Let's get to it:
DONNA KLAKAMP FROM ERIE, PA: Do the Steelers coaches utilize electronic devices during the game to review formations, plays, and/or mistakes made on the field? I noticed Kenny Pickett on the bench after each failed drive in the regular season opener against San Francisco, just sitting by himself with no interaction from the coaches or looking at any devices. Is this normal or did the television cameras just focus on his loneliness?
ANSWER: Based on the wording of your submission, I'm going to surmise you watched the game on television as opposed to being in the stands at Acrisure Stadium. A telecast of an NFL game often will concentrate on certain things within a game for dramatic effect, and based on how that particular game developed I'm sure the director of the broadcast believed the viewers would be captivated by the images of the starting quarterback sitting on the sideline and appearing to be wallowing in the frustration of how the game was unfolding on the field. From my seat in the press box, I can assure you that Kenny Pickett consulted the electronic devices the Steelers have available on the sideline for their players, and there was communication/interaction between him and the coaches while the game was progressing.
KEN WAMSLEY FROM BIDWELL, OH: After watching the opener vs. the 49ers and hearing the bad news about Cam Heyward's injury, Do think the Steelers could land J.J. Watt out of retirement?
ANSWER: No chance, and that comes from J.J. Watt himself. Since announcing his retirement as an NFL player, Watt bought a soccer team, moved back to Houston, and began life as a dad. During an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show in the days after the regular season opener, Watt said, "I love the City of Pittsburgh. I love the people there, the way that they treat my brother, the history, the tradition, I have so much respect for that place. It is incredible. I'm enjoying being retired. It's great."
ERIC SCHIER FROM DOWNINGTOWN, PA: In the last A&A you were very dismissive of the notion that some of the younger players should have been brought into the game when all reasonable hope was gone. I agree that it wouldn't be to "see what they can do". However, the speed of the game at the NFL level is much different so don't you think getting the younger guys some live action snaps would benefit them?
ANSWER: I will continue to be dismissive of the concept of using regular season games as an extension of the preseason. "Getting the younger guys some live action snaps" is the exact same thing as "seeing what they can do." This is the regular season in the NFL. There are a very limited number of opportunities. If the decision is made to play the young guys, that's something I would get behind willingly, but then the correct way to proceed is to incorporate that into a plan, teach it, practice it, and then use it in the upcoming game. You don't just throw inexperienced players onto the field during a regular season game without the proper preparation and practice.
MAC FENNELL FROM NEW ALBANY, MS: Just wondering, did Mike Hilton ask to be traded? If not, what do you think was the reason of the trade?
ANSWER: Mike Hilton left the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent. It was the 2021 offseason, and the Steelers found themselves with 19 unrestricted free agents, one of whom was Hilton, and a dire salary cap situation created by a combination of all of those soon-to-be-free players and a cap that actually decreased as a result of the impact of playing home games in empty stadiums because of Covid. There was no way the Steelers were going to be able to offer what Cincinnati did, and so Hilton wisely took the money and went to play for the Bengals.
GLAUCIO CAFALCHIO FROM TAUBATÉ, SP, BRAZIL: I know Steelers don't believe in switching coordinators during the season, but do you think they could hire assistant coaches to help with some aspects of the game they see as critically underperforming?
ANSWER: There is no way a coach could come in from the outside and get up to speed on the system and the personnel to the degree where he could have any positive impact on what the team is doing now that the regular season already has begun.
TYSON SOLORIO FROM EAGLE MOUNTAIN, UT: I was at the home game last Sunday. It was the first NFL game I've ever attended, and I definitely wanted to make sure that I saw my first NFL game in Pittsburgh as a true Steelers fan. I wore my favorite player's jersey and bought the best seats in the house. I was on the first row before the game, at halftime, and postgame. Like myself, there were many other fans (kids included) who wore their favorite players' jerseys in hopes of getting a high-five, an autograph, photo, or any kind of acknowledgment from the Steelers bench. We were all so excited to be there. The only player to come over to the sideline for a high-five was Isaiahh Loudermilk. Postgame outside as the players were all leaving, the only player to acknowledge the fans and take photos and sign autographs was Broderick Jones. My question to you is, would it be safe to say that the Steelers were defeated before the game even started? There was no excitement from the players at any point. Would it be safe to assume that we could get a similar outcome during the home game with the Browns?
ANSWER: There are many ways in which the regular season is significantly different from the training camp/preseason period, and you just highlighted one of them. Had you visited Saint Vincent College in Latrobe during training camp, you would have seen many players interacting with fans before practice officially began, maybe signing autographs or posing for photos or even playing catch with them. But expecting the same level of interaction before a regular season game is just not realistic. You seriously cannot expect Kenny Pickett, as one example, to pose for photos, sign autographs, or high-five fans during the pregame period, and if that's what you do expect you are going to be disappointed.
STEVE GREJDA FROM ROCHESTER, MI: Najee Harris has been criticized for his poor "analytics," but just who determines "breakaway rate," "elusive rating," and other nebulous concepts?
ANSWER: I think you hit the heart of the matter with your use of the word "nebulous." Regular readers know I've never been a big fan of the kinds of services that provide this kind of information, because while it can seem significant when read on a spreadsheet I don't know how much practical application there is to this kind of data and how it realistically impacts what happens on a football field in the heat of competition. Bill Nunn is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his lifetime of work scouting and grading prospects – not only for the Steelers but also in his work of compiling his Black College All-America Team from 1950-69 – and I have my doubts that he ever got involved measuring "elusive rating."
HENRY LACAYO FROM MIAMI, FL: If a player is injured during any given Sunday NFL game and then is out for the season – for example, Aaron Rodgers – does he continue to get paid his regular game day salary?
ANSWER: Yes. Players on injured reserve receive their base salary and any other guaranteed money detailed in their contract for that season. And it counts fully on the team's salary cap.
THOMAS BUGOSH FROM CYPRESS, TX: Reading through some of your letters/questions over the years, I'm certain that at times you (or your staff) create fictitious names from some various city with questions on subjects that you would have wished someone had submitted only so that you could address that subject. How often does that happen?
ANSWER: Never. And I should be so lucky to have an Asked and Answered "staff."