Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 14

Let's get to it:

LEE RINGLER FROM GREENSBURG, PA: Did the Steelers cut Ryan Switzer because they thought they had a younger receiver with more upside, or was it a cost-cutting move to sign Cam Heyward?
ANSWER: Ryan Switzer's contract wasn't big enough to have any impact on the Steelers' ability to sign Cam Heyward to that contract extension. The Steelers cut Switzer because Ray-Ray McCloud came to Pittsburgh and in relatively short order flashed some playmaking ability at training camp as both a receiver and a returner.

SHANE PIFER FROM BELPRE, OH: Every time Steelers had a big running back like Jerome Bettis or Bam Morris, they could pound the defense when they were in the red zone . Why are they not doing that now? Plus they need to run more trick plays. What do you think?
ANSWER: I don't believe it's possible for me to disagree with anything more. In 2018, when the Steelers had Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, the Steelers not only led the NFL in red zone efficiency but their 73.47 touchdown percentage was the best for an offense over a full NFL season since 2003. And just a reminder: the Steelers' running back in 2018 was James Conner, so that whole "big back" theory of yours doesn't hold water.

HUCK RANDY FROM ARNOLDS PARK, IA: I live in the Midwest, where live Steelers coverage is very hard to find. Is there a Steelers radio station that I can listen to online?
ANSWER: If you go to the Steelers.com home page and scroll down for a bit, you will see a link for Steelers Nation Radio. There is a link there that reads "Listen Live." Click on that, and you'll be in business.

MIKE DARROW FROM MANHATTAN BEACH, CA: If Stefan Wisniewski is the backup at all three interior line positions, what happens when he's in the lineup for David DeCastro, as an example, and another interior spot needs a replacement? The Steelers seem thinner in this area then they have been in the past. Last year they had B.J. Finney, and Matt Feiler could move inside.
ANSWER: Besides Stefan Wisniewski, the backups along the interior of the offensive line are rookie Kevin Dotson and J.C. Hassenauer, who was on the practice squad for much of the 2019 season. Let me refresh your memory about 2019. You are correct that the Steelers had B.J. Finney as an interior offensive line backup, but besides him the only other backup was undrafted rookie Fred Johnson. Matt Feiler was a tackle last year, and while I understand he played guard against the Los Angeles Rams, that game was on Nov. 10 and was a one-time thing. Such is the reality of the NFL these days, because most teams keep eight offensive linemen on the roster, and because five start at a time that just doesn't leave many bodies to serve as backups.

CHRIS WELBURN FROM GLASTONBURY, CT: Have there been any league rules put in place to monitor the usage of homefield audio levels? Some may find it advantageous for it to be louder or quieter at different times of the game.
ANSWER: If you're referring to specific rules put in place for this season of games in stadiums with no fans, the answer is no. There are rules already in the book, such as the one about teams having to cut off pumped in music when the play clock runs down to a certain point, but there have been no additional rules created specifically for the 2020 season.

TOM RENWICK FROM MONROE, MI: With the possible decrease in the salary cap in 2021, and me not knowing what the rest of the teams' cap space is in the NFL, could next year's due date to get under the cap be kind of like a second draft season if there are a lot of available players let go because of the lack of money to pay all the veterans?
ANSWER: I'm going to be honest with you: Since today is the first day of a Steelers regular season I wasn't all that certain was going to happen at all let alone go off on schedule, I'm not going to worry about the 2021 salary cap and the possible ramifications for many months. Besides, I'm still not convinced the owners and the union don't come to some arrangement to mitigate the drop in the salary cap next year because it won't be good for the league or for the players.

COLBY TAYLOR FROM DENVER, CO: Has any Steelers player worn No. 50 since Ryan Shazier? Do you think another Steelers player ever will?
ANSWER: The Steelers have not issued No. 50 to any player since Ryan Shazier wore it. "Ever" is a long time.

KEVIN HEADEN FROM KENT, WA: What do the Steelers see in Devlin Hodges to sign him to the practice squad instead of Paxton Lynch or somebody else if it's just the practice squad?
ANSWER: Coach Mike Tomlin explained the reason behind keeping a fourth quarterback on the practice squad this way: "We have four quarterbacks in the program, guys who we have played ball with in the past. We believe that aids us. Duck being a practice squad guy, this is a guy who started games for us a year ago. We believe that's an asset to us. In this COVID environment you can't insulate yourself enough with quality depth in all positions." Since Tomlin made it clear the idea behind a fourth quarterback was that it had to be somebody familiar with the offense and the offensive personnel, I believe it was Devlin Hodges over Paxton Lynch at the end of this summer because while Hodges is somewhat limited physically, Lynch was simply too erratic and unpredictable even after he had been hanging around on the fringes of the league for four years.

ROBERT KEALEY FROM PAXINOS, PA: With all the unknowns associated with this season, what will be the biggest obstacle to overcome, in your opinion?
ANSWER: Injuries and the impact of those injuries. Good health always is a significant factor for every team every season, but this year with no organized offseason program and no preseason games, teams' abilities to identify and develop depth had to be compromised. Couple that with the unknown associated with the impact of no preseason and a significantly regulated training camp on the ability of teams to prepare their players' bodies for the rigors of an NFL regular season, and it's possible injuries could prove to be even more of a factor than in a "normal" regular season.

KHARI CLEMMONS FROM McALPIN, FL: When we drafted Antoine Brooks, I really thought he had the talent/skill set to be an asset at the hybrid position. But as training camp wore on, I noticed that I didn't hear many people in the organization talking about him. From your vantage point, what did he do or not do to lead to his eventual release?
ANSWER: Expecting a sixth-round draft pick to come in and adjust to the NFL while also learning the nuances of the very difficult position of hybrid linebacker is unrealistic, and Antoine Brooks was faced with trying to do that with no offseason program and no preseason games. Brooks is on the practice squad and will be able to use this as a redshirt year to watch and learn and practice with the team, and he'll get another chance in 2021 when the NFL calendar goes back to normal. Hopefully back to normal.

DAVID WILSON FROM COLUMBUS, OH: Do you think the Steelers offense will just use Josh Dobbs as a scout team quarterback to help out the defense during practices, or will they utilize his talents during games to help the team win some games? He has the ability to run or throw during any given play.
ANSWER: You do understand that if Josh Dobbs is in the game at quarterback, then Ben Roethlisberger is not? If there's a quarterback on the roster whose talents will help the team win games, it's Roethlisberger. All due respect to Dobbs, but that's insane. As mentioned in an earlier answer, the last time Roethlisberger played a full season (2018) the Steelers led the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage, and it was the highest red zone touchdown percentage in the NFL since 2003. Only geniuses like Sean Payton bench a Hall of Fame quarterback and replace him "to help the team win some games."

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