Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 28

Let's get to it:

Is Ben Roethlisberger really an elite quarterback? Doesn't he warrant some responsibility in the team's horrendous record against sub-.500 teams? Especially those played on the road.

ANSWER: An NFL starting quarterback with two Super Bowl rings deserves to be considered elite by just about any definition of the term. And of course Ben Roethlisberger, as the team's starting quarterback, bears some responsibility for the outcome of every game, both wins and losses. Outside of those obvious conclusions, I don't really know what point you're trying to get me to make. And one point about some of the statistics being thrown around regarding the Steelers "horrendous record against sub-.500 teams" – some of those statistics include games such as the one in Miami last season against a 1-4 Dolphins team that went on to make the playoffs with a 10-6 record, and the 2016 game against a 1-5 Kansas City team that went on to win 10 games in a row and also qualify for the playoffs. Some performances against sub-.500 teams deserve criticism, while others don't, at least not in the way your question suggests.

If this is in fact written in the rule book why is it not enforced? The specific NFL rule pertaining to the National Anthem is found on pages A62-A63 of the league rulebook. It states:

"The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem. During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses."

ANSWER: I tried, I really did. I tried to keep this football only. But such blatant factual inaccuracies must be addressed. You start with, "If this is in fact written in the rule book …" You don't know? You didn't check? Is there no Google in Florida? Because if you had gone to Google and typed in, "NFL rule book national anthem," the applicable information would have been made available to you. But you didn't, so let's begin with the basics:

There is no mention of the national anthem in the NFL rulebook. In fact, there are not even any pages designated A62 or A63 in the NFL rulebook. There is a page 62, and it deals with the following in-game infractions: "Foul committed during passing play;" "Foul during a backward pass or fumble;" "Foul during free kick play;" and "Foul during scrimmage kick play." Page 63 continues with the scrimmage kick play, and then deals with a "Dead ball foul and foul between downs."

What you are quoting, I will point out, is the NFL Game Operations Manual, which includes nearly 200 pages of procedures and policy for regular season games, including how many towels the home team must provide to the visitors. In an email to The Kansas City Star, Brian McCarthy, the NFL's vice president of communications, explained that the only part of the manual dealing with the anthem contains the words "should" and "may" but not "must." No player is required to stand at attention, and the NFL is not considering punishment for players or teams choosing to kneel or stay in the locker room during the national anthem.

There was a report on SB Nation that Tyler Matakevich was named the permanent special teams captain for the year. This seemed to derive from a comment that Coach Tomlin made in his Tuesday press conference. Was this misinterpreted? I read an article about "the stick" and that the position of special teams captain was being awarded based on merit, weekly.

ANSWER: If "misinterpreted" is a kind way of saying "wrong," then, yes, it was misinterpreted. You are correct in that "the stick" and the position of special teams captain are awarded based on merit, with this clarification: the awarding of the stick and the changing of the captain only happen after victories. There are no awards/recognitions bestowed after losses.

I believe we should move Antonio Brown to the slot and move Justin Hunter to the outside with Martavis Bryant, since Rogers can never seem to get open from the slot. And please can we put an end to Rogers as the punt return experiment?

ANSWER: That is all fine with me, not that I have any authority. The only issue to consider is whether lining up Antonio Brown in the slot is limiting him in any way. If it would, then I'm opposed to that.

Whose absence was more notable in the loss to Chicago, T.J. Watt's or Stephon Tuitt's?

ANSWER: Because the Bears ran the ball 38 times and only attempted 22 passes, I would go with Stephon Tuitt.

What really happens in the locker room at halftime? Do the players hear a "let's win one for the Gipper" speech, or do the respective coaches talk to their players and make their adjustments?

ANSWER: I never have witnessed it first-hand, but from everything I've been told, an NFL locker room at halftime is very businesslike. Adjustments, not rah-rah.

Without any distractions, do you think Colin Kaepernick would be a good fit for the Steelers to back up Ben Roethlisberger?

ANSWER: No. Remember a couple of years ago when the Steelers signed Mike Vick, and how the offense actually ended up being more effective with Landry Jones at quarterback? That's an example of contrasts in style. Vick could be seen as similar to Kaepernick, and the Steelers offense is designed for a pocket quarterback.

Do you think Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis are safe at their positions?

ANSWER: If you mean as starters, yes.

If a player is suspended by the team, are they still part of the 53-man roster and are they suspended with pay?

ANSWER: No, and no.

On the two big running plays the Bears had during overtime there seemed to be two major holding calls missed. During overtime or potential game winning drives do the officials tend to let certain penalties slide if in their opinion it did not directly impact the play in order to keep the game moving?

ANSWER: No. My theory always has been that NFL officials are inconsistent and incompetent. I'm sticking with that, until proven otherwise.

Did I miss it or not, on the long run by Chicago in overtime was there not a holding penalty missed that would have placed the ball on the 17-yard line?

ANSWER: There was more holding by the Bears in overtime than there is at a high school dance.

How is it possible to miss the offensive holding on the last play of the Bears game? It was abysmal. It's a scoring play that they review to see if the player gets into the end zone. Why don't they also review it do determine if they got in legally, especially if the penalty in question directly affects the result of the play?

ANSWER: It's possible to miss it when the officiating is awful, and the rules don't allow for holding penalties to be assessed by instant replay.

Any news on Ramon Foster's injury?

ANSWER: It's an injury to his thumb, and he didn't practice yesterday. We'll have to see how the rest of the week plays out. As the top backup along the interior of the offensive line, B.J. Finney would be the next man up.

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