Let's get to it:
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Steelers will wear their white jerseys today for the game against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
LARRY MARHEFKA FROM COOPERSBURG, PA: In the Atlanta game, the Steelers blocked a punt that was recovered by an Atlanta player, and he started to run with the ball. Had that player run for enough yardage for an Atlanta first down, would Atlanta have kept possession? Or would the Steelers take over at the spot the Atlanta player was tackled?
ANSWER: On blocked kicks of any kind – field goals or punts, the key issue is whether the ball crosses the line of scrimmage. On a punt – since that's what we're talking about here – if the ball does not cross the line of scrimmage, either team can pick up the ball and advance it. So in the scenario you describe, if that blocked punt did not cross the line of scrimmage when it was scooped up by Falcons punter Matt Bosher and he had run the ball beyond the first down marker then Atlanta would have gotten a first down and maintained possession. If the blocked punt had crossed the line of scrimmage, it could not be advanced by the kicking team.
NICK MITCHELL FROM GLEN-LYON, PA: I read the question from the fan who complained about commercials, which there are many during a game and some of them interrupt live action from the game. Do you see the NFL doing what NASCAR does with commercials, which is to have a box on the screen to keep fans abreast of the action during the commercial breaks?
ANSWER: I do not. Unlike NASCAR, there are defined breaks in the action during the course of every football game, which is one of the many reasons why the sport is so attractive to television. Also, I would imagine the sponsors buying the commercial time would not be happy about having to share the screen with the game, because that would distract the viewers' attention from the commercial. And while I don't know the specific numbers, I'm certain sponsors pay much more for a 30-second commercial spot in an NFL game than they would during a NASCAR broadcast.
ED JOHNSON FROM GERMANTOWN, OH: I really appreciated your explaining how the commercial breaks take place during NFL games and how the man on the sideline wearing the fluorescent green hat fits into the process. I too have seen a few seconds of a game missed while the broadcast still was in a commercial. Now I have noticed that they will show a commercial while moving the live action of a game in a small box over to the side of the screen. I saw this a couple of times last week. Man, don't they already have enough commercials?
ANSWER: This contradicts my previous answer, and while I've never seen this happen during an NFL broadcast I also have no reason to doubt your experience. I just cannot see this becoming a regular method of doing business, just because of what it costs a sponsor to run an ad during an NFL regular season game, to say nothing of a playoff game or a Super Bowl.
JEFF BANKOVICH FROM ELIZABETH, PA: I've been going to Steelers home games for many, many years, and when the opponent faces a third down, there is a blaring announcement over the PA system: "It's thirrrrrd down." Is this announcement mandated by the NFL?
ANSWER: It most certainly is not.
MARCUS ROGERS FROM FISHERS, IN: I see Dan McCullers is getting a lot of playing time this year, and that L.T. Walton has been inactive for most games so far this season. What is your opinion as to why McCullers is active on game days and Walton is not?
ANSWER: I can do better than give you my opinion, which would be a borderline guess. I will give you Coach Mike Tomlin's explanation of why McCullers has been active on game days: "He's been more useful. He's been more effective since preseason play, and his position within the group has changed because of it. … He has found a way to utilize his skill-set in more than one area. When we drafted him, he was primarily a nose tackle who was a run player only. A phone booth player, if you will. He has found a way to make himself more useful in the passing game. He has added a little flexibility to his game in terms of the amount of space he can play in, in terms of improving his level of conditioning. And he has been an impact player in the special teams game because of his kick-blocking abilities. He has done a lot of things to add to his usefulness that has changed his position within the group."
JIM DIBERT FROM FAIRBORN, OH: How much playing time has Marcus Allen had so far in the regular season? He was a very good safety at Penn State and plays with the physicality that the Steelers want in their players.
ANSWER: Marcus Allen has been inactive for each of the first five regular season games. In the view of the coaches, he's not ready to play in an NFL regular season game.
BRETT PORTER FROM FORT ANNE, NY: Would you endorse a Steelers fan running for mayor of his/her town?
ANSWER: There first would have to be a full vetting of said candidate's stand on a wide range of critical issues, including but not limited to: moving JuJu Smith-Schuster to safety; moving Dan McCullers to fullback in goal-line situations; signing Tim Tebow; signing Dez Bryant; making Josh Dobbs a wildcat quarterback; moving Jesse James to safety; and playing (insert name of a bottom-of-the-depth-chart rookie here) to see what he can do; and one that certainly applies in this case – send in a complaint about the kind of questions selected for a particular installment of Asked and Answered instead of submitting an actual intelligent question.
BILL MALONI FROM CHEVY CHASE, MD: Given his size and speed, would they consider developing Brian Allen as an outside linebacker/inside linebacker since they have significant deficits at those positions?
ANSWER: Ah, another issue to add to the vetting process for that prospective mayoral candidate.
LOU MANN FROM ASHKELON, ISRAEL: If the Steelers bring back Frank Pollard for depth. Who gets to wear No. 30, him or James Conner?
ANSWER: Are you running for mayor?