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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 26

Let's get to it:

BRIAN PILE FROM TIGARD, OR: In my opinion, the best offensive line the Steelers ever had was the one in the mid-to-late-1970s. I think the line of Jon Kolb, Sam Davis, Mike Webster, Gerry "Moon" Mullins, and Larry Brown were underrated and under-sized, but very good. Do you agree with this assessment?
ANSWER: Considering that configuration won a combined 18 Super Bowl rings – 4 for Jon Kolb, Sam Davis, Mike Webster, Gerry Mullins, and 2 for Larry Brown (who won two more as a tight end) – and that they blocked for a quarterback, a running back, and two wide receivers, who all were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it's difficult to argue with your premise. The only thing I would add is that while those players would be considered undersized by contemporary NFL standards, they weren't overly so for the 1970s. Of those players, only Webster was voted first-team All-Pro, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 1997.

STEVE COVEY FROM ATHENS, PA: On the drive that ended with Cleveland kicking the game-winning field goal, the Steelers defense was flagged for delay of game. What occurred on the field that would cause that penalty?
ANSWER: According to what referee Shawn Hochuli said in announcing the penalty, Keeanu Benton simulated a move into the neutral zone that caused a Browns player to move before the snap. Just being honest here: I never had heard of that before, because in my years of watching football a defensive player only gets penalized for causing an opposing player to move before the snap is he moves into the neutral zone. But this seems to be a season for "never saw that before" penalties in NFL games.

ROB STAMBAUGH FROM CLEVELAND, OH: It looked to me like No. 47 for the Browns, Charley Hughlett, touched their first punt at about the 8-yard line but then dropped it and it rolled inside the 5-yard line and he touched it again. Shouldn't it have been the Steelers' ball at the 8-yard line where he first touched it? Or did he not touch it at the 8-yard line, or am I wrong on the rule?
ANSWER: If the Browns player had touched the ball at the 8-yard line, and more importantly, had an official SEEN the Browns player touch the ball at the 8-yard line, that is where the Steelers offense would have taken possession.

JIMMY GROSS FROM ROSWELL, GA: A team is allowed 53 players on their active roster, plus any callups from the practice squad for a particular game.  How many players are allowed to suit up, er, get a helmet?
ANSWER: In the game against the Browns in Cleveland, the Steelers had 48 players in uniform – 45 played and 3 did not.

CASEY  MCDONALD FROM MONTGOMERY AL: Is it realistic to expect changes to the offense so late in the season? Is it too late to change scheme at this point?
ANSWER: The scheme will not change, because that's just not possible in the middle of an NFL regular season, because Matt Canada was fired on a Tuesday and the Steelers had a game the next Sunday. The most likely changes will come in what plays are called, when those plays are called, and in what sequences.

AARON LOWE FROM WASHINGTON, DC: Keanu Neal and Elijah Riley have been placed on the injured reserve list. Are they allowed to come back after 4 games? If not why?
ANSWER: Over the course of a regular season, and NFL team can designate 8 players to return from the injured reserve list. So far, the Steelers have designated four players to return from IR – Diontae Johnson, Anthony McFarland, Cam Heyward, and Pat Freiermuth. Based on those numbers, Keanu Neal and Elijah Riley both could be brought back from the injured reserve list after four games.

MATTHIAS ELFGEN FROM OTTAWA, CANADA: Now that the Steelers have fired Matt Canada in season, what is the path forward. Who will be interim play-caller and what are the regulations for hiring a coach mid-season? Will the team look internally as it has done in the last years, or maybe try for an external candidate? Are midseason hires also under the Rooney Rule in terms of interview process and everything surrounding it?
ANSWER: Coach Mike Tomlin already has said that the bulk of the play-calling will be handled by quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan, and that running backs coach Eddie Faulkner will serve as the offensive coordinator in terms of organizing staff responsibilities in meetings, organizing game planning, leading the unit in video reviews, and in preparation for upcoming opponents. Since the Steelers did not, and never considered, bringing in someone from the outside at this stage to be the offensive coordinator, none of the other questions in your submission apply to the situation.

DENNIS  THOMPSON FROM TITUSVILLE, PA: Why don't they call roughing the passer when the sacker definitely falls with all of his weight on the quarterback? I think on the first sack of Kenny Pickett it should have been called and also one later in the game.
ANSWER: Sometimes that is called. Sometimes that isn't called. Sometimes it's even called when it doesn't happen. What are those two words I always use to describe NFL officiating … now I remember – inconsistent and arbitrary.

GERALD KERSTETTER FROM MECHICSBURG , PA: I always read your Asked and Answered, and I have learned some new things about the Steelers. Is it true that Dan Rooney was a backup quarterback for Johnny Unitas at a Pittsburgh area school? Somebody told me that while I was waiting for my takeout meal.
ANSWER: When he attended North Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Dan Rooney played quarterback. When Johnny Unitas attended St. Justin's High School in Pittsburgh, he played quarterback. Both North Catholic and St. Justin's were members of the Catholic League, and one year when postseason honors were announced, Unitas was the first-team All-Catholic League quarterback, and Dan Rooney was the second-team All-Catholic League quarterback.

MIKE RAMZ FROM LAKE CITY, PA: Do you ever remember the Steelers firing a coach during the season?
ANSWER: Not in my lifetime, no.

GARY PHILIPS FROM MANORVILLE, PA: This may be a stupid question but how do substitutes know when to go into a game in a sub-package? For example, is there a coach who tells the nickel or dime corner to go into the game when that package is being used?
ANSWER: On the sideline during games, players who are going to be regular parts of the personnel packages on offense or defense will stand close to one of the assistant coaches who receives the coordinator's play-call through the headset and then announces what package is to be on the field for that play. And as an example, that assistant coach isn't telling individual players to go onto the field, but rather he's yelling, as an example for the defense, "nickel" or "dime" or "short-yardage" or whatever package is wanted, and the players are expected to know if they're a part of the called-out package. And they're expected to know, because that has been covered in practice and meetings all week leading up to the game.

RENAN GERALDI FROM VALKENSWAARD, NETHERLANDS: With offensive coordinator Matt Canada no longer on the coaching staff, the media is talking about the clock ticking for Kenny Pickett to improve, but when you see the offensive line – mainly the center position – work in protection, we see too many flaws. Do you think Nate Herbig needs to have more opportunities, to see if we can improve the pass protection?
ANSWER: Nate Herbig has been with the team throughout the offseason program, training camp, the preseason, and through the first 10 games of the regular season, which means there have been many opportunities for the coaching staff to assess his role. At this point, I believe that the Steelers are starting/playing the five best offensive linemen on the roster – Dan Moore Jr., Isaac Seumalo, Mason Cole, James Daniels, and Broderick Jones. And I also think the way to improve the unit moving forward would be to draft a potentially dynamic talent at center – a player with the skill-set of a Dermontti Dawson or a Maurkice Pouncey, a combination of physical strength and unique athleticism. Herbig is a depth piece, valuable for his versatility and position flexibility, but I believe the Steelers perceive him more as a backup than a full-time starter.

JOHNNY VROMAN FROM MEADVILLE, PA: Since both Coach Eddie Faulkner and Coach Mike Sullivan have been promoted, do they split Matt Canada's salary as co-coordinators?
ANSWER: In an earlier answer, I explained how the responsibilities are to be split between Eddie Faulkner and Mike Sullivan. They are not technically co-coordinators by title. Anyway, coaches' contracts in the NFL are guaranteed, which means when a coach is fired, he receives any salary remaining on his deal.