Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 24

Let's get to it:

ALAN VOYNIK OF LAS VEGAS, NV:
Do you think the Steelers will limit the number of touches Le'Veon Bell will get over the season since he now has a reliable backup in DeAngelo Williams?

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At his news conference on Tuesday, Coach Mike Tomlin was asked: Do you have to see Le'Veon in practice before you decide how you're going to divvy up that work load? Tomlin's answer: "No. I'm going to play Le'Veon Bell."**

Then came a follow-up question: Then how are you going to use DeAngelo? Tomlin's answer: "We'll figure that out as we go. But if No. 26 is available to us, we're going to use him."

Le'Veon Bell is a first-team All-Pro running back. The only way it would make any sense to have him share carries is if you had another first-team All-Pro running back on the same team. Some might contend that you parcel Bell's touches during the regular season so you don't end up as you did last year – in the playoffs but with him being injured and unable to play. My answer to that would be that without Bell getting all those touches during the regular season and doing the things he does with the ball in his hands, there won't be any playoff games for him to miss because of a potential injury. For me, there is no No. 1 and No. 1a when it comes to Steelers running backs. Instead, there is a clear No. 1 and a clear No. 2.

KEN COLWELL FROM DURHAM, N.C.:
It sounded like Ben Roethlisberger was given free rein to call plays against the 49ers (which he has been begging for, albeit politely, for years). Was that unusual? And if so, was that aimed particularly at the 49ers, or can we expect to see a good deal more of it this season?

Once again, I'm going to defer to Mike Tomlin's news conference. The question posed to him was: Ben Roethlisberger said he called a lot of plays during the game. Is that something you will rely on moving forward? Tomlin's answer: "We have been having this discussion for years. Ben calls some in no-huddle and so does Todd Haley. It's not about who calls them in the stadium, but about the plan throughout the week. Everyone plays a part in that, including the backup quarterbacks. We don't care where good ideas come from."

GRANVILLE SMITH FROM HOLLAND, OH:
Why do the Steelers refuse to address their secondary weakness by going after a top-flight cornerback like Darrelle Revis or Aqib Talib when they were available? The Steelers' secondary plays very soft coverage, and the difference between watching how they play coverage and a team like the Jets or Broncos is painfully obvious.

During this past offseason when Darrelle Revis became available as a free agent, the Steelers contacted his agent about the possibility of signing him. But it was made very clear at the time that while Revis might have signed his last contract at a discount – in New England – there would be nothing like that happening this time. Revis eventually went back to his original team – the New York Jets – on a five-year contract that pays $70.1 million, with $39 million guaranteed. The Jets could afford that for a cornerback because they didn't have a franchise quarterback to re-sign, which the Steelers had with Ben Roethlisberger. Aqib Talib got a six-year, $57 million deal, with $25.5 million guaranteed, from the Denver Broncos. Instead the Steelers signed Cam Heyward and picked up the fifth-year option on David DeCastro. When the draft came along, the Steelers tried to trade up for Trae Waynes – the guy acknowledged as the top cornerback prospect in that class – but they couldn't find a trading partner before the Vikings snatched him with the 11th overall selection. The Steelers have tried to address the issue of adding "a top-flight cornerback."

CHRIS COPE FROM CHANTILLY, VA:
I know the Steelers like to give local free agent talents a shot, and so how about Penn State placekicker Sam Ficken? Any chance of the Steelers considering him?

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The Steelers prepare for the week 3 contest against the St. Louis Rams.

Doubtful. Here is how Sam Ficken was described by a scouting service before the 2015 draft: "Kicks with a low trajectory. Has had 10 of 75 field goal attempts blocked during his time at Penn State. Leg strength considered below NFL standard for kickoffs with just 30 percent touchbacks and a 3.6-second hang time." Also, Ficken's accuracy percentage is considered below NFL standards. He made just 68.4 percent of his field goals at Penn State, and between 40-49 yards he was at 59.1 percent. That's not good enough.**

JIM CARNES FROM DELLROY, OH:
My wife asked me why the Steelers are hanging on to Carnell Lake as defensive backs coach, and I don't have a good answer for that. The defense is 27th out of 32 teams in pass defense, and it hasn't looked good since Carnell was hired. I thought you may have a good answer.

Tell your wife that when Chuck Noll had Hall of Fame players, he won four Super Bowls in a span of six seasons, but when his roster was filled with guys who were not very good (1983-88) over a similar six-season span his record was 45-50. Also, allow me to point out that since Carnell Lake was hired as the secondary coach in 2011, the Steelers pass defense finished first in the NFL in 2011, first in the NFL in 2012, ninth in the NFL in 2013, and then 27th in the NFL – as you pointed out – in 2014. There is nothing wrong with Carnell Lake's coaching.

KATHI GRUNDEL FROM SUMTER, S.C.:
What's the possibility of inside linebacker L.J. Fort being pulled from the practice squad to the 53-man roster? He has ridiculous closing speed on the ball.

All due respect to L.J. Fort who made some plays at training camp and during the preseason, the Steelers already have four inside linebackers who have a knack for finding the football. Fort will be on the practice squad unless an injury creates a spot for him.

PAUL MARKOVITZ FROM SANTA BARBARA, CA:
How do they count receptions and rushing statistics for individuals on two-point conversion plays? For example, Antonio Brown caught a pass for a two-point conversion against San Francisco. Does this count as a catch in his statistics?

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I answered this in the previous installment of Asked and Answered, but I am repeating it here just in case anyone missed it. The only individual statistic kept for a two-point conversion is that the player who actually scores has two points added to his scoring total. For example, based on the game against the 49ers, Antonio Brown caught a pass that was good for a touchdown and another pass that was good for a two-point conversion. The touchdown pass counts among his nine receptions in the game, but the two-point conversion pass only counts as two points toward his individual scoring total. The same goes for Heath Miller, who also caught a touchdown pass and another pass for a two-point conversion. After two games, DeAngelo Williams leads the Steelers in scoring with 18 points that came on three touchdowns, with Brown second with 14 points that came on two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.**

ERIC SMITH FROM ORANGE, CT:
Given the Steelers' depth at wide receiver, even if Martavis Bryant never gets his act together, what do you think about trading one of them (either Bryant or Sammie Coates) for a good, young defensive back? I haven't thought about who might be available.

Let me answer your question with a question: Which team has an over-abundance of good, young defensive backs? There is no such thing.

CARLOS POWELL FROM RESTON, VA:
Being a big fan of No. 92, I didn't see much of James Harrison in Week 2. Are the Steelers benching him because he isn't productive and old? Does this mean we'll hardly see No. 92 terrorizing teams on the field all season?

Your premise is incorrect. James Harrison played 50 defensive snaps against the San Francisco 49ers, which represented 56 percent of all the defensive snaps in the game for the Steelers. The only outside linebacker with more was Bud Dupree, who played 51. Jarvis Jones played 40 snaps, and Arthur Moats played 39. Clearly, the Steelers aren't "benching him because he isn't productive and old."

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