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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 28

Let's get to it:

RON BAKLARZ FROM EPHRATA, PA: So in the game vs. the Bengals in Cincinnati, Diontae Johnson catches a touchdown pass, controls it until he is out of bounds, and then the ball is stripped out of his hands. It is then ruled an incomplete pass. The on-air official indicated that by rule it should be a touchdown and should have been challenged by Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin has a terrible record when it comes to challenging plays. And at one point, he had an individual help make challenge calls. What happened to this strategy?
ANSWER: Maybe you're new to Asked and Answered, but if you're a regular reader you likely are aware of my belief that NFL officiating is inconsistent and arbitrary, and the issue that highlights this most in my opinion is the catch/not-a-catch issue, particularly when it happens in the end zone. Former NFL referee Gene Steratore is the CBS rules analyst, and during the Bengals game he was the "on-air official" to whom you refer. I think Steratore does a really good job in that role, but I can tell you after watching a lot of football that his opinion in these matters isn't always the same as the ultimate outcome of a challenge. Yes, Steratore did indicate that his opinion was that a challenge should have been made, and that the call on the field should have been overturned, and that the final determination should have been a touchdown for the Steelers. And Charles Davis, the CBS analyst in the television booth working the broadcast, was very definitive in stating his opinion that it was a touchdown. All that is fine, but again, it's just his opinion.

Later in the day, Steratore posted this on social media.:
"When reviewing a play, the ruling on the field is critical. To overturn the on-field call, you must have conclusive evidence to do so. This play in #PITvsCIN is a perfect illustration of the "Catch" rule and how instant replay is applied. In real speed, watch how fast Diontae Johnson possesses the ball and then loses control of it. From an official's (point of view), this play appears to be an incomplete pass because the player almost immediately loses control of the ball.

"However, when slowing the play down frame-by-frame, the perception of time becomes muddied. From the slow motion replay, Diontae Johnson possesses the ball with 2 feet down in-bounds and still has control when he takes an additional step. Immediately after that step, the ball is loose. With the way these plays are determined via replay, it probably would've been overturned to a touchdown."

Take a moment and read that final sentence again. "With the way these plays are determined via replay, it probably would've been overturned to a touchdown." His conclusion is far from a certainty, and the other important factor of the whole issue is contained in his first sentence: "When reviewing a play, the ruling on the field is critical."

And finally, here is what Coach Mike Tomlin said after the game about not challenging the play: "They were definitive and I lost vision of it. There were people between me and him, I couldn't count steps. They didn't give another look at it in-stadium, and we didn't get a quick enough look at it up top. Sometimes that happens when you're on the road. Some games it's on the road, sometimes it's at home — it evens out in the big scheme of things."

If your point is that it would've been worth a challenge at that point in the game, I'm not going to vehemently disagree, but I just caution you if you think/believe there is such a thing as clearcut right and wrong when it comes to these kinds of plays, how they are ruled on the field, and how things might end up once a challenge is made and New York gets involved. Remember Jesse James. And the only sure way to avoid these kinds of situations is for the receiver to complete the catch all the way to the ground.

ERIC OLSON FROM DOWNINGTOWN, PA: Continuing with the theme of "what is today's definition of a completed pass," do you know if there is any analysis at the end of the year that determines what percentage of controversial calls were correct vs. got it wrong? Or am I asking too much?
ANSWER: If there is such an analysis, it's done by the NFL in-house and any admission of such errors typically are not released to the public.

KEN MAULDIN FROM CLYDE, TX: I was wondering if you had stats for the opposing quarterback's passer rating when throwing to receivers being covered by Joey Porter Jr.? I feel like he is causing a lot of non-throws, which do not even show up anywhere for his stats. I am thinking he is helping the Steelers more than is shown and was just wondering about his stats for that.
ANSWER: According to, Joey Porter Jr. has played 447 defensive snaps, and in those he has been targeted 33 times, with 16 completions (48.5 percent) and 1 touchdown for an opposing quarterback rating of 70.4. Porter also has 6 passes defensed and 1 interception.

CALEB COLSON FROM BOZEMAN, MT: Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren both have a chance to hit the 1,000-yard rushing milestone this season. When was the last time the Steelers had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season?
ANSWER: The last time the Steelers had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season was in 1976 when Franco Harris had 1,128 yards on 289 carries (3.9 average) and 14 touchdowns, and Rocky Bleier had 1,036 yards on 220 carries (4.7 average) and 5 touchdowns. To put that into context, that was a 14-game regular season, and since the Steelers finished it with 2,971 rushing yards in 1976 it meant the team averaged 212.2 rushing yards per game.

TODD WRIGHT FROM NORMAL, IL: My birthday is Nov. 26, and the Steelers are pretty good about winning on my birthday. It's especially meaningful when they beat an AFC North opponent. Can you tell me the Steelers' won-loss record on this day?
ANSWER: Happy belated birthday, and my gift to you is to do some research on this, but I'm only going to go back as far as 1969, which was Chuck Noll's inaugural season as the Steelers coach. Since 1969, the Steelers are 6-2 on Nov. 26; Noll was 2-0; Bill Cowher was 2-2; and Mike Tomlin is 2-0, including Sunday's 16-10 win over the Bengals.

JOHN M. WASHINSKY FROM CLEMMONS, NC: During a punt by the Steelers in the Cincinnati game, Miles Boykin jumped in the air and batted the ball back into play. I have seen other teams do this, but this time it was ruled a touchback. What is the rule?
ANSWER: The reason the play you describe was ruled a touchback was because Miles Boykin already was standing in the end zone before he jumped up and batted the ball back over the goal line. For that play to be allowed, the player touching the ball must leave his feet in the field of play and touch the ball before he lands in the end zone. Once Boykin crossed the goal line and was standing in the end zone, the only way he would've been allowed to bat the ball back into the field of play was if he had re-established himself with both feet on the ground in the field of play before touching the ball.

BILL CLARK FROM KINGS MOUNTAIN, NC: With the expanded roles of Mike Sullivan and Eddie Faulkner, do other coaches step up to handle their previous duties or are they expected to handle it all?
ANSWER: Coach Mike Tomlin said both Mike Sullivan and Eddie Faulkner would continue to work with the players at their respective positions while handling the increased responsibilities created by the dismissal of Matt Canada. That's probably one reason why the job was divided up between those two men.

TERRENCE DESHONE FROM ELKHART, IN: The NFL needs to move the Jaguars into the AFC East with the Patriots, Jets, and Ravens for when they move to London and play their home games in the UK. The AFC South would contain Miami, Houston, Tennessee, and Cincinnati. The AFC North would be Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis. The AFC West would be St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver, and Las Vegas.
ANSWER: This feature is called Asked and Answered, and what you submitted is not a question. It also lists St. Louis as an NFL franchise city, which hasn't been the case since the 2015 season. And one final thing: Your idea disguised as a question has no chance.

GENE BLOOM FROM PORTAGE, PA: Do the players on the practice squad count against the salary cap, and is there a certain amount of players that a team has to have on a practice squad?
ANSWER: All players on the practice squad count on a team's salary cap, and there is no minimum number of players a team must have on its practice squad.

JOE LUBERT FROM DALLAS, NC: All I seem to hear anymore is the griping about Kenny Pickett. Could you shed some light for my son, who has only ever had Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers quarterback, as to the carousel of players we went through at that position after Terry Bradshaw retired? My question is do we stick with Pickett or move on as soon as possible?
ANSWER: With the move made to replace Matt Canada as offensive coordinator, my sense is the Steelers will enter the 2024 season with Kenny Pickett as their starting quarterback. How much longer he holds onto the job beyond that will be determined by his play between now and the end of the 2024 season, which would be his third in the NFL. Here is a list of some of the quarterbacks who started games for the Steelers in between the time Bradshaw retired and Ben Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004, and remember there was a lot of back-and-forth with some of these players, so the list is neither complete nor is it in a strict chronological order: Cliff Stoudt, Mark Malone, David Woodley, Bubby Brister, Todd Blackledge, Neil O'Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart, Kent Graham, Tommy Maddox, and Roethlisberger.