Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 25

Let's get to it:

EDITOR'S NOTE: Being that this is Thanksgiving Day, I want to begin by expressing gratitude and appreciation for the many people who took time out of their busy days to email submissions that didn't pose questions but instead expressed thanks for the effort that goes into Asked and Answered and extended wishes for a healthy and Happy Thanksgiving. Those sentiments are appreciated, and I wish the same to you and your families

TIMOTHY PAYNE FROM THEODORE, AL: It seems as though Ray-Ray McCloud will be out this week due to COVID protocols. Would it be a great time to try Dionte Johnson back on kick returns? I know there's a risk, being he's our leading wide receiver, but he has been very successful in the past. Antonio Brown and several other top wide receivers have doubled as returners in crucial games, and Sunday's is definitely one.
ANSWER: Diontae Johnson currently is listed as the backup to Ray-Ray McCloud as a punt returner, while Benny Snell is McCloud's backup as a kickoff returner. It will be interesting to see how Johnson's significance in the passing game is weighed against his ability to contribute on special teams, because his special teams snaps have declined considerably since his rookie season. Johnson played 47 special teams snaps during his rookie season of 2019, and he returned 20 punts for 248 yards (an NFL leading 12.4 average), with an 85-yard touchdown; in 2020 he was down to 19 special teams snaps, and 8 punt returns for 58 yards (7.3 average); and in 2021, Johnson has played one special teams snap and has no returns. The biggest issue here, in my mind, is the decision-making and the sure-handedness of whomever is chosen to replace McCloud, because fumbling a punt or making a mistake as to when to field one vs. when to let it go can change the course of a game.

LOU MANN FROM ASHKELON, ISRAEL: Do you know approximately how much Terry Bradshaw's best contract was worth?
ANSWER: For a story that appeared in Parade Magazine, Terry Bradshaw said his first NFL contract (signed in 1970 as the first overall pick of the draft) called for a $100,000 signing bonus to be paid over 10 years, plus a $25,000 base salary for 1970 that rose to $30,000 in 1971. For his final NFL season, which was 1983, Bradshaw reportedly was paid $470,000.

DON WILKINS FROM LIBBY, MT: I understand Najee Harris is a rookie and the offensive line is a project with good potential if the players can stay on the field. What is going on with Anthony McFarland Jr.? I've watched him in games in the past, and he seems to run with more speed, power, and intensity than Najee. They say he's "active," but I don't see him packing the rock.
ANSWER: I'm sorry, but you lost all credibility with me when you made the claim that Anthony McFarland Jr. runs with "more speed, power, and intensity than Najee (Harris)." That's not true, and I seriously doubt that's ever been true.

DIEGO ARBOLEDA FROM ACAPULCO, MEXICO: From watching the replay and with 3:29 left in the fourth quarter, it was apparent Chargers cornerback Michael Davis definitely interfered with Diontae Johnson by holding him and preventing him from coming back and making a play on an underthrown ball. The flag was picked up because one of the officials determined the pass was "uncatchable." On the NBC broadcast, analyst Cris Collinsworth (a Steelers hater) said that the reversed call was the right call. Huh? Could Coach Mike Tomlin have challenged, or should the officials have reviewed the play more closely? This cost Steelers the game.
ANSWER: I have spoken to a couple of people with a lot of experience with NFL football, and I was told they never have seen an underthrown ball be ruled uncatchable, that for a ball to be ruled uncatchable it typically has to be 10 feet over everyone's head or way out of bounds. That said, pass interference – called or uncalled – is not reviewable, and so Coach Mike Tomlin had no recourse in that area. Just another example of inconsistent and arbitrary officiating in an NFL game.

JOHN THOMPSON FROM CONNEAUT, OH: When is the NFL going to make officiating a full- time job? The officials should have to prepare physically and mentally each week, just like the players, through practice sessions and game prep. Instead, they show up basically on game day and try to officiate a sport that has become too complex and fast for them. Do you believe it is time that the NFL truly address this issue?
ANSWER: It's past time this issue was addressed, but I wouldn't stop at just making officials full-time employees. I long have believed that NFL officials are too old by the time they get their first job in the league. Typically, an official will have 10 years' experience in high school and another 10 years in college before being considered for an NFL job – except, of course, they have a relative who previously was an NFL official, a la Ed Hochuli and his son, Shawn. Anyway, for the life of me I cannot understand why the NFL cannot take an athletic and intelligent individual right out of college, and train that individual to be an NFL official in a suitable time frame where the person isn't over 40 years old to start running around a football field with highly conditioned twentysomething athletes. It takes way less than 20 years of training and experience to become a Navy Seal or an Army Ranger, and am I to believe being an NFL official is more demanding than that? NFL officials should begin their careers by their mid-20s and be retired by the time they're 45.

RYAN DUNLAP FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Does it look like Stephon Tuitt is going to return this year?
ANSWER: I honestly have no idea.

STEPHEN CLEW FROM CARY, NC: It appears the Steelers have been very careful with the updates and news on Stephon Tuitt. They really miss him, and he would be a huge add if he can return. No one seems to be asking about him week to week. I'm thinking it is more than just his knee issues, and I hope he is OK mentally. But it would be nice to know if he is OK, and if he might return this year.
ANSWER: All due respect but satisfying the fans' curiosity isn't and shouldn't be a primary concern with respect to Stephon Tuitt's situation. The Steelers are in compliance with the rules regarding the reporting of the status of players on the injured reserve list, and Tuitt is on the injured reserve list, and unless Tuitt wants to go public with more information people should respect his right to deal with this in a way he believes is best for him and his family. Just because he's a professional athlete doesn't mean people are entitled to these kinds of details. When there is something to know, you'll be informed.

MARC BELLEMARE FROM MONTRÉAL, QUEBEC, CANADA: The Steelers were losing to the Chargers, 27-10, and they were playing with no Haden. No Minkah. And no T.J. I guess everybody could have packed it in and quit, but true leaders rise to the occasion. Ben Roethlisberger did it (again). But what a performance by Cam Heyward. Even if he is used to being under the NFL radar, with the year he's having, could Heyward, at least, get some recognition and grab some votes for Defensive Player of the Year?
ANSWER: I share your opinion that Cam Heyward is having a great season, possibly on the way to his best season with the Steelers. But Defensive Player of the Year votes go to guys with big statistics, and Heyward's numbers just aren't in the neighborhood of guys like T.J. Watt, Aaron Donald, and Myles Garrett. I believe Heyward deserves to get some votes for first-team All-Pro, and I also believe it's time his teammates recognize him as the Steelers MVP.

AUSTIN HARGRAVES FROM BLOOMSBURG, PA: Do you see Devin Bush being benched in favor of Robert Spillane soon? I'm surprised we haven't seen more Marcus Allen even in the rotation. Bush does not look the same since his ACL injury.
ANSWER: I do not disagree with your observation that Devin Bush doesn't look the same now as he did before his torn ACL, but I don't believe he's going to be benched. I believe the Steelers' preference is for him to continue working toward coming back to his former level of play, and by their actions they obviously believe the best way for that to be accomplished is by him being on the field. Bush isn't what he was before the injury, and the Steelers defensive line isn't what it was when Bush came into the league as a No. 1 pick in 2019 either, and in that season he posted 109 tackles, two interceptions, one sack, four passes defensed, one forced fumble, four fumble recoveries, and scored a defensive touchdown. I believe the Steelers are going to be patient with Bush and allow him to work himself back into being the player he was as a rookie, because the skills he exhibited in 2019 didn't just disappear.