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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 10

Let's get to it:

Does the majority of the blame for the subpar offensive performances this season lie with the offensive line? It seems holes cannot be opened for the rushing game, Ben Roethlisberger is taking a lot of hits and has his throws rushed a lot more, and any time they finally do get that big play, it's brought back because of holding.

ANSWER: I believe an argument can be made that the real "culprit" for the team's offensive woes so far this season could be any number of things, because I don't believe any aspect of the whole operation is totally blameless. Certainly, solid play up front is critical to any kind of sustained offensive success, and the line hasn't played to the pedigree of the individuals who man it.

Ben Roethlisberger continues to be off on Wednesdays. With the way he is playing, why would he continue to take the day off and why does Mike Tomlin continue to give him the day off? The offense needs serious work.

ANSWER: The idea behind Wednesdays off for Ben Roethlisberger is to preserve his arm strength. I understand your point, but Roethlisberger participated in the entire offseason program, training camp, and the preseason, and the offense being out of sync right now isn't necessarily going to be fixed by practicing on Wednesdays. Roethlisberger takes all of the first-team reps on Thursdays and Fridays, and I want Roethlisberger to preserve his arm strength, because that's the most dynamic weapon in his personal arsenal.

The Kansas City offense ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards per game, and we have been struggling against the run game. What can our Steelers defense do to stop the run?

ANSWER: It's really not that complicated. Be in the proper gaps and then don't miss the tackles when you have the opportunity to get the runner on the ground. It's really just basic fundamentals, and then proper tackling technique.

Do you still think Ben Roethlisberger's replacement is in high school? I am starting to live in my fears after Sunday's performance.

ANSWER: I say let's wait and see how the rest of this season plays out. What's important now is that the Steelers personnel department do their due diligence on the college quarterbacks who figure to be available in the class of 2018, and they have been doing that for the last couple of years.

When an assignment is blown or a big play is given up, do the coaches or other players say something to the player that let the big play happen or blown coverage on either offense or defense?

ANSWER: Yes, but that's something that happens on Monday when the team gets together and watches the video of the game.

Is it possible teams have figured out defending Le'Veon Bell's style, and if that is possible, why are the Steelers not utilizing their change of pace backs (James Conner and Terrell Watson) more early in games? Predictability is the biggest problem here.

ANSWER: You're really overthinking things. If the offensive linemen, and even more so the tight ends, were finishing their blocks, Le'Veon Bell's style would be just as effective as it has been. As for James Conner playing more, the first interception against the Jaguars can be traced to his inability to handle his responsibility in picking up a blitz, and all due respect to Terrell Watson, you don't pull an All-Pro caliber running back for a guy who barely made the 53-man roster. Predictability, in fact, has little to do with the issues the Steelers running game is having. Remember that game against the Bengals in Cincinnati a couple of years ago when the Steelers ran that counter play about a dozen times in the second half and Bell carried 26 times for 185 yards and two touchdowns? Everybody in the stadium knew Bell was going to get the ball, and that he was going to run that counter and it still worked every time.

Are the 14 points that were scored by Jacksonville directly off the interceptions returned for touchdowns count towards the Steelers defense ( points against) since the defense was not on the field?

ANSWER: The NFL statistics rank teams only by points allowed per game, which is a team statistic. So yes, those 14 points count against the total of points allowed by the Steelers. Statistics also list touchdowns scored in three categories – rushing, passing, and returns. This would be the way in which the defense would be off the hook for those two interceptions returned for touchdowns – because they were touchdowns scored on returns, which would make them the responsibility of either special teams or the offense.

In the Jacksonville game after Ben Roethlisberger had thrown five interceptions, why did they not put Landry Jones in? I suspect the way that Roethlisberger is playing, that this will definitely be his last year. Who will be next year's starting quarterback?

ANSWER: I selected this one simply because I never thought I would live long enough to have someone suggest the Steelers pull Ben Roethlisberger and replace him with Landry Jones. Next year's starting quarterback? In keeping with the insight of your question, I'm gonna go with either RGIII or Johnny Football.

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