Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 28

Let's get to it:

LARRY LAWHEAD FROM GLEN CARBON, IL: As bad as the Cincinnati game was, I was pleased to see Najee Harris gain almost 150 yards from scrimmage. Of course, I would rather it had been flipped as far as rushing yards vs. passing yards. Which got me thinking: has there been another time where a Steelers running back led the team in receiving yards?
ANSWER: Dating back to the year Chuck Noll was hired (1969), the Steelers never have had a running back lead the team in receiving yards over the course of a season. A running back leading the team in receptions or being tied for the team lead in receptions over the course of a season has happened five times during that period. In 1971, Frenchy Fuqua and Ron Shanklin tied for the team lead with 49 receptions; in 1982 – the year that contained only nine regular season games because of a prolonged players' strike – Franco Harris led the team with 31 receptions; in 1986, Walter Abercrombie led the team with 47 receptions; in 1988, Louis Lipps and Merril Hoge tied for the team lead with 50 receptions apiece; and in 1994, John L. Williams led the team with 51 receptions.

ANDREW LAMB FROM PARKERSBURG, WV: Do you think the Steelers will make any changes among the starters on the offensive line? Either in-house or by bringing in a veteran free agent?
ANSWER: I have been and still am a "hard no" on a veteran free agent.

TODD WALKER FROM PORT SAINT LUCIE, FL: I am a true Steelers fan. I have faith in the players, coaches, the general manager, and the organization. I know they aren't playing well, but we are 2-7 in our last nine games and actually could be winless if not for the fourth quarter comebacks in those wins (Colts and Bills). Should I be concerned?
ANSWER: Whether you are concerned or not is totally your decision. All I can relay to you is that I don't have any of the answers that might give you comfort, and if I did I don't have any authority to implement them.

DANIEL SCHWEISS FROM VIRGINIA BEACH, VA: Are our wide receivers overrated? I have heard for two years how good our corps of wide receivers are. I know they are young, but they make too many mistakes. Pre-snap penalties, dropped passes, holding calls, not on the same page as Ben Roethlisberger, and they rarely get separation. What is your opinion?
ANSWER: My opinion is that I have seen the same things you have seen in terms of on-field performance, and I have asked myself the same question that began your submission. I'm not going to label any of the individual receivers or the group as a whole a lost cause, but I think it's apparent the Steelers currently are not getting what they need from their wide receivers.

ANGELO MORELLA FROM POLAND, OH: Every year, the Steelers are decimated with injuries. They never had this many injuries while playing on the hard surface at Three Rivers Stadium. Either they are just unlucky, or is it a poor conditioning program? More limited hitting practices as compared to those Three Rivers Stadium days?
ANSWER: First of all, I challenge your contention that the Steelers "never had this many injuries while playing on the hard surface at Three Rivers Stadium," but the accuracy of your memory vs. mine is irrelevant. Below is a story that appears every week on during the season, Mondays usually, and it lists all of the injuries sustained during that weekend's games. As you can see, injuries are not limited to the Steelers. Either that, or there are a whole bunch of NFL teams that need to fire their conditioning staffs or start scrimmaging during the week on artificial turf. I hope this provides you a better perspective on how injuries impact teams every week of every season.

Injuries and news we're monitoring around the NFL on this Week 3 Sunday:
• San Francisco 49ers cornerback Josh Norman (chest) is out for the remainder of Sunday night's game against the Packers. Cornerback K'Waun Williams (calf) is questionable to return against the Packers.
• Green Bay Packers linebacker Krys Barnes is out with a concussion against the 49ers.
• Tennessee Titans receiver A.J. Brown (hamstring) exited in the first quarter against the Colts. He was eventually ruled out for the game.
• Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson (ankle) was carted to the locker room and ruled out against Tennessee. Nelson is believed to have suffered a high-ankle sprain, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. X-rays were negative, but the guard will undergo more tests Defensive end Kwity Paye (hamstring), and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (ankle) were also ruled out.
• Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is expected to be OK after hurting his throwing hand against the Chiefs. Herbert left the stadium with his hand wrapped and iced, per NFL Network's James Palmer.
• Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack exited with a foot injury against Cleveland but returned in the second half. Linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe suffered a hamstring injury. Quarterback Justin Fields told reporters his hand will be fine after hurting it in the second half.
• Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (rib injury) was ruled out against Cincinnati. Tackle Chukwuma Okorafor was ruled out with a possible concussion.
• New Orleans Saints left tackle Terron Armstead (elbow) was ruled out against New England. He exited in the first quarter.
• New York Giants linebacker Blake Martinez suffered a knee injury in the first quarter against Atlanta and was quickly ruled out of the game. Receivers Sterling Shepard (hamstring) and Darius Slayton (hamstring) were also ruled out in the first quarter of the loss.
• New England Patriots running back James White was carted off with a hip injury and quickly ruled out.
• Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Rashad Fenton was ruled out with a concussion.
• Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back) and Justin Murray (back) exited early against Jacksonville.
• Atlanta Falcons defensive end Marlon Davidson (ankle) was ruled out against the Giants.
• Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson (ribs) is inactive against Tampa Bay. Linebacker Justin Hollins was ruled out in the fourth quarter with a pec injury.
• Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King (illness) was downgraded to out against the 49ers.
• Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Cam Robinson suffered a right shoulder injury against Arizona.
• Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (groin) did not return vs. Pittsburgh.
• Baltimore Ravens safety DeShon Elliott (quad) did not return vs. Detroit.
• Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Greg Newsome II exited with a calf injury vs. Chicago.
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean was ruled out with a knee injury vs. the Los Angeles Rams.
• Denver Broncos receiver K.J. Hamler (knee) was ruled out after exiting in the first half vs. the New York Jets. Linebacker Jonas Griffith (hamstring) was ruled out during halftime. Guard Dalton Risner exited the game with a foot injury.
• Seattle Seahawks defensive end Kerry Hyder was ruled out against the Vikings after suffering a concussion in the first half.
• New York Jets tight end Tyler Kroft sustained a chest injury and was ruled out vs. the Broncos. Receiver Elijah Moore suffered a concussion in the second half and did not return.
• Las Vegas Raiders safety Trevon Moehrig did not return against Miami after injuring his ankle.

ELBERT BEATTY FROM CLEARBROOK, VA: What do think the answer is to fixing our offense? As a long-time Steelers fan, it's very discouraging hearing the fans at Heinz Field boo our team. I guess it's deserved, but very discouraging.
ANSWER: Not trying to duck this question, but I have been thinking about this very issue for a couple of weeks, and the best I can do is tell you I wish it was something that could be pinpointed because then it would be something that could realistically be targeted and then worked on. But I don't believe it's as simple as trying to fix one element or replacing one player. The only thing I feel confident in writing about the offense right now is it's not working, and that covers everything from scheme to play-calling to execution. It's not working.

TIMOTHY RICHARD FROM SULPHUR, LA: You really don't think kickers belong in the Hall of Fame? No exceptions? Even for kickers like Adam Vinatieri or Justin Tucker? If Chris Boswell's career keeps trending with his success rate, I might even argue for him as well. With it being just a specialty position, they can and have had a significant effect on the outcomes of games. I don't remember who the kickers were that day in the Superdome (my one and only time seeing the Steelers live). It was a defensive slugfest in 1988 or 1989? But the score was 9-6, and the Steelers won. If not for the kickers, it would've been a 0-0 OT tie.
ANSWER: It would've been a 0-0 overtime tie without the holders, too. Do holders deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? If not, why not? What about long-snappers? How about gunners on the punt team? Players such as L.C. Greenwood and Andy Russell never will be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, nor will assistant coaches such as Bud Carson and Lionel Taylor, and I don't believe kickers or punters deserve to be in the Hall of Fame before people like them. I'm sure every NFL team has players who fall into the same overlooked category of Greenwood and Russell, and I only mention them because they're Steelers and I am very familiar with their respective careers. What about Tommy Nobis? Do you even know who he is? That Ray Guy and Jan Stenerud are in the Hall of Fame and Tommy Nobis is not is criminal. I never will change my mind, and all of the kickers out there and fans such as yourself can thank their lucky stars I have absolutely nothing to do with the selection process for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Adam Vinatieri and Justin Tucker over Tommy Nobis and L.C. Greenwood and Andy Russell? Not in a million years.

FRED WARD FROM WARREN, PA: Following the latest loss, to the Bengals at Heinz Field, Ben Roethlisberger said something to the effect that he was at a loss because everything has gone well in practice. I submit this may be part of the problem. Shouldn't practice be designed to be game-like? How does an easy, as expected, smooth practice help this team's offense?
ANSWER: Outstanding idea. Maybe this week, the Steelers can have some sessions in practice where T.J. Watt comes off the edge and blasts Ben Roethlisberger from behind, and then that can be followed by Cam Heyward bull-rushing his way into the backfield and smashing him in the mouth as he cocks his arm to throw. In the NFL, in-season practice sessions are about teaching and learning. The hitting and physical duress is reserved for game days.

TOM WOOD FROM ALLIANCE, OH: What do you think is a bigger detriment to the team as we sit here today: The offensive line, or the health of our defense?
ANSWER: It can be both. And it is.

JOHN PUHALA FROM SPRINGFIELD, VA: From what I can see in the offensive line play, I still can envision Najee Harris making a run at Franco Harris' rookie rushing record (1,055 yards). I also think he may break the rookie running back record for receiving yards. What do you think?
ANSWER: What I think is that I'm sure there are things I care less about than meaningless individual "records" in the ultimate team sport that is professional football, but none of them immediately come to mind. The "rookie running back record for receiving yards?" Seriously?