Let's get to it:*
CARLOS POWELL FROM RESTON, VA:
The regular season is over for the Steelers. What offseason moves to you think need to be addressed? Will Landry Jones be back next season? Will Robert Golden get another shot at safety? Will the Steelers go for a cornerback with their first pick of the 2016 NFL Draft? Tons of questions, but I would like to know what you think should be a priority this offseason.
The time stamp on this question arriving in the Asked and Answered mailbox was 6:19 p.m. Sunday. The Steelers hadn't even been in the playoffs officially for three hours yet, and you're already onto the offseason. The 2015 Steelers finished 10-6 and made the playoffs by navigating what was the league's toughest schedule, which is based on the opponents' combined records in 2014. They overcame a lot of injuries to key personnel, defeated Arizona, Denver, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. They won in San Diego in thrilling fashion. It's amazing to me that there seems to be no joy in this, nor any excitement for the upcoming playoffs. It seems to me there would be no point in being a fan of a team if having it be in the playoffs wasn't more exciting than whether the No. 3 quarterback is going to be brought back for another season. Live in the moment and enjoy the todays. Tomorrow, with all of its problems, will be here soon enough.
DONNA CONWAY FROM PITTSBURGH, PA:
Is the draft pick a team receives important enough to derail the team from the playoff picture?
Fans may view it in the way you describe, that being a situation where the idea of acquiring a high draft pick in the future is somehow worth more than success, even partial success, in the present. But professional sports is a business, and the business of professional sports is winning. Working hard, competing with every fiber of one's being to win each and every game is at the core of success in professional sports. Injecting an excuse, or a reason, for losing is the first step on the path to disaster. And don't forget that the simple act of acquiring a high draft pick doesn't guarantee future success. Losing now for a better draft pick in the future gets people fired.
VICKI RIZZO FROM ST. CHARLES, MO:
I, too, live in my fears. Right now, I fear that Ben is throwing far too many interceptions of late, and if he doesn't get it corrected in a hurry, we may be one and done in the playoffs. Can you offer any words of encouragement to talk me off the ledge?
No. There is nothing more important in the NFL playoffs than protecting the football, and the quarterback is the single individual who can have the most impact on whether that gets done. After the win in Cleveland, this is what Ben Roethlisberger said about the key to being successful in the playoffs: "We need to be perfect. We need to be great. We need to be that way as a team. It's going to be a conversation I have with the team to let them know. You heard it in there, the postseason is a different season. You're going to have to do your best, throw out all of the records, throw out where you are playing. Everybody has to step up and be ready to go." Roethlisberger is a competitor of the highest order, and the NFL playoffs is the time when reputations are formed and legacies are cemented. That said, turning the football over in the playoffs is tantamount to suicide.**
PATRICK ALFORD FROM ASHLAND, OH:
Quote from Mike Tomlin: "I wouldn't trade Antonio Brown for another receiver in football. He's that important to us, and he's that appreciated here." To which I say: "Amen!" What say you?
It doesn't matter what I think or say when it comes to something like this. What I will say is Mike Tomlin rarely ever makes such a definitive statement about an individual player. For him to do that is much more significant than me chiming in one way or another.
DAVID BIRO FROM LONDON, ONTARIO, CANADA:
A game goes to overtime, and the team that receives the ball takes all 15 minutes of overtime to drive down the field and then kicks a field goal as time expires. Does the other team still get a possession? Or is this one situation where both teams would not both have a possession even though a touchdown was not scored on the opening possession?
Check out the highlight photos from the Week 17 game against the Browns. The Steelers defeated the Browns 28-12 on January 3rd 2016.
I shopped this question around the offices here, and couldn't come up with a definitive answer, primarily because it defies logic that a team could possess the football for an entire 15 minutes of game time without losing it via a turnover or on downs. The suspicion was that there would be a possession for the other team, but also the feeling such a scenario couldn't exist in the reality of the sport and the way it's played.**
STEPHEN ALLEN FROM EAU CLAIRE, WI:
Love Asked and Answered and will miss it when you go into offseason hibernation. There is a perception the Steelers linebackers are all garbage, and the whole lot of them need to be replaced. Some feel the lack of dominant sack statistics from the outside linebackers prove they are all busts. This is a perception gleaned from reading other fan-based websites, message boards, and comment sections. Granted, I'm sure many of these same people who feel this way also write in with brilliant suggestions such as trading Dri Archer for Tom Brady, moving Ryan Shazier to safety, and the like. According to Steelers.com, team sacks are up 42 percent and takeaways and are up 43 percent from last year, which are great results for any business year over year. Of those team sacks, 53 percent have come from a linebacker. Do linebackers, especially outside linebackers, have different responsibilities in Keith Butler's defense than they did in the Dick LeBeau defense? I would also argue deficiencies in the secondary have negatively affected linebacker sack statistics for a number of reasons.
It's important to understand that the idea is to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and it's less about which particular position on a defense is responsible for generating that pressure. In a traditional 3-4 alignment – at least in terms of the variation of the scheme the Steelers have used for decades – the pressure came primarily from the outside linebackers. As more teams have transitioned to variations of the 3-4 alignment, opponents have become more adept in neutralizing outside pass-rushers, while more teams shopping for these players has thinned the pool of talent at outside linebacker from which to draft. What I know for sure is that applying pressure to the opposing quarterback is mandatory for this defense's success, and that rush and coverage go hand-in-hand. If the talent on hand would allow for sufficient pressure to be generated only by utilizing the outside linebackers, that's fine, but the mistake would come in believing that only outside linebackers can provide pressure in this scheme. This is a case, in my mind, where the end justifies the means, and the end is pressure on the quarterback. And finally, who cares about the perception from "other fan-based websites, message boards, and comment sections?" This is a results business, and so I believe it would be foolish to go into this with any preconceived notions.
DON FAUB FROM CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS, PA:
Not a question, just a comment: Look people, keep your questions shorter. Jeez!
And what's especially annoying are the long-winded rants that are submitted without even a question included. Don't tell anybody, but I don't even read those.