Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 20

Let's get to it:

ANDREW SCHERBIK FROM CHESAPEAKE, MD: When Devin Bush went down, I thought Robert Spillane came in and did a fine job. Will he be the starter in place of Bush and do you think the Steelers sign another linebacker for depth?
ANSWER: Robert Spillane acquitted himself well when he had to line up at inside linebacker following Devin Bush's injury in the game against the Browns. But I would expect the coaching staff to devise an overall plan to replace Bush because it wouldn't be fair or necessarily wise to expect one guy who's currently on the roster to step in and replace Bush. Spillane is tough, a hard worker, and an asset on special teams, but if he had the skill-set to be a one-for-one replacement for Devin Bush, he wouldn't have had to enter the NFL as an undrafted rookie and then bounced from the Titans to the Steelers before finding his niche in the league. Spillane is an asset to the Steelers, but I also believe expectations should be realistic.

CARL SELF FROM TEMPE, AZ: I felt when we drafted Ulysees Gilbert we got a steal in that draft. Do you feel that he's ready to step up, and what have you been hearing about him?
ANSWER: What I feel, and what I've heard are inconsequential. What I know is that Ulysees Gilbert has been inactive this season whenever Marcus Allen has been healthy, and I don't know whether that has to do purely with special teams contributions or if there's something more going on. As a rookie, Gilbert flashed in training camp, and did some nice things in preseason games during the JV portions of those. Gilbert has some interesting skills and maybe those earn him some playing time in specialized roles, but there's a lot of knowing what to do that goes into playing Devin Bush's position.

BRANDON KENDERA FROM INDIANAPOLIS, IN: With the number of potential upcoming UFAs (James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Al Villanueva, Tyson Alualu, Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton, etc.), is it possible that the Steelers trade a third or fourth-round pick for a rental inside linebacker because they know they will get multiple compensation picks in next year's draft?
ANSWER: Two things wrong with this plan: You cannot honestly believe a player with the skill-set to be a hybrid linebacker can he acquired for a third or fourth-round pick because he cannot, and compensation picks for lost unrestricted free agents during the 2021 offseason wouldn't be awarded until the 2022 NFL Draft.

DAVE MARCOU FROM DANVERS, MA: I was sick when I saw Devin Bush go down (I tore my ACL as well and based on his reaction I feared the same for him). I remember that when Ryan Shazier was injured in 2017 the defense was really playing well, but after losing Ryan it had a hard time filling his shoes (understandably). Do you think the Steelers are in a better position to replace Bush this year than they were in 2017 when they had to replace Shazier?
ANSWER: Maybe the 2020 defense turns out to have some better players around Devin Bush than the 2017 defense had around Ryan Shazier. Maybe the 2020 Steelers are better positioned than the 2017 Steelers to absorb the in-season loss of a critical component to their team because of going through the experience of what happened three years ago. It's all maybes at this point, but there is a reason why the Steelers had to trade a future first-round draft pick to move up to 10th overall in the first round to have a chance to select the kind of player Devin Bush is.

DAVID HITES FROM SUN CITY, AZ: So if a quarterback drops back to pass and is in the pocket and gets sacked, those lost yards are subtracted from his passing yards. Correct? What if he pulls the ball down and scrambles out of the pocket due to pressure, turns upfield becoming a runner at this point, but is still tackled behind the line of scrimmage? Are those yards still subtracted from his passing yards or his rushing yards since he established himself as a runner even though originally it was a pass play?
ANSWER: If a quarterback is sacked, those yards are subtracted from the team's gross yards passing, and then that number is referred to as net yards passing. The individual quarterback is not punished statistically for a sack. If a quarterback is deemed to be in the act of passing and then scrambles away from the rush and tries to run, it is still considered a sack if he is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage, and those lost yards are treated as I just explained. If the quarterback scrambles out of the pocket and runs for positive yards, those yards are added to his individual rushing total.

MATT BARYTON FROM BORDENTOWN, NJ: When Ben Roethlisberger is running the no-huddle, does he have the full playbook available to him? Or is there a predetermined set of plays that he can choose from?
ANSWER: A lot of work goes into preparing for an opponent, and plays are selected and practiced based on what the offense can execute and what can work against the particular opponent. There might be the rare occasion when an adjustment is made to a play that has been practiced to take advantage of a specific situation, but for the most part the coloring is done within the lines. Remember, all 11 guys on the field have to know what they're doing and be able to execute a play for it to have a chance be successful.

GABE KENNEDY FROM DEFOREST, WI: I know players were given the option to opt-out of this season. Are there any notable players across the league who opted out, and are there any Steelers who chose to opt-out?
ANSWER: No Steelers players chose to opt-out, and since I don't know how you would define "notable," here is the full list: Arizona Cardinals: Marcus Gilbert, OT; Baltimore Ravens: Andre Smith, OT; De'Anthony Thomas, WR; Buffalo Bills: E.J. Gaines, CB; Star Lotulelei, DT; Carolina Panthers: Christian Miller, OLB; Jordan Mack, LB; Cincinnati Bengals: Isaiah Prince, OT; Josh Tupou, DT; Chicago Bears: Jordan Lucas, S; Eddie Goldman, DT; Cleveland Browns: Malcolm Pridgeon, G; Colby Gossett, G; Andrew Billings, DT; Drew Forbes, G; Drake Dorbeck, OT; Dallas Cowboys: Jamize Olawale, FB; Stephen Guidry, WR; Maurice Canady, CB; Denver Broncos: Ja'Wuan James, OT; Kyle Peko, DT; Detroit Lions: Russell Bodine, C; Geronimo Allison, WR; John Atkins, DT; Green Bay Packers: Devin Funchess, WR; Houston Texans: Eddie Vanderdoes, DT; Indianapolis Colts: Marvell Tell, CB; Rolan Milligan, S; Skai Moore, LB; Kansas City Chiefs: Lucas Niang, OT; Damien Williams, RB; Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, G; Las Vegas Raiders: Ukeme Eligwe, LB; D.J. Killings, DB; Jeremiah Valoaga, DE; Los Angeles Rams: Chandler Brewer, OT; Jacksonville Jaguars: Rashaan Melvin, CB; Lerentee McCray, DE/LB; Al Woods, DT; Miami Dolphins: Albert Wilson, WR; Allen Hurns, WR; Minnesota Vikings: Michael Pierce, DT; New England Patriots: Matt LaCosse, TE; Marqise Lee, WR; Patrick Chung, S; Dont'a Hightower, LB; Brandon Bolden, RB; Marcus Cannon, OT; Danny Vitale, FB; Najee Toran, OL; New Orleans Saints: Cole Wick, TE; Jason Vander Laan, TE; New York Giants: Sam Beal, CB; Da'Mari Scott, WR; Nate Solder, LT; New York Jets: Josh Doctson, WR; C.J. Mosley, LB; Leo Koloamatangi, OL; Philadelphia Eagles: Marquise Goodwin, WR; San Francisco 49ers: Shon Coleman, OL; Travis Benjamin, WR; Seattle Seahawks: Chance Warmack, G; Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brad Seaton, OT; Tennessee Titans: Anthony McKinney, OL; Washington Football Team: Josh Harvey-Clemons, LB; Caleb Brantley, DL; Free agents: Larry Warford, G.

PAT HUTCHISON FROM VERO BEACH, FL: Who is the Steelers Digest Player of the Week for the game vs. the Browns? I didn't see it on this week.
ANSWER: I chose the Possession Down Defense, and here is what I wrote to support the decision: "A week ago, against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Steelers allowed a better than 70 percent conversion rate on third downs, and rather than being an aberration it was the low point of a season that left them tied-for-27th in the league in that category. But in an important AFC North game against the best team they had faced to this point, the Steelers defense dominated the Cleveland Browns on possession downs on the way to a 38-7 victory.

"It started on the first third-down situation of the game for the Cleveland offense. Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted a Baker Mayfield pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown that gave the Steelers a 10-0 lead before the midway point of the first quarter.

"It was more of the same throughout the rest of the game, with the Browns offense finishing 1-for-12 on third downs and 0-for-3 on fourth downs for a combined 1-for-15 (7 percent) on possession downs. The Steelers' possession down defense make up the Steelers Digest Players of the Week."