Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 11

Let's get to it:

ANTHONY HOEHN FROM CANAL WINCHESTER, OH: Cam Heyward is an amazing athlete, making that interception vs. the Bears. How many interceptions does he have in his career and where does that put him in terms of most interceptions by a defensive lineman?
ANSWER: Cam Heyward has two career interceptions, one of which he recorded in 2020 and the other coming against the Bears last Monday night. The all-time leader in interceptions among defensive linemen is Ron McDole, with 12 in 240 career games. Bill Forester is second with 10 interceptions in 48 career games; Julius Peppers is third with nine interceptions in 218 career games; Richard Dent is fourth with eight interceptions in 203 games, and among those tied for fifth place with seven career interceptions is former Steelers middle guard/linebacker Dale Dodrill. A sixth-round pick in the 1951 NFL Draft from Colorado State, Dodrill was 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, undersized for the defensive line, but in that era the middle guard was analogous to a run-stopping middle linebacker, only as a guy who lined up with his hand on the ground. Dodrill was one of the Steelers' premier players of that era, having been voted to the Pro Bowl four times and being voted first-team All-Pro once.

BARDEL BYBEE FROM VANCOUVER, WA: After Ben Roethlisberger's game winning drive in the game against the Bears, I noticed some sites note it as his 38th and some others note it as his 51st. Why the difference?
ANSWER: The discrepancy has to do with the subject of the "note." Against the Bears, Ben Roethlisberger rallied the Steelers from a tie or deficit in the fourth quarter for the 50th time in his career and the fourth time in 2021. Also against the Bears, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to an offensive scoring drive in the fourth quarter with the team trailing by one score to either tie or take the lead for the 38th time in his career.

DAVID O'BRIEN FROM MOSCOW, ID: How on earth is Arthur Maulet in man-to-man coverage on Allen Robinson in big moments of the game? It would seem to me that Joe Haden would be a better option.
ANSWER: OK. Then who covers the guy Joe Haden was covering? You need to understand that offenses can and do use formations to get matchups that are favorable, and since it's professional football and not a pickup game in the park, a defense cannot simply move people around so that the best cornerback is lined up opposite the best receiver.

TIM SIVERD FROM SOUTH HILL, VA: If Najee Harris gets hurt, it doesn't seem like we have anyone else who can be effective. Would it have been financially feasible to have James Conner on the roster now or would his salary have been too high for the salary cap?
ANSWER: James Conner was an unrestricted free agent, and I believe both sides were looking to move on. Conner wanted to take advantage of that status to look for a fresh start somewhere, and the Steelers were looking to move on with a different running back, who turned out to be No. 1 pick Najee Harris. Conner ended up signing a one-year deal with Arizona for a fully guaranteed $1.75 million, and while that number doesn't look ominous at this point, you should remember that back in March the Steelers were cutting salary all over the place simply to become cap compliant. I expect the Steelers to address their backup running back situation this coming offseason.

JOHN KNOX FROM NASHVILLE, TN: When someone like Kevin Rader is brought up from the practice squad for the week and then send back to the practice squad, does his paycheck reflect his week on the game day roster?
ANSWER: It does. And since all player salaries must be accounted for on the salary cap, this is another example of why fans shouldn't get too caught up when websites "report" how much salary cap space the Steelers have, because there are a lot of hidden costs involved and on the horizon.

MATHEW McKENNA FROM BROOK PARK, OH: Does the league ever discipline officials when they make horrible mistakes?
ANSWER: Yes, but what the discipline involves and how it is administered is not made public.

MICHAEL FILAK FROM PLANO, TX: While acknowledging that no game is a gimme (see Week 9), might this be the best week to try moving Chuks Okorafor to left tackle and plugging in Zach Banner at right tackle? Given the performance vs. the Bears, the argument that you don't want to mess with the improvement/continuity no longer seems to apply.
ANSWER: It may be your opinion that this is the week to bench Dan Moore Jr., but Coach Mike Tomlin didn't seem to agree based on what he said at his weekly news conference. I offer you here what sounded like the telling passages:

"I thought just in terms of controlling the line of scrimmage on offense, I thought we didn't do that," said Tomlin about the game against the Bears. "That was a step back relative to recent weeks, but you've got to give the Bears credit. And guys like (defensive linemen) Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, and linebacker Roquan Smith really played well. I thought they were disruptive. I thought they won one-on-one battles. I thought they wreaked havoc. And as you know, we still very much have young guys working in that space. And so I'm not shocked sometimes when I look at tape, and I see incremental steps backward as we move forward. But largely I think the trajectory of our group has been one that's positive. But we're not being realistic, or true to ourselves, if we didn't acknowledge that was a step back last night."

Then this: "You know, you win some and you lose some, said Tomlin. "You learn from those that you lose, and hopefully you learn from those that you win as well. But we roll the ball back out, and we'll go back to work. Guys like him who are working on a small body of professional work, I just think they grow, and they grow exponentially each time they step in and out of stadiums."

DAVID MARCOU FROM DANVERS, MA: Is it fair to say that unless Pressley Harvin III stops shanking one punt per game, he's going to be looking for work before the end of the season?
ANSWER: This seems to be another somewhat popular fan opinion that isn't shared by Coach Mike Tomlin. When Tomlin was asked on Nov. 9 to evaluate Harvin's performance, he said, "Largely, I've been pleased with his performance. And I say that because initially your knee jerk reaction is to think about his performance as a punter, but he's also a holder. And this guy's been in some really big moments for a young guy from a holding perspective on some 50-plus-yard kicks and game winners and so forth, and our operation there has been flawless. Bos has a great deal of confidence in the snap hold and kick component of what it is that we do, and he's to be acknowledged for that. In terms of punting, he needs to be a little bit more consistent. He doesn't have an opportunity to warm up to it from time to time. That's just a lesson that needs to be learned, and we're doing some things from a practice standpoint to aid him in that. But largely, I've just been pleased with the overall trajectory of his play and in the direction it's headed."

JOSHUA KARPER FROM DELAWARE, OH: I remember when I was younger, I watched an NFL game where there was a fumble on a kickoff/punt return, and the defense picked it up and ran it back for a touchdown. The officials, however, moved the ball back to the spot of the recovery and stated the ball could not be advanced. Last night, however, the Bears scored a touchdown on a similar play when Ray-Ray McCloud fumbled, and the score was upheld. Is my memory mistaken or have the rules changed?
ANSWER: I believe you're confusing a muffed punt and a fumble on a punt return. In the case of a muffed punt, the ball was touched, but never possessed, by a member of the return team, which made it a live ball and could be recovered by the punting team but not advanced. A fumbled punt is one where a player on the return team possessed the ball and before being down by contact lost possession of the ball. In that case, a player on the punt team can recover and advance the ball. The ruling in the game vs. the Bears was that Ray-Ray McCloud possessed the ball and then fumbled it before being down by contact, which is why the Chicago player was allowed to scoop it and return it for a touchdown.

JAMES KIRBY FROM BUCKEYE, AZ: What is the current status of Buddy Johnson? Is he being used on special teams? Does he get some playing time as inside linebacker in games?
ANSWER: Rookie inside linebacker Buddy Johnson was active for the first two regular season games and not again since then. He has not played a defensive snap, but he has played 13 snaps on special teams.

JON SWEETEN FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA: Why does the NFL need both an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a taunting penalty? Why differentiate the two?
ANSWER: There are different types of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and the referee is just providing a bit more information. They aren't separate penalties or additional penalties.

ISRAEL PICKHOLTZ FROM ASHKELON, ISRAEL: On a recent Asked and Answered podcast, you spoke about returning to the days of having position players do the placekicking and punting. You said specifically that you would never try a field goal from fourth-and-4 from the 40-yard line because it would be a 57-yard attempt. Not quite. In those days, the goal post was at the goal line. A field goal attempt from the 40-yard line would be a 47-yard attempt, not a 57-yard attempt.
ANSWER: Not quite. I just spoke about returning to the days when position players handled the punting and placekicking. I never said anything about returning to that era's rules or field dimensions or the placement of the goalposts. Don't put words in my mouth and then use those words to claim I made a mistake.

CHRIS GIBSON FROM DENVER, NC: Would you add Odell Beckham Jr. for the $3 million just to have him for the final nine games of the regular season?
ANSWER: I was trying to come up with a way to express how vehemently opposed to this I would be. First, I thought about something such as, not even for $3. But then I thought of this, and I'm serious: If forced to choose, I would rather add Antonio Brown.