Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 4

Let's get to it:

STEVE BARRIERO FROM DAYTONA BEACH, FL: In Coach Mike Tomlin's news conference this week, he was asked whether the recent success running the football and protecting Ben Roethlisberger may have resulted in a growth of confidence among the young offensive linemen. Tomlin answered, "I'm not looking for confidence. I don't know that I was looking for lack of confidence when we weren't. They're professionals. They're capable. I proceed with the understanding that these guys know that they can play, and we know that they can play. We don't waste a lot of time talking about confidence or lack thereof. At this level, you just better have it." Didn't Chuck Noll have a similar quote about motivation?
ANSWER: He did, and this is how Andy Russell remembered Coach Chuck Noll's view on that issue: "He would tell you, 'My job is to teach you how to play this game correctly. I will never give you a motivational speech. If I have to motivate you, I will fire you.'"

TODD CRUM FROM BAHAMA, NC: A little confused by the trade of Melvin Ingram. Who has played well enough at linebacker to let Ingram go for such a low draft pick? I thought he was signed to be a backup for T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. So, who is getting the snaps when they take a breather, and is it an upgrade to Ingram?
ANSWER: I'll deal with your specific questions first: The decision to trade Melvin Ingram III cannot be justified from a strict football sense, in my opinion. Yes, Ingram was signed to be a backup in-game fill-in for T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, and there wasn't anyone on the roster who was playing so well as a backup outside linebacker to render him a spare part. At his news conference earlier this week, Coach Mike Tomlin indicated the progress shown by Taco Charlton during his time on the practice squad and his performance in limited playing time in Cleveland was a factor in the decision to pull the trigger on the trade. Strictly from a statistical standpoint, Ingram had five tackles, one sack, one pass defensed, and six hits on the quarterback in 246 defensive snaps over six games, and at this point it's impossible to predict that either Charlton or Derrek Tuszka, or some combination of the two, will or won't be able to provide what Ingram had provided during his time on the team. But there were other things at work that made the trade a necessity: Ingram clearly had become a disgruntled employee; he wasn't happy and didn't want to play for the Steelers anymore. He either misunderstood what his role was to be, or he miscalculated how good Highsmith was going to be in his second NFL season. By mid-October, it was clear to everyone that Highsmith was the better player and that increasing Ingram's playing time just to placate him could stunt Highsmith's development. Another issue to consider is that these Steelers are a young team that has been coming together during this three-game winning streak, and having a malcontent in the locker room had the potential to sidetrack some of the good things that were developing. One thing fans must understand is that trade value is determined not by what someone believes a player is worth but instead what a team actually is willing to pay to acquire said player. So, the Steelers got the best they could and sent a 32-year-old backup outside linebacker to Kansas City for a sixth-round pick, a guy who has one sack in his last 13 regular season games. The trade had to happen. The Steelers could not afford another LeGarrette Blount situation to develop.

GREG PARSONS FROM MOUNT LAUREL, NJ: I'm really surprised that all of the questions regarding the fake field goal were about the hit on Chris Boswell. What about the call Coach Mike Tomlin made on the play? In a defensive battle, tie game, and the Steelers getting the second half kickoff, why in the world would Tomlin even call for the fake field goal attempt? That would have put the Steelers up by three in a game where points were hard to come by.
ANSWER: Some of your argument against attempting the fake field goal seem to be made with the benefit of hindsight. Did you really believe before the game began that the final score was going to be in the 15-10 neighborhood, because if you did you were in the minority. And even in a low-scoring game, settling for red zone field goals typically is the recipe for losing. Coach Mike Tomlin is, and always has been, aggressive in these kinds of situations – ask John Harbaugh about the waning moments of the 2010 AFC Divisional Round Game at Heinz Field, or Rex Ryan about the waning moments the following week in the 2010 AFC Championship Game. But let me also explain that while Tomlin coaching aggressively, coaching to win instead of trying not to lose, is admirable in my opinion, having a placekicker attempt a pass isn't the way I would go. I have no issue with Tomlin's decision to be aggressive in that situation, and if I had a criticism, it would be to be aggressive without trying trickery. Let your best people do what they do best.

BILL HAMMOND FROM VERONA, PA: I read the submission in a previous Asked and Answered about placekickers being unable to take a hit. Sometimes they have to make a tackle to negate a long return. Didn't Roy Gerela make a tackle in Super Bowl X that affected his play the rest of the game?
ANSWER: Yes. It happened on the opening kickoff, when Hollywood Henderson took a handoff from Drew Pearson on a reverse and raced 53 yards before Roy Gerela knocked him out of bounds, which injured his ribs. Gerela went on to miss field goals of 36 and 37 yards, plus one of two PATs in the game. The fact Gerela was put in a position to have to make that tackle was an indictment of the kickoff coverage unit and the special teams coach at that time, who happened to be Chuck Noll.

PAT GARVEY FROM MOSCOW, ID: How is Zach Banner progressing in practices?
ANSWER: During his Tuesday news conference, Coach Mike Tomlin was asked what Zach Banner needs to do to get back onto the field on game days. He answered, "He needs to keep doing what he's doing. He's healthy. He's been given clearance from a health standpoint. He needs to knock the dust or the rust off and prove that he's a viable guy who can help us win a game, and that's done with repetitions in practice and in competitive circumstances. We'll keep doing that, and we'll see where the roads lead us this week."

BRAYDEN SPEARS FROM MODESTO, CA: I think I speak for everyone when I say we fans have noticed a massive improvement in the offensive line play over the last few weeks. Was there a change in coaching that may have caused this, or are the guys just building chemistry and gaining confidence because of that?
ANSWER: It's not necessarily change that spurs improvement. Most often it's staying the course and continuing to rep the same things the same ways that creates the muscle memory to allows guys to play fast and execute at a high level.

JON ORIE FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: What are Greg Lloyd's stats during his career with the Steelers?
ANSWER: In 10 seasons with the Steelers, Greg Lloyd played in 131 regular season games, including 125 starts, and he totaled 727 tackles, 53.5 sacks, 11 interceptions, 34 forced fumbled, and 16 fumble recoveries. He was voted to five Pro Bowls and was voted first-team All-Pro three times.

DAREN FIKE FROM COLORADO SPRINGS, CO: Prior to the start of offensive plays, I have noticed that frequently the wide receivers turn toward the official on the sideline and appear to be motioning toward them asking them something. Are they in fact doing that? Are they asking if they are lined up onsides? If so, doesn't it seem strange that an official would be allowed to give that type of feedback?
ANSWER: The idea is for officials to call fewer penalties, and not have it be such a "gotcha" situation during games, and so it's not uncommon for the good officials to give a player a warning before throwing a flag. What you are referencing happens often, and it involves a wide receiver checking with the onside official to make sure he's lined up properly, either on the line of scrimmage or off the line of scrimmage, based on the particular formation.

GEORGE MEDVIS FROM ERIE, PA: Why doesn't the NFL give up on the replay system? It doesn't seem to have a meaningful impact on the outcome of games except to slow them down and affect momentum. If we had replay in 1972, we'd still be waiting on the results of the Immaculate Reception.
ANSWER: I have relayed this story several times, and I'll do it again here because it seems pertinent. On the day when instant replay first was adopted as an officiating tool in the NFL, Chuck Noll, an opponent of instant replay from the beginning, was asked about it by a group of reporters. "But adding replay will get the officials' calls correct," said one sportswriter. And Noll responded, "But what if it doesn't?" That said, the league never will, in my opinion, abandon instant replay, but I would be in favor of that happening.

TOM ONIONS FROM LITTLE RIVER, SC: Penn State has an exceptional player who handles all kicking duties – kickoffs, field goals, extra points and punting and does so very well. At first blush this seems like a good idea for an NFL team because it would free up an extra spot on the roster. However, after seeing Chris Boswell knocked out of the game, you can certainly see the downside. Does any NFL team have one kicker who handles all of the duties, and have the Steelers ever had just one kicker who did it all?
ANSWER: No NFL team in 2021 has one player who is both the full-time punter and placekicker. As for the Steelers, they never have had one individual handle both of those duties, at least not in the modern era. I can't speak for the 1930s, 1940s, or 1950s.

DEREK DOLITSKY FROM ST. LOUIS, MO: I was the idiot who thought Ola Adeniyi should get a shot at outside linebacker because he has more "moves" than Bud Dupree. Moving past that, how do you assess Alex Highsmith's performance across from T.J. Watt as compared with Bud Dupree's so far?
ANSWER: Bud Dupree may have needed some time to adapt to the position the way the Steelers want it to be played, but by the end of his time in Pittsburgh, he was very good. Very good. Maybe Alex Highsmith has adapted quicker since coming into the NFL but looking at the total body of work as a professional, Dupree is a better player. Highsmith still has time, though.

CANDY GRIFFITH FROM MYRTLE BEACH, SC: I just wanted to say that Asked and Answered is wonderful, refreshing, educational, and entertaining. Thank you so much.
ANSWER: Thank you for being a fan of Asked and Answered. I assure you that not everyone is.