Let’s get to it:
MICHAEL CARTIER FROM QUEBEC, CANADA: Why on Thanksgiving Day is it always the Cowboys and Lions who play in the first two games, and they’re also always the home team?
ANSWER: The Lions first NFL season in Detroit was in 1934 when
local radio executive, George A. Richards, had purchased the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans and moved the team there. Richards brought a proven team to Detroit that included superstar Earl “Dutch” Clark, one of the most versatile backs ever to play the game. Even though he knew there was some risk in scheduling a game on Thanksgiving Day, Richards also recognized that his Lions were taking a back seat to the baseball Tigers on the sports pages. So as one way of attracting fans during the team's first season, he opted for the Thanksgiving Day contest. The matchup between the Lions and the World Champion Chicago Bears proved to be an all-time classic, and the 26,000 tickets at the University of Detroit Stadium were sold out two weeks in advance of the game. It was estimated that another 25,000 would have attended had there been seats available. The Lions won the 1935 NFL Championship, and the key game in their drive to the title came on Thanksgiving Day when Detroit defeated Chicago, 14-2, to clinch the Western Conference title. Thus the football-on-Thanksgiving tradition became firmly established in Detroit, and with the exception of a six-season gap from 1939-1944, the Thanksgiving Day game has been played there with no interruptions.
The Cowboys' tradition of playing on Thanksgiving started when then-general manager Tex Schramm signed up for the holiday game in 1966. Schramm was seeking more national publicity and saw Thanksgiving as a way to boost the national profile of his team. The NFL was worried about attendance for the game because the Cowboys had been struggling, but a franchise record 80,259 fans watched the team beat the Browns at the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys have played on Thanksgiving every year except in 1975 and 1977 when the NFL awarded Thanksgiving games to the St. Louis Cardinals in an attempt to boost that franchise's national exposure. The Cardinals lost both of those games, and the Cowboys were back in 1978 to share Thanksgiving day with the Lions.
ROBERT WEILAND FROM SAINT CHARLES, MO: After the Steelers last score with only seconds remaining against Jacksonville, it appeared that Chris Boswell crushed the kickoff 20-30 yards deep into the stands. How far did that kick travel in the air?
ANSWER: On the extra point following Ben Roethlisberger’s 1-yard run, there was a personal foul called on Jacksonville defensive tackle Abry Jones. That 15-yard penalty was assessed on the kickoff, and so Chris Boswell teed it up from the 50-yard line.
BEN BATSON FROM LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: What's the latest with Artie Burns? How many snaps did he play on defense against the Jaguars?
ANSWER: Artie Burns played 13 snaps, all on special teams.
STEVE BARRIERO FROM DAYTONA BEACH, FL: In the Jacksonville game, Jalen Ramsey had an interception in the end zone on a pass to Antonio Brown midway through the third period. In the replay, you could clearly see that Ramsey came over Brown’s back and hit him in the head and shoulder before the ball arrived to grab the ball. Ramsey's earlier interception, at about the 8:20 mark in the second period, was reviewed by the officials, but not the interception in the third quarter. What was the difference?
ANSWER: All turnovers, and scoring plays, for that matter, are automatically reviewed. Penalties, both called and uncalled, are not reviewable, and so the review of the interception in the end zone likely was just a cursory one to make sure Jalen Ramsey maintained possession of the ball long enough to make it a legal catch. And the legality of the catch – did the ball hit the ground, did Ramsey maintain possession – is what was reviewed in the play in the second quarter.
BEN LEDYARD FROM DAVENPORT, IA: As I've watched Ben Roethlisberger progress over the years, I've noticed his distinct rushing abilities. I think I've seen everything life has to offer watching him dive into the end zone against the Jaguars. In my opinion Ben is a top rushing quarterback. What do you think?
ANSWER: I think Ben Roethlisberger is a Hall of Fame quarterback. I also think he’s a top-notch overall athlete, which he proved by making that open-field tackle to save the 2005 AFC Divisional Round Game in Indianapolis. . But a top rushing quarterback? C’mon.
JEFF BARBER FROM HUMBLE, TX: I may have missed something, but I did not notice Rosie Nix in the game against the Jaguars, either offensive or special teams. He usually shows up with a tackle on special teams or good blocking for James Conner or even as an occasional receiver.
ANSWER: You missed something. Rosie Nix played four snaps on offense and 24 snaps on special teams in Jacksonville.
SCOTT DUNHAM FROM FREMONT, CA: Do you think Tom Coughlin was up to his old tricks by signing Landry Jones and then releasing him the day after the Jaguars lost to the Steelers?
ANSWER: It sure smells that way, especially in light of the timing of Jones’ release. And when the decision is to keep only two quarterbacks on the roster, and with those two quarterbacks being Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler, that sure seems to be more evidence supporting your theory.
KEN WILSON FROM EXPORT, PA: Why hasn't it been brought out that Landry Jones was on the Jaguars’ roster until the Monday after our game and had the offensive playbook committed to memory as well as having five years playing with Ben Roethlisberger to feed them the offense?
ANSWER: You just did it, and I’m happy to help. Nicely done.
DAVID CLARK FROM SIOUX CITY, IA: What is the best draft class in NFL history?
ANSWER: I really don’t believe there’s much debate on this issue, especially among knowledgeable football people. The Steelers’ 1974 draft is the only one since the NFL instituted drafting in 1936 that produced four Hall of Fame players. Of course, those are Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster. In fact, no other draft class in NFL history has produced more than two Hall of Fame players. In my mind, that makes it: case closed.
CHRIS GALLOWAY FROM FATE, TX: I heard on ESPN that Le’Veon Bell would have signed his franchise tender before the Nov. 13 deadline if the Steelers promised not to tag him after the 2018 season ended. Do you know if that’s true?
ANSWER: I’ll explore this issue in my “Labriola on” column, which will be on Steelers.com at 7 a.m. on Friday. That’s known in the business as a tease.
SEAN DELANEY FROM UPTON, MA: What happens when the defensive player with the green dot on his helmet (that allows the sideline to communicate play calls to him) temporarily comes out of the game? Do teams call plays like they did before in-helmet communications were implemented? I imagine they'd have to practice doing this.
ANSWER: I cannot speak for other teams, but the Steelers are prepared for this. It’s an NFL rule that there can only be one player on the field wearing a radio helmet designated by the green sticker on the back of it, but there is no rule about how many helmets can be fitted with the radio equipment. As an example, if Vince Williams is the player with the green dot on the back of his helmet, and then let’s say he sustains a minor injury and has to leave the field. The Steelers already know who they would put in Williams’ place – let’s pretend it’s L.J. Fort for the purposes of this answer – and so the equipment staff just digs a duplicate L.J. Fort helmet that’s fitted with the radio gear out of one of the containers, and then Fort puts that one on and takes the field.
COLIN MCDONALD FROM BELLINGHAM, WA: As I was watching the game Sunday, I became so angry after Ben Roethlisberger's third interception that I turned off my television and decided to calm down a bit by going into the other room. Before the drive that ended with Antonio Brown’s 78-yard touchdown, I texted my cousin and said I would shave my entire head, eyebrows included, if we came back and won. Should I wait until the playoffs to do so, or should I do it now?
ANSWER: I believe that’s a question best answered by someone who has to look at you every day.