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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 19

Let's get to it:

I noticed when T.J. Watt went out of the game against Minnesota with a groin injury that William Gay didn't replace him. I thought in training camp/beginning of the season that the position was between Watt and Harrison, so I assumed Harrison would take over if Watt got hurt. I don't think Harrison even played a snap. Is he injured?

ANSWER: James Harrison has not been on an injury report to this point in the regular season. Mike Tomlin wasn't asked about this specifically in his news conference following the game, but it may come up during his Tuesday news conference. Until Tomlin addresses this, I'll take a stab (guess) at answering the question for you. I believe the play of Anthony Chickillo has moved him into the spot of being the No. 3 outside linebacker, just as the play of Tyler Matakevich has moved him into the spot of being the No. 3 inside linebacker. What that means is Chickillo would be the first guy into the game if one of the starting outside linebackers came off the field, just as it would mean Matakevich would b the first guy into the game if one of the starting inside linebackers came off the field.

Another thing to understand: This is not necessarily a permanent designation, nor is it a hard-and-fast rule that would apply to every circumstance. While fans prefer their substitution patterns to be neat and tidy and consistent, coaches often color outside the lines. In other words, what was true on Sunday against the Vikings might not necessarily be true this coming Sunday in Chicago.

Interested in your thoughts on the signing of inside linebacker Steven Johnson and the release of L.J. Fort. I thought Fort was continuing to make progress. What does Johnson have that Fort doesn't?

ANSWER: Since we're talking about the No. 4 inside linebacker, I would imagine it had something to do with special teams play. And if Fort's progress is your concern, he has been signed to the practice squad, which means that will be able to continue.

Late in the fourth quarter against the Vikings, the Steelers led, 20-9, and had a fourth-and-3 but I'm not sure of the yard line. The Steelers lined up to attempt a field goal, but an illegal snap penalty makes it fourth-and-8. Now they punt, and Jordan Berry's kick is downed at the 1-yard line, but there's a 5-yard running into the kicker penalty. Why decline the penalty and let the Vikings have the ball at the 1-yard line instead of going back to the original line of scrimmage to attempt a field goal?

ANSWER: For me, it's a combination of taking the bird in the hand after getting a glimpse of the immediate future. Allow me to clean up some of your facts first. There was 10:08 remaining in the fourth quarter, and the line of scrimmage for the field goal attempt was the Minnesota 29-yard line. That makes it a 47-yard field goal attempt, which is no gimme at Heinz Field. So then when Jordan Berry's punt is downed at the 1-yard line, the choices to me become: attempt a 47-yard field goal, or put the Vikings on their own 1-yard line with a backup quarterback in a game in which your defense has been playing well all afternoon. If you hold the Vikings and force them to punt, the field position you reap from the exchange could set up your offense in better position than it had with a fourth-and-2 at the 29-yard line.

I was watching the Steelers vs. Vikings game and I noticed that sometimes when a receiver ran out of bounds the clock would keep on running. Is this a new rule or an old one I am just noticing?

ANSWER: This is nothing new. In fact, this rule has been in effect for several years. The rule is that when a runner or receiver goes out of bounds, the clock only stops in the final five minutes of each half. All of the rest of the time, the ball is spotted and the clock is re-started.

Have the Steelers been fortunate this year so far? So far we've played the Browns with a rookie quarterback, and the Vikings with a backup quarterback. Next up are the Bears, and there's talk that another rookie quarterback could start for them with Mike Glennon having faltered against the Buccaneers.

ANSWER: Nothing wrong with being lucky. When New England had to come to Heinz Field last season, Landry Jones started at quarterback instead of Ben Roethlisberger. Victories in the NFL aren't graded by degree of difficulty. That only happens in Olympic diving.

I notice some players like Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison come out during player introductions without their helmets but others have theirs on, why is this?

ANSWER: Personal preference. There are no rules governing whether a player wears a helmet or not during pregame introductions.

During the Vikings game an "illegal snap" penalty was called. When I saw the replay, I didn't see any movement by the long-snapper, and if there was movement shouldn't that be a "false start?"

ANSWER: During the process of snapping the ball for a punt or a placekick, long-snappers sometimes will squeeze the ball just before sending it back to the punter/holder. If this is done so that it's visible to one of the officials, a flag can be thrown. Greg Warren was a master of this, by the way, in that he could do it without being detected.

I know that sacks became an official stat in 1982, but according to John Turney, a member of the Pro Football Researchers Association, "You can find sacks back to 1970 in a very accurate way." And he calculated that Deacon Jones, whose career ended in 1974, had 173.5 sacks, and the longtime Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood had 151.5. Has anyone had done a similar study in the case of Joe Greene and more importantly L.C. Greenwood, so he can someday be considered by the Senior Committee for election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?


ANSWER: Yes, the Steelers have had old game films studied, and they long ago came up with sack totals for players starting with the 1972 season. Based on this research, L.C. Greenwood was credited with 73.5 sacks; Joe Greene finished with 66, and Dwight White had 46. Greenwood, in fact, was the all-time franchise leader in sacks with those 73.5 until he was passed by Jason Gildon, who ended his Steelers career in 2003 with 77. James Harrison, currently with 79.5 sacks, has since passed Gildon for the top spot in franchise history.**

Is Ben Roethlisberger communicating with the team and front office about his retirement situation so they can make adjustments?

ANSWER: We are two games into a regular season, and you're asking about something that is strictly an offseason topic.

When deciding the Steelers Digest Player of the Week, do you make the selection yourself, or do you consult with your colleagues?

ANSWER: I have no colleagues. Nobody is interested in that job.

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