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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 10

Let's get to it:

CHARLES LUCCI FROM PALO ALTO, CA: Is there a status update regarding Stephon Tuitt's condition and potential timeline to return from IR?
ANSWER: There is not. Because Stephon Tuitt is on the injured reserve list, the NFL does not require the team to report injuries or the status of those players. Late in the week, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a photo of Tuitt working out on his own at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. In the photo, it appeared he was running, he looked slimmer than he did during training camp, and he was wearing a brace on his knee. That's all I can tell you.

GREGORY CRUM FROM SCOTTSDALE, AZ: If Stephon Tuitt remains on injured reserve for the balance of the season, can the Steelers keep the details of his injury a secret forever? If it were Ben Roethlisberger in this exact same scenario, do you think the fans and press would be OK with the team not disclosing exactly what his injury is, what his progress to recovery is, when he may return, and how it was sustained in the first place?
ANSWER: I sincerely doubt the details of Stephon Tuitt's injury will remain a secret forever, but there are no NFL rules mandating teams to report/explain the injuries and prognosis of players on the injured reserve list. And there's also this, when it comes to "what his progress to recovery is, when he may return:" a lot of the time the information released/leaked is inaccurate. If the NFL believed that information was essential, the league would deal with it with a rule change. And no disrespect meant to the fans, but whether they "would be OK with the team not disclosing exactly what his injury is, what his progress to recovery is, when he may return, and how it was sustained in the first place" has no significance at all.

NICK CORDOBA JR. FROM MODESTO, CA: You said our last top 10 pick was in the 2000 NFL Draft. Even though we moved up from No. 24 to the No. 10 spot overall in the 2019 draft to get Devin Bush, wouldn't that still be considered a top 10 pick?
ANSWER: Not for the purposes of that answer, but only because the original question by Eric Micelli ruled out situations in which there had been trades.

DJ KLAKAMP FROM ERIE, PA: During a pass play, when can the non-targeted receivers become blockers? Is it when the ball leaves the quarterback's hand, when the ball is in the air, or when the receiver catches the ball?
ANSWER: Here is Coach Mike Tomlin's explanation of the rule as it's officiated in the NFL, and as you will see it's not simple and clear-cut: "They get what we determine to be a healthy yard, meaning if somebody is engaged in bump-and-run coverage and they're within a yard of the line of scrimmage, they can be engaged while the ball is in the air. And if they're drive blocking them, they're given some latitude in terms of that. It has to be timed up for defenders that are off the ball and in space. And so those passes that go behind the line of scrimmage, you have to skip off the line of scrimmage, you have to do something from a timing standpoint, that ensures that you're legal. Oftentimes a good lateral step or a skip-step will draw defenders to within a yard of the line of scrimmage and then you can engage them. And so, there's some subtle aspects of it. Our game is policed much more so than the college game, and so the guys come to the NFL with loose mechanics in that regard, which means there's some understanding that needs to be developed from a professional game standpoint."

ROD KEEFER FROM EDMOND, OK: Your article on first-round quarterbacks concluded that the list was more scary than exciting. Yet that list included 23 current starters, 13 of whom were drafted in the last four years (with seven of them leading teams that have at least three wins at the moment). I agree it's no guarantee, but help me understand: Where exactly would you pick a quarterback then? Is your logic that a sixth-rounder is a better bet based on one guy who has more rings than all other starters combined?
ANSWER: Did you read the whole story? All the way to the end? Because your "interpretation" of what I wrote suggests you did not. Here are the final two sentences: "There's the list (of quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 1998), and after giving it a good going-over, if I was an NFL owner or general manager, the idea of using a first-round pick on a quarterback would scare me more than excite me. It's kind of like defusing a bomb: It has to be done, and it's critically important work, but all things considered I'd rather have someone else have to do it." How does "It has to be done, and it's critically important work" suggest to you that I'm not in favor of drafting a quarterback until the sixth round? All I'm saying is WHEN you draft a quarterback in the first round, don't miss, because missing with a high first-round pick on a quarterback does more damage to the franchise than missing with a high first-round pick on any other position.

BRADLEY DYLL FROM HERMITAGE, PA: I was reading an article that Derrick Henry has a chance of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards, but this is a 17-game season and Dickerson set his record in a 16-game season. Who holds the rushing records in the shorter seasons back in the day?
ANSWER: In 1973, O.J. Simpson rushed for 2,003 yards, which is the single-season record for a 14-game regular season. As for farther "back in the day," from 1920-34, the NFL did not have a set number of games for teams to play, instead setting a minimum of games each team had to play. The league mandated a 12-game season in 1935, but that was shortened to 11 games in 1937 and 10 games in 1943 because of World War II. During the post-war era, it went back to 11 games in 1946, and then 12 games in 1947, and then from 1961-78, and NFL season lasted 14 games. If you want to know who held the single season rushing records for all those different eras, have at it. Let me know what you find out. One final point: If Eric Dickerson's record of 2,105 rushing yards in broken, 17 games or not, that will be considered by the NFL to be the record. Major League Baseball does asterisks in its record book. The NFL does not.

JASON SAGER FROM GALLOWAY, OH: Do you think we should put in Derek Watt to help protect Ben Roethlisberger more? Also, is Anthony McFarland Jr. injured? I have not seen him play at all this year.
ANSWER: I am in favor of doing whatever is necessary to protect Ben Roethlisberger from taking the kind of hits and the amount of hits he has taken through the first four weeks of this season. As for Anthony McFarland Jr., he was on the initial 53-man roster and then was placed on the injured reserve list, which meant he had to miss the first three games of the regular season. That time has expired, and McFarland was brought back to practice last week, which started the 21-day clock in which he is eligible to practice. At any time before the end of those 21 days, McFarland may be brought up to the active roster.

VINCE LaMARCA FROM OVIEDO, FL: Am I crazy for thinking the NFL will someday have games on every night of the week?
ANSWER: If I had to come down on one side or the other on that issue, I would say no, because I don't think the NFL would have any interest in competing with high school football on Fridays or college football on Saturdays. There are currently a couple of Saturdays when the NFL has regular season games, but those don't come up until the end of the college "regular season."

MARTIN FLAJNIK FROM ELLICOTT CITY, MD: Let's say we draft Arch Manning with our last choice in 2022. Would we retain rights to him when he decides for the NFL?
ANSWER: That cannot happen. Teams cannot use a pick on a player until the player is eligible for that particular NFL Draft. And then once a player is eligible for an NFL Draft and makes himself eligible for it, any of the 32 teams could use whatever pick it chose on Arch Manning.

CALVIN CROOK FROM FT, LAUDERDALE, FL: How come there are no more straight-on field goal kickers in the NFL or college anymore?
ANSWER: It's actually very simple, and there are two reasons: Distance and accuracy.

JACKSON MANUEL FROM GONZALES, LA: Are the Steelers serious about trading or making a move to get Aaron Rodgers?
ANSWER: No. And I really don't believe they ever even considered it.

TED VON BADINSKI FROM WAXHAW, NC: Our offense is struggling, both running the ball or throwing it. And the common denominator is the offensive line. Since Mike Munchak left, it has been in decline. Can this decline be attributed to coaching, personnel, aging players or all of the above? More importantly, what is the solution?
ANSWER: All of the above. Better, younger players.

BOB MEREDITH FROM HONEY BROOK, PA: As a Steelers fan of more than 60 years, I seem to remember a Steelers team in the 1970s starting 1-4, then going to the playoffs. Since I am not capable of doing the research, I'd like to ask for your help in determining if that is correct. If I am correct, that should shut down the current group of naysayers.
ANSWER: The 1976 Steelers, coming off back-to-back Super Bowl championships, opened the regular season at 1-4 and then won nine straight games to win the AFC Central Division and get into the playoffs. That team advanced to the AFC Championship Game where it was forced to play without the injured Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier and was defeated by Oakland. A few additional facts about the 1976 Steelers: both Harris (1,128 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Bleier (1,036 yards, five touchdowns) finished with 1,000 yards rushing that season: and the Steelers defense, which included eight guys who were voted to that Pro Bowl, two guys who were voted first-team All-Pro that year, and four future Hall of Famers, finished the season with 46 takeaways, 41 sacks, and allowed 28 points total during the nine-game winning streak.

JIM McCOSKEY FROM VENICE, FL: Do officials who make bad calls or miss calls suffer any repercussions after the game?
ANSWER: Their juice boxes are removed from their locker room, and they have to cut their own orange slices at halftime of their next assignment. The NFL is notoriously closed-mouthed about sanctioning inept officiating, and so my sarcasm in fact might be the kind of punishment actually enacted, because whatever punishment is adjudicated hasn't reversed the trend of sub-par officiating in the league.