Let's get to it:
JOHN BUSHLESS FROM WAYNESBORO, PA: Can you explain why the muffed punt by New England that went into the end zone was not a safety? The player muffed the ball in the field of play. Why would he get the advantage of a touchback in that situation?
ANSWER: Allow me to answer your question this way: In order for a play involving a punt or kickoff where the ball goes into the end zone to be ruled a safety instead of a touchback, the player fielding the ball must first have possession of the ball in the field of play and then take the ball into the end zone of his own volition where he then is tackled. While the Patriots player clearly muffed the ball in the field of play, he never had possession of the ball in the field of play. That's why it was a touchback and not a safety.
MATT LUCAS FROM OKINAWA, JAPAN: I love your writing style and your analyses that are published after games. Your last article on the loss to the Patriots was spot on. If you had to correct one thing from among the offensive line, attacking opposing defenses down the field, or changing the quarterback, which one would it be and why?
ANSWER: The NFL has advanced into its regular season, and so expecting to "fix" elements of a roster by adding players from the outside is not realistic, and even if there were players available at a reasonable cost getting them up to speed with the terminology and the playbook would be a problem. I believe the offense has to attack defenses down the field more each week than it has in the last few years, and if the quarterback was singularly responsible for that not happening, I would make a change there.
EARL KOSZAKI FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: Can you explain the ruling on that first punt by Pressley Harvin III, because it seems unfair for the Patriots to be able to benefit in that situation. They touched the ball outside the end zone and then recovered it in the end zone and were tackled. If that same thing had happened outside the end zone they would be down where they were tackled. Seems like the same should apply in the end zone, and it would be a safety.
ANSWER: I explained the rule in a previous answer to this question in this installment of Asked and Answered, and the only other thing I can tell you is NFL rules aren't always consistent and don't always make sense.
DENNY CLEARY FROM LOUISVILLE, KY: Is George Pickens still on the team?
ANSWER: The search party has been organized and dispatched; bloodhounds are on stand-by. I'll get back to you.
NEIL GLASSER FROM MANALAPAN, NJ: Where do the inactive players go on game day? Are they in the locker room and on the sidelines, or do they go somewhere else to watch the game?
ANSWER: The players who are to be placed on the inactive list for a particular game often are notified the day before, but since that list isn't official until it's submitted to the game officials 90 minutes before kickoff coaches usually want all 53 players close by in case of an emergency. I know of times when a player was told he was going to be inactive a day or so before the game, but then an injury during early warmups or another player waking up the day of the game with a fever or some other illness has forced a late change to that plan. I mention this as a way of explaining that even if a player is told he will be inactive for a game, he still is on site the day of the game, and in most every case he would watch the game from somewhere inside the stadium in which it's being played.
JAMES BRADY FROM NEW YORK, NY: Any chance the Steelers bring in Blake Martinez for a look? I know he tore his ACL last season, but the guy is a tackling machine when healthy.
ANSWER: "I know he tore his ACL last season …" The Steelers just dealt with a situation where a starting inside linebacker tore an ACL and then had to adjust to his new reality. That process took more than a calendar year, and the jury still is out as to whether that player will return to the form he showed before his injury. Why would they want to go through that again, and with a player who is not even their own?
ERIC PETRING FROM GALLATIN, TN: How does an undrafted free agent's contract work once they make the 53-man roster? Are they initially signed to the league minimum when they first sign with a team or is there a clause that reads they automatically go to the league minimum once they make the team?
ANSWER: An undrafted free agent cannot even report to an NFL training camp without a signed contract and included in that contract are the financial terms under which the individual would play upon making a 53-man roster. In the NFL, players are not paid until and unless they are on the roster or one of the reserve lists, such as injured reserve, for the start of the regular season. In the scenario you offer, the player would have to have a signed contract before he attempted to make a roster, and then if he made that roster, he would be paid according to the terms of the contract he signed. And those terms have to conform to the provisions set forth in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
JOHN VEACH FROM MOORE, OK: Are there any games that the team has chosen to wear alternate jerseys this season or color rush?
ANSWER: As part of the 50th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, the Steelers will wear replicas of the uniforms they wore for the 1972 season for the Dec. 24 game vs. the Oakland Raiders.
MARK IANNITTI FROM ROCHESTER, NY: What's the benefit from putting TJ Watt on injured reserve as opposed to just having him sit out until he's ready to play?
ANSWER: By putting an injured player on the injured reserve list, that individual does not count against the team's 53-man roster during the time he's on the list, and then the team can use that vacancy on the roster to add another individual who is healthy and possibly could contribute.
MICHELE ELLIS FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: No question, just a correction. In the 2019 season finale against the Panthers, Christian Kuntz, then wearing No. 99, suited up for the Steelers as an outside linebacker.
ANSWER: Seriously? The Steelers did not play the Carolina Panthers in the 2019 season finale; they didn't play the Carolina Panthers at any point during the 2019 season. They played the Carolina Panthers in the PRESEASON finale in 2019, which is absolutely positively nothing like playing the Panthers during the season. The final preseason game – at that time the fourth of four preseason games – is a time when no players of consequence are on the field. Yes, Christian Kuntz wore jersey No. 99 that day in the preseason finale against the Panthers, and he played 20 snaps on defense to finish with three tackles and a sack, and he played another 12 snaps on special teams to finish with two more tackles on special teams. That year, the veteran long-snapper was Kameron Canaday, and Kuntz had no chance to win that job. I know that Kuntz had no chance to win that job, because Canaday was one of several players the Steelers "rested" the day of the preseason finale to make sure there were no injuries in advance of the regular season opener. What the Steelers did that day for Christian Kuntz was allow him to get himself on video to showcase his skills for the other 31 teams in the NFL. There was no way Kuntz was going to make the Steelers roster as a linebacker back then, and there is no way he's going to make the Steelers roster as a linebacker now. In fact, the year Kuntz took the long-snapper job from Canaday, he volunteered to play some linebacker in the preseason finale, and Coach Mike Tomlin refused because he didn't want his long-snapper getting injured playing a defensive position. Today, Kuntz is a legitimate NFL long-snapper who can contribute to the punt coverage, which means he can end up having a long NFL career – as a long-snapper but not as a linebacker.