Let’s get to it:
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Steelers will wear their white jerseys for today’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
JACK HAMMERS FROM ASHTABULA, OH: Why doesn’t Chuks Okorafor start when an offensive tackle is hurt instead of B.J Finney, who is a guard/center playing tackle? Has Chuks looked that bad so far?
ANSWER: Not paying very close attention, eh? In the games this season (at Tampa Bay, vs. Cleveland) that right tackle Marcus Gilbert has missed with injury, Matt Feiler, not B.J. Finney, has started in Gilbert’s place. Finney is the primary interior offensive line backup, which means when Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, or David DeCastro can’t play, then he is the first one off the bench to fill in at those positions. Chuks Okorafor is learning and developing, and he is utilized as an extra blocking tight end regularly in games. He already has shown himself to be quite adept in that role, and so there is nothing disappointing in where he is during this early stage of his NFL career. And by the way, Feiler has played very well, as Coach Mike Tomlin explained at a recent news conference: “Marcus Gilbert missed the last game with a knee. He’ll be given an opportunity to participate this week and see what that participation looks like in terms of his availability. I also will mention Matt [Feiler] who filled in place of him did more than a serviceable job, but we’ve come to expect that from Matt as well as the others. We don’t have backups, we have starters, and starters waiting. The standard is the standard of expectation, so guys like Matt, B.J. [Finney] and others, and there have been many already this year make that phrase reality with their above-the-line performances, and we are appreciative of that.”
NATHAN ZOOK FROM WYTHEVILLE, VA: Is Ben Roethlisberger playing against the Ravens on Sunday?
ANSWER: Yes. Ben Roethlisberger will start at quarterback.
RONN RAY FROM KINGSTON, PA: I understand what the incentive pay is, but is it like a scale for guys who over-performed, or can the front office give James Conner an extra piece of the pie? Or would his performance incentive already be calculated from a scale rate?
ANSWER: Under the system of performance based pay, the NFL instituted a system where players can receive extra money without that payment counting against the team’s salary cap. What you describe would count against the salary cap.
ABE SILVA FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Referring to your response regarding Mike Mularkey being the offensive coordinator when Antwaan Randle El was throwing to Hines Ward: it was Ken Whisenhunt.
ANSWER: Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Mike Mularkey was the Steelers offensive coordinator through the 2003 season. Antwaan Randle El was drafted in 2002, and in the 2002-03 seasons, he completed 10-of-12 passes. Hines Ward was drafted in 1998, which means Ward and Randle El were players together for two seasons with Mularkey as the coordinator. Your apology is accepted.
THAD SPREG FROM MAKAKILO, HI: Who gets credited for scoring the points on a safety?
ANSWER: It depends on the situation. If it’s a case where a player makes the tackle in the end zone on the guy with the ball, then the tackler gets credit for the two points. If it’s a case like the one in the game against the Browns, where a holding penalty in the end zone is the cause for the safety, then it’s credited as a team safety and no specific individual is credited with the two points.
JIM MONTGOMERY FROM KERNERSVILLE, NC: Are the Steelers still looking to upgrade at cornerback, or are they going to continue to try and work Artie Burns into the lineup?
ANSWER: The trading deadline was at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30. The only mechanism now for NFL teams to add players is if said players are released by their present teams. Starting-caliber NFL cornerbacks don’t come available at this time of a season via the waiver wire.
DEAN HAZEL FROM HIRAM, OH: I've heard talk from some that the Steelers could use Le’Veon Bell as a wide receiver instead of a running back when and if he comes back. This move would utilize his receiving skills while keeping his overall touches lower. Thoughts on this idea and if the Steelers could experiment with it?
ANSWER: I realize that the notion of Le’Veon Bell being capable of lining up as a receiver in the NFL is a popular one, but in truth it’s more fantasy than reality. Bell is a difference-maker in the passing game because he’s a running back, but if he had to line up as a wide receiver, he wouldn’t be nearly as successful. Bell doesn’t have the speed or the short-area quickness to succeed as a pure wide receiver. Bell as a running back is covered by linebackers or safeties when he’s involved in the passing game, but if he was a wide receiver he would be covered by the opponent’s top cornerbacks, and he’s not good enough as a receiver to win those kinds of matchups on a consistent basis. The notion of Bell being capable of lining up as a receiver and having the same kind of receiving success that he has had as a running back is delusional.
VICKI RIZZO FROM ST. CHARLES, MO: What is up with Landry Jones? I always agreed with your assessment of him, even though other fans were calling for his head. But he must not be NFL starting caliber if a team like Buffalo goes out and signs Derek Anderson off the street, when a younger, more viable option in Landry Jones was readily available.
ANSWER: Within the last week, Landry Jones signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and based on the way Blake Bortles has been playing, Jones could be starting against the Steelers on Nov. 18. Also, I would caution you from drawing conclusions about a player based on the actions of a particular team, particularly when that team has seen fit to start Nate Peterman at quarterback more than once.
LYNN CARTER FROM CEDAR PARK, TX: How much influence does a negative prior experience with an agent factor into new player signings and trades? Does it affect our willingness to pursue available players due to agent/general manager soured relations?
ANSWER: It doesn’t serve either side of a negotiation to allow past issues to impact future business dealings. The Steelers have been known over the years as a tough negotiating team that has some rules it considers unbreakable, and Drew Rosenhaus has developed a reputation as an agent willing to go to extremes for his clients. But the Steelers and Rosenhaus long have had a good working relationship, likely because each side deals with the other fairly.