Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 16

Let's get to it:

ROBERTA CAMPBELL FROM PORTAGE, IN: How long do you think it will take to get Calvin Austin III on the field. I know there is a 21-day time limit for the Steelers to activate him once he started practicing. If they do not, then that would mean he had to go on IR for the rest of the season, right?
ANSWER: The issues with Calvin Austin III's return to the active roster and then getting on the field for a regular season game are a combination of how much time he missed at training camp and the preseason before going on injured reserve, and also the fact he's a rookie. Austin injured his foot on the day before the preseason opener, which was Aug. 13 against Seattle at Acrisure Stadium. That means Austin missed two months, including all three preseason games, and he's a rookie on top of that. My guess would be that Austin will be added to the 53-man roster before that 21-day window closes, which will be the week of Oct. 24. Of course, that's barring any setbacks in his rehabilitation.

DALZOTTO DAVID FROM SPANISH FORT, AL: Do you think that Mitch Trubisky was replaced because of his inability to check off his No. 1 read to a second or third receiver option?
ANSWER: I believe Mitch Trubisky was replaced because he had trouble pulling the trigger and getting the ball out of his hand when he had a receiver open or a favorable matchup down the field.

CJ PUHALA FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: My understanding is that Coach Mike Tomlin has a major, if not deciding, role in the drafting process. If so, it appears from my perspective that the current woeful state of the team is simply due to an inconsistent, incorrect judgement of talent. Am I, at minimum, partially accurate?
ANSWER: This is really amusing, that being all of a sudden Steelers' fans are figuring out the coach has a significant role in the drafting of players as though it's some radical change in philosophy. The reality is that Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher had the same "authority" throughout their careers with the Steelers as well. What that means is that it was Noll who essentially was responsible for not picking Dan Marino in 1983, and Cowher was in favor of Tee Martin over Tom Brady in the fifth round in 2000. It has never elevated to the degree where the coach – whomever the coach happened to be at the time – rules the draft room like a dictator, but during the evaluation process, the grading process, the putting together of the draft board process, the head coach is very much involved in all aspects of the process. Even in 2004 when Dan Rooney slowed things down while the Steelers were on the clock in the first round to spark more discussion about the merits of a certain quarterback from Miami (Ohio), the end result was that Rooney was the catalyst of building a consensus that the correct move was to draft Ben Roethlisberger instead of Shawn Andrews. He didn't issue an order to pick him.

TODD POLLOCK FROM BEDFORD, KY: Do you think the commentators have jinxed the Steelers for continuing to say, "The Steelers have never had a losing season under Mike Tomlin?"
ANSWER: I don't believe in jinxes, especially whenever I'm wearing my lucky socks.

CRAIG PENNEY FROM PLOVER, WI: How many offensive plays have we run so far this season, and how many has the defense played? I have a sense the offense is way behind the number of plays the defense has played, as a result are worn down in the latter part of games.
ANSWER: Heading into today's game vs. the Buccaneers, the Steelers have run 306 plays on offense, and the defense has been on the field for 352. That works out to an average of 9.2 players per game more for the defense, which is hardly significant enough to account for the defense's inabilities in the fourth quarters of the game vs. New England and in Cleveland.

JOHN PETERSON FROM PITTSTON, PA: It has been well documented that Matt Canada and Kenny Pickett have a previous working relationship at Pitt. I would highly assume the playbook and terminology probably aren't too much different from a few years ago, and so do you see Canada opening the playbook for Pickett more so than he did with Mitch Trubisky?
ANSWER: Actually, Matt Canada and Kenny Pickett had no "working relationship" at Pitt. Canada was the offensive coordinator at Pitt in 2016 and was involved in the recruiting process that brought Pickett there, but when Pickett was a freshman at Pitt in 2017, Canada was at LSU, then he was at Maryland in 2018, and then he became the Steelers quarterbacks coach in 2020.

JIM ANDERSON FROM TOLEDO, OH: Because you wrote in a previous Asked and Answered that "the resetting, rebuilding, and preparing for the next season begins during the offseason," and the Steelers are 1-4 to start the season, would you give this past offseason preparations a failing grade?
ANSWER: Where I went to school, final grades were assigned at the end of the school year.

SAM MIKHAIL FROM BETHESDA, MD: Last week, you were asked if the Steelers are in a rebuilding year. You answered in the affirmative. Also, you stated the process of rebuilding for next season begins during the offseason. At this point of the season, what deficiencies need to be addressed?
ANSWER: I wrote that my opinion is that the Steelers are rebuilding, and your question assigns me way more authority than I actually have. And just to be clear, if you're looking for predictions on draft picks and free agency moves that won't happen until 5-to-7 months from now, you've come to the wrong place.

ARTHUR SMITH FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: How is it the 90th season of Steelers football if they were founded in 1933 and its now 2022?
ANSWER: There is a difference between an anniversary and the process of counting seasons for a sports franchise. When determining a wedding anniversary, as an example, the first anniversary doesn't happen until 365 days after the wedding. When counting a season for a sports franchise, that first season counts as No. 1. You're forgetting to count 1933 as No. 1. If you do that, it's 90 seasons.

SCOTT DAVES FROM GASTONIA, NC: I constantly hear friends and fans screaming that Mike Tomlin and Matt Canada need to be fired. I don't agree with this. How much of the Steelers woes this season and last season can be attributed to the lack of talent on the field? And how much of the lack of talent can be attributed to the huge contract the Steelers had to give T.J. Watt, which was a big hit on the salary cap?
ANSWER: Your contention that T.J. Watt is overpaid conflicts with the fact he is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and when he misses a game, the Steelers are 0-8. The Steelers business model always has been to use the draft as the primary method of roster building, and then to do what's possible to keep the good players they have drafted and developed.