Let's get to it:
CHRIS FRAZIER FROM FAR ROCKAWAY, NY: I'm watching the game vs. the Lions and wondered how many tackles were made by the inside linebackers on running plays. Is there any optimistic view on getting better production from that group?
ANSWER: Let's begin with this: The tackling was awful throughout the first half in the game against Detroit, and it was more than the inside linebackers who were at fault. I recently asked Coach Mike Tomlin whether he believes he's getting what he needs from the inside linebackers. His answer: "Man, I don't know if I'm getting everything I need from anyone. That's a funny question. Ask me that in three months. You know what I mean? We need more. We need more from those guys. But we need more from everyone. I don't know how I can appropriately answer that question. I get what you mean, but no, we absolutely want more. I want knock-back tackles. I want splash in the passing game. I want tight coverage. I want the energy that's required to be the front hub of communication. I want good fluid communication, pre-snap and so forth, and so we'll be forever searching for means of getting those eight pounds in that five-pound bag. It's a lot that position is called to do. We got one guy coming off an injury, and we got another guy who's new to us. So, there's a lot of work to be done."
KARL MATHIAS FROM GREENVILLE, PA: I'm having a hard time blaming Mason Rudolph for the showing against Detroit. How many drops did his receivers have in that game?
ANSWER: I don't chart drops typically, unless it's a case of something clear and obvious, but I do agree with your basic premise. Mason Rudolph didn't miss any tackles; it's not his fault he's not 10-feet tall to track down that errant shotgun snap from Kendrick Green. He didn't lose any fumbles after receptions, as Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth did, or run into the punter, or rough the quarterback, or hold on a punt return in overtime. Rudolph wasn't blameless by any stretch of the imagination, but after the game Coach Mike Tomlin said, "He did what we expected him to do. He gave us a chance to win, but that's not the first opportunity for him. This guy has been at it a while, and so we expected him to play well, and we thought he gave us a chance to win."
MICHAEL REYNOLDS FROM MONROE, LA: A tie with the Lions leaves me with more questions than I can ask you to answer, save one. Please explain to me why, when we have such a talented running back (averaging almost 5 yards a carry), didn't we run the ball (even one time) from first-and-goal at the 5-yard line squandering a touchdown opportunity and settling for a tying field goal. Why?
ANSWER: I had the same question myself as I watched the game. I wish I had something to tell you, but I was as baffled by that as you were.
MARK PRICE FROM ARLINGTON, VA: Can you please tell me why the Steelers picked a running back in the first round of the most recent draft? I'm asking because when faced with a first-and-goal from the 5-yard line, the Steelers threw three straight incomplete passes. Please explain why they did not run the ball?
ANSWER: Sorry, but I have no explanation. I didn't agree with the strategy as it was unfolding, and I don't understand it now.
DENNIS MOORE FROM ALBRIGHTSVILLE, PA: What was your evaluation of Mason Rudolph? I read Coach Mike Tomlin's evaluation that "he gave us a chance to win." I saw a quarterback with little touch (throwing high fast balls at receivers or bouncing it in front of them).
ANSWER: To paint a picture for you, the day was cold, wet and windy, really the first winter-like day in Pittsburgh so far this season. Mason Rudolph wasn't perfect in placing the football, as you pointed out, and the throw that really stung, I thought, was the one he bounced to Ray-Ray McCloud when McCloud was open in the end zone for a touchdown. But generally my opinion is that the Steelers should've been giving the ball to Najee Harris more often, and Rudolph delivered the ball well enough on the two critical plays in overtime – a 39-yard catch-and-run by Diontae Johnson and the pass to Pat Freiermuth, both of which were fumbled and recovered by the Lions.
PEPE ANDERSON FROM PETERSBURG, WV: With Joshua Dobbs being injured in the preseason, what would the Steelers need to do to get him on the roster, and how long would it take? I'm not calling for him to be on the active roster, but if Ben had an issue that would keep him out for an extended period, and the Steelers determined that Dobbs was the best quarterback available, could they "elevate" Dobbs, or is he out for the year?
ANSWER: Since Joshua Dobbs was placed on injured reserve without first ever being on the team's 53-man roster this year, he is out for the season. There is no bringing him back until 2022.
OCTAVIO MARTINEZ FROM MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: It's not a secret that the Steelers scouted and drafted Mason Rudolph to be the future quarterback after Ben Roethlisberger retires, but we have seen several games, like last Sunday's game vs. the Lions, where he looks like he is not the right one for the job. Considering that the due date is getting closer and he has not shown too much improvement, do you believe that the Steelers should start looking for another franchise quarterback?
ANSWER: The Steelers don't operate with all of the pre-conceived notions you describe in your question. They didn't draft Mason Rudolph to be Ben Roethlisberger's successor, but I will acknowledge the possibility things might turn out that way. Fans' perceptions of things may tend to be more black-and-white, but the Steelers have a tendency toward a more wait-and-see outlook on things
JOE POMPEO FROM POLAND, OH: That tie with the Lions was very painful to watch. Yuck. Plus, I had to put way too much money in the "swear" jar at home. At any rate, I have a question about third downs. If a third down attempt is made via a pass interference penalty, or any penalty, does that count as a converted third down on the stat sheet?
ANSWER: Yes, it counts as a converted third down. As for me, I'm just happy someone cannot be forced to contribute to the "swear" jar for what that someone is thinking, because if so I would've been spending Sunday night in debtor's prison.
JEFFREY MASON FROM WALDORF, MD: NFL overtime ties are ridiculous. Few other sports allow games to end in a tie. Solution: If no team scores (or they each kick a FG in the overtime period), the team that gains the most yards in OT wins a single OT Tiebreaker Point and wins the game. If on very last play of OT, Team B ties Team A in yards, Team A wins the OT Tiebreaker Point since they had the lead first in yardage gained in OT. On the last play of the OT period, Team B must exceed Team A in yards by one or more to get that winning single point. If a defensive struggle, team that gains minus 8 yards beats team that gained minus 9 yards during the overtime period by again earning the OT Tiebreaker Point. What do you think, Bob?
ANSWER: This makes as much sense, and has the same probability of being adopted, as bringing the teams' two coaches out to the middle of the field and having them determine the outcome of the game with a rousing version of "rock, paper, scissors."