Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 3

Let’s get to it:

ROY PERRIN FROM FUQUAY VARINA, NC: How often do the Steelers practice indoors? What are some of the circumstances that they would do that?
ANSWER: The Steelers will practice in their indoor facility only on those occasions when weather forces them to do so. A little bit of rain or a little bit of snow or seasonally cold temperatures do not constitute conditions in which weather forces them inside. Coach Mike Tomlin believes that since football games have to be played in the elements, practicing in those elements is part of preparing for the game. He also doesn’t like to expose the players’ knees and ankles to artificial turf unless absolutely necessary, but he also understands that there is a point where the grass becomes slippery or frozen to the point of being dangerous. The Steelers have two grass fields in the rear of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and those fields are maintained with the same care and by the same staff that works on the playing surface at Heinz Field.

JOSHUA GERTZOG FROM MYRTLE BEACH, SC: Rookies, even highly touted ones, often are minimal contributors to the Steelers (with exceptions like Devin Bush), but Justin Layne was a third-round pick, and I thought we would seem him contributing on defense. I've seen him some on Special Teams, which is fine, but not much elsewhere, and I know he's been inactive for some games. Is this surprising?
ANSWER: Not surprising to me, but apparently it is to you. This is another one of those submissions where the question is answered within the body of the question. Yours is no different. “Rookies, even highly touted ones, often are minimal contributors …” When the Steelers drafted Justin Layne, they admitted he was a project but that because of his measurables (6-foot-2, 192 pounds, 4.5 in the 40-yard dash) he likely would be picked before his present cornerback skills mandated. Remember, Layne arrived at Michigan State as a wide receiver and only was moved to defense midway through his freshman season. And another factor in this situation is: whose playing time at cornerback is Layne going to take barring injury? Ahead of him on the depth chart are Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Cam Sutton, and Mike Hilton. This is the NFL, and the regular season is not about “seeing what the new guys can do.” Also remember this: as a rookie Troy Polamalu didn’t start a single game. Not one. And he was a No. 1 pick the Steelers traded up to have the opportunity to select.

DAVID WEISS FROM HATTIESBURG, MS: With a 13-point lead and approximately two minutes left, why in the world was James Conner even in the game?
ANSWER: From the point in the fourth quarter when the Steelers extended their lead to 13 points, James Conner had exactly one touch of the football, and it came before the two-minute warning. But by the start of the fourth quarter, which began with the Steelers holding a 17-14 lead, Benny Snell already was out with a knee injury, and the only other running back available was Trey Edmunds, who had little practice time with the first-team offense during the week, which is completely normal for the third-string running back. Take Conner out to protect him, and Edmunds loses a fumble to jump-start a Miami comeback and what kind of submissions to Asked and Answered do you think I’d be getting then?

JOHN ROE FROM CULLOWHEE, NC: Based on the sample size, and his rate of progression, do you feel as though Mason Rudolph is the quarterback of the future? Is he progressing too slow, or is this his ceiling?
ANSWER: Is it even possible in this era of immediate gratification and hot takes and instant analysis to wait until Mason Rudolph plays even 10 games in the NFL before making a blanket assessment that even then is going to be nothing but a guess?

MIKE SKERKAVICH FROM BROOKVILLE, PA: I do not see much communication or mentoring with Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph going on. What are your observations and thoughts?
ANSWER: This is my totally honest and non-smart-aleck response: Ben Roethlisberger’s job is to attack his rehabilitation with gusto. Mason Rudolph’s job is to play quarterback well enough to win games for the Steelers. Randy Fichtner’s job is to coach Rudolph. As Bill Belichick would say, “Just do your job.”

EVAN SMITH FROM DAVIDSON, NC: Considering the injuries to James Conner and Benny Snell. Do you think the Steelers would take a chance on Jay Ajayi? Even coming off a torn ACL, I think he would be a perfect rental for us, plus if he got back to the Pro Bowl caliber player he was, we could have a crazy duo with Conner and Ajayi.
ANSWER: Jay Ajayi, who is 26, went on injured reserve on Oct. 8, 2018 after tearing his ACL, but it’s the second time he has torn an ACL in his knee with the first coming in 2011 when he was at Boise State. I don’t know whether Ajayi could pass the Steelers’ physical based on his previous knee injuries and what many believe is the prognosis for the future.

MARK ADKINS FROM ST. AUGUSTINE, FL: I have not heard one talking head mention Mike Tomlin for Coach of the Year. I believe Tomlin has done one heckuva job guiding our team through this season. Am I wrong or clueless about how good of a job he has done? And shouldn’t he be getting some accolades thrown his way from the talking heads?
ANSWER: I long have said and written that I believe Mike Tomlin is an excellent NFL coach, and if I owned an NFL team I would be eager to hire him to coach mine. That out of the way, I also believe the NFL truly mishandles its Coach of the Year Award, and I now will give credit to Mike Prisuta for his idea, which I believe should be implemented immediately. After the Super Bowl is over, and the coach of the winning team has been handed the Lombardi Trophy, he then should be presented with the Coach of the Year Award. If the idea is to win the championship, which it is, then the coach whose team won the championship has done the best job.

DENNIS RIBBLETT FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA: I read an article on NFL.com about Le’Veon Bell, and he supposedly said one of the teams trying to trade for him was the Steelers. Do you have any information about that?
ANSWER: When the Steelers played at Three Rivers Stadium and had their offices there as well, there were two wooden doors, about 10 feet tall, that led visitors into their lobby. Dan Rooney once said, “Those doors open out. They don’t revolve.” The meaning being that people always are free to leave, but they shouldn’t expect to leave and then come back. Things have changed somewhat in the years since then when it comes to the business of pro football, but I find it extremely, extremely, extremely difficult – just this side of impossible – that the Steelers would have any interest in bringing Le’Veon Bell back in a trade. First of all, they already traded their first-round pick in 2020, and I cannot imagine a realistic scenario in which they would be without No. 1 draft picks in multiple future drafts. In addition, trading for a player means absorbing the terms of his contract, and Bell’s deal calls for $27 million guaranteed over the 2020-21 seasons. And you notice that Bell said his agent told him the Steelers were interested in trading for him, but when it comes to hearing anything directly from the agent or the Jets – crickets.

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