Let’s get to it:
GRAHAM ANDERSON FROM PLYMOUTH, UK: I noticed that Sutton Smith was signed to the practice squad recently, but released a day later. Are you able to shed any light on why he was let go so quickly?
ANSWER: A significant role of the practice squad at this stage of an NFL season is having players at positions to help the team conduct practice during the days of preparation for the upcoming opponent. When the week began, the Steelers had five running backs under contract, all of them on the 53-man roster. Benny Snell was rehabilitating his knee and was out, and for Wednesday’s practice, the only running backs able to do anything at practice were James Conner, who was limited and it was soon fairly obvious that he wasn’t going to be able to make it for the game against the Rams; Jaylen Samuels; Trey Edmunds, who was injured in the game against the Colts and not able to practice; and Tony Brooks-James, who had been activated from the practice squad the previous week. That’s not enough at the running back position to conduct practice, both in terms of preparing the offense but also in terms of giving the defense a good look at the Rams offense so it can be prepared for Sunday as well. So the decision was made to re-sign running back Darrin Hall to the practice squad, and Sutton Smith, the most recent addition, was determined to be the most expendable.
GIO CALABRO FROM EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, NJ: You had me absolutely laughing hysterically answering questions about Dez Bryant, Zach Banner, Al Villanueva, and Minkah Fitzpatrick playing receiver. Your sense of humor is truly a gift. My question: If you were the General Manager, is there anyone, at any position, who is available right now who could contribute in any meaningful way?
GENE MILLER FROM NEW FREEDOM, PA: The “film” that gets reviewed by teams for scouting, game review, etc., is it the network recording? Or does each team have their own videographers to record games and utilize that in the review process?
ANSWER: Each team has its own video department that does a whole lot more than simply record the games, but since that was your question, at every game the Steelers have someone from their video department shooting the game from the end zone view and someone shooting the game from the 50-yard line. This video provides a shot of the scoreboard before each play so the coaches and scouts can know the down, the distance, and the time on the clock; and the video provides a view of all 22 players on the field throughout the entire play, with one view from the end zone and the other from the 50-yard line. This is the video coaches and scouts study, not the network feed, although that also is available just in case.
DAVID HAYES FROM HARTSELLE, AL: The Steelers will be without a first-round draft pick in 2020. Since the Steelers have been a team that has been built by the draft, does that change more without the high draft pick? When was the last year the Steelers did not have a first-round draft pick?
ANSWER: The Steelers never will change their core business philosophy, which is that the way to build a championship team is through the draft. It just so happened that early in the 2019 season, the Steelers had an opportunity to acquire a 22-year-old player who was a piece their defense desperately needed and had been trying to add for years, a player they had researched thoroughly, a player they would have under contractual control through the 2022 season, and so they went for it. And Minkah Fitzpatrick’s performance so far and the manner in which he has conducted himself proves the Steelers made the correct move. I won’t say that was a once in a lifetime move, but it’s definitely going to be the exception rather than the rule as to how the Steelers do business. And the last time the Steelers didn’t have a pick in the first round of an NFL Draft was in 1967.
WILLIAM SIMPSON FROM MARBLE, PA: In the question posed to Coach Mike Tomlin regarding bringing Sean Davis back from injured reserve, he mentions being able to move the designated-to-return status to Sean Davis or other players. What other players realistically could return from injured reserve? Also, can the designated-to-return only still be used one time?
ANSWER: There currently are four players on the Steelers injured reserve list: Ben Roethlisberger, Stephon Tuitt, Ulysees Gilbert, and Davis. Roethlisberger is not going to return this season, and after having surgery to repair a torn pectoral neither is Tuitt. Gilbert recently was placed on injured reserve with a back injury, and it would be somewhat surprising for the Steelers to bring back a rookie who made the team as an undrafted free agent. That leaves Davis. And the designated-to-return rule recently was updated to allow a team to use that status on two different players each season.
MATHEW MCKENNA FROM BROOKPARK, OH: Since we will be having Minkah Fitzpatrick playing both offense and defense now based on the evaluation of some armchair Coach/General Manager, it has me wondering if the Steelers have ever had a player play both sides of the ball?
ANSWER: Because the Steelers began play in the National Football League in 1933, there were many seasons when virtually all of the players on all of the teams went both ways, and so I’m going to pretend your question references the modern era. The most recent guy to pull it off was Rod Woodson, who convinced Bill Cowher to give him a shot on offense, based partially on the fact Woodson had done it in college at Purdue and based on him having scored five touchdowns in his first five NFL seasons – one on an interception return, two on punt returns, and two on kickoff returns. So Cowher relented, but the results were less than impressive. In 1993, Woodson ran one reverse for 0 yards, and then in 1994, he caught one pass for 0 yards.
JAMAL MUHAMMAD FROM SILVER SPRING, MD: You get some of the dumbest questions, and I admire your restraint in your answers because some of the people asking apparently live in an alternate Steelers Universe. Enjoy reading every time. Keep up the good work.
DAVID STARR FROM BUFORD, GA: While I am always entertained and edified by Asked and Answered, the brilliant parlay of the final three questions and answers in the Nov. 7 edition made my day.
ANSWER: Glad to have brought a smile to your face.
CHARLES JONES FROM SOMERVILLE, MA: Why do you continue to address idiotic yinzer questions about Dez Bryant? Aren't there better questions in the inbox?
ANSWER: Well, this certainly doesn’t qualify as one.