Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 8

Let's get to it:

TIM KING FROM WILLOW GROVE, PA:
Did Artie Burns have any pick-sixes in college?

ANSWER: No. Of his seven interceptions at Miami, Artie Burns returned them a total of 37 yards.

BRIAN FIORE FROM MARINETTE, WI:
I don't know if it's time to panic yet. I guess your answer will determine that for me. Has there ever been a Steelers team with a .500 or worse win percentage at the halfway point of a season that went on to make the playoffs?

ANSWER: The Steelers were 4-4 last season, made the playoffs as a Wild Card, defeated the Bengals in that round and then went to Denver and lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions in the Divisional Round.

JOHN ROSSELLI FROM SHAMOKIN, PA:
During the game broadcast on Sunday, it was said that in the last 16 games the Steelers have played against teams with below .500 records, they are 5-11 (.454). Is it possible that this trend extends through the players and touches the systemic and organizational makeup? Could Coach Mike Tomlin and his staff, as well as Kevin Colbert and the entirety of the Football Operations department, lend to the lack of focus, execution, and planning in these types of games? I understand that injuries are a part of it, but the amount of penalties and lack of creative/effective game planning seems to be the major factor in this paltry record.

ANSWER: Let's start with this: I understand the statistic is what it is, but I also believe there are degrees involved before it can be put in the correct context. Here are two examples: the Ravens brought a 3-4 record into Sunday's game and while that is the mathematical definition of a sub-.500 record, the Ravens are not some slappy outfit that doesn't know how to win, and therefore it's not the same as losing to, say, a 1-11 Cleveland team, which is what the Steelers did in 2009, for instance. The other example of how that statistic can maybe create a false impression is last season's game in Kansas City against the Chiefs. The Steelers went there without Ben Roethlisberger, with Landry Jones making his first NFL start in a notoriously difficult place for a visiting team to play, to face a 1-5 Chiefs team. Kansas City defeated the Steelers, then went on to win nine more in a row to finish 11-5, make the playoffs, and go to Houston where the Chiefs smoked the Texans, 30-0, in the Wild Card Round before losing in New England, 27-20, in the Divisional Round. Now, that Chiefs team is used as an example of the Steelers being unprepared to face a team with a sub-.500 record, and while the arithmetic supports that, it's not completely accurate to cast that Kansas City team in the same light as the 1-8 New York Jets team that the Steelers lost to by a 20-13 score in 2014.

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Take a look at the best photos from the Week 9 matchup against the Ravens. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 21-14.

So there are two different categories. With my position on that explained, I can tell you there is no difference in the amount of time spent preparing for teams with losing records vs. the preparation process for a game against the Patriots, for example. In a session with Coach Mike Tomlin a couple of days before the Oct. 9 game against the Jets, I asked him if the ability to handle success can be more difficult for a team to develop than the ability to respond to adversity. Tomlin's answer: "It is, because you don't get to sit in these rooms that encompass the 32 cities that make up the National Football League if you're not capable of overcoming adversity. All of these guys, globally speaking, in the NFL have overcome major injury, have overcome disappointment and setbacks associated with chasing their dreams. That's why they're here. Their ability to handle the success of being here ultimately defines the journey that is their professional football career."**

I followed up with: What's required to handle success in the proper way? Tomlin answered, "You have to be somewhat even-keeled. You can't be surprised by great fortune. You can't be surprised by quality play. You prepare, you anticipate it, you deliver it, and you repeat the process. That mentality is something that's critical to finding an acceptable consistency in terms of level of play."

All of this should not be taken to mean I perceive the coaching staff to be blameless in all of this. That's far from the case. To be sure, there have been games when the plan has been exposed as lacking, where the play-calling has been faulty, where substitution patterns have deserved to be called into question. But I don't perceive those things to be what you're talking about, and so while I'm not going to eliminate the possibility that there is some level of letdown, some difficulty in handling success, I believe that would come more from players than coaches. Acting in such a manner is more indicative of professional immaturity, which most likely would be a personality trait of twentysomething athletes than fortysomething coaches. In my opinion. But as Chuck Noll always said, "When you lose, everything they say about you is true." So have at it. Blame away. But this is how I perceive it.

STACEY SCHLESSINGER FROM ATLANTA, GA:
Why didn't the Ravens get penalized for roughing the kicker on the blocked punt?

ANSWER: Because that's not roughing the kicker. If the kick actually gets blocked, or deflected, or tipped, physical contact with the kicker is not roughing.

VICTOR GOLEBIOWSKI FROM SOUTH WINDSOR, CT:
My question is regarding helmets. I know the quarterback can hear a coach talking to him through a device in his helmet, but can he have a two-way conversation as well? And, is this speaker "on" at all times throughout the game?

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ANSWER: Both the quarterback and one player on defense – usually a linebacker – are equipped with helmets containing a device that allows a coach to communicate with them. It's never a two-way conversation. The only times the microphones are "on" is from the end of a play until there are 15 seconds left on the play clock. With 15 seconds left on the play clock, all of that is turned off, which means all communication to the quarterback and a designated defensive player is cut off. If the offense is in the hurry-up and the ball is snapped before the play clock gets down to 15 seconds, the devices are turned off at the snap of the ball.**

DUSTIN ENOS FROM SARASOTA, FL:
When do the Steelers play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers again and will it be in Tampa?

ANSWER: The Steelers will next play the teams from the NFC South in 2018, and since the game against the Buccaneers in 2014 was in Pittsburgh, the one in 2018 will be in Tampa. Or maybe London or Mexico.

MADS JENSEN FROM AARHUS, DENMARK:
How many tie games have the Steelers been involved in?

ANSWER: The Steelers have been involved in 21 tie games over the course of their 83-plus seasons in the NFL. They have more all-time ties with the Washington Redskins (four) than with any other team. Their most recent tie came on Nov. 10, 2002 in a 34-34 overtime final against the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field. And 1963 was the season in which the Steelers had the most ties, because they finished at 7-4-3.

CHRIS BEZONI FROM INDIANAPOLIS, IN:
I know William Gay had one sack and then a strip on Sunday. Does the strip count as a sack in the stats, and if so, does that put him tied with Greg Lloyd as the Steelers all-time sack leader?

ANSWER: In the NFL, stripping the ball from a quarterback who is in the pocket attempting to pass is credited as a sack and a forced fumble. That means James Harrison had two sacks against the Ravens to give him 76.5 during his Steelers' career. Jason Gilson is the all-time franchise leader in sacks with 77. Greg Lloyd is eighth in franchise history with 53.5.

BRADEN HAUGHT FROM TORONTO, OH:
Why wasn't Landry Jones put into the game against the Ravens? Big Ben was not big in any way, and he seemed completely lost.

ANSWER: I believe this is a historic moment here for us at Asked and Answered. But I just want to make sure I'm not mis-reading the coverage. Are you actually suggesting that Ben Roethlisberger should've been pulled for poor performance and replaced by Landry Jones? Two weeks ago, fans were coming for Landry Jones in the dead of night carrying torches and pitchforks. Unless Roethlisberger would have become physically incapable of continuing, I'm not pulling him for Landry Jones. I'm just not.


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