Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 26

Let's get to it:

TOM DUNN FROM BELLEAIR BLUFFS, FL: Besides Ray-Ray McCloud, which Steelers have stood out to you on special teams?
ANSWER: I will start with Chris Boswell, who has made 16-of-17 field goals, including a franchise record 59-yarder, and his only miss came after a bad snap. Others who have had nice seasons, in my opinion, are Jordan Dangerfield, eight tackles and the personal protector on the punt team; Ola Adeniyi, six tackles and a forced fumble; Marcus Allen, five tackles and that alert recovery on the surprise onside kick in Jacksonville; and James Pierre, five tackles and solid work as a gunner on the punt team. And there have been others in what I believe has been a good season to date for all of the Steelers special teams.

KEN COE FROM DARIEN, CT: When a veteran player is given a day off from practice (as is normally the case for Ben Roethlisberger on Wednesdays, for instance), is the player altogether absent from the practice facility?
ANSWER: No. Players given a day off participate in everything that's on the day's schedule, and when the team takes the field for practice those players watch from the sideline or from behind the drills. It's a day off from practice. It's not a vacation day.

WILLIE SHELTON FROM GREENVILLE, PA: If Steelers win their next four games, they certainly will have clinched the AFC North. Would it then be wise to rest the starters? An undefeated season would be all they would be playing for, but like Ben Roethlisberger and Coach Mike Tomlin say, winning the Lombardi Trophy is the real goal, and resting starters would take away some wear and tear on their bodies after having to have that early bye week.
ANSWER: There is nothing more meaningless to me than an undefeated season, but I also believe it's possible to rest players too long. I think one week is sufficient to allow some bumps and bruises to heal without allowing rust to form.

PAUL MENG FROM WILMINGTON, DE: Any rumors from the NFL on the number of fans who will be allowed to attend the Super Bowl LV?
ANSWER: According to Adam Schefter, the NFL is planning on having Raymond James Stadium filled to 20 percent capacity for Super Bowl LV. In addition, "Masks will be required and fans will be spaced six feet apart in 'pods.' Given that the seating capacity in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fl., is a little over 65,000 and the possibility of additional temporary seating, attendance could be between 13-15,000 people."

HENRY LACAYO FROM MIAMI, FL: Ben Roethlisberger says he is throwing the ball to all of the receivers equally, with no pressure from any of them about wanting the ball more. But I can see every game he goes toward Diontae Johnson more than any of the other receivers, and it looks like Diontae is his favorite? In every single game, Roethlisberger keeps getting one or more of his throws tipped or partially blocked at the line of scrimmage, and we have been lucky that has not resulted in interceptions. Does anyone let him know about these issues?
ANSWER: Let's start with the "issue of Diontae Johnson being Ben Roethlisberger's favorite receiver: JuJu Smith-Schuster has been targeted more times than Diontae Johnson (85-81), and he also has more receptions (58-49). So much for that "issue" because it is disproven by the statistics. As for Roethlisberger getting passes tipped at the line of scrimmage, that typically happens when he's throwing short, quick passes, and if he's throwing short, quick passes that means the offense is on schedule and not having to convert a lot of third-and-long situations. It's a trade-off the Steelers say they're willing to make.

MICHAEL LUTZ FROM OAKLAND, CA: I continue to be shocked that with three-score leads (29-7 vs. Cincinnati, and 20-3 vs. Jacksonville) late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter that the Steelers are leaving Ben Roethlisberger in the game. The opportunity to both limit potential injury and give Mason Rudolph some valuable minutes seem to carry little weight. Is it complete lack of faith in Rudolph?
ANSWER: It has nothing to do with a lack of confidence/belief in Mason Rudolph. It's about winning the game. It cracks me up that before this season, fans were all over the issue of the Steelers "playing down to the competition" and "looking past" teams with bad records, and now fans such as yourself want to declare the game won early in the fourth quarter. What would happen if an opponent that was trailing by 17 with 13 minutes left started mounting a comeback, say with a field goal that was followed by a quick special teams touchdown. Then I'm spending weeks wading through the whining about "taking your foot off the gas."

I asked Coach Mike Tomlin about what kind of a lead is sufficient to start pulling starters from the game, and he said, "I don't know that there is a cookie-cutter answer to that, but I know that when we're there we feel it and we know it. Often it's the mentality of your opponent as well in terms of the types of plays they're calling. Are they calling plays to play catch-up, or are they calling plays to play out the game? When the defense is no longer pressuring, then they're probably conceding the outcome. When the offense is running the ball and they're down by multiple scores, then they're probably conceding the outcome. Often times I respond to what I see from the opponent from that play-calling perspective, and that gives me an indication of where we are."

In other words, the savvy thing to do is wait until the opponent raises the white flag, then you can accept the surrender.

TODD GOODING FROM PORTAGE, MI: I would put the mid-1990s Steelers linebackers up against any outside of the Steelers trio of Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, and Andy Russell from the 1970s. In your opinion what kept Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, or Chad Brown from Hall of Fame consideration? Who had the best chance in your opinion?
ANSWER: Of the three you mentioned, my opinion is Greg Lloyd would have had the best chance to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame had he not been injured in both 1996 and 1997. In 1996, Lloyd tore a patellar tendon in the opener in Jacksonville and missed the remainder of that season. And then in 1997 just as he was rounding back into form following the patellar injury, he sprained an ankle and developed a severe staph infection. Lloyd was a first-team All-Pro in 1993, 1994, and 1995 before injuries turned him into a shell of himself. Had those injuries not happened, I believe he at least would've advanced far enough in the process to have his credentials presented to the Board of Selectors on the day before the Super Bowl.

DAVE KITLAK FROM UHRICHSVILLE, OH: What exactly is a "walk-through?"
ANSWER: After meetings, the coaches take the players out to the field to go over what was just taught in the meetings. Players don't wear helmets or pads of any kind, and they walk through the plays. And walk is the correct verb. It's just a way for the players to get a physical sense of what they had seen on video or on the board during the meetings.

BERNARD MILKO FROM ST. PETERSBURG, FL: Does Derek Watt know how to catch the ball? Or know how to run it in short-yardage situations? It would be nice to see if he can.
ANSWER: Those are the kind of questions to be answered during training camp and the preseason, not in late November of a regular season in which the team is competing for the top seed in the conference playoffs. Derek Watt was injured during a better part of training camp, and there was no preseason. Wait until next summer.

DAVID BLAIR FROM OWINGS MILLS, MD: There was discussion of Derek Watt playing in Jacksonville. Did he play as I have not seen anything mentioned of his being in the game?
ANSWER: Derek Watt played 11 snaps on offense against Jacksonville and 18 snaps on special teams. He did not record a statistic on either offense or special teams, according to the National Football League Game Summary,

JIM KARMIE FROM CLARKSBURG, WV: I just wanted to thank you for this column. I look forward to each one, chuckle, and learn through them, and I am disappointed when I get through the last question. I don't know if there are other writers who have the dry sense of humor that you do, but I enjoy it thoroughly. You are a great asset to Steelers Nation. Thanks again and keep them coming.
ANSWER: Thank you for the kind words. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.