told the story of what Noll constantly told his players about motivation. "He would tell you," Russell said, "'My job is to teach you how to play this game correctly. I will never give you a motivational speech. If I have to motivate you, I will fire you.'"
GEORGE BERNARDY FROM ANCHORAGE, AK: What are the home playoff game records of Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin?
ANSWER: Chuck Noll's teams were 8-2 in home playoff games; Bill Cowher's teams were 7-6 in home playoff games; and going into Sunday night's Wild Card Round vs. Cleveland, Mike Tomlin's teams are 5-3 in home playoff games.
MARC STALEY FROM PATCHOGUE, NY: What is the status of Mason Rudolph's current contract?
ANSWER: Mason Rudolph is under contract to the Steelers through the 2021 season. He will carry a $1.25 million salary cap charge in 2021.
JONATHAN BASTIAN FROM LEXINGTON, KY: Sunday's Browns-Steelers game yet again had massive failures from the officiating team (the blow to Mason Rudolph's head on an interception being a glaring one). You regularly rail (justifiably) against the quality of NFL officiating. In your opinion, what should the NFL do to fix this?
ANSWER: I don't believe this would be legal, but I think this is something that would have to be blown up before it could be fixed. So I would suggest doing what Ronald Reagan did to the air-traffic controllers when they violated his return-to-work order: fire them all and start over. How could it be fixed any other way when the NFL thinks it's a good idea, as one example, to make Shawn Hochuli a referee to follow in the footsteps of his father, Ed Hochuli, who retired?
BILL HAMMOND FROM VERONA, PA: Pertaining to the playoff schedule, what is the criteria for the Wild Card teams to play on Saturday, rather than Sunday? I would've thought the Bills earned a Sunday time, since they are the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
ANSWER: With the exception of the kickoff times of the games, which have to make sense from a geographical standpoint – games in the Pacific time zone cannot be scheduled at 1 p.m. EST, as an example – which matchups are played on which days usually comes down to giving the networks what they want. Saturdays are less coveted by TV because of viewing habits, which is why you often see networks dump low-performing shows into their Saturday night lineup, and the two most coveted time slots typically are the two late slots on Sunday. The Sunday at 4:25 p.m. is a good slot network-wise because it leads viewers into the primetime lineup – on CBS, for example, the 4:25 p.m. game takes viewers right into "60 Minutes" and the rest of the Sunday night programming on the network – and the 8:15 p.m. slot on Sunday qualifies as primetime programming. As I looked at the weekend's schedule, this is what I immediately thought when I saw that NBC got both Saturday and Sunday primetime slots, and the NFL helped NBC by giving the network Tom Brady on Saturday night to mitigate the lesser of the two weekend nights and then Browns at Steelers on the coveted Sunday night slot: Maybe this was some payback from the league for having to cancel the Thanksgiving night game on NBC after the Ravens franchise lost institutional control to allow the COVID-19 virus to run amok through their facility because of an employee's willful ignoring of protocols.
JASON SAGER FROM GALLOWAY, OH: Do you know if we will try to re-sign Bud Dupree or let him go and try and build up our offensive line?
ANSWER: The Steelers are the No. 3 seed in the AFC Playoffs, and their Wild Card Round game will be at 8:15 p.m. on Sunday at Heinz Field. That is the focus of the organization right now – the playoffs and contending for a Super Bowl championship. The meeting to plot strategy for the offseason agenda won't take place until the season is over, but here are some things to remember: Bud Dupree can become an unrestricted free agent in March, so it may not be up to the Steelers where he plays next year; and the Dupree decision will fall under the free agency umbrella, while the reinforcing of the offensive line will fall under the draft umbrella.
JOSEF SCHARPENBERG FROM DORTMUND, GERMANY: I read a stat about Baker Mayfield being the first Browns quarterback to start every game for two consecutive seasons in a long time. Did Ben Roethlisberger ever achieve this feat?
ANSWER: Ben Roethlisberger started all 16 games in each of the 2013-14 seasons.
GREG TALUSKIE FROM LATROBE, PA: When was the last time the Steelers blocked a punt?
ANSWER: The last time the Steelers blocked a punt was against Atlanta on Oct. 7, 2018. Rosie Nix did the blocking.