Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 20

Let's get to it:

MILES MILTENBERGER FROM GLENSIDE, PA:
Why do the Steelers not play Brandon Boykin?

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Brandon Boykin's best position is as a slot cornerback, and a few things have come together that have served to keep him off the field when it comes to defense. Initially, Boykin needed some time to pick up this scheme, and there was some uneasiness among the coaches over whether he knew what he was doing in terms of being where he was supposed to be. Then when Ross Cockrell was added to the roster and quickly showed himself to be a good outside cornerback who had decent size for that role – 6-foot, 191 pounds – and then started making some plays when given the chance, it was decided to move Will Gay into the slot and put Cockrell on the outside when the defense shifted into the nickel. Right now, the staff is happy with how Gay is playing in the slot and with how Cockrell is playing on the outside, and so Boykin currently is without a spot. That's how it often happens, but there is still a lot of time for Boykin to get an opportunity and take advantage of it.**

JOE MAJORS FROM COLUMBUS OH:
I seem to be alone with my point of view that Antwon Blake looks like he's playing at a high level and well within what he's being asked to do, which is to eliminate the run-after-catch yardage. The Steelers defense gave up a lot of splash plays last season, and this year the emphasis seems to be on keeping everything in front of them and in turn make opposing offenses work for every yard. I believe Blake is playing his 1/11th role admirably. Can you tell me I'm wrong?

No, I cannot tell you you're wrong. What I can tell you is that Antwon Blake's 70-yard interception return for a touchdown in San Diego did nothing to hurt his status as a starter, either.

CHRIS RENNINGER FROM NAPLES, FL:
I'm curious to know why Bud Dupree wears No. 48. I know he tweeted something about being the first No. 48, at least among Steeler linebackers, so is it that simple? Or is there another reason he selected that number?

I think the better way to explain this is that the number first selected Bud Dupree and then he decided to keep it. When rookies show up to their new teams following the draft, they are assigned jersey numbers – and those numbers have to conform to the NFL rules governing which positions can wear which numbers. When Dupree arrived after the draft for rookie minicamp his choices for available numbers in the 50s and 90s were slim because rosters were at 90 players at that time and most of those already were taken. What happens in these instances usually is that a rookie gets a number with the understanding he'll be able to change once final cuts are made and the roster is reduced to 53. It's quite possible that when the cuts happened, Dupree had come to like the uniqueness of being an outside linebacker wearing No. 48 and just decided to stick with it. And Dupree is correct in saying he will be the first Steelers linebacker of recent vintage to wear No. 48.

BENJAMIN PARVA FROM HOUSTON, TX:
Are you at all concerned by the number of season-ending injuries/lingering injuries the team has sustained? I understand that in such a violent game these sorts of things happen, but it seems like there has been a higher than normal incidence this year, with Kelvin Beachum being added to the list with an ACL injury and Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones both battling injuries after "breakout" games.

Injuries are a part of football. A frustrating part for fans, who often are relegated to seeing their favorite team's roster gutted by injuries over the course of a season, but there is a decided difference in my mind between injuries that are season-ending and those that are not. There are currently 195 players throughout the NFL on injured reserve at this stage of the season, and the Steelers are worse off than some teams and better off than others. The biggest names on the Steelers injured reserve list before last weekend's games were Maurkice Pouncey – who remains on injured reserve/designated to return – Shaun Suisham, and Bruce Gradkowski. Now it seems very likely Kelvin Beachum will be added to the list as well. Try to focus on the good news – that Shazier, Jarvis Jones, Ben Roethlisberger all will be returning from their injuries. That's what I do.

JOE NEILL FROM PARIS, FRANCE:
I am from Donora and living in Paris. When players don't dress for a game, does that mean there are not 53 players on the sideline during a game? As an example, Landry Jones did not dress until this season, but he was part of the 53-man roster the previous two years.

Players who are inactive on game day are in the bench area on the team's sideline during games – both home and on the road. They are not in uniform, but are dressed in official team sideline apparel. A more interesting question, to me at least, is how did someone from Donora end up living in Paris?

Check out the highlight photos from the Steelers vs Cardinals game. The Steelers defeated the Cardinals 25-13 on October 18th 2015.

ANTHONY LUCAS FROM REYNOLDSBURG, OH:
I think Roosevelt Nix by far is the best blocking fullback in the NFL. He also is one of the best special teams players on the Steelers roster because he is hard to block. Do you think the coaching staff will one day reward Nix by drawing up a few plays where he can score his first touchdown in the NFL? He definitely deserves it.

Roosevelt Nix has carved himself a nice niche on this team as a lead blocker and special teams player. After being a defensive tackle in college and too small for the position in the NFL, and after being cut by the first team to give him a shot – the Atlanta Falcons – I'm betting Nix sees his reward as being the roster spot that's allowing him to live his dream of being a professional football player, and the paycheck that comes along with it.

REESA JOSEPH FROM MARIETTA, OH:
When players run off the field, why do they run off at an angle? Would it not be quicker to run off in a straight line and walk back to the bench from there, or are they only allowed to be in certain spots on the sideline?

A team's bench area is defined as being between the 30-yard-lines, and that's why the large majority of players exit the playing field by heading that way. If there is some pressing need to get off the field quickly, players can run straight off in order to avoid a penalty for too many men on the field.

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