Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 28

Let's get to it:

MARQUEZ SMITH FROM SACRAMENTO, CA: Say Kendrick Green doesn't provide what we need from a center by season's end, what's the possibility of kicking him out to left guard, moving Kevin Dotson back to right guard, and drafting a center?
ANSWER: Say the Steelers aren't as impatient as you and believe a player needs more than one season to develop at a position he really is learning from the ground up as a rookie in the NFL? There are a lot of things Kendrick Green brings to the center position that could allow him to become a difference-maker at the position, and my belief is what you think he isn't providing "what we need" is the brute strength to anchor against bull rushes from bigger, older, more experienced defensive linemen. I think it will prove to be much easier for Green to get stronger and bulkier in the right places than it would be to try to find a bigger, bulkier prospect and try to teach him the athleticism, movement, and love of finishing opponents that Green already has.

WARREN L FRYE FROM LAKELAND, FL: The more I watch, the more I become concerned with center Kendrick Green. I understand he is a rookie and makes rookie mistakes. I can live with the growing process in that regard. The bigger issue I am having with him is the number of times he is getting bull-rushed back into the pocket. Do you think an offseason with an opportunity to increase strength and mass will eventually solve this issue?
ANSWER: We're certainly going to find out, because I believe the Steelers like a lot of things about Kendrick Green and the way he plays center, and they're not going to bail on him without the benefit of at least one full offseason in an NFL-caliber strength-and-conditioning program.

ENZO MAMMARELLA FROM SAULT STE. MARIE, ONTARIO, CANADA: It looked like Zach Banner was getting close to getting back on the field earlier this season but haven't heard anything about him since. Any idea what's going on with him?
ANSWER: Zach Banner was active last week for the game against the Chargers, and I believe with the injuries along the offensive line he figures to be active for today's game against the Bengals. What's going on with Banner is that the Steelers coaches perceive him to be the team's No. 3 tackle, behind starters Chuks Okorafor and rookie Dan Moore Jr. Typically on game days, Joe Haeg is active because he can play either tackle spot or guard, while Banner is seen by the coaching staff as a right tackle exclusively. In that respect, it's strictly a numbers game.

SEAN VOYLES FROM TURNER STATION, KY: It's my understanding that Mason Rudolph has started only 10 regular season games, and after the game against the Lions it looked like he was definitely not the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger. But with only 10 games under his belt do you think that's too small of a sample size?
ANSWER: Fans love to make every appearance in a regular season game by Mason Rudolph into a referendum on whether he's the "heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger," and I can guarantee you that is not the way the Steelers view it. You certainly can continue to do that, and look for clues in his performance, try to judge every aspect of every throw he makes, but that is not the way he is being evaluated. And since it's not the way he is being evaluated, you're wasting your energy. You have every right to be thinking, concerned, worried about that now, and if it brings you some enjoyment that's great, but if you're really trying to use what's happening now as a projection to how the decision of a future starting quarterback will be made, it's a waste of your time.

FRANCIS SANTILO FROM COW COUNTY, FL: All the rage seems to be the twilight of Ben Roethlisberger's career. What needs to happen for the Steelers front office to draft a quarterback? The past few years have seen a few come out and look pretty good. Imagine the knowledge that they might get under Ben's mentorship.
ANSWER: Assuming the 2021 season is Ben Roethlisberger's last, what I can tell you is the Steelers will spend a premium pick on a quarterback when they have the opportunity to use that pick on a prospect they really like. It's really as simple as that. And one last time: It's not Roethlisberger's job to train/teach/mentor his replacement. His job is to win games. The coaches are there to do the mentoring, because whomever is drafted should understand very quickly that he needs to be his own man and play the game to his strengths. If he's trying to be the next version of someone else, he'll certainly fail. Here's a little free tip for you as well: If you don't want snide comments in response to your question, then don't include the same kind of passive-aggressive snide stuff in your submission. I edited that out this time.

JASON PRASTER FROM SAN ANTONIO, TX: Alex Highsmith had a great camp and preseason and looked to be a great complement to T.J. Watt this year, but his sack total is modest at this point in the season. His stat sheet doesn't show quarterback pressures. What are your thoughts on Highsmith's play thus far?
ANSWER: Let's deal with the statistics first: Alex Highsmith has three sacks over the first 10 games, which places him third on the team behind T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward. He also has 10 pressures, which is tied for second on the team with Heyward, and behind Watt. Those raw numbers might not be what you expected, they're not what I expected, and very likely they're not what Highsmith expected, but those numbers also indicate Highsmith is doing a representative job in those categories with respect to the other guys on the team. I believe the Steelers need more from Highsmith over the next seven games if they have any hopes of qualifying for the playoffs, but that same sentiment about needing more can be applied to a bunch of other guys on both offense and defense as well.

GUY COURTNEY FROM FREDERICKSBURG, VA: Has Pittsburgh ever fired an offensive or defensive coordinator/coach during the regular season?
ANSWER: In the modern era, the answer to that is no. That's because Dan Rooney didn't believe in firing coaches in the middle of a season, because he said when you fire a coach in the middle of the season you have to pick someone to fill the job on an interim basis, and if the interim hire has a few good weeks in the job there would be pressure to hire him to that position full-time. And doing that could preclude you from conducting a more thorough search and getting who actually would be the best man for the job.

DAVID BYSTRY FROM MENTOR, OH: This question is in regard to the parameters required to becoming an NFL official. In a recent Asked and Answered, you wrote that candidates need 10 years' experience at the high school level and another 10 years at the college level. The NFL recently added a few female officials to the mix. I've seen a few in games, and they don't look like they spent 20 years officiating before their NFL tenure. Are the parameters different for them?
ANSWER: I should have been clearer in my answer. That total of 20 years of experience isn't a strict requirement, but more of a guideline that has been in place for some time. My apologies for the confusion.

MICHAEL FILAK FROM PLANO, TX: I'm noticing that the Steelers are making several practice squad moves. Do the Steelers help them out with living expenses? One week they are in Pittsburgh. Then a little later they might be on the Jaguars practice squad. Then maybe some other team's practice squad. Where do they live? Or do they have to spring for a hotel on a practice squad salary?
ANSWER: You make practice squad salary sound like it's $20 an hour. Players with even minimal service time in the NFL make at least $9,200 per week for being on the practice squad, and players with even a little bit of tenure are earning $14,000 per week. So, if a player is on the Steelers practice squad one week, and then the Jaguars practice squad the next week, and then a different practice squad the week after that, that means he got paid $27,600 at least for those three weeks. You make it sound as though they have to live in a hostel on the other side of the railroad tracks. In Pittsburgh, the Steelers have deals with a couple of hotels in proximity to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and there also is an apartment complex close to Heinz Field that has furnished apartments. Food is provided in the cafeteria in the practice facility (three meals a day), and I can guarantee you they're not serving ramen noodles or mac-and-cheese out of a box. I won't even tell you how many years I worked after getting out of college before I earned in a year what a practice squad player can make in three weeks. "Spring for a hotel on a practice squad salary." Where do I sign up for that?

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