Let's get to it:
EDITOR'S NOTE: The vast majority of submissions for this Asked and Answered had to do with the fake field goal attempted by the Steelers in Sunday's game vs. the Browns in Cleveland and the subsequent hit on Chris Boswell by defensive tackle Jordan Elliott. Some of those submissions appear below, and I will provide one answer that hopefully deals with the pertinent points brought up in them.
DAMIEN FRANK FROM QUINCY, PA: I know NFL officiating is dubious at best, but how was that hit on Chris Boswell not flagged for roughing the passer? There was no doubt that it was helmet to helmet.
BILL POPLARCHIK FROM ANCHORAGE, AK: Wasn't the hit on Chris Boswell a foul? How could the officials miss it when the side judge is looking right at it?
HARVEY HEATON FROM DARTMOUTH, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA: In the Browns game, when Chris Boswell took the helmet-to-helmet hit, was there no penalty because he was considered a running back? Or was it because of the officials' normal incompetence?
BRIAN FIORE FROM SUAMICO, WI: In the failed fake field goal attempt against the Browns, do the protections of the "passer" extend to whoever is throwing the ball or is that protection reserved for quarterbacks only?
ANSWER: Former NFL referee Gene Steratore now works as a rules analyst/expert for networks broadcasting NFL games, and following the fake field goal attempt during which Chris Boswell was injured he tweeted, "Even though Chris Boswell is a kicker by position, on this fake field goal attempt, he is a passer. A defender cannot hit the passer forcibly in the head or neck area. (In my opinion) this should have been a 15-yard penalty for roughing in #PITvsCLE." Not to speak for Steratore or put words in his mouth, his tweet regarding the play indicates his opinion is that the on-field officials blew the call.
CHRIS ROBERTSON FROM PALM BAY, FL: I saw that Pittsburgh's wide receivers have committed 13 of the 46 penalties assessed to the team this year. Pittsburgh has four of the league's 36 wide receiver false start calls, with Diontae Johnson getting his third in Cleveland this week. Are wide receiver penalties like this addressed by the team?
ANSWER: Who in the name of all that is holy has enough spare time to compile such meaningless information as to how many false start penalties a team's corps of wide receivers has, and why would anyone outside of an NFL team's wide receivers' room care? Anyway, from the day the Steelers hired Ike Hilliard as the wide receivers coach, he has come across as a no-nonsense individual who is not afraid to challenge his guys to improve themselves in all facets. That makes me confident that pre-snap penalties are things he would address.
DOUG COPPELER FROM FAYETTEVILLE, NC: When Pressley Harvin III had to fill in for the injured Chris Boswell and Pittsburgh scored a touchdown, I thought that maybe he might try a dropkick for the PAT due to his being a punter and maybe experimenting with it in practice over the years. My question is, if Harvin did decide to try a dropkick, where would the ball have been placed for the snap?
ANSWER: The line of scrimmage for kicked extra points is the 2-yard line. My question to you: Why on earth would an NFL coach allow a punter to "experiment" with a drop-kick for an extra point when he has a Hall of Fame quarterback on the field to attempt a 2-point conversion from the same spot? That was a regular season NFL game, not some exhibition staged for yucks and giggles.
GREGORY CRUM FROM OAKLAND, CA: Will we see Stephen Tuitt on the field this year? If he is physically fit to play and does not, do the Steelers have the right to discontinue his salary?
ANSWER: I don't know whether Stephon Tuitt will return to play this season, and given his circumstances I would be shocked if the Steelers made any attempt to try to "discontinue his salary." That's not how the Rooney Family operates.
STEVE WEESNER FROM MISHAWAKA, IN: Being out of the local market I listen to many games online via Steelers.com. I just have to pass on kudos to Max Starks, in his first year as one of the sideline reporters, along with Missi Matthews, on the Steelers Radio Network. I think it was the Broncos game a few weeks ago when he sat in for Craig Wolfley as the color commentator, and clearly "the stage was not too big for him."
ANSWER: Even as a player Max Starks came across as intelligent and insightful, and while I don't get to listen to the broadcast because of my game day job responsibilities, it doesn't surprise me one bit that he quickly made himself an asset to the Steelers Radio Network. And if you've ever stood next to Max Starks, you would understand immediately that there are few things that are "too big for him."
PAUL FITZPATRICK FROM WILTON, IA: Against the Browns, were the officials using microscopes to find the holding on Ben's dive in the end zone for that 2-point conversion?
ANSWER: During a replay of that play on the CBS network telecast of the game, analyst Tony Romo made the point that it appeared to him that the holding penalty was called after Ben Roethlisberger had crossed the goal line into the end zone, which made the flag unnecessary in his opinion. All I can offer is that the referee of that crew was Shawn Hochuli, the son of Ed Hochuli, who in my mind was one of the all-time over-officious referees in recent history. And what is it that is said about apples and the distance they fall from trees?
CRAIG BONGINO FROM BUTLER, PA: Why does it look like kickers are kindergartners getting hit by adults? They often don't know how to take a hit at all. Chris Boswell throws the ball and leaves his chest completely open to being hit. Maybe these kickers haven't been hit in their entire life?
ANSWER: An NFL placekicker's job isn't to get hit. It's to put the ball through the pipes, often with the game on the line, often from a distance you couldn't reach with a three-wood, and often with his livelihood hanging in the balance. If they were practicing getting hit, they would have less time to refine a skill that few humans on this planet have, and even fewer have the ability to deliver using that skill in the pressure moments of an NFL regular season – or playoff – game.
STEFAN PISOCKI FROM WILMINGTON, DE: Would it really be too much to ask for the punters to practice a few field goals/extra points and the kickers to practice a few punts daily?
ANSWER: For the life of me, I don't understand why fans cannot get this through their heads: In the NFL, everybody has a job, and as Bill Belichick constantly preaches to his players: "Do your job. Just do your job." There is a different leg motion involved in punting vs. placekicking, and do you think Coach Mike Tomlin, or Belichick, or any NFL coach worth the salary he earns has any interest in possibly screwing up the motion/rhythm of a placekicker who has converted 88 percent of his career regular season field goal attempts and 100 percent of his postseason field goal attempts "to practice a few punts daily" in the off chance a once-in-a-decade situation arises where there's an in-game injury to the punter? This is just a different version of "why can't the center be the long-snapper?" Why? Because they're different skill-sets, that's why.
JON DOSSEY FROM DEL CITY, OK: How is Chris Boswell doing after that vicious hit and do you expect the Steelers to sign a kicker in case Boswell can't play in their next game?
ANSWER: Chris Boswell was knocked out of the game in Cleveland with what was announced as a concussion, and so I assume he has been placed in the concussion protocol. I would image the Steelers will sign someone – likely to the practice squad – this week to be ready in case Boswell doesn't clear the protocol in time for Monday night's game vs. the Bears at Heinz Field.
TOM HAYS FROM BEND, OR: I think most of America's NFL fans are on the same page that the league's officiating is getting worse, if possible. What is the best course of action for fans like me who would like to see a better officiated game? Is it email campaigns to Commissioner Roger Goodell? Is there any way to affect change in this regard as a fan?
ANSWER: I truly mean no disrespect to you or other NFL fans when I say that I don't believe what the fans think about the quality of NFL officiating matters to those who have the authority to do something about it.
DAVID AGOSTA FROM LITTLETON, CO: Am I the only one perplexed why no one with a potential voice questioned the hit on Chris Boswell? Nothing from players, Coach Mike Tomlin, nobody. If Boswell had been Tom Brady the game would have been delayed while they called in the Army National Guard.
ANSWER: Just because you didn't see "anyone with a potential voice" question the hit on Chris Boswell on television, that doesn't mean there weren't calls made and complaints filed. Not that anything substantive will come of it, but those things are best handled out of the public eye. And the Army National Guard would've been called in had that kind of hit happened to Aaron Rodgers. If it had been Brady, it would've been Seal Team Six.
GERRY CORDUTSKY FROM SCALP LEVEL, PA: After Chris Boswell's injury, why didn't Pressley Harvin III punt on subsequent Steelers kickoffs? Often on free kicks following safeties, punters punt the kickoff. I think the results could have been much better.
ANSWER: The results could have been much better if Pressley Harvin III had punted on the kickoffs following Chris Boswell's injury, but there's just one problem: That's against the rules. Free kicks following a safety can either be punted or kicked using a tee, but after a touchdown there is no such option.