Let’s get to it:
PETER TOMPKINS FROM EAST NASSAU, NY: Are roughing the passer penalty calls subject to replay review? I understand the interest in protecting the quarterbacks, but that penalty on Ola Adeniyi was awful and a 100 percent game changer. The NFL is a billion dollar business that has 10 cent officials. When are they going to wake up and fix this problem?
ANSWER: I agree with your assessment of the penalty called on Ola Adeniyi for roughing Lamar Jackson when all he really did was wrap his arms around his legs and tackle him. In fact, there was a play just like that one in the Indianapolis-Kansas City game where a Colts defensive lineman was not flagged for doing the same thing to Patrick Mahomes. But the mistake that’s often made is believing that instant replay will fix things, when in reality instant replay often makes things worse. A rule was passed on a one-year trial basis to make called and uncalled pass interference penalties subject to review following that gaffe in last season’s NFC Championship Game. If anything that rule has made things worse, and now what is or is not pass interference is as nebulous as what was or was not a catch a few seasons ago.
TODD FURST FROM ALLENTOWN, PA: In the fourth quarter of the game against the Ravens, Ola Adeniyi was flagged for hitting Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson below the waist while he was throwing the ball. Was there a penalty called when Mason Rudolph was knocked out of the game with a hit to the chin? Also, do you think the NFL's rules committee should consider ejecting a defensive player for a head shot that results in an opposing player being forced out of the game?
ANSWER: On the helmet-to-helmet hit that concussed Mason Rudolph, Earl Thomas was penalized for roughing the passer. As to your other question, there already is a rule on the books allowing for a player who delivers an illegal hit to the head of an opponent to be ejected from the game, and that very scenario is why Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict was ejected for his head-to-head hit on Indianapolis tight end Jack Doyle. In many cases, the rules exist, but the problem comes from the inconsistent and arbitrary enforcement of them that enrages fans.
ROBERT MCWHORTER FROM LONGWOOD, FL:
What are the chances that roughing-the-passer calls might be reviewable in the future? Calls that change the outcome of the game, like the one in the Ravens game, are the reasons why the pass interference calls are now reviewable. What are your thoughts?
ANSWER: Less instant replay. Fewer instances where New York has an opportunity to inject itself into a game. And I believe if you’re being completely honest with yourself, you would admit that the new pass interference rule has caused more problems than it has fixed.
TOM DERRICKSON FROM LANEXA, VA: In the recent game vs. the Ravens, it appeared Gus Edwards was stood up and stopped in the end zone for a safety, but instead of a whistle, the play continued with a Ravens lineman pulling on the ball carrier until he got out of the end zone. There seems to be a lot of inconsistency among NFL officials regarding when forward progress is stopped and the whistle blown to prevent injuries and at times fumbles. I assume this is not allowed to be challenged or reviewed?
ANSWER: If an official doesn’t blow the whistle, the play is still live. There is no such thing as a challenge on the basis that an official should’ve blown the whistle but didn’t. And thank God for that.
JIM RYAN FROM AKRON, OH: Why not challenge the spot on the safety/no safety play? In my opinion another blunder by the coaching staff that negatively impacted the outcome of the game.
ANSWER: It’s within the rules to challenge the spotting of the ball, but it’s very rare for replay to overturn the call on the field. It wasn’t obvious enough to overturn the call on the field, especially in a game where a safety could’ve ended up being the difference between winning and losing. You’re not going to win that kind of a challenge, no matter how obvious you may think it looked when you were watching it on television.
TIM TRATHOWEN FROM COLUMBUS, OH: With Mason Rudolph out for a period of time, what is the plan to back up Devlin Hodges?
ANSWER: There has been no determination as to how long Mason Rudolph will be sidelined, but I would imagine that if Devlin Hodges is the starter this coming Sunday in Los Angeles vs. the Chargers, then Paxton Lynch would be brought up from the practice squad to be his backup. Lynch was signed to the Steelers practice squad on Sept. 17.
SCOTT SWEENEY FROM HICKORY, NC: This is a curiosity question, not a “they should do this” question. If the Steelers were to re-sign Antonio Brown, would that change the current "dead money" hit we are taking from his old contract or would the new deal be its own entity and completely separate from the other contract?
ANSWER: The new contract would be its own entity and separate from his previous contract with the Steelers, both in terms of his compensation and in its impact on the salary cap.
TOMMY RIGGS FROM FREDERICK, MD: Justin Tucker repeatedly kicked the ball inside the 5-yard line on kickoffs, and we returned it for a short gain. Why not let the ball bounce into the end zone for a touchback? Is there a rule about that?
ANSWER: There is no rule prohibiting letting a kickoff bounce into the end zone, and in the NFL there also is no rule, as there is in college football, where making a fair catch anywhere inside the 25-yard line is treated just like a touchback. My feeling is that in the NFL, with the athletes bigger and faster, is that there is some concern about letting the ball hit the ground in the field of play only to see it bounce sideways or maybe back toward the kicking team where it would be treated as a live ball.
DAN KOONTZ FROM SUNBURY, PA: It seems like we’re losing winnable games because skill players are not protecting the ball during vital drives late in games, and this goes back even to the 2018 season. Would you attribute this to a growing process with young players or defensive players attacking the ball more?
ANSWER: Forcing turnovers is something NFL defenses work on constantly in the offseason, during training camp, and even for portions of practices during the regular season. Stripping the ball, punching the ball out, those kinds of tactics are taught and repped regularly. But with that, the players charged with handling the football should be aware of what defenses are trying to do and react accordingly.
JOHN CUDA FROM CLEVELAND, GA: Can a member of the kicking team gain possession of the kickoff without the ball touching a member of the receiving team? I know that they can do so on an onside kick after the required 10 yards, but I am wondering if the kicking team can regain possession after say 30 yards or 50 yards, or if the ball goes into end zone but never gets touched by the receiving team and remains in end zone?
ANSWER: Under today’s rules, if a kickoff sails into the end zone without being touched, an official will blow the play dead as a touchback. But if a kickoff remains in the field of play and isn’t touched, a member of the kicking team can recover the ball as long as the ball has traveled the minimum 10 yards.