Let's get to it:
DAVE PUSHKAR FROM QUEENSTOWN, MD:
I noticed Philip Rivers took off his helmet three times after plays while he was still on the field. I thought this was a penalty. Is this not a rule any longer or are the referees no longer enforcing this rule? I also noticed the same thing in the controversial Dez Bryant catch last year when he went to appeal the referee's call on his catch – he had his helmet in his hand but was not called for it.
Let's start with the Dez Bryant play. After that happened, NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino told NFL Network that it's up to the judgment of the officials if a player who comes off the sidelines helmetless should be penalized. If a player on the field takes his helmet off after a play, he is to be flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. If a player comes off the sideline without his helmet, Blandino said the officials have a choice: If the player argues and is belligerent, he should be flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. If he argues mildly or does something else, that is up to the officials' discretion.**
I never saw Phillip Rivers take his helmet off on the field, and so I cannot say if it happened during timeouts or whatever. What I would guess is based on the referee being Pete Morelli, and from what we saw in the game against the Chargers in terms of none of the officials catching an illegal 18-second runoff of the clock during a kickoff that was a touchback, and the fact Shamarko Thomas never was touched after recovering Melvin Gordon's fumble early in the third quarter but the play still was blown dead – and then throw in Morelli's history with other in-game gaffes and mistakes – that the zebras missed it or were wrong. Remember this, Steelers fans, the next time I point out Morelli is going to be doing a Steelers' game that it's not simply regurgitating a single mistake he made in a playoff game in Indianapolis 10 years ago. He is not good at his job.
MATTHEW BARISH FROM FLINT, MI:
I saw something similar with Antonio Gates last Monday night that I saw happen during the opener when the Steelers played the Patriots and Rob Gronkowski. I understand they are great players who are big enough to overmatch many defenders, but there were a few plays where no one is anywhere near them. How does the best player on the opposing team go uncovered?
I cannot specifically speak to whichever plays you are referencing, but I understand the frustration, and I can assure you that defensive coordinator Keith Butler is just as frustrated when things such as that happen. All I can do is relate an incident I witnessed first-hand in 1984 while covering a Pitt-Navy game at Pitt Stadium as a newspaper reporter. Navy had scored a touchdown in the final seconds to cut Pitt's lead to 28-26 in the final seconds. Obviously, the Midshipmen were going to go for two to tie the game. Since it was so late in the game, reporters had been allowed onto the field in order to do postgame interviews in the locker rooms, and I was standing on the track directly behind the Pitt bench.
Pitt Coach Foge Fazio called a timeout and gathered the defense around him. He brought over a big whiteboard, and on it he proceeded to diagram a play he said Navy was going to use for the two-point conversion try. He was detailed in his description and clear in telling each player what his assignment was in order to prevent the one receiver from coming wide open. Everybody understand? Yes. OK, back onto the field, and Navy ran the EXACT play Fazio had just diagrammed, and the play succeeded in getting the one receiver wide open, just as Fazio had said it would. The conversion was successful, and the game ended in a 28-28 tie. The moral of this story: players at every level don't always do what they're told.**
DAVE SCHOFIELD FROM HAGERSTOWN, MD:
I see Roosevelt Nix getting a lot of playing time. Not only did he make a great tackle by fighting through the block on the Steelers' last punt, but he threw a game-winning block on Le'Veon Bell's touchdown. I also noticed that Will Johnson was used more as an additional tight end or H-back. Has Nix become the No. 1 fullback on the depth chart, or was he just used in the Wildcat?
Don't over-think the depth chart once the regular season starts. During the training camp/preseason process, a depth chart can be somewhat revealing, but once the season starts and the game-planning begins, the players are utilized based on situational roles, and those roles are determined by what guys do best. Roosevelt Nix is a very good lead blocker, and so the Steelers are utilizing him in that role, while Will Johnson is better as a move-tight-end, or H-back, and so the Steelers are utilizing him there. Against the Chargers, Nix played seven snaps on offense, and Johnson played eight snaps on offense. What's also revealing is that both Johnson and Nix are core special teams players, because Johnson played 18 special teams snaps and Nix played 17 special teams snaps.
JOHN EMIGH FROM DERRY, PA:
Why did the Steelers need to even attempt the extra point in the San Diego game since they already won the game on the last play? Why would either team risk the injury?
Because it's a rule. All touchdowns scored in regulation are to be followed by a conversion attempt. Touchdowns scored in overtime are not subject to this rule, and so if it happens in overtime, it's simply game over.
BILL BUSZINSKI FROM BALTIMORE, MD:
In regards to trying to win vs. going for the tie at the end of the San Diego game, I feel as if the Steelers' record in overtime has not been good since the Tim Tebow incident. What has been the Steelers' record in overtime since their last Super Bowl appearance? My guess is it's not good, which makes Mike Tomlin's decision even easier to make.
Photos from the Steelers victory vs. the Cardinals on February 1, 2009 at Super Bowl XLIII.
To answer your question, the Steelers record in overtime since Super Bowl XLV, which was the final game of the 2010 season, was 1-1 going into the 2015 season, and so after the loss to the Ravens the previous Thursday night, it was 1-2 going into the San Diego game, and that includes the "Tim Tebow incident." So your guess was wrong, and now I have a question: what possible bearing could the outcome of an overtime game from four years ago have to do with the here and now? If a coach is making decisions today based on what happened in a game four years ago – against a different opponent with a different team of your own – he's going to get fired. Something like that has to be done in the reality of the moment, the reality of your team at that precise moment vs. your opponent at that precise moment. And I don't care what people think, the decision to pin the outcome of a game – and it was win or lose, not win or go into overtime – on one play is never an easy decision.**
BRIAN ROGERS FROM ERIE, PA:
Love reading Asked and Answered. My question is concerning your thoughts on Mike Vick. Having watched seven of the last eight quarters, it drives me crazy when people keep saying he needs time to adjust to a new team. He looks scared and is so predictable … When do they try Landry Jones with the starters and see if we can get Antonio Brown the ball again and have more downfield plays?
If I had a nickel for every letter/question/tweet I got during the offseason program and then into training camp and then through the preseason about what the Steelers could possibly see in Landry Jones to make them even consider him for a spot on the 53-man roster, I'd be in Bermuda right now on the balcony of a big room at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess overlooking the harbor while sipping another Dark 'N Stormy. There were fans ripping the Steelers for even keeping Landry Jones on their 90-man roster, and now it's "let's see what Landry can do with the starters."
I have nothing against Landry Jones, but it must have been clear to the Steelers that he was not ready to be a backup quarterback, i.e., the No. 2 guy to take over – hopefully in the short term – for the starter. I don't believe they're going to change their minds now, especially after Vick got them through the Rams game with a win, played well enough to be part of another win vs. the Ravens if Josh Scobee didn't choke on two field goal attempts in the final three minutes, and then hit a 72-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton followed by converting 3-for-3 on third downs in the final drive that ended with Le'Veon Bell's touchdown run as time expired in San Diego. It's not about looking pretty, or getting Antonio Brown the ball. It's about winning games, and as Brown himself said, if he hadn't dropped that pass in the end zone vs. the Ravens, the Steelers would've won that one, too.**