Skip to main content

Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 15

Let's get to it:

DANIEL DUNMYER FROM FORT MYERS, FL: I know it doesn't matter in the big scheme of things, but when will Cam Heyward be given his due respect by the media and league outside of our own Pittsburgh community. He was a beast – again – against Cincinnati. Not just the fumble recovery and the sack, but he chews up two offensive linemen on every play. He is a joy to watch.
ANSWER: I'm sure Cam Heyward also is something less than a joy across the line of scrimmage during a game. I cannot explain why Heyward is underrated outside of Steelers Nation – and to be honest there were more than a few Steelers fans who complained that when the team signed him to his latest contract extension it shouldn't have committed so much money and cap space to a player over 30 years old. But strangely enough, I don't hear much from those fans anymore. I am of the opinion that when he's finished playing, Cam Heyward will deserve to be recognized as one of the great players in franchise history and quite possibly the most highly decorated interior defensive lineman the Steelers ever have had not named Joe Greene.

JEROME GONZALEZ FROM ALBERTA, CANADA: Mitch Trubisky was OK, but if he continues to struggle to do anything with poor offensive line play do you think Kenny Pickett will be given a shot?
ANSWER: If the offensive line is playing poorly – under your scenario – why does the quarterback deserve to be benched? That doesn't make any sense to me. And once again, let me remind you that this is now the regular season, and the games count in the standings. This is not the time to be giving players "a shot" when the team is coming off a win.

WILLIAM ANDERSON FROM REYNOLDSVILLE, PA: It was sad to see T.J. Watt go down with an injury in the first game of the year. It reminds me of the year Rod Woodson went down in the first game. That year the Steelers went to the Super Bowl. It meant other players had to pick up the slack. In recent years, the Steelers have moved linebackers around – Lawrence Timmons comes to mind, because he was drafted as an outside linebacker and was moved to the inside. With Watt's injury do you see the Steelers doing anything like that? Mark Robinson has speed; could he be utilized on the outside?
ANSWER: One correction: while it was widely reported at the time that Lawrence Timmons was drafted to be an outside linebacker (because of Joey Porter's release a couple of months earlier), the Steelers' plan for him all along was to play him at inside linebacker. That's why the team used its second-round pick in that draft on LaMarr Woodley, who was slated to be an outside linebacker. Anyway, it's not realistic to ask a guy who played defense for only one year in college, and that as an inside linebacker, to switch to the totally different position of outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. The Steelers' plan for T.J. Watt's absence is to plug in either Malik Reed or Jamir Jones – or some combination of both – into that spot and see what those guys can contribute. You are correct in suggesting other players on defense will have to step up, but I don't believe that includes moving a rookie who was a running back until his final year of college to the totally unfamiliar position of 3-4 outside linebacker.

TIMOTHY SAMONI FROM NORTHLAKE, TX: I've read a few reports that T.J. Watt has sought a few opinions on his injury, as any person might in a similar circumstance. Given the large investment that NFL teams make in superstar players like Watt, does the team have any say in the decision for treatment? No matter what, here's hoping T.J. has a full, uneventful, and speedy recovery that results in another knockout season.
ANSWER: Based on the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, players are entitled to seek medical opinions outside the team, and the final decision on treatment is made by the player.

BRIAN WINGARD FROM CURWENSVILLE, PA: With T.J. Watt's injury currently under evaluation, who makes the ultimate decision about whether surgery will be performed after gathering all of the expert opinions – the team or the player?
ANSWER: As explained above, the player makes that decision, and it's also the player's choice as to who performs the surgery if surgery is the option he chooses.

GUY COURTNEY FROM FREDERICKSBURG, VA: The opener in Cincinnati was reminiscent of the 2021 season, with the offensive line not getting it done for the running game, and to a lesser degree, for the passing game. Mitch Trubisky seemed to be running for his life most of the game. Why is it such a struggle to get the line to perform at a higher level? Is it talent, schemes, coaching, and what can be done to get it fixed?
ANSWER: As I have mentioned previously in this space, whenever I seek opinions on offensive line play, I turn to Craig Wolfley and Max Starks, who can be heard from 10 a.m.-noon weekdays during the season on Steelers Nation Radio (In the Locker Room with Wolf & Starks), and also during the broadcast of Steelers games on the Steelers Radio Network. Their opinion, which was offered before the start of the regular season, was that it was going to take a month before we would have a good idea of how the offensive line was shaping up.

PERCY SONDAG FROM DOYLESTOWN, PA: Looking at the terms of Chris Boswell's contract on the Internet, I see that his signing bonus counts $2.8 million towards this this year's cap, and $1.6 million for the following years. Can teams decide how they split up the cap hit of signing bonuses, or is there an NFL rule that decides it for them?
ANSWER: These things can be negotiated by the team and the player provided they conform to the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

JOHN DELGUZZO FROM DOWNINGTOWN, PA: Why didn't George Pickens get more playing time against the Bengals? Is he injured?
ANSWER: When the offense converts only 26.7 percent on third downs and possesses the ball for just 26 minutes and 17 seconds, there's not a lot of playing time for anyone on offense. George Pickens ended up playing 45 of a possible 63 snaps (71 percent) against the Bengals, which means he was third among Steelers receivers behind Diontae Johnson (51-of-63 snaps for 81 percent) and Chase Claypool (58-of-63 snaps for 92 percent). What Pickens needs more of are targets, because he had only three vs. the Bengals, which is too few in my opinion.

IGOR NOVOSEL FROM ZAGREB, CROATIA: Talking about the Cincinnati long snapper's injury, someone at asked why a center wouldn't take over in such a situation. The answer was they don't practice snapping with both hands. This doesn't make sense to me - obviously the backup tight end didn't get it right either. What's your take on this? How would the Steelers handle such an injury?
ANSWER: Playing center and long-snapping are nowhere near close to being the same thing in any respect. Two Steelers Hall of Fame centers – Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson – were not good at long-snapping at all, even though Chuck Noll had Webster doing it anyway during the bulk of his career. I once saw Webster put on a long-snapping display in Cleveland that was worse than what Mitchell Wilcox did on Sunday for the Bengals. The idea that a center could, or should, be able to fill in at a moment's notice for an injured long-snapper is naïve and unrealistic. The Steelers have a couple of guys who practice long-snapping and would be available should something happen to Christian Kuntz during a game, but you can be sure it wouldn't be an ideal scenario.

RICHARD WOLF FROM SIOUX CITY, IA: How come when Najee Harris was injured in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, the Steelers couldn't let the play clock run down before taking the mandatory timeout? I am sure it is an NFL rule, but making the Steelers take the timeout right away really penalizes a team for an injury.
ANSWER: It is an NFL rule that once a player is determined to be injured, an on-field official will stop the clock and allow medical personnel to come onto the field and attend to the player.

BOB GIBSON FROM KNOXVILLE, TN: I hear the term "short-term injured reserve" being used, but is there such an actual designation?
ANSWER: There is no actual stipulation for short-term injured reserve, but you most often hear that used during the period spanning the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season, because a player placed on injured reserve without first being on the initial 53-man roster is lost to his team for the whole season. To qualify for "short-term injured reserve," a player must first be on the initial 53-man roster for at least 24 hours and then placed on injured reserve. Based on where we are right now – in that the regular season is underway – all players placed on injured reserve would be eligible to return to their teams after missing at least four games.

DAN McNEEL FROM MANCHESTER, NH: What qualifications are necessary to become the writer the NFL anoints as the Power Ranking expert? And the larger question, why does anyone read and/or listen to Power Rankings, including me? The only Power Ranking with any credibility is the one after the Super Bowl is over and the final standings are known.
ANSWER: I am no fan of Power Rankings, either, which is why I NEVER pay attention to them, regardless of the writer. But you ask why anyone pays attention, and then admit that you do. So if you're wondering why outlets continue to populate/pollute the Internet with such drivel, I believe you've answered your own question.