Let’s get to it:
JOSÉ NETO FROM SÃO PAULO, BRASIL: Did you recently receive any questions about the position of Vance McDonald at the tight end position on the depth chart?
ANSWER: Actually, I’m not. Instead of questions that in truth are complaints about Vance McDonald being listed as the No. 1 tight end on the depth chart, I’m getting these kinds of questions about him (see below).
ERIC TESCHE FROM COOPERSBURG, PA: After Vance McDonald's touchdown Monday night in Tampa, it seemed as if he disappeared from the game plan with only a couple of other catches and didn't seem to be on the field much at all. Seems to me that he was a match-up nightmare and should have been a focal point. Was he nicked up (again) or something else?
ANSWER: I’m not going to argue with your impressions even though I disagree with them, but I will provide some facts relative to Vance McDonald in the game against the Buccaneers. He was targeted five times in the game, which was fourth on the team: behind starting wide receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and running back James Conner, who caught a bunch of check-downs when Ben Roethlisberger either was pressured or couldn’t find anyone open quickly. Remember, the Steelers were starting B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler on the right side of the offensive line because David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert were injured, and the quarterback getting rid of the ball quickly was part of the game plan. McDonald played 32 of the 66 offensive snaps (48 percent), and Jesse James played 33 offensive snaps (50 percent). McDonald was productive on Monday night, and that production figures to be rewarded with more opportunities moving forward, but James is still going to get playing time as well. When it comes down to which receiver sees the ball, that decision is made by Roethlisberger. As for McDonald’s health, he has been a full participant in practice for weeks now.
MICHAEL DAHL FROM ZANESVILLE, OH: Due to 15-yard penalties, Tampa Bay kicked off from the 50-yard line twice in the second half. Both times they kicked deep and got touchbacks. Why don't teams try onside kicks in that situation? In today's offense-driven NFL, isn't a 10- to 15-yard gamble for possession worth the risk?
ANSWER: Maybe that gamble is worth it to you, sitting on your couch knowing you have a job to go to the next day. But if an NFL head coach misses on that kind of a gamble too often, or misses on the gamble of going for it on fourth downs even though statistics say the success rate on those plays is virtually 50-50, he’ll be unemployed . That’s the way the NFL works. Right or wrong.
ROBERT SEMEGO FROM WALDORF, MD: Is there now an issue with the starting cornerback opposite Joe Haden? Both Artie Burns and Coty Sensabaugh seem to be struggling especially after Monday night’s game.
ANSWER: Asked about this very issue at his weekly news conference, Coach Mike Tomlin said, “The second thing I’d like to talk about is we’ve given up some big plays, particularly at the cornerback position, and we are playing a number of people. We are just going to keep playing a number of people until someone distinguishes themselves. They all have had their moments, them being Artie [Burns], Coty [Sensabaugh], and Cam Sutton. We’ve been playing them all, but we’ve given up some balls down the grass. We’ll continue to play all three of those guys. All three of those guys work, they are putting themselves in position to make plays, but they are not making enough of them. Until we get that the rotation will continue. It is good to have Joe [Haden] back in the game. I think his presence was felt early in the game. That first third down being ball aware and breaking it up then going on and having the type of game he had. Good to have him back in the fold as we sort through some unsteady times at the spot opposite of him.”
CALEB ZBOROVSKY FROM FORT MYERS, FL: It seems to be a common trend that when the Steelers pay players after a good season or two they decline in their play. LaMarr Woodley, Chris Boswell just to name a few. Do you think that is player related such as motivation? Or is that on the people upstairs?
ANSWER: Your basic premise is flawed. Here is a short list of players who refute your premise: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, David DeCastro, Cam Heyward, Troy Polamalu, James Farrior, James Harrison, Maurkice Pouncey, Heath Miller, Rod Woodson, Dermontti Dawson, Greg Lloyd, Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton – and I would list more but my fingers are getting tired from typing. If the Steelers would have said after the 2017 season that they had decided not to pay Chris Boswell, fans would have stormed Heinz Field with pitchforks and torches. Not every contract extension works out, but to make it out to be some kind of trend and place blame just isn’t accurate.
JEFFREY RUTH FROM EPHRATA, PA: What happened to "Asked and Answered Live?” Did the sentencing judge finally realize your punishment was cruel and inhumane?
ANSWER: I like the way you think, but the truth is that the new format of Steelers.com doesn’t support the live element of Asked and Answered. At this point, we don’t know if it ever will be reprised, but during the season Asked and Answered appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and on game days.