Let’s get to it:
CHRISTIAN LABRICCIOSA FROM TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA: I like Terrell Edmunds’ size and speed as a defensive back, but looking to fill a hole at inside linebacker, do you think one day Edmunds would be an option? He is really coming into his own at safety, and I know before Shazier made an impact at linebacker people were talking about transferring him into a safety role because of his speed.
ANSWER: Ah, the old “Switch Shazier to Safety,” but only in reverse. First of all, the only “people” to suggest moving Ryan Shazier to safety were fans. Terrell Edmunds was drafted in the first round because the Steelers believe his combination of size, speed, and athleticism make him an excellent candidate to fill the role of a hybrid safety, a defensive back capable of moving down closer to the line of scrimmage in certain sub-packages. As he develops, the Steelers’ plan for Edmunds is more about him developing into someone who is versatile enough to fill a variety of roles within the defense, as opposed to having him line up at a specific position. This is similar, I believe, to what you describe, but there also is a distinction I’m not sure you’re proposing.
DANIEL PIERRE FROM LEXINGTON, KY: After reading your explanation of coin toss decisions, are you saying that it is possible for a team to kick off at the beginning of each half? As an example: win the coin toss; defer to second half; kick off because the other team chose to receive; and then choose to kick off again for second half.
ANSWER: That is certainly possible, and it could actually happen on a day when wind is perceived to be a significant factor. Under the example you cite, the team that deferred its choice to the second half could choose to defend a particular goal – either to have the wind at its back in the third period or ensure that it would have the wind at its back in the fourth period. After one team chose to defend a particular goal, I’m certain the other team would elect to take the football, which would create the scenario where one team would kick off to start both halves.
PAUL RAINEY FROM YOUNGSTOWN, OH: Is it just me or is there a relationship for success vs. failure in the running game based on Rosie Nix being in the game at fullback? Seems to me Nix played a lot at Cleveland, and James Conner rushed for 135 yards, and when he only played for one snap against Baltimore, Conner rushed for 19 yards.
ANSWER: Rosie Nix is an excellent led blocker from the fullback position – athletic and physical – and that certainly contributes to the success of the running game. But here’s another factor to consider when judging the running game against the Browns vs. against the Ravens: after a scoreless first quarter, the Steelers gradually built a 21-7 lead in Cleveland; vs. Baltimore, the Ravens jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
CHRIS WILLIAMS FROM CASPER, WY: When playing zone defense, is the idea to defend a specific spot of ground or any player who enters that zone?
ANSWER: Coach Mike Tomlin explained the basic concept of zone coverage this way: “Everyone has designated spots on the field, and you designate those spots based on minimizing where the ball goes. And players move within their areas based on where the quarterback takes them. Sometimes it’s specifically route-related. Sometimes you have some pre-snap physical clues – if you get this personnel group and you get them in this formation. But most of the time it’s area-located, moving within that area based on what the opposing quarterback tells you to do based on his actions.”
J.J BURFORD FROM LAWTON, OK: I believe when a ball goes into the end zone on a kickoff it is brought out to the 25-yard line in order to discourage returns. Why then is it only brought out to the 20-yard line on a punt that goes into the end zone?
ANSWER: Because punt return plays do not generate the same number of high-speed collisions that are a part of kickoff returns. Those collisions are what the NFL is trying to eliminate.
PRESTON MILLS FROM HUNTINGTON, WV: Why do they keep using James Washington, Ryan Switzer, and Justin Hunter instead of just Washington like they did with JuJu Smith-Schuster during his rookie season when he turned out to be a star? It feels like Washington never got a shot like JuJu.
ANSWER: Your perception is inaccurate. James Washington didn’t see much playing time on offense against the Browns in the opener, but that was because he had been injured and was being worked back into the rotation slowly. But from that point, he has played 72.9 percent of the offensive snaps. He played 66 of 82 offensive snaps vs. the Chiefs, 40 of 66 vs. the Buccaneers, and 47 of 62 vs. the Ravens.
BILL STEWART FROM COLUMBIANA, OH: How does compensation work when a player is injured and out for a few games or the whole season? Does he still receive his pay?
ANSWER: Unless the injury is non-football related, players’ salaries are not impacted in any way by missing games as a result of injuries or even illnesses. A recent and well-publicized example of a non-football injury would be the one Jason Pierre-Paul sustained in that accident involving fireworks. In the case of non-football injuries, a team has the option not to pay the player for games missed as a result.
SCOTT PROSSER FROM PHILADELPHIA, PA: Is the NFL morphing into the Arena League? Defense and the running game are vanishing at an alarming rate.
ANSWER: If that’s true, apparently it’s attractive to fans, because CBS.com sent out a press release earlier in the week touting, “Through four weeks, THE NFL ON CBS’ season-to-date ratings are up 8 percent and viewership is up 7 percent from a year ago (9.5/22 vs. 8.8/20 and 16.3 million vs. 15.2 million, respectively).”
JARROD O'NEAL FROM ROSEVILLE, CA: Why do you think Steelers fans believe it is easy or logical to just switch players to different positions? Is it because of what Carnell Lake had to do out of necessity in 1995 and 1997? Or is it because they really have no idea what it takes to make it in the NFL at one position?
ANSWER: I have no idea, truly, why people continue to believe switching positions at the NFL level is as simple as changing your socks. I will continue to highlight some of them, for nothing else except the entertainment value.
EVAN HOLLIDAY FROM FULTON, NY: Do you think James Harrison will come back to the NFL as a linebackers coach for the Steelers?
ANSWER: Uh, no.