Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 19

Let's get to it:

JEFF DAVID FROM DETROIT, MI: Against Seattle the first pass of the game went to James Washington for 9 yards. I don't believe he was targeted again and can't recall seeing him in action. With JuJu Smith-Schuster on injured reserve and Chase Claypool not playing up to expectations, based on past performance it would seem Washington is our best receiver for combat catches. Did he get hurt, or is he just not part of their offensive plans?
ANSWER: For the record, James Washington played eight offensive snaps against Seattle, and you are correct in that he was targeted only once and made that catch for a 9-yard gain, and that play came on the first snap of the Steelers' second possession of the first quarter. I like Washington as a player and have for some time, but I'm not ready to agree that he's the best combat-catcher on the roster because so far this season I believe the wide receivers have underachieved in that area. There were no reports of an injury to Washington or of a re-occurrence of the injury that had been nagging him leading up to that game. I also don't believe Washington is not a part of the Steelers offensive plans, but if forced to speculate why he wasn't more "involved" against the Seahawks, I would go with the fact the offense is in the very early stages of learning to deal with not having JuJu Smith-Schuster. I still like Washington, and I still believe this is his time and that he'll get a chance to prove himself. If he doesn't get that chance, shame on the Steelers.

RON MURTHA FROM HALLANDALE BEACH, FL: Are you able to share any insight on James Washington? After having appeared on the injury report during the week prior to the Seattle game, he had one 9-yard catch on one target early in the game.
ANSWER: Beyond what I wrote in the answer above, I have no other insight into why James Washington was/wasn't used vs. the Seahawks. I also believe you need to understand the Steelers are struggling to establish an offensive identity while also working to win games, and that's the priority, not furthering Washington's statistics, or any other individual's statistics. As you should be able to tell from the above answer, I am of the belief Washington can help this team, and so I would preach patience.

GRANT SPELLERBERG FROM CUTLER BAY, FL: During the Seattle game I thought I heard one of the announcers say that JuJu Smith-Schuster was out for the rest of the season. Is this the case?
ANSWER: I believe it is. JuJu Smith-Schuster required surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder, and the need for surgery speaks to the seriousness of the injury.

JIM ANDERSON FROM TOLEDO, OH: The defense really stepped up at the end of the Sunday night game against Seattle. However, there seemed to be a lot of missed tackles that occurred in the game. Do you have a count of the number of missed tackles? Also, do you think the missed tackles are a result of the robot tackling dummies used in practice?
ANSWER: Missed tackles are not a statistic typically tabulated, but you are correct in characterizing the number as "a lot." And the Steelers haven't used the robot tackling dummies in years.

DENNIS SLEEGER FROM YORK, PA: What is your opinion of Pat Freiermuth so far? I like his receiving skills, and it seems he's learning to block better. Do you think he has what it takes to have a long career with the Steelers?
ANSWER: I do not disagree with your assessment of rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth so far. He has been a reliable receiver, and he is a willing but inexperienced blocker. Freiermuth comes across as someone who is serious about his profession, which makes it logical that he would continue to work and improve the areas of his game that need development. As far as projecting a long career for him, that's a dicey proposition in a sport as physically demanding as professional football, but I am willing to say he has the potential to be a quality two-way tight end in the NFL.

JOHN JANUS FROM NORTH BILLERICA, MA: I can't be the only person who thought that the Seattle player who recovered the fumble by D.K. Metcalf at the end of regulation ran the ball to the line of scrimmage and set it down wherever he felt. And that then an official jumped in and set a hand on the ball and backed away. It wasn't brought up on the telecast, and I can't find a definitive replay. Did that actually happen and if so, is it legal?
ANSWER: I will confess to paying more attention to the clock at Heinz Field than I was to how the officials reacted to the situation immediately following the fumble by D.K. Metcalf and the recovery by Freddie Swain. It seems to me that while the on-field officials should try to get out of the way of the action on the field, there are rules and procedures for marking the ball ready for play, when the clock should be stopped and when it should be running, and how the teams must be lined up for it to be a penalty-free snap. My major problem with the sequence in question is with the decision to call for a replay review of a play that was obvious from start to finish. There should have been no issue whether it was a completed catch to Metcalf, nor that the ball was fumbled, nor that it was clearly recovered Swain. Why the need for the review, other than to stop the clock? And if Seattle wanted/needed a clock stoppage, Metcalf/or Swain could have gotten out of bounds while in possession of the ball to achieve that. I'm sure the NFL will find some obscure language to support the decision that was made, but the reality is that crew blew it by inserting themselves and potentially impacting the outcome of the game.

ANDREW GAUNT FROM LONDON, ONTARIO, CANADA: At halftime of Sunday's overtime game against the Seahawks, Michelle Tafoya talked to both Mike Tomlin and Pete Carroll. She reported that Carroll's plan was to try to run the ball effectively in the second half and that Tomlin's plan was to try to defend the pass in the second half. The third quarter proved that both coaches had spoken the truth, because Alex Collins ran to the tune of 101 yards and a touchdown in the game while the Steelers' seemingly constant nickel defense bled the lead to Carroll's rushing attack. Is it legal for teams to have someone relaying Tafoya's report to the coaching staff? Would there ever be any real value in taking those sideline reports under any consideration?
ANSWER: I wouldn't necessarily believe what an NFL coach told a sideline reporter even if the coach was strapped to a polygraph while doing it. And imagine how high the BS-factor would reach if it became known that the other team was monitoring these exchanges to use as a scouting report.