Let's get to it:
BRUCE TUCK FROM FAIRFAX, VT:
Will we still owe Jacksonville a draft choice for the train wreck of a kicker that Josh Scobee turned out to be?
The sixth-round draft choice that was part of the trade with Jacksonville for kicker Josh Scobee became the Jaguars property as soon as Scobee passed a physical with the Steelers. There are no give-backs in a trade because of poor performance.**
TOM RAJCAN FROM WHEATON, IL:
I enjoy your writing. My question is why coaches allow players like Mike Mitchell and James Harrison to commit indiscretions like taunting, which allowed the Bengals to continue a drive which resulted in a score and contributed to a loss. As a former coach, my players were taught good sportsmanship and to help the opposition off the ground after a play. If Mitchell or Harrison played for me they would be paying me money out of their salaries to charities for doing dumb things. It is not about one player, its about team. Leave your egos at home or stay home.
Let's begin this with me pointing out a factual error in your original premise: With 5:52 in the second quarter of the game against the Bengals, with the Steelers leading, 7-6, Cincinnati faced a third-and-2 from its own 30-yard line. After an incomplete pass to Tyler Eifert, Mike Mitchell was penalized for taunting, which gave the Bengals a first down at their own 45-yard line. Six plays later, Cincinnati punted. So there was no scoring at the end of that drive to contribute to the loss. That doesn't mitigate the foolishness of the penalty, but get your facts straight.
You write, "As a former coach, my players were taught good sportsmanship and to help the opposition off the ground after a play." I'm betting you were coaching youth football, maybe high school, because that approach wouldn't work with professionals. You can teach the stupidity of being penalized and how that can lead to defeat, but helping people up after tackles? Jerry Olsavsky told me a story about the first time he saw game action as a linebacker for the Steelers. It was a game against the Browns, and the running play flowed over to the sideline where the play ended in a big pileup of bodies. Olsavsky extended his hand to help up a Browns running back, when Greg Lloyd slapped his hand away and said, "We don't do that (bleep) here." The point being that the Steelers play a physical and punishing defensive style, with the idea being to play within the rules but inflict pain on the opposition, because at the professional level football is a game of attrition. I can think of few things that turned my stomach more than watching Ed Reed and Ryan Clark hugging at the 50-yard line at Heinz Field after a game in which the Ravens beat the Steelers.
And if you as a coach tried to fine players for committing penalties, you'd get a call from the NFLPA and that would be the end of that. The importance of "the we over the me" is a valid lesson to be taught, but that's more about players accepting roles and enthusiastically performing lesser jobs – like blocking instead of having the ball in your hands on offense, or occupying blockers to free up teammates to make plays on defense, or willingly contributing on special teams when really wanting his playing time to be on offense or defense. You actually think Antonio Brown should leave his ego at home? That ego is part of what fuels him to do a lot of the things he does on the field, and those plays he makes contribute to winning. There is a fine line, to quote Bill Cowher, between valuable ego and destructive ego, but to try to eliminate ego from professional football is a fruitless exercise, and any coach attempting that in these times wouldn't be coaching at the NFL level very long.
For players to have reached the pinnacle of their sport, as is the case in the NFL, they have to have big egos, and what coaches at this level are working to do is to keep those egos healthy in that they don't morph into selfishness that hurt a team's chances at winning and winning championships.**
I'm curious – how would you have handled the young Joe Greene who was constantly committing personal fouls and getting ejected from games, who once picked up the ball during a game and threw it into the stands in frustration at another impending defeat? If you tried to handle that passion with an iron fist, you end up missing out on a transcendent player who changed the course of a franchise from perpetual losers into the dominant team of its era. Instead of changing it, the key is harnessing it and then using it for good, and that's just one reason why Chuck Noll is on the Hall of Fame.
JIM TOWNER FROM ELMIRA, N.Y.:
I realize injuries are an inherent part of football, but do you think any changes in the training and conditioning staff might make a difference?
Fire the trainers? Really? That's where we are now? It's John Norwig's fault that Ben Roethlisberger sprained an MCL? What could Garrett Giemont have done to prevent Roethlisberger from spraining his foot when it got caught under him as Aldon Smith was sacking him? You cannot actually believe Le'Veon Bell's injury resulted from him being out of shape? I can understand some fans' need to assign responsibility and/or place blame, but this is taking it to a ridiculous extreme. Apparently from your question, you actually don't realize "injuries are an inherent part of football."
LARRY ALLEN FROM SPRING VALLEY, OH:
Dri Archer often returned kickoffs and didn't even get out to the 20-yard line, which is where the ball would be placed for a touchback. Do those situations artificially inflate the player's statistics? For instance, if a kickoff returner elects to return the kickoff and only gets to the 15-yard line, is that considered a 15-yard gain or a 5-yard loss? It would seem like it should count as a 5-yard loss, since the player made a bad decision, and should not have brought the ball out of the end zone.
Kickoff returns are measured from the spot where the returner fields the ball to where he ends up being tackled. The 20-yard line has no bearing on this. If the returner fields the ball 5-yards deep in the end zone and runs it out to the 13-yard line, it's an 18-yard return. That's the way the NFL keeps its kickoff return statistics. And what if the returner gets tackled inside the 20-yard line because a teammate misses a block? Then it wasn't necessarily a bad decision.
Will Gay is honored at the Holy Family Courage House Luncheon.
LEWIS WILLIAMS FROM BALTIMORE, MD:
What was the real deal with picking up Jacoby Jones and letting Dri Archer go? Jacoby Jones didn't play well for San Diego and did not perform well for us against the Raiders. I almost feel like we picked him up so the Ravens wouldn't be able to snag him (he is a fan favorite in Baltimore). Dri Archer had a good return the prior week just to have it called back due to a holding call.
Why do so many fans always look for some conspiracy theory? This is what Coach Mike Tomlin said about the transaction, "It really wasn't about Dri Archer. It was about the opportunity to acquire a guy with the pedigree of Jacoby Jones. He has been in the league since 2008, and he has nine kick returns for touchdowns – four on punts and five on kickoffs. He has done it on big stages. He went 108 (yards for a touchdown) in the Super Bowl. Anytime you have an opportunity to add a guy like that to your group, a guy you have knowledge of and believe would be a good fit, you do it."
I don't believe the Steelers would make a waiver claim on a player and then release a player they believed was better just so the Ravens didn't get what they wanted. The place the Steelers really want to beat the Ravens is on the field, and the way to beat the Ravens on the field is to have a better team that's playing better.
MICHAEL FOSTER FROM EWA BEACH, HI:
I can't stand so much negativity among fans and the media. I am a sarcastic optimist. That being said, we've held the best offenses we've faced to season lows in points. The Patriots scored 28, the Ravens scored 23, the Chiefs scored 23, and the Chargers scored 20. If the defense continues to improve and limit points and yards we should be good. Am I alone in being a glass-half-full guy? We're getting sacks and turnovers, which is what people were crying about.
Some fact-checking: the Patriots scored only 27 points last week against the Redskins; the Ravens scored 13 vs. Denver, 20 vs. San Francisco, and 18 vs. Arizona; the Chiefs scored 21 vs. Cincinnati, 17 vs. Chicago, and 10 vs. Minnesota; and San Diego scored 19 vs. Cincinnati, 14 vs. Minnesota, and 19 vs. Chicago. So, your assertion about holding the Patriots, Ravens, Chiefs, and Chargers to season-lows in points scored is inaccurate, but I would agree that the Steelers defense is doing a decent job in terms of points allowed per game – where they currently rank eighth in the NFL, and they are on pace to better their sack and takeaway totals from 2014. Maybe your glass isn't quite half-full, but I have seen photos of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, and I would have a rosy outlook if I lived in paradise, too.