Let’s get to it:
JOSEPH SCAPPINO FROM NANTY GLO, PA: Steelers Nation understands that running a simplified offense is necessary to allow Mason Rudolph to get comfortable in the offense in the NFL. However, why is he not being given a chance to throw the ball 15-or-more yards down the field? Is this more Coach Mike Tomlin or offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner?
ANSWER: With all due respect, what Steelers Nation has trouble understanding is that coaches are not puppet-masters who control every little thing that happens on the field. Mason Rudolph went through a similar issue at the start of training camp when he was holding onto the ball during his practice repetitions and then throwing a short pass, and I can assure you he wasn’t on a short leash during a training camp practice. Once camp progressed and the preseason approached, Rudolph got away from that and went on to make a bunch of plays during his appearances in the preseason games. Mason Rudolph is a hard worker, a guy who studies and watches a lot of video, and I have heard him referred to as a perfectionist, and his hatred of making mistakes likely has something to do with him avoiding situations where there is the possibility of him making a mistake. Here are a few snippets on that subject from separate interviews that were done with Rudolph and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner leading up to the game against the Bengals at Heinz Field:
Q. When you look back at the 49ers game, were there some opportunities you wish you would have been able to get the ball down the field?
RUDOLPH: Yeah, for sure. There were opportunities in the first quarter, really in the first couple of drives, that I could have been a little more aggressive. Learning experiences. I’m an aggressive person. That’s who I’ve always been at the quarterback position. A little unlike me, but mistakes you always look forward to cleaning up, and I think we have already this week in practice.
Q. Were you a little too conservative with Mason Rudolph early in the game on Sunday?
FICHTNER: I don’t know if it was conservative. I thought we put ourselves in position. We had some opportunities for some throws and even some shots, and if you don’t connect or throw them it never really materializes … We were able to go down the field early (in the second half). You’ve got to throw them. You’ve got to throw it. You’ve got to attempt to throw it there.
Q. Are you saying he was hesitant?
FICHTNER: Well, whether he’s hesitant or felt uncomfortable or didn’t like the matchup, all those things go into play. It could have been protection. Maybe he had to step a certain way in the protection. Those types of things. I’m not second-guessing Mason at all. We’re going to try and be as aggressive as we can be from start to finish.
KURT CARMEL FROM BALTIMORE, MD: With Andy Dalton in the pocket, the defense racked up eight sacks. With a mobile threat like Lamar Jackson at quarterback for the matchup with the Ravens on Sunday, how does the defense adjust its preparation for practice? Do they use a speedster at quarterback, i.e., using a running back or wide receiver to run slash plays?
ANSWER: As far as utilizing a player at a different position to simulate Lamar Jackson, Coach Mike Tomlin said, “I think you lose too much in the passing game when you do that.” On Wednesday morning, the Steelers signed quarterback Taryn Christion to their practice squad, and Christion was operating as the scout team quarterback during Wednesday afternoon’s practice. Coming out of South Dakota State, Christion ran a 4.49, a very fast time for a quarterback, and in 48 games there he completed 59.7 percent of his passes for 11,535 yards, with 104 touchdowns, 34 interceptions, and a rating of 102.1 using the NFL system. In terms of running the football – excluding sacks, which count as rushing attempts and yards in college – Christion had 338 carries for 1,984 yards, which worked out to a 5.9 average. Certainly, Christion is no Lamar Jackson, but the way he played the position at South Dakota State is somewhat similar to the way Jackson plays it.
BLAIR HAUGHT FROM FOLLANSBEE, WV: Even though the Steelers defense is statistically in the bottom third of the league, do you think the defense has the ability to improve if the offense would be able to control the ball and reduce the amount of time the defense is on the field?
ANSWER: The answer to all of these kinds of questions is yes, because football is the ultimate team sport. But I also believe it would be inaccurate to portray this as a situation where the defense is blameless for its own statistical standings.
EVAN DHANDE FROM NEW YORK, NY: How did Rosie Nix hurt his knee if he didn't even play in the season opener?
ANSWER: Rosie Nix may not have played on offense, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t play. Nix played 18 snaps on special teams against the Patriots.
CHRIS GARCIA FROM HOUSTON, TX: Will the Steelers release Donte Moncrief to ensure they get that third-round compensatory pick?
ANSWER: If the Steelers decide to release Donte Moncrief, it will be because they believe they can replace him with a better alternative on the 53-man roster. I can guarantee you the Steelers are not thinking about compensatory draft picks in 2020 during the fifth week of an NFL regular season in 2019.
MICHAEL COOK FROM CHATHAM, KENT, UK: I see a lot of questions about Christian Scotland-Williamson and I wonder if people realize how different rugby is to the NFL game. There is some overlap in skills and physical ability, but not much. Rugby is about endurance over sprint, free-form play over set plays; there are no "snaps;” there is no forward pass; and tackling rules are different. To be an international Rugby player, Christian spent about a decade developing muscle memory, specific skills, and learning the rules. He needs to unlearn all of that and then learn his new role to the same standard in order to be starter quality as an NFL player. Do people imagine this is just a weekend course?
ANSWER: Thank you for detailing what I have been trying to explain for two years, because I do believe some people think it should be a simple transition that takes very little time.
JOE ASHER FROM TAMPA, FL: The Steelers have retired one jersey, No. 75 for Joe Greene. He's surely the most deserving of that singular honor. If you had the power to choose a second player, who would it be and why?
ANSWER: Actually, the Steelers have retired two jerseys – Joe Greene’s No. 75 as you mentioned, and also Ernie Stautner’s No. 70, which happened in 1964. If I were to be the one to decide about retiring another jersey number, I would leave things as they are because Greene was head-and-shoulders above any of the other players from those four Super Bowl teams of the 1970s, a fact even many of his teammates on those teams have said publicly. After Greene, there are a bunch of other players who virtually are on the same level of greatness, and I believe that once that Pandora’s box would be opened then there would be a lot of potential for hurt feelings among a group of the franchise’s all-time greats.