Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 14

Let's get to it:

ELLIOT MEYEE FROM MINNEAPOLIS, MN: Will Pat Freiermuth be the No. 1 tight end for the Steelers going into the rest of the season with his performance from the past two weeks? Or will the Steelers still have Eric Ebron as the starter?
ANSWER: Pat Freiermuth is the Steelers No. 1 tight end, regardless of who starts the game. Personnel groupings for the first offensive play of the game can call for various players to be on the field for that first offensive play and therefore be designated as the starters for that game, but Freiermuth is the team's No. 1 tight end based on ability and production and will end up with the most snaps during games of any of the other players utilized at the position.

PAT FLYNN FROM OAKDALE, PA: With JuJu Smith-Schuster injured, I was expecting James Washington to step in and fill a bigger role. Do you think that is something coordinator Matt Canada is working into the offense?
ANSWER: In terms of replacing the production of an injured wide receiver, it's not always necessarily a one-for-one replacement situation. With JuJu Smith-Schuster out for the season, it's reasonable to expect James Washington to see more playing time, but it's also possible, as an example, that Pat Freiermuth gets targeted more often as well.

WILLIAM HOFFER FROM CARLISLE, PA: Has the NFL ever reviewed its statistical policy on who should be held accountable for an interception, such as the quarterback with a bad pass, or the receiver, who should have made the catch or caused a deflection of the pass to be intercepted, etc.? I look at it the same with a baseball pitcher, he is accountable for a wild pitch and catcher is accountable for a passed ball.
ANSWER: You can look at it as being the same as assigning culpability for a wild pitch vs. a passed ball, but it's not the same. Assigning blame for an interception your way could take days, because there are so many factors involved, such as the coverage, the play-call, whether it was an option route, and if it was an option route was the quarterback or the receiver the one who mis-read the situation. This would be way too complicated and time-consuming, and can you imagine going to Bill Belichick and asking for details on New England's plays for something as insignificant to him as a statistical correction? Never going to happen. Quarterbacks get the big money, and so they can shoulder the burden for interceptions.

JACK FOSTER FROM ROUNDUP, MT: Can you please explain the rule of the 40-second play clock in instances where I see that it's getting down to 15, 10 seconds and I see the quarterback or just recently the center raise a hand up with the wrist bent backward so the palm is flat, which is requesting the play clock to be reset back to 25 seconds. When can players ask for that, and is there a limited number of times to do that?
ANSWER: It's the referee – the on-field official wearing the white hat – who controls the play clock. Players can lobby for it to be reset, but the referee is the one who determines whether the "request" is granted.

MICHAEL TORSIELLO FROM SUMMIT, NJ: What's your honest assessment of Devin Bush to date?
ANSWER: I'd be curious to know what your assessment of Ryan Shazier was 28 games into his NFL career? Would you have been one of the people regular emailing me about how he should be moved to safety because he was too small to play inside linebacker and was going to be injured all the time? Anyway, as I alluded at the start of this answer, Devin Bush is 28 games into an NFL career, a career, by the way, that was interrupted by a torn ACL that caused him to miss 11 games of his second professional season. What Bush lost during those 11 games doesn't instantly return when he steps back onto the field, and allow me to add that just because Bush was declared physically able to return to play doesn't mean he has gotten back all the way to trusting his surgically repaired knee and is once again confident he can do what he used to be able to do on the knee. I believe Bush will conquer his current situation, and once he does, he will get back on the track he was on before the injury. To put numbers to that, in 21 games before he injured his knee, Bush had 135 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, seven passes defensed, one forced fumble, and four fumble recoveries.

RICHARD SANTRY FROM ALLENDALE, NJ: You wrote that defenses can't and don't match-up cornerbacks with certain wide receivers from opponents? I can think of three or four instances where that was exactly what was done in the NFL this season alone.
ANSWER: First of all, I never wrote that "that defenses can't and don't match-up cornerbacks with certain wide receivers." What I wrote was that a defense can't immediately switch to a matchup situation in the middle of a game in response to a receiver catching a couple of passes on a particular defensive back, because a matchup situation impacts all of the other 10 players on the defense as well. An NFL defense is 11 players playing in concert, and if a coach wants to utilize a matchup situation it has to be practiced – and not just once – so that everybody knows what they're supposed to be doing in all situations. The Steelers have matched up with cornerback Joe Haden on more than one occasion, but it was something that was planned at the start of the week of preparation for that particular game, and all of the other defensive players practiced it for several days.

WILLIAM HEISE FROM SUMTER, SC: Playing the Bears last Monday night made me think of a game with the Bears years ago. If I remember correctly, the Steelers had a nice lead in the fourth quarter. I forget the quarterback, but I believe the receiver was Dave Smith, who was wide open, caught the ball, and was on the way to an easy touchdown. But he threw the ball down before he crossed the goal line. Is my memory correct?
ANSWER: It is not. The game in which wide receiver Dave Smith lost the ball on his way into the end zone after making a catch happened on Oct. 18, 1971, in Kansas City against the Chiefs. The Steelers trailed at halftime, 28-9, and lost, 38-16.

MICHAEL KISH FROM SARASOTA, FL: Tell us the truth on Ahkello Witherspoon. Doesn't even get a helmet? Not vaccinated? Not healthy?
ANSWER: Not needed. He was acquired as insurance against injury.

MARY TALADA FROM LACEYVILLE, PA: Do you believe Ben Roethlisberger will finish the season as starting quarterback even if he's completely healthy?
ANSWER: Absolutely. I cannot imagine a realistic scenario in which Ben Roethlisberger doesn't finish the season as the starting quarterback if he's completely healthy. And please note that I wrote: "realistic scenario."