Let’s get to it:
ADAM STATTI FROM CAPE CORAL, FL: If you could pick one former Steelers player in his prime (besides Joe Greene) to insert onto this current Steelers team, who would it be?
ANSWER: The biggest soft spot with the current Steelers is their passing game, and so there are some obvious choices who would be solid choices to remedy that. There are a couple of Hall of Fame wide receivers named Lynn Swann and John Stallworth who certainly would juice any NFL passing attack, but since the Steelers lost a quarterback who won two Super Bowls when Ben Roethlisberger needed surgery on his right elbow, the opportunity to replace him with a quarterback who won four Super Bowls and was voted that game’s MVP twice sure seems like a no-brainer. So, I’ll choose Terry Bradshaw. And since you’re allowing me to have the player in his prime, I’ll take the 1978 version who was voted NFL MVP.
MICHAEL TORSIELLO FROM SUMMIT, NJ: What is the purpose of the injury report? I know teams are required to post it, but can’t they decide not to list injured players in order to throw off their next opponent?
ANSWER: A few years ago, the name of it was changed from the injury report to the practice report. The NFL believes that for the sake of transparency and competitive fairness teams should be required to list the injuries to its players and how those injuries impacted the players’ abilities to practice in the days leading up to a regular season or postseason game. Then on the final day of practice during the week – a Friday if the game is on Sunday, and a Saturday if the game is on Monday – teams also must categorize the availability of all injured players for the upcoming game. The categories from which to choose are out, doubtful, and questionable. Teams that are found to be violating these practice/status reports for the purpose of “throwing off” their next opponent will be fined. And it’s not an insignificant amount of money.
ROD KEEFER FROM OKLAHOMA CITY, OK: I saw that Tuzar Skipper was released by the Giants and has cleared waivers. Given the depth issues at outside linebacker, I’d like to see him get another shot with the Steelers. How do you think his style, his story, and his skill-set compare to those of a young James Harrison?
ANSWER: The one major difference between Tuzar Skipper and a young James Harrison was that Harrison quickly showed a knack for special teams and was quite good at it. Skipper had trouble getting himself on the kick coverage units at training camp, and then he wasn’t as productive on special teams as Ulysees Gilbert. Skipper was waived by the Giants on Oct. 22, and then after he cleared waivers he was re-signed to the Giants practice squad.
ROY PERRIN FROM FUQUAY VARINA, NC: Danny Smith referred to the punter and the gunner several times when talking about the special teams unit. Could you explain what a gunner is and what he does?
ANSWER: On punts in the NFL, rules allow only two players from the kicking team to head downfield at the snap of the ball. All other players on the kicking team are not permitted to start running downfield to cover the punt until the ball is kicked. The two players who are allowed to proceed downfield immediately are referred to as gunners. They line up wide to each side of the formation, and they can be critical to the punting team’s ability to cover the kick. In simple terms, the gunner’s job is to defeat the guy or guys assigned to block him, get down the field and tackle the returner, or get down the field so quickly so as to induce the returner to signal for a fair catch, or get down the field to down the ball before it bounces into the end zone for a touchback.
ISAAC GREEN FROM TISHOMINGO, OK: The Ravens surprised me by beating the Seahawks after looking very beatable in the weeks prior. What kind of record do you think it will take to win the AFC North?
ANSWER: I believe a 10-6 record with good tiebreakers will be good enough this season to win the AFC North. It’s possible 9-7 with good tiebreakers could get the job done, but I think 10-6 for sure will be good enough.
MO PECORA FROM HAMILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA: First of all, the Oct. 24 installment of Asked and Answered was one of the most hilarious that I have ever read. Your sarcasm is one of a kind. With the remaining schedule, do you think it's possible for the Steelers to actually make the playoffs?
ANSWER: As I explained in the previous answer, I think it’s going to take at least a 9-7 record to win the division, but I’d feel much more comfortable being at 10-6. Let me follow that by saying that will be a huge mountain for this team to climb, to go from 2-4 to 10-6, because that would mean an 8-2 record from this point forward. Also understand that while I believe the Steelers could defeat any team remaining on their schedule, there are two other significant factors at play: the first is that the Steelers also could lose to any team remaining on their schedule if they don’t perform to their capability, and the other is that even in a situation where a team could defeat any of the remaining opponents on its schedule, going 8-2 in the NFL over a 10-game stretch is extremely difficult.
JOHN MAIR FROM RIDGE, NY: In a recent installment of Asked and Answered, you said that Joe Greene’s No. 75 should be the only number retired from the 1970s era. What about other players, such as Troy Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger (when he hangs it up)? Do they deserve to have their numbers retired as well?
ANSWER: In my opinion, I would find it difficult to justify retiring the number of a Hall of Fame player who won two Super Bowls over a Hall of Fame player or players who won four Super Bowls. Also, I’m not a big proponent of retiring jersey numbers, and I believe the Steelers created another avenue for honoring the great players in franchise history with the Hall of Honor. To me, that’s a much more significant bit of recognition for a player and his family – the ceremony, the steel football as a trophy, and a permanent part of the Hall of Honor display at Heinz Field and at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex – than simply not issuing his jersey number to any other players
TOM PEASE FROM CHESANING, MI: With all due respect, I don’t believe that James Conner is the man who will help take us to the playoffs. Do you think there is any sentimental reasoning for keeping him the No. 1 running back at this time?
ANSWER: There is absolutely positively no way that James Conner is the starting running back because of sentimental reasons. And that doesn’t go just for Conner, but for every player on the roster.
MICHAEL SIMON FROM CANONSBURG, PA: Tell me if I'm wrong, but didn’t the Steelers have to eat about $20 million as a result of the Antonio Brown trade this year, and will that money be available on next year’s cap?
ANSWER: Yes, the Antonio Brown trade left $20-plus million of dead money on the Steelers 2019 salary cap, and after this season the team’s cap responsibilities to Brown will have been cleared off the books. But that doesn’t mean there is going to be an extra $20-plus million for the Steelers to play with next year, because there are many players with signed contracts who will be getting raises and a bunch of others the team will want to re-sign/extend. Just saying, so you’re not expecting the Steelers to be big players in free agency next spring because of some perceived “windfall.”
TIM WHEELER FROM MELTON MOWBRAY, GREAT BRITAIN: In the Oct. 24 installment of Asked and Answered, you answered three questions about cutting players that were predicated on assumptions, hypotheses, and pure nonsense, one question that was factually wrong, and yet another no-hope question about Mason Rudolph replacing Ben Roethlisberger in 2020. When are you going to start answering proper questions?
ANSWER: Here’s an idea: instead of submitting a complaint about the questions being inane, how about sending in an intelligent question. I use the questions I get.