Let's get to it:
KEITH GRAND FROM MEMPHIS, TN: What's the deal with Mason Rudolph? To be honest, I thought he had a better preseason than Mitch Trubisky. Why is he not a coveted backup?
ANSWER: In evaluating Mason Rudolph's preseason, I believe teams would have noted that the bulk of his playing time came late in preseason games when he was playing with and against guys low on the depth chart. Beyond that, I have no specific knowledge of why there hasn't been outside interest in Rudolph, either via trade or when he was an unrestricted free agent. Maybe teams are interested in quarterbacks with more mobility, or maybe teams are more interested in players who are under contract beyond the 2023 season because Rudolph will become an unrestricted free agent in March 2024, but that's pure speculation on my part. I also believe the Steelers value him as the No. 3 quarterback.
MARK DOBBS FROM CYPRESS, TX: On the fourth-and-1 play, I was hoping for a field goal attempt to put the game back to a one-score game. Has anyone inquired if that was a consideration and if not, why?
ANSWER: Coach Mike Tomlin was asked whether attempting a field goal in that situation was considered, and this is what he said, "It really was. (But) at some point, you've got to draw a line in the dirt. We had momentum and rhythm. We had converted two field goals. I wanted to win that circumstance and keep the pressure on. And obviously, when the play wasn't successful, it negated whatever rhythm that we had established, and it really was a significant play in terms of the trajectory of the game. Obviously, had I known that the play was going to be unsuccessful, I would've sent (Chris Boswell) out there, but I don't get do-overs."
TIM KISSELL FROM STREETSBORO, OH: It seems that it wasn't until Kenny Pickett's fifth season at Pitt before he really excelled. It wasn't until Terry Bradshaw's fifth season in the NFL before he excelled. I'm not comparing Kenny to Terry. That would be silly. I am simply wondering if with today's NFL salary structure and with fans' expectations of immediate success, can a team wait for a quarterback to develop if it takes more than a season or two?
ANSWER: One slight clarification to the scenarios cited in your submission: In 1974, which was Terry Bradshaw's fifth year in the NFL, he was benched for performance by Chuck Noll during a regular season that ended with an AFC Central Division championship and ultimately the first Super Bowl win in franchise history. Now, with quarterbacks drafted in the first round, teams have a fifth-year option available where they can buy a little more time – albeit an expensive purchase – to make a long-term decision on a young-ish quarterback. But I would say a team has to decide definitively one way or the other on a quarterback before the completion of his fifth professional season, because waiting until the fifth season is over could result in the kind of situation in which the New York Giants find themselves with Daniel Jones. In my opinion, the time element and how it relates to contract size can be why long-term succession plans – Aaron Rodgers for Brett Favre and then Jordan Love for Brett Favre – are not as advantageous as they might have been in the past.
RAMIRO ENRIQUEZ FROM RICHGROVE, CA: They sure have been giving Matt Canada a whole lot of air time on televised games. I don't see that in any other game. Why do you think the networks do that? And hello to Missi Matthews.
ANSWER: Television networks love drama, even if they have to create it.
DANNY FURUYA FROM HUNTSVILLE, AL: Given the team's inability to stop the run, do you think it would help to put a nose tackle on the field? Knowing most teams use three-receiver packages, was there a time where the Steelers played a nickel defense while having the nose tackle on the field, and substituting an inside linebacker to play a third safety or corner?
ANSWER: Casey Hampton was the best pure nose tackle in franchise history, and he was taken off the field on third downs. Offenses are too multiple and uncooperative to allow a defense to put personnel on the field that will take away what they want to do. Montravius Adams is a nose tackle, and he has played 58 percent of the defensive snaps so far this season, and the Steelers defense is tied-for-30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game. And while I don't believe for a second that's all Adams' fault, it's also an indication that just having a particular position player on the field doesn't guarantee success. And do you really want to see an inside linebacker trying to cover one of those three receivers the opponent puts on the field?
BRIAN JENKINS FROM CULPEPER, VA: I'm sure you are as tired as I am of the inconsistent officiating. It's not just the bad calls, but it's the missed calls, too, like the facemask non-call on Jaylen Warren that could be seen clearly on the broadcast as it happened. What are your thoughts on having the officials identified with name and picture with their stats that include boneheaded calls and missed calls easily seen by a mile away?
ANSWER: That is NEVER EVER going to happen, so just put it out of your mind. It's not even worth considering. Or fantasizing about.
BRIAN DI CALMA FROM TUSCANY, ITALY: Are touchdowns included statistically also as first downs? Why are a player's playoff statistics not counted together with regular season/career stats?
ANSWER: If the team scoring the touchdown could have gotten a first down without scoring a touchdown, then a first down is awarded on the scoring play. Playoff statistics are not included in an individual's career statistics because not every player makes the playoffs during his career, or appears in the same number of playoff games as another individual, and so excluding playoff statistics allows for a cleaner comparison of one individual's career to another who might have played the same position.
JOE LAMOLINARE DALLAS, GA: When there is a pass interference call on the defense, does the quarterback get credit for the yards gained, and is the pass considered a completed pass?
ANSWER: If the offense accepts the pass interference penalty on the defense, there are no individual statistics awarded on the play.
KEN WILSON FROM MILTON, FL: During Mike Tomlin's press conference on Oct. 3, he was asked why they didn't call a running play on fourth-and-1 when Kenny Pickett got hurt. His response was they didn't have the proper personnel on the field, which would indicate they considered it. With all the football people in the room, why wasn't he asked why didn't they didn't bring in the 'jumbo' package, being that they called a timeout to plan the play?
ANSWER: For the sake of clarity, here is the wording of the question to Coach Mike Tomlin along with his answer about the fourth-and-1 play in the game against the Texans:
Q. Specifically, the fourth-and-1. Bad call or bad execution?
A. "You know, there's a lot of variables at play. The bottom line is it wasn't a good call because it wasn't productive. But to be completely transparent with you, we lost a lot of short-yardage personality because of (the injuries to) Dan Moore and Pat Freiermuth. We lost all our big packages. Broderick Jones was already on the field. And so, we probably had to get out of our intended box, if you will, in that circumstance because of lack of player availability at that point in the game. But such as life, this is the National Football League. There's not 100 guys standing on the sideline. There's an attrition component to play … and that's one instance where we were in less than ideal circumstances because of a lack of player availability."
For the game against the Texans, the Steelers had eight offensive linemen on the active list: Dan Moore Jr., Isaac Seumalo, Mason Cole, Nate Herbig, Chuks Okorafor, Broderick Jones, Dylan Cook, and Spencer Anderson. The tight ends who were active were Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington, and Connor Heyward. On the inactive list was James Daniels who was injured and had been declared out of the game on Friday's practice report. Once Moore and Freiermuth were injured, the only extra available offensive linemen were Anderson and Cook because Jones already was playing left tackle. Neither Cook nor Anderson are part of the regular "jumbo package," because what's required in that situation doesn't really fit with their individual skill-sets. Fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter isn't a good time to experiment with inexperienced linemen, and so the jumbo package was ruled out during the timeout.
GERRY MANDERING FROM SCALP LEVEL, PA: If the defense is penalized on an extra point kick, does the kicking team have the option of now attempting a 2-point conversion from the 1-yard line?
ANSWER: Yes, in that scenario the offense could have the penalty enforced from the 2-yard line and then attempt a 2-point conversion.
WILL POLK FROM WILMINGTON, NC: In your long history with the Steelers, has there been any player or coach who has drawn as much ire as Matt Canada?
ANSWER: I was still a student back in 1974 when Steelers fans at Three Rivers Stadium cheered when Terry Bradshaw had to leave a game – I believe it was against the Oilers – with an injury, and this was Terry Bradshaw. Steelers Digest had not yet been created in December 1987 when Steelers fans made it a habit to treat quarterback Mark Malone badly during home games, and one incident that happened at Three Rivers Stadium on a non-game day even made national news. The following is Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke's account of what happened on Dec. 4, 1987:
"True story. A guy drives his car off the road, onto the sidewalk and through one of the gates at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. He drives underneath a runway and runs into a 70-pound vat of nacho cheese. Appetizers for everyone. He backs up and drives along the outer ramps until he reaches the third level. He parks and gets out. He runs down to the football field. When the cops find him, he is at the 50-yard line, kicking imaginary field goals.
"First thing (the cops) ask (the driver), what kind of mental anguish could have led you to this? What horrible thing could have made you want to act like this? The man says it was (Steelers quarterback) Mark Malone."
At the time of this misguided fan's assault on the vat of nacho cheese, the Steelers were 7-5 and tied for first place in the AFC Central Division and appeared to have a solid chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 1984 when Malone had quarterbacked the team to the AFC Championship Game. The Steelers lost that AFC Championship Game, 45-28, in Miami to Dan Marino's Dolphins, even though Malone had passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns. The Steelers ultimately finished that 1987 strike-shortened season out of the playoffs with an 8-7 record.