Let’s get to it:
PAUL KAMMERMEIER FROM HONEOYE FALLS, NY: Any insight into why that apparent fumble out of the end zone by the Browns that led to the touchdown that cut the Steelers lead to 21-14 on Sunday wasn't challenged? Would it have been ruled a touchback?
ANSWER: All turnovers are automatically reviewed, and the review extends through the conclusion of the play. That means somebody – most likely Al Riveron in New York – determined that it wasn’t a fumble out of the end zone, even though it was clear that it was. Because all turnovers are automatically reviewed, coaches are not permitted to challenge those plays.
MO PECORA FROM HAMILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA: If the Ravens and Steelers finish the season with records of 10-6 for the Ravens and 10-5-1 for the Steelers, who makes the playoffs?
ANSWER: Before 1972, ties were not counted at all in the NFL’s standings, but since then, a tie is recorded as both one-half of a win and one-half of a loss. To illustrate that point, if you check the current standings as listed on NFL.com or ESPN.com, as two examples, you’ll notice that both the Browns and Steelers are listed as .500 teams with records of 0-0-1. In the example you cite, the Ravens’ winning percentage at 10-6 would be .625, and the Steelers winning percentage at 10-5-1 would be .656. So, the Steelers would finish ahead of the Ravens in the standings.
MIKE CLAPPER FROM BEDFORD, PA: How is the tie going to work with the standings at the end of the season if we needed to win a tiebreaker with another team? Is it considered a loss for both teams.
ANSWER: As explained above, a tie is counted as both one-half of a win and one-half of a loss in the NFL standings, and because ties are so rare these days, it figures to eliminate many of the kinds of situations where teams have to go to tiebreakers to determine qualifying for the playoffs.
HARRY FIGURSKI FROM ERIE, PA: This is the exact same thing that Ben Roethlisberger did at the beginning of last year. He is trying to force the ball to Antonio Brown, and I also think he could have played a little bit more in the preseason games to shake off the rust, don't you agree? If it's good for Tom Brady, it should be good for Ben also.
ANSWER: Avocado toast is apparently good for Tom Brady, but I wouldn’t touch that stuff with a 10-foot pole. Also, I can only image the irate Steelers fans calling for heads on sticks if Ben Roethlisberger was injured during a preseason game while trying to “shake off the rust.” A lot of football left to be played.
JACK MATTHEWS FROM LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM: I recently watched Chuck Noll’s “A Football Life,” and it was a beautifully honest representation of the man I consider as the greatest coach in NFL history. There was a segment towards the end where they discussed the 1989 Steelers, and one of the journalists commenting considered it Noll’s greatest coaching year. What made it so remarkable that Noll got them to the playoffs that year?
ANSWER: The 1989 Steelers were coming off a 5-11 season in 1988, and they had a new defensive coordinator in Rod Rust, a new linebackers coach in Dave Brazil, a new secondary coach in John Fox, and a new special teams coach in George Stewart. In the regular season opener, the Steelers lost to the Browns, 51-0, at Three Rivers Stadium, and the following week they went to Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati and lost to the Bengals, 41-10. That’s an 0-2 record by a combined 92-10 to two division rivals, but Noll never lost the team, which came on to win five of its final six games of the regular season to finish 9-7 and qualify for the playoffs as a Wild Card.
DON ADAMS FROM RICHMOND, TX: I have noticed that punt returners are fair-catching balls inside the 10-yard line now. Old school was you stood on the 10-yard line and if it was over your head you let it go and hoped that it went into the end zone. Why do you think they are now fair catching them more often?
ANSWER: “Hoped that it went in to the end zone.” That’s the difference right there. New school punters have a method of punting the ball so that it travels through the air end-over-end instead of on a spiral, and an end-over-end football has a better chance of bouncing backward than a ball traveling through the air as a spiral.
ROB HARDY FROM SAN LUIS POTOSÍ, SLP, MÉXICO: Even if sometimes I disagree with your opinion, I like you calling the things by their name; so, why is it that in most NFL.com articles (and Steelers.com, too), the section for fan comments was cancelled some time ago? Was it because, besides lots of useless rants, there were some intelligent and true quotes that seem to be inconvenient for what used to be a model league? Shutting down the voices to preserve some credibility? I've been following the NFL and the Steelers since 1972, so, please, give me some credit, I know some things about football.
ANSWER: Ah, nothing like a good conspiracy theory to start the week. The comment section at the bottom of articles on Steelers.com was disabled because of the amount of spam, unwanted solicitations, and just general commercial garbage that was dominating those sections, and because of the sophistication of the spammers and the equipment and strategies they employ to get around being blocked, it was determined that the only sure way to eliminate that from happening was to disable that feature.
D'TRICK ROBINSON FROM BELLVILLE, NJ: If/When Le’Veon Bell returns to the team, do you suspect that he'll share the backfield with James Conner?
ANSWER: If by sharing, you mean would they both be on the field at the same time, my answer is no because the Steelers don’t utilize a split-back offense. If you’re referring to some other kind of division of labor, it’s possible, but there are a lot of variables that could affect that as well. Which one is performing better at the time. Who is healthier. What’s the specific game plan against a specific opponent and which player’s skill-set is more conducive to making that plan work. Things like that will play into the decision, I believe.
MATTHEW SEIFERT FROM SOMERSET, PA: Do you feel the officials are throwing more penalty flags this year? I'm strictly going by the Eagles-Falcons game and the Steelers-Browns game as those are the only two I have watched. I agree that they got a lot of calls "correct," but some were nit-picky and really took away from the game (for all clubs involved).
ANSWER: Preaching to the choir.