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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Jan. 6

Let's get to it:

EDDIE SANTIAGO FROM FAJARDO, PUERTO RICO: I thought punter Corliss Waitman looked really good last Monday night vs. the Browns. His punt from the end zone was impressive to say the least (because he was under immense pressure and punting for first time on Monday Night Football). Any chance Coach Mike Tomlin keeps him for the game vs. the Ravens and has him compete with Pressley Harvin III for the job in 2022?
ANSWER: Corliss Waitman is under contract to the Steelers through the 2022 season, and so I believe there is a very good chance the Steelers will keep him around and have him involved in a competition for the punting job in 2022. The team almost always has an extra punter, an extra placekicker and an extra long-snapper on the 90-man roster throughout the offseason, and often into the start of training camp as well, or until roster spots are needed for something else. Plus, because Waitman will be paid the second-year minimum salary in 2022, it's not as if the Steelers could fill that extra punter spot with somebody who's cheaper. It seems to me to be a no-brainer to keep Waitman and have him compete with Harvin for the job in 2022.

NATHAN DAVOLI FROM FORT WAYNE, IN: If John Madden had accepted Chuck Noll's invitation to be the Steelers defensive coordinator back in 1969 before he ended up taking the head coaching job for the Raiders, do you think the Steelers would've won more than four Super Bowls in the 1970s?
ANSWER: There are a couple of things about this that I find objectionable. The first is the assumption that John Madden would have made the Steelers of the 1970s better and more dynamic on defense than history tells us they were. Remember, it was the Steelers defense's dominance that enticed the NFL into changing the rules to make things easier for pass offenses by restricting the contact defensive players could have with receivers beyond 5 yards of the line of scrimmage (because of Mel Blount), and allowing offensive linemen to extend their arms while pass blocking (possibly because the Steelers were averaging nearly three sacks a game – largely without blitzing – for the six seasons spanning 1972-77). The other thing is the assumption that Madden would've been a significant upgrade over the guy who became the Steelers defensive coordinator at the time. His name was Bud Carson, and he is the man who pioneered what became known as the Tampa-2 and was willing and eager to incorporate undersized-but-athletic defensive linemen (L.C. Greenwood and Dwight White) into his scheme during an era where that wasn't widely accepted. I won't disparage Madden's accomplishments as a head coach, but what he did in that job doesn't mean he would've been better than Carson as a defensive coordinator.

RICHARD SNYDER FROM HOBOKEN, NJ: Growing up in a Steelers family household in the 1970s, one of my older brothers used to tell a story about how a fan once swiped Dwight White's No. 78 jersey right before a game, and he had to wear No. 00 that day. Is this a true story? (I promise not to tell him if this is a figment of his childhood Steelers imagination).
ANSWER: I have never heard that story, and I seriously doubt it ever happened for this reason: At a home game, there would be duplicate jerseys available in the Three Rivers Stadium equipment room and there is no way a fan could gain access to those, and when the Steelers travel to road games the equipment staff doesn't just show up with one jersey per player. So, in either scenario – home or on the road – there would have been more than a single No. 78 jersey on site on a game day.

ZACH DONALDSON FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: With Najee Harris having his best game of the year on Monday night and J.C. Hassenauer being a big part of that, do you think they would have been better off starting Hassenauer all year and letting Kendrick Green develop behind him? It just seems like sheer stubbornness on the coach's part as it was like night and day with him in there.
ANSWER: I believe it's unproven that the Steelers running game was being held back solely by Kendrick Green's play at center, and you're making quite an assumption intimating that the only thing standing between Najee Harris rushing for 180-some yards in a game and averaging over 6.0 per attempt while doing so was pulling Green from the starting lineup and inserting J.C. Hassenauer in his place. I do agree that Hassenauer played well against the Browns and deserves to start against the Ravens on Sunday as a result. But there were other differences with regards to the running attack in the game against the Browns as well. One of those differences was that the Steelers offense dialed way back on all of the shifts and motions, and why that potentially was significant is because every time the man in motion crosses behind the center, the blocking assignments/responsibilities can change. Not only does that make things difficult for the center in terms of identifying the defense and making the calls, but it also is challenging for the other offensive linemen when they're as young and inexperienced as the guys starting there for the Steelers. Against the Browns, it was more power-running from the Steelers, and that doesn't only mean having a fullback on the field. Against the Ravens, I would use the same personnel and the same type of running plays that worked well vs. the Browns.

DANIEL HUTSON FROM MANCHESTER, VT: Now that Ben Roethlisberger is retiring, what's your opinion of signing either Ryan Fitzpatrick or Marcus Mariota?
ANSWER: My opinion is that Mason Rudolph is better than both of them.

DIANE MCCRAY FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Was Mason Rudolph at the Steelers-Browns game on Monday night?
ANSWER: Yes. Mason Rudolph, as he has all season except for the game against the Detroit Lions on Nov. 14 at Heinz Field , served as the No. 2 quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger's backup) for Monday night's game against the Browns.

MIKE GREENBERG FROM SILVER SPRING, MD: Since the NFL season is now an odd number of games, how is it decided which teams get an extra home game on their schedule while others have an extra road trip? It would be interesting to analyze records this season to see if that factor had an effect.
ANSWER: The 17th regular season game is always one that pairs an AFC team vs. an NFC team, with all of the AFC teams in a particular division playing teams from one NFC division, with the matchups determined by how the teams finished in the previous year's standings. In 2021, the AFC North was matched up with the NFC West, and because the Steelers won the division in 2020, they played Seattle, which won the NFC West in 2020. Also in 2021, it was all of the AFC teams that hosted the 17th game, and in 2022 it will be all of the NFC teams that host the 17th game. This home-and-road scenario will alternate every year, with the AFC hosting the 17th game in 2023, the NFC in 2024, etc. In 2022, the AFC North is matched up with the NFC East for the 17th game, and so that means wherever the Steelers finish in the AFC North, they will visit the corresponding team in the NFC East.

BUTCH JOHNSON FROM ERIE, PA: A thank-you to Ben Roethlisberger for everything over the years. I recently read an article suggesting that he be considered the second greatest Steelers player of all time after Joe Greene. At first, I scoffed a bit at that given all the great Steelers players, but then as I thought more about it maybe that's right given his longevity and success over so many years and the importance of the quarterback position. I find it hard to compare players at different positions who played in different eras, such as Mel Blount, Franco Harris, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Rod Woodson, etc., to come up with overall rankings like that. What do you think?
ANSWER: I never would attempt to rank Steelers players from different eras who played various positions, because I just don't believe I have the expertise even to attempt that. And my suspicion is that anyone in the media doing that is most interested in calling attention to himself or herself than anything else. Or maybe the writer of the article you read gets paid based on how many people click on it. There's a lot of that going around these days.

SEAN DELANEY FROM UPTON, MA: Just a quick observation from a lifelong New Englander with a front-row seat to how some NFL teams treat their star quarterback. Last Monday night provided another example of why I'm so proud to be a Steelers fan. Never take it for granted, Steelers Nation. The team doesn't always win the Super Bowl, but the Steelers are second to none when it comes to honor and class. Thank you for Asked and Answered.
ANSWER: Thank you for providing this perspective.

CARY REEL FROM INDIANA, PA: What odds/chance would you give for Ben Roethlisberger returning for another season?
ANSWER: I cannot imagine a realistic scenario in which Ben Roethlisberger doesn't retire at the end of the 2021 season.

CORY TSCHIDERER FROM PERRY, NY: In a previous Asked and Answered, a fan thanked Ben Roethlisberger for his service to the team and for always giving the team a chance to win. I want to add a little more to that thank you. I'm a relatively young Steelers fan (32 years old), and I can't express how lucky I feel to have been a fan of a team that has had a Hall of Fame, franchise quarterback for 18 years with multiple Super Bowl victories and countless winning seasons. It has occurred to me that most NFL fans have not had the luxury of seeing their favorite team have this type of consistency at the position. This is something I will never take for granted. I write this about four hours before what is most likely Ben's last game at Heinz Field, wishing I could be there, and hoping the fans cheer hard for the team and for Ben. Thank you, Ben. Can't wait to see you in Canton.
ANSWER: Set your calendar for five years after he announces his retirement.