Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Oct. 5

Let's get to it:

ERIC MICELI FROM PHOENIX, AZ: When was the last time the Steelers had a draft pick in the top 10 of the first round? What about the last time they had the No. 1 overall pick?
ANSWER: The last time the Steelers had a pick in the top 10 of a draft was in 2000 when they selected wide receiver Plaxico Burress eighth overall. Dating all the way back to Chuck Noll's hiring in 1969, the Steelers have had six other drafts where they selected in the top 10: in 1989, they picked running back Tim Worley seventh overall; in 1987, they selected cornerback Rod Woodson 10th overall; in 1986, they selected guard John Rienstra ninth overall; in 1971, they selected receiver Frank Lewis eighth overall; in 1970, they selected quarterback Terry Bradshaw first overall; and in 1969, they selected defensive tackle Joe Greene fourth overall. That adds up to seven top 10 draft positions, including one No. 1 overall spot, in the last 53 drafts, while the Browns, as an example, have had 13 top 10 draft positions, including four No. 1 overall picks in the 22 seasons since they rejoined the NFL in 1999. So when the point is made about all the talent the Browns have on their roster, this makes it simple to explain why.

BERNARD RAGLAND FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Why wasn't the blocked field goal reviewed since it was a scoring play that took place inside the two-minute warning of the first half?
ANSWER: According to accounts of the game, Minkah Fitzpatrick's blocked field goal, scoop, and 75-yard run for a touchdown that was nullified by an offside penalty called on Joe Haden was reviewed by the booth, but because there wasn't a camera angle that provided a view down the line of scrimmage it was determined there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the call that had been made on the field. And yet another instance of instant replay not working to get the call correct.

MATTHIAS ELFGEN FROM OTTAWA, CANADA: I'm wondering how involved the head coach usually is in special teams strategies and play-calling? Is the coordinator solely in charge and makes the decisions in terms of punt formations, punt positioning, or even fake kicks and all this fun stuff?
ANSWER: Here is a general outline of how that works for the Steelers, and I will use the names of the people holding the respective job titles to make it easier to understand. Special teams coordinator Danny Smith will do the video study/research to determine if there are opportunities for fakes or strategies for blocking kicks, and then he will present his findings to Coach Mike Tomlin. During the game, Tomlin will give the OK for when/if he wants the team to attempt Smith's plan.

WILLIAM YOUNG FROM BADEN, PA: The Steelers traded a first-round draft pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick, and he has been worth it, in my opinion. Do you believe the Steelers will re-sign him before he gets to free agency next year?
ANSWER: The Steelers already have exercised the fifth-year option on Minkah Fitzpatrick's rookie contract, and so he cannot become a free agent in 2022. The earliest Fitzpatrick could become an unrestricted free agent is 2023, but my belief is the Steelers would use the franchise tag on him if the sides have not come to a long-term contract extension with him by that time.

TOM MIHALIC FROM SUFFOLK, VA: When Ben Roethlisberger is in the shotgun, is there any reason why our center bobs his head right before the snap? I noticed the Packers were getting off the ball super quick. I also noticed the Packers center didn't do that.
ANSWER: The center bobbing his head is part of the silent count routine, and the reason the Packers center wasn't doing it is because the fans at Lambeau Field weren't trying to disrupt the home team's offense. The bobbing of the head is a signal to the other offensive players, because in the huddle the unit is alerted to whether the ball will be snapped after the first head-bob or the second head-bob. If that part is changed up, then the defense shouldn't be able to anticipate the snap without also risking being offside.

JOSHUA KARPER FROM DELAWARE, OH: Why do the Steelers continue to run pass plays significantly short of the sticks on fourth down?
ANSWER: More than wishing I had something I could tell you about that, I wish I had the authority to make them stop it.

JAMES DIBERT FROM FAIRBORN, OH: Can you please explain why the Steelers repeatedly throw a 1-2-yard pass on fourth down when they need at least several yards to get a 1st down? Opposing defenses seem to know that play is coming and shut it down virtually every time.
ANSWER: See above answer.

GREG PARSONS FROM MOUNT LAUREL, NJ: Last week on fourth-and-10 from the 11-yard line, Ben Roethlisberger passed to Najee Harris behind the line of scrimmage, and he was tackled for a loss. This week in Green Bay, on a fourth down in the third quarter, it looked like the same exact play with the same exact result. On another fourth down play, the pass was also not far enough down field to get to the first down marker. Is this Matt Canada's fault for the plays being called, or is it Ben Roethlisberger not throwing it down the field?
ANSWER: In situations such as this when the same thing is done with no change to the unsuccessful result, I would suggest there is enough blame to go around.

CHRIS THORNBERRY FROM CAPE CORAL, FL: Is it possible that Ben Roethlisberger is placing too much of the blame on himself? Could the issues still be: Learning the new system; the new players (rookies, free agents) on the team still developing; and injuries?
ANSWER: Ben Roethlisberger placing the blame on himself after these losses is better than him pointing the finger at someone else. Because pointing the finger is the only way he could make things worse. Taking the blame has no impact on anyone's psyche moving forward.

SEAN DELANEY FROM UPTON, MA: Do Steelers fans really have to hope for an injury to Ben Roethlisberger before Coach Mike Tomlin sees what everybody else already sees?
ANSWER: With the way the Steelers offensive line is playing, I don't know whether Harry Houdini would be able to operate efficiently behind it. Just as I believe it was an organizational decision to bring back Ben Roethlisberger for the 2021 season, I believe it would be an organizational decision on if/when a change at quarterback should be made this season. That's the way I believe the Steelers handle major decisions regarding significant players in franchise history, and Roethlisberger certainly falls into the category of being a significant player in franchise history.

SHIMON MAZA-WILLIAMS FROM SUFFOLK, VA: In the game vs. the Packers, I saw Ben Roethlisberger pass the ball to Zach Gentry, and I was wondering what happened to Gentry when the Steelers signed Eric Ebron?
ANSWER: The Steelers signed Eric Ebron as an unrestricted free agent on March 30, 2020, and at that time Zach Gentry was going into his second year in the NFL as a former high school quarterback who had one catch for 4 yards as a rookie and handled the blocking aspect of his new position like an ex-quarterback. At that point in time, Gentry was a developmental prospect with no guarantee of earning a roster spot in 2020 let alone being a contributor on offense.