Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: September 22

Let's get to it:

Have the Steelers ever extended a player's contract once the season has started? I just looked up Chris Boswell's contract, and it looks like he's a unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. It might be a good idea to lock up this fine kicker for a few more years to avoid the nightmare situation the team faced last year after Shaun Suisham got injured. I can't imagine the Steelers slapping a franchise tag on a kicker.

ANSWER: What happened during the 1993 season was what was behind the Steelers establishing the firm deadline of the start of the regular season as the end of all contract negotiations. That season was ruined in part by disgruntled players who were jealous of the guys who got contract extensions done. From that point on, the rule was established that no contract talks would take place once the regular season started.

Also, wherever you "looked up Chris Boswell's contract" provided you with inaccurate information. Boswell's current contract does indeed expire at the end of the 2016 season, but at that time he will be an exclusive rights free agent, which describes a player with fewer than three seasons of NFL experience. An exclusive rights free agent only is permitted to sign with his current team, and an exclusive rights free agent must sign for what his current team offers.

I noticed that New England, Miami, the Jets, and Buffalo all have three home games in a row on their 2016 schedules, but no other teams have that. Kind of unfair for the other teams, don't you think?

ANSWER: Every NFL team's schedule might contain a perk or two, but it also contains some hell for that team to get through. Let's look at each of the teams' schedules you mention:

Buffalo has three straight home games – vs. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Miami – but before the Bills get to that three-game homestand, they have a six week stretch that goes like this: vs. New England, at Seattle, bye, at Cincinnati, vs. Jacksonville, and at Oakland. That's two trips to the West Coast, plus games against the Patriots and Bengals.

Miami's three straight home games are against Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and the Jets, but the Dolphins have two trips to the West Coast – at San Diego and at Los Angeles – and those are LONG trips from South Florida.

New England's three straight home games are against Miami, Houston, and Buffalo, but the Patriots opened in Arizona, they have a three-game stretch of vs. Cincinnati, at Pittsburgh, and at Buffalo, and then after their bye they have to make trips to San Francisco and Denver.

The Jets' three straight home games are against the Rams, New England, and Indianapolis, but that game against the Colts is on a Monday night, and the next weekend the Jets are in San Francisco. And earlier in the season, the Jets have a four-week stretch that goes like this: at Kansas City, vs. Seattle, at Pittsburgh, and at Arizona on a Monday night.

Pittsburgh Steelers players show their support for military veterans at Heinz Field.

At the end of the Cincinnati game, Gio Bernard caught a pass and attempted to pitch the ball to an offensive lineman on a desperation play. The lineman got hit, the ball hit the ground, and Cam Heyward picked it up and attempted a scoop-n-score. It wasn't ruled as a takeaway in the stat books. Why is this?

ANSWER: Whatever "stat books" you consulted were incorrect, because I have a copy of the official play-by-play from that game, and it credits Cam Heyward with a fumble recovery, which gave the Steelers two takeaways on the afternoon.

On the last play of the Bengals game, were any Steelers players credited with a forced fumble and/or a fumble recovery?

ANSWER: There was no forced fumble on the play, because the fumble resulted from an off-target lateral. As explained in the above question, Cam Heyward got a fumble recovery.

I'm noticing an obvious Mike Tomlin influence on the defense. Are they ever going to pressure the quarterback again or just sit back and let teams do what they want?

ANSWER: "Let teams do what they want?" I'm certain the Bengals wanted to get the ball to A.J. Green more than twice, and I'm positive the Bengals wanted to do more with their first 12 offensive possessions in that game than punt the ball nine times and settle for three red zone field goals. Would you rather see the Steelers blitz more, or win the game? And what makes you think Mike Tomlin is against pressuring the passer. Remember, he was the coach who was hired in 2007 who decided to retain Dick LeBeau, the entire defensive staff, and those philosophies.

What do you think is the order of importance for re-signing the upcoming free agents? I was thinking, in order of importance, Antonio Brown, Stephon Tuitt, Le'Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton. Do you agree?

ANSWER: Why are you even thinking about that now? I guarantee you neither Mike Tomlin nor Kevin Colbert are, not with this team at 2-0 and with six calendar months between now and the possible start of free agency. I'm not, either. So much can change between now and then. Too much, in fact.

Stephon Tuitt has had a very interesting journey in the NFL thus far. Drafted by the Bills in the fourth round. Gets cut a season later and comes to Pittsburgh just before the start of the 2015 season and plays sparingly early but seems to be on the field more and more each week as the season progresses. Then 2016 rolls along and we have him essentially shutting down A.J. Green in Week 2. This kid is blossoming before our eyes. Do you feel he will become the new Ike Taylor, in other words, the team's No. 1 cornerback?

ANSWER: Ross Cockrell is a valuable part of the 2016 Steelers, and he was a very nice pickup by Kevin Colbert and the personnel people. As for the rest, don't get ahead of yourself. Placing ridiculous expectations on a guy, in a way sets him up for failure. I'm not saying Ross Cockrell cannot become a No. 1 cornerback in the Ike Taylor mold, as you describe, but let's wait and allow it to develop naturally, if it does. That's only fair to Cockrell.

When was the last time a Steelers player, other than Antonio Brown, scored three or more touchdowns in a single game?

ANSWER: The last Steelers player to score three touchdowns in a game was Le'Veon Bell, who did it last September against the 49ers at Heinz Field in the second game of the 2015 regular season. The last time a Steelers receiver caught three touchdown passes in a game was on Nov. 3, 2013 when Jerricho Cotchery did it against the Patriots in New England. The last time a Steelers receiver caught four touchdown passes in a game was on Nov. 3, 1968 when Roy Jefferson did it against the Atlanta Falcons at Pitt Stadium. And since you mentioned Antonio Brown, he never has caught more than two touchdown passes in an NFL game.

Not question for you. This one is for the readers: The bar where I watch the Steelers games no longer has NFL Sunday Ticket. Does anyone know of a good Steelers bar in Akron, Ohio, or in the surrounding area? If so, could you email it to me at:

ANSWER: Good luck. Hope somebody can help you.

How many questions (on average) do you receive a week for "Asked and Answered," and are you the only one who reads and/or selects the ones to use?

ANSWER: I will receive over 100 questions each week, on average, and this doesn't include the people who submit the same question a few times in succession. And yes, I am the only one to read the questions. The judge was very specific about that when imposing my sentence.

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