Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 3

Let's get to it:

CHRISTIAN MARGRIS FROM OLIVET, FRANCE: I have been reading some bad stuff (again) about the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, that despite his good first season with the Steelers he hasn't been able to prove he was worth the first-round pick it cost to bring him to Pittsburgh. I was one of the doubters last year, and he proved me wrong. While not being as decisive as last season his defensive play (in my opinion) has been consistent and efficient. How do you rate him this season as a defensive player? Has he been good enough to merit a first-round pick in a trade?
ANSWER: I make that trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick any day of the week. Last year, he was a first-team All-Pro, and there are numerous first-round picks who never are voted first-team All Pro. So far this season, against the Browns his interception return for a touchdown on the first third-down situation of the game set the tone for what ended up being a 38-7 blowout. Against the Ravens, he forced a Lamar Jackson fumble that Robert Spillane recovered on a fourth-and-3 from the Steelers 8-yard line with two minutes left in the fourth quarter when the Steelers were protecting a 28-24 lead. And then on the last play of the game against the Ravens, Fitzpatrick broke up the pass in the end zone for Willie Snead that could have won the game for the Ravens. In his first 19 games with the Steelers, Fitzpatrick has three defensive touchdowns. To put that into perspective, in 158 games over 12 seasons, Troy Polamalu had five defensive touchdowns; in 201 games over 14 seasons, Donnie Shell had four defensive touchdowns; and both of them have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Fitzpatrick has missed some tackles and allowed some completions this season, but there isn't a safety in the league who hasn't done that. Wherever you're getting the information that Fitzpatrick wasn't worth what the Steelers spent to acquire him in a trade, stop reading that garbage. The Steelers are in no way disappointed in Fitzpatrick.

MICHAEL TORSIELLO FROM SUMMIT, NJ: On the final play of the win over the Ravens, some have suggested pass interference should have been called on Minkah Fitzpatrick. But if you watch the tape, it appears he is playing the ball. Don't defensive players have as much of a right as offensive players, on a pass play, to make a play on the ball, per the rules?
ANSWER: I will simply provide a tweet from Gene Steratore, a former NFL referee who since 2018 has served as a rules analyst for CBS Sports, including the NFL on CBS, and the SEC on CBS. "Regarding the end of #PITvsBAL," tweeted Steratore on Sunday night, "Minkah Fitzpatrick is making a play on the ball so the contact to the receiver is not a foul. Any incidental contact by an opponent's hands, arms, or body when both players are competing for the ball isn't a penalty."

VINNY LOBONO FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: As the Ravens game ended, Coach John Harbaugh was seen pointing a finger to his head. CBS play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz was baffled and asked color commentator Tony Romo what that was all about. Romo responded, "I honestly think he was talking about a situation that I will not bring up." Keeping in mind that Harbaugh has a history of suggesting he's getting cheated (ironically it's only when he loses) do you know what it might have been?
ANSWER: It was about the situation described in the question above, one that was answered by former NFL referee Gene Steratore.

DAVE STEVICK FROM TRAFFORD, PA: Does Cam Heyward have a serious injury?
ANSWER: Coach Mike Tomlin will have his regular weekly news conference today, and he always provides an injury update during that session. We'll have Tomlin's injury update on tomorrow afternoon.

ROBERT CARR FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA: What is Coach Mike Tomlin's postseason record against the Ravens?
ANSWER: The Steelers and Ravens have met in the playoffs three times during the Mike Tomlin era, and the Steelers are 2-1 in those games. The Steelers defeated them in the 2008 AFC Championship Game, and in the 2010 AFC Divisional Round. Baltimore beat Pittsburgh in the 2014 Wild Card Round.

DANTE CAMPBELL FROM NEW KENSINGTON, PA: Why were you so quick to say it was a bad idea to trade for Avery Williamson, and less than a week later we trade for him? I love your attitude when fielding stupid questions, but why be like that if you truly don't know until it happens?
ANSWER: When people ask me questions that begin with "What are the chances …" they're asking for me to guess what will happen in the future. Phrase a question like that, and what you're going to get is a guess/opinion, which is what I provided to the Avery Williamson questions. My perception of those were that fans were thinking he was going to be a one-for-one replacement for Devin Bush, and that is not his skill-set and never has been. Williamson is not that kind of player in coverage, and I also never believed the Jets would give him away for the swap of third-day draft picks, because fans always believe teams will trade good players to the Steelers for peanuts and the Steelers can trade their bottom-of-the-depth-chart guys for second-day draft picks. That's why I was against the suggestion, but seeing how this is unfolding as the Steelers adding depth to the position rather than believing Williamson is capable of being an every-situations inside linebacker, and that the Jets are unloading him for almost nothing, and he doesn't carry a huge salary cap number for the rest of this season, I have been convinced. But I guarantee you that was not the tone of the questions I was being asked about him.

GERARDO VIERA FROM McKINNEY, TX: With the Steelers reportedly trading for Avery Williamson, and since he is on a contract that expires in March 2021, if he were to leave as an unrestricted free agent would the Steelers receive a compensatory pick for him?
ANSWER: First, the trade is this: the Jets send Avery Williamson and their seventh-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to the Steelers for their fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Essentially, the Steelers figure they're sending the Jets a late pick in the fifth round in exchange for the player and an early pick in the seventh round. Yes, Williams would be factored into the formula for compensatory picks if he leaves as an unrestricted free agent, but since that formula is based on the size of the contract the player signs, I would doubt it would make much of a ripple on the formula.

GIL TROUTMAN FROM EDINBORO, PA: Why trade for Avery Williamson? Robert Spillane has been outstanding and certainly delivers crushing tackles. What am I missing here?
ANSWER: Robert Spillane is young and inexperienced, and I believe the Steelers perceive themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, and after going 7-0 with successive wins over Cleveland, Tennessee, and Baltimore, I believe that's not at all far-fetched. Adding Avery Williamson is a hedge against the inexperience of Spillane and Ulysees Gilbert and provides more depth at inside linebacker. Because what if something happens to Spillane? Would you feel confident in throwing Gilbert into the lineup on a fulltime basis? And don't forget that Gilbert has been bothered by a back injury last year and this year. Williamson isn't a Pro Bowl caliber player, but he is a proven NFL inside linebacker.

DAVID ROONEY FROM ANKENY, IA: Based on how many questions you seem to get on poor halftime adjustments, what are your thoughts on the Steelers' halftime adjustments against the Ravens?
ANSWER: The difference between winning and losing. Simple as that.

RICHARD GALLEY FROM VICENZA, ITALY: What I don't understand (sorry I don't know many rules) is why were the Steelers docked a timeout due to Cam Heyward being injured? He for sure didn't fake his injury. Would like to understand the reasoning behind this rule.
ANSWER: The rule is that during the final two minutes of either the first half or the second half, an injury timeout is deducted from the team for whom that player plays. It's to prevent players from faking injuries to stop the clock.

PAT HUTCHISON FROM VERO BEACH, FL: On the Ravens first touchdown drive, the possession was extended due to a unnecessary roughness penalty on Cam Heyward. But when Heyward hit Lamar Jackson, he was still inbounds. Is this a rule I'm not aware of involving the quarterback, or just another instance of inconsistent officiating?
ANSWER: I believe a case could be made that Lamar Jackson was still inbounds and a penalty should not have been called on Cam Heyward in that situation, but I also believe that it's a call the officials are going to make over 90 percent of the time. Especially in a game like that and against a quarterback who is the reigning league MVP.

DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: When Bud Dupree knocked the ball out of Lamar Jackson's hand when Jackson was winding up to pass near the Steelers goal line, is that considered a strip-sack or just a fumble?
ANSWER: It's a strip-sack. Here is the way the play was designated on the NFL's Official Play-By-Play of the game: "L.Jackson sacked at PIT 13 for -5 yards (B.Dupree). FUMBLES (B.Dupree), touched at PIT 9, RECOVERED by PIT-V.Williams at PIT 4."