Let's get to it:
PAUL KUDRAV FROM HARRISONBURG, VA: Against the Lions during the first offensive series, I saw fullback Derek Watt as a lead blocker. There was a nice gain on this running play. I can't figure out where he was on other offensive plays. I especially missed him as a lead blocker on the goal line fiasco. How many offensive plays did Watt have against the Lions?
ANSWER: Watt played six offensive snaps against Detroit, along with 26 special teams snaps. For the season, Watt has played 49 offensive snaps so far – with at least some in every game except vs. Las Vegas – and 177 special teams snaps.
TODD BOLEY FROM CHATHAM, ONTARIO, CANADA: When a ball carrier uses a stiff-arm on a would-be tackler, why is he allowed to contact the head/facemask of the defensive player without being called for a penalty?
ANSWER: Offensive players who are utilizing a stiff-arm to avoid a tackler aren't flagged for contact with the defender's helmet/facemask as long as he doesn't grab the facemask and use it to twist and pull on the helmet of the defender.
ERIC ASH FROM WELLSVILLE, OH: As everyone knows, there are many problems with officiating in the NFL. It seems to me from watching on TV there is much inconsistency as to where the officials spot the ball. From my viewpoint, it appears the spot almost always favors the offense regardless of team. Would you agree?
ANSWER: Yes, spotting the ball often appears to be arbitrary and inconsistent, and I would agree with you that the team on offense generally gets the benefit of the doubt. I long have believed the issue here is with the way the spotting of the ball is executed. Often it's done by an official who starts the particular play lined up along the line of scrimmage, and if it's an 8-yard gain, as one example, that official runs from the line of scrimmage down the sideline and spots the ball. In most cases, the runner or receiver is already down well before the official has a chance to get a clear view of where the player was down by contact, and so I see it as a blind guess when it comes to where the ball is spotted on many occasions.
COREY BEAVERS FROM LOUISVILLE, KY: Have there been discussions of the NFL adopting the college rules for overtime? Or is it a programming issue at that point if an NFL game drags too far along?
ANSWER: I don't believe it's a programming issue as much as it is an interest by the league that games be decided by the participating teams playing more actual football, instead of having the outcome decided by a glorified skills competition or a something that resembles a carnival game. I happened to be watching the Penn State-Illinois game earlier this season that went into nine overtimes, and at the end it looked more like the start of a Steelers practice when the team does the "seven shots" drill than anything resembling an actual football game. I don't believe the NFL is interested in having a regular season game come down to "seven shots," especially since each team plays only 17 of them and each one always seems to end up being quite significant when it comes to determining playoff spots and then seeding among those playoff teams.
NATHAN DAVOLI FROM FORT WAYNE, IN: I hate ties as much as the next person.
What do you think of the idea to go to a field goal shootout at the end of overtime?
You have both kickers start with 35-yard attempts, and if both kickers make them then bump it up to 40-yard attempts, and then 45, 50, etc. until one makes one and one misses. It eliminates the tie but also makes it so the Players don't have to play another overtime or risk injury.
ANSWER: See above answer about the league's reticence about having one of 17 regular season games decided by a skills competition. Maybe the NBA could settle its tie games with a game of "horse." And when you write that you hate ties, are you referring to NFL games or Christmas presents?
JOE WERNER FROM WEST HENRIETTA, NY: Do you have any thoughts or ideas on the design of an overtime system that would eliminate ties? Or, on the other hand, are you OK with NFL games being able to end in a tie?
ANSWER: My thoughts are why is there such a rush to overreact to a tie game during an NFL regular season? By one statistical measurement, there have been 639 regular season games that went into overtime since 1974 when the NFL first introduced overtime to break ties in the regular season, and only 27 of those 639 games (4.2 percent) ended in a tie. That's a miniscule percentage, which even would be more microscopic when viewed in the context that there have been 27 ties in all the games played by all the teams from the start of the 1974 season through Week 10 of the 2021 NFL season. By virtually any standard, the percentage of regular season games that have ended in a tie since 1974 is statistically irrelevant. There have been five tie games since the start of the 2017 season when the NFL shortened the overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 minutes, and that works out to .2 precent of the games. We have to change rules for .2 percent? That number represents two of every 1,000 games has ended in a tie. And if you would extrapolate that out to represent all regular season games played by all NFL teams (not just the ones that went into overtime). My suggestion would be to switch to decaf.
STEPHEN YOUNG FROM BLOOMINGDALE, OH: I agree with a lot of other people that NFL ties are ridiculous. And since I am part of the armchair competition committee, I know the NFL really values my ideas. What if no punts were allowed after the 2-minute warning in overtime? Do you think that would help eliminate ties?
ANSWER: I think you would get more people on board if you could get ties eliminated as Christmas gifts and Father's Day gifts.
WILLIAM DOWDELL FROM COCOA BEACH, FL: Do you think Josh Dobbs may get a hat this week? If he is brought up is that a negative effect in some way on the players we have to protect by sending someone to the practice squad?
ANSWER: There really needs to be more paying attention going on, because I have answered this question about Joshua Dobbs' eligibility in both the Nov. 8 and Nov. 16 installments of Asked and Answered. I will indulge you, however, because the quarterback situation is in the news again this week because of Ben Roethlisberger being on the COVID reserve list. Joshua Dobbs is on the Steelers injured reserve list, but because he was placed on the list without ever being a part of the 53-man roster, he is not eligible to come off IR at any point during the 2021 season.
JIM ANDERSON FROM TOLEDO, OH: If Ben Roethlisberger is not cleared to play on Sunday, do you think that Dwayne Haskins might get some playing time?
ANSWER: Not unless Mason Rudolph is injured. Wait a minute … the driving time from Toledo to Columbus is 2 hours and 30 minutes … is that the Ohio State fight song I hear in the background?
BOBBY ROY FROM QUEEN CREEK, AZ: Have we seen the last of Stephon Tuitt? I feel for the young man.
ANSWER: I believe the Steelers feel for him, too. And to answer your question, I have no idea what will happen with Stephon Tuitt, and I perceive it as disrespectful to him to blindly speculate.
JEFF ROSBRUGH FROM OREM, UT: I thought the 16-game schedule was very balanced: two games against each division opponent, one game against every team in one AFC division, one game against every team in one NFC division, and the two remaining games against teams in a different division in the same conference that finished in the same slot as the team in question. With the 17-game schedule, how is the final opponent determined?
ANSWER: In every case for every team, the "extra" game is to be a cross-conference game. Each AFC team's 17th game was scheduled to be played against an NFC opponent that finished in the same slot in its division as the team in question. For example, the AFC North was matched with the NFC West in 2021, and the Steelers' 17th game was against Seattle, which also finished first in its division in 2020, and all of the extra games for 2021 were scheduled to be played in the AFC teams' home stadiums. In 2022, the NFC teams will host the extra game, and the AFC North will be matched with the NFC East for the extra game.