Let's get to it:
MELISSA BEAGLE FROM AMSTERDAM, OH:
What jerseys are the Steelers going to wear for Sunday's playoff game against Miami?
ANSWER: It's a home game, it's not a color rush day, and so the Steelers will be in their standard home uniform – black jerseys and gold pants.**
RON WILLIAMS FROM ASTORIA, OR:
What are your thoughts on Hines Ward not making it as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2017?
ANSWER: In a situation such as this – an election – I believe the process tells us more about the voters than it tells us about the candidates. What I believe the Hall of Fame voters have been telling us recently about wide receivers is that they're really not all that impressed with inflated statistics, and they believe in a wait-your-turn approach so as not to shortchange players at other positions. Art Monk and Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison and Andre Reed all had to wait their turn, and the length of the wait ranged up to 10 years in some cases. Of the 26 semifinalists in this year's class, four were wide receivers – Terrell Owens, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and Hines Ward. Two made the final 15 – Owens and Bruce – and I seriously doubt more than one of them will be elected this year. Another issue with Ward's candidacy is that he played for the Steelers, and the electorate has shown itself to be reluctant to allow any one franchise dominate in terms of sheer numbers. Alan Faneca is a finalist for the second straight year, which suggests he will get elected before Ward, and Troy Polamalu, eligible in 2019, plays a position (safety) that is critically under-represented in the Hall of Fame. I believe Hines Ward is a Hall of Fame player, but I also believe he's going to have to be patient.
CHRISTOPHER CUMMINGS FROM ELON, NC:
Following the coin toss, what is the difference between deferring and choosing to kick? Strategically, is there a reason to choose one over the other?
ANSWER: Yes. If you win the toss, you get to choose whether to kick, receive, defend a goal, or defer. If you elect to kick off, the other team figures to receive. Then at the start of the second half, the other team gets to choose, because you chose at the start of the game. In that scenario, that likely gives the other team the ball at the start of both halves. By deferring, what you are doing is postponing your choice until the start of the second half, which would preserve your option of starting the second half with the ball.
KEN WALDROP FROM ONTONAGON, MI:
I found it interesting that the Detroit Lions played last Sunday night (Jan. 1) and then had to travel across the country to play in Seattle on Saturday, Jan. 7. In the interest of fairness, it would seem they deserved a Sunday start time. Who decides the start times for each game – the NFL or the networks that broadcast the games?
ANSWER: The broadcast networks collectively pay the NFL about $3.1 billion in rights fees every season. For the Wild Card Round this time around, each of the networks got a game – ESPN/ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX. The worst time slot of the four is the early Saturday game, because the network that's going to dominate prime time that night is going to be the network getting the 8:30 p.m. kickoff slot. The best slot is the later one on Sunday because it leads into the network's primetime schedule.
When the matchups became known, the slotting fell into place and the Lions got the short end of the stick. Oakland-Houston was going to offer backup quarterbacks, so it got the worst slot (Saturday at 4:25 p.m.). CBS and FOX were getting the Sunday games, and Dolphins-Steelers matched two AFC teams, and CBS is the network televising AFC games during the regular season; and the same goes for Giants-Packers and FOX. That left Detroit at Seattle, and a West Coast team on Saturday night made a lot of sense. If you go into the playoffs as a No. 6 seed and your team lacks a national following that will move the meter for the networks, you don't get the benefit of the doubt. From the pure competitive aspect of it, it's not right. But there are other issues in play that cannot be denied.
ROGER SCOTT FROM TORONTO, OH:
Have you seen any good flashes from William Gay throughout his practices with the Steelers?
ANSWER: No. Zach Mettenberger is a No. 3 quarterback, and there is nothing a No. 3 quarterback gets to do through a regular season where he could flash. During the season it works this way: every meaningful snap during the week that Ben Roethlisberger needs or wants, he gets; everything else goes to the backup, who is Landry Jones.
TOM KING FROM ALBUQUERQUE, NM:
I'll just leave this here: C.J. Mosley in 2016: 6.5 tackles per game, four interceptions, no sacks, and one forced fumble. Ryan Shazier in 2016: 6.6 tackles per game, three interceptions, 3.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles. Mosley makes the Pro Bowl, and Shazier does not, but he is starting for a playoff team going for a seventh Lombardi.
ANSWER: C.J. Mosley is a very good player, and he's still in the early stages of his career. Ryan Shazier also is a very good player, and he's an excellent fit for how the Steelers play defense. I suspect the Ravens are very happy with their selection of Mosley in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and I know the Steelers are very happy with their selection of Shazier in the same round of the same draft. What I have noticed is all of the critics of the Shazier pick have adopted radio silence.
XAVIER HUNT FROM MEMPHIS, TN:
Now that Le'Veon Bell is healthy again do you think he'll play more in the playoffs?
ANSWER: I think the Steelers plan to ride Le'Veon Bell in these playoffs.
THOMAS RICKEY FROM JACKSON, NJ:
I am not going to ask any dumb questions about the draft, or what-ifs about moving players to different positions or bringing players out of retirement. I just wanted to compliment you on all the work you do. I so much enjoy Asked and Answered. Being sarcastic myself, I thoroughly enjoy your comments to some of these questions. Keep up the good work. Here We Go!
ANSWER: Thank you for the kind words.
Here is a look at the statistical leaders for both the Steelers and Dolphins heading into Sunday's Wild Card game at Heinz Field.
DAVID MAURO FROM LOVELL, MI:
Just a note to Steelers fans everywhere: I just finished reading "Chuck Noll: His Life's Work." Such a well written biography. It truly showed the human side of Chuck, but also his influence on so many players, coaches, and family. Well worth the time to read it.
ANSWER: Couldn't agree more.
WAKI OOKINDA FROM CARSON CITY, NV:
So it seems pretty clear how quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and defensive players make Pro Bowls based on statistics. My question is about the offensive line what makes Maurkice Pouncey a Pro Bowl center? Or David DeCastro a Pro Bowl guard vs. other offensive linemen around the league?
ANSWER: Reputation. Word of mouth. Respect from your opponents, in that the player voting counts for a significant portion of the total. Pedigree. It's an inexact science overall, the picking of Pro Bowl players, and maybe most inexact along the offensive line.