Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 22

Let's get to it:

We still don't have anyone other than Antonio Brown on passing downs to create yards or catches. Sammie Coates has let us down significantly, and that glaring weakness will be the one thing that will haunt us significantly on the scoreboard going forward. Any letdown by the defense in any game and that one goes in the loss column. My question: is anyone pointing out the lack of firepower, with no one opposite Brown who can take the top off of the defense?

ANSWER: On a recent episode of Agree to Disagree, one of the topics had to do with the Steelers lacking weapons. And for the record, I agreed with that statement. But I also think you should dial down your criticism of Sammie Coates, as explained by Coach Mike Tomlin during his weekly news conference yesterday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex: "It's the fact he's got two broken fingers on one hand. It doesn't limit him from a special teams standpoint, as you can reference his three special teams tackles (vs. the Browns), but it does make it increasingly difficult to catch the football. He's healthy enough to play, he just can't catch the ball as cleanly with two broken fingers."

Coates had 19 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns over the first five games of the season, with just one catch for 4 yards since. Imagine trying to catch Ben Roethlisberger fastballs with two broken fingers. And unlike some other types of injuries, numbing it to dull the pain wouldn't work, because I cannot imagine it's possible to catch Roethlisberger with a numb hand either.

I am looking at the NFL Standings this Monday morning (Nov. 21) and I see that the Steelers are listed in second place in the AFC North Division. Both the Ravens and the Steelers have the same numbers, except for points scored and points allowed. The Lions and Vikings are in the same situation. What is the tiebreaker for this standings list?

ANSWER: The tiebreakers used in the standings midseason are the same ones utilized to determine which teams make the playoffs. In the specific situation of the Steelers and the Ravens, the reason Baltimore is first and Pittsburgh is second has to do with the first tiebreaker in all situations: head-to-head record. Since the Ravens beat the Steelers in Baltimore, they currently own the head-to-head tiebreaker, hence they are listed first and the Steelers are listed second. Of course, the Steelers will get a chance on Christmas Day to nullify Baltimore's edge in head-to-head, but until then, the Ravens have the edge.

How do they decide which network gets to broadcast the game when an NFC team and an AFC team play each other?

ANSWER: If the NFC team is visiting the AFC team, FOX gets the game. Vice versa, and CBS gets the game. Typically, anyway, with the exception that will be noted in the following question.

For years now, AFC games have been shown on CBS, NFC on Fox, and intra-conference games on the network of the visiting team. Yesterday, the Seahawks and Eagles were shown on CBS and Dolphins at Rams was on Fox. On Thanksgiving, CBS will show an all-NFC game. When did all of this change?

ANSWER: What you are describing is part of the flex-scheduling system that's been in place for a number of seasons now. Fans typically associate flex-scheduling as having to do with moving the times of games within the three Sunday time-slots, but flex scheduling also can involve moving games from one broadcast network to another, also within the same three Sunday time-slots. So, flex scheduling not only can include time changes, which affect the fans, but also network changes, which often do not.

Take a look at the best photos from the Week 11 matchup against the Browns. The Steelers defeated the Browns 24-9.

What is the difference between a rookie and a first-year player? In the rosters section of the pregame notes document found on, there is a roster where the players are broken down by years of experience. I see there is one category for first-year players, and another for rookies.

ANSWER: I'm going to skip all of the legalese and try to explain this simply. A rookie is a guy who played college football the previous year. He is trying to make an NFL team for the first time. He is subject to the NFL Draft. A first-year player is a guy who has had a previous shot at making an NFL roster and failed.

For example, a team's fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft gets cut after training camp. He keeps himself in shape, and then in January 2017 he signs a futures contract with another team. As he tries to make that new team, he is considered a first-year player. Neither a rookie nor a first-year player has any real game experience – preseason games don't count – but a first-year player generally has had the chance to make an NFL roster that a rookie as yet has not.

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