Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 22

Let's get to it:

Thanks for your insight and educated observations. On the subject of injuries, when is Mike Adams due back from his back surgery? And on the interception by Mike Mitchell vs. the Cardinals, it looked like Ross Cockrell dislocated his shoulder and/or hyperextended his elbow. Both would be pretty serious injuries, but since nothing was mentioned, I am wondering if the injury list is limited to mainly the "starters," or if it's whether the injury would prevent the player from playing the following game that makes it noteworthy?


I don't know when Mike Adams will be able to return to practice. What I can tell you is that he's not ready yet, and there really is no definitive prognosis. I am, however, highly amused by your belief in your ability to diagnosis injuries from a television set in Iowa – the dislocated shoulder and hyper-extended elbow you say were sustained by Ross Cockrell on the interception by Mike Mitchell. But to try to answer the question: injuries that either limit a player in practice or prevent him from practicing are to be reported to the league office via daily "practice reports" that must be filed each day a team practices during the regular season. It's not about only reporting injuries to starters, and it's not about only reporting injuries that might cause a player to miss a game or games. If the league believes there has been any attempt to conceal injury information based on its guidelines, it will investigate, and teams have been fined not insignificant amounts of money for violations. It's not a perfect system, and I'm sure there are ways around it, but unlike the NHL – which has teams report "lower body injuries" – the NFL at least makes some attempt at disclosure.**

Love these weekly Asked and Answered columns. Also love the atmosphere at Heinz Field (what I see from my NFL games subscription), but it´s too often not as "rowdy" as you would hope. Picky fans, expensive tickets, or what? For away games it is a completely different scenario. The atmosphere in San Diego was electric, and it should be like that always at home also. I'm going to a game at Heinz Field next season, and hopefully it's packed and rowdy.

I don't know that there are too many NFL stadiums where "rowdy" would be looked upon as a good thing. I believe NFL owners want the fans to be loud at the appropriate times, and to have fun cheering on the home team to victory, but "rowdy" in the way that some European soccer matches are "rowdy" is a different level, and a place I don't believe the NFL wants to go. Heinz Field is sold out for Steelers games, and the attendance announced is the actual turnstile count for that day. No-shows vary from game to game, based on weather, kickoff time, and opponent, because every Steelers game is available on free TV, which can serve to entice ticket-holders to stay in the comfort of their homes and watch from there.

I do agree with you that the fans the Steelers encounter on the road generally are more excited to see their favorite team, and more enthusiastic in the stands, and that's only a natural reaction to the fact that seeing the Steelers play a game in person is a special treat for them and not something they get to do up to 10 times a year.

Does it seem to you that good tackling has become a bit of a lost art for both the Steelers and the NFL, especially for defensive backs? I understand that defensive backs give away some size to running backs, but I'm tired of people not wrapping up during tackles and giving up extra yardage. It would seem that the defense would be much more effective if the first person to the ball carrier would simply make the tackle.

I don't disagree with any of your points. Missed tackles are an issue for teams at the NFL level – the good teams do it less than bad teams but do it nonetheless – but poor tackling can be found on every level of football.

In the game against the Cardinals, the Steelers punted, and Brandon Boykin made a play to bat the ball back to keep it from going into the end zone for a touchback. With the ball rolling at the 2-yard line, a Cardinals player, surrounded by Steelers defenders – for some reason – grabbed the ball and was immediately hit by Terence Garvin. The ball came loose, rolled into the end zone and was recovered by Boykin. The officials gave the ball to the Cardinals at the 2-yard line. Why was this not a Steelers touchdown, and why didn't anyone question the call?


No one questioned the call, because the correct rule was applied correctly. A shocker, I know, given the quality of NFL officiating, but true in this instance. I'll do my best to explain the rule: If a punt is first touched by a member of the kicking team down the field – as Boykin did as the gunner trying to down the ball inside the 5-yard line – but the ball is not whistled dead by an official, which was the correct decision on that play, the receiving team has a free shot at picking up the ball and trying to advance it without the possibility of turning it over to the kicking team via a fumble. That's exactly what happened. It was a good play by Boykin to keep the ball out of the end zone, and it was a good play by Arizona's Patrick Peterson to take a shot at picking it up and running with it, and it was a good play by Garvin to make an immediate tackle. When the ball popped loose, no matter if or where it was recovered by the Steelers, possession goes back to the receiving team at the spot of the initial touching of the ball – in this case to the Cardinals at the 2-yard line.**

Watch Antonio Brown when he's back as the punt returner, and you will notice him hanging around a bouncing ball that already has been touched by the kicking team, because he knows he can try to pick it up and run with it, and if he fumbles the Steelers still retain possession.

James Harrison is playing a lot of snaps. At the start of the season the thought was he would not. He is a beast out there, which is no surprise. Is the coaching staff concerned about his play in December if he continues with his current rate of snaps?

The coaching staff is most concerned about winning games each week, and while I would agree that Harrison is playing more snaps than the original plan dictated – outside linebackers coach Joey Porter put the number at 25 per game during the offseason – he is showing no ill effects. And the other issue is the Steelers need him right now, both because of the high level of his play, and last weekend at least because Jarvis Jones missed the game with a hip injury.

I completely enjoy Asked and Answered. Who came up with the saying the Pittsburgh Steelers use so often: the standard is the standard? Is it unique to the Steelers.

It is unique to the Steelers, and that one came from Coach Mike Tomlin. In a lot of ways, it's a 21st century version of Chuck Noll's, "whatever it takes."

After Mike Vick's poor performance and what Landry Jones showed against the Cardinals, it's clear to me that Landry should be Ben's backup. Is there a chance to call the Vick experiment over and bring Tyler Murphy back to be the No. 3 quarterback, so he may start getting some experience?

There never is any interest in "getting some experience" for young, unproven players during the course of an NFL regular season. That kind of developmental stuff is for the offseason program, for OTAs, for training camp and the preseason. The total focus right now is on winning games, and if it's determined that Murphy could help in that task, then he will be called upon.

I heard that Maurkice Pouncey may have to have another surgery. Is that true?

According to Mike Tomlin, Maurkice Pouncey will not be having any more surgery on the broken fibula he sustained in the preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 23. Tomlin also said he is expecting Pouncey to come back at some point this season. Being on the injured reserve/designated to return list, Pouncey was eligible to return to practice this week. There is no specific information yet on when that might happen.

First off, I love Asked and Answered. I want to make sure I have my facts straight: did the Steelers give up a conditional sixth-round pick to Eagles for Brandon Boykin that would turn into a fifth-round pick if he played at least 60 percent of the defensive snaps during the season? And if I am correct, could they be holding Boykin back until he cannot reach that total so as to not give up a higher pick, especially since things aren't going too bad for the secondary and the team is winning?

Wow, a questioner concerned with getting the facts correct. Such a novel concept, and I commend you for the effort. Anyway, your information is somewhat correct. It was a fifth-round pick that can become a fourth-round pick if Brandon Boykin plays 60 percent of the defensive snaps. If the Steelers believed Boykin was better right now than the guys who are playing, then Boykin would be playing. Mike Tomlin is worried about winning games right now, and so he'll use whomever is on the 53-man roster to help facilitate that. Tomlin isn't thinking about next year's draft right now, and he's in charge of the team in terms of who plays and in what capacity.

Does Landry Jones receive a reprieve from Steelers Nation for occupying a spot on the 53-man roster? I truly believe had he not entered the game on Sunday, the Steelers would have lost.

And carrying through with that train of thought, does the draft pick used on Landry Jones now cease to be considered a wasted pick?

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