Best of Asked and Answered: Friday, November 20

Let's get to it:

DOUG COOPER FROM DUNCANNON, PA: What happened to the running game? It showed a lot of promise earlier, but against two of the poorer run defenses, it has been really ineffective. Other than tight end Vance McDonald, everyone is pretty healthy and the passing attack is first rate, so defenses cannot sit on the run game. Just poor design or execution?
ANSWER: Just watching the games, what I am noticing is there's not sufficient push from the offensive line and when there has been it hasn't been supported by the kind of perimeter blocking necessary to run the ball effectively in the NFL. Hall of Fame guard and former Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grimm always talked about the job of an offensive lineman being about moving a man from point A to point B against his will. Not enough of that going on consistently right now, and without that there's no play design on earth that can compensate.

CASEY WALSH FROM BRIDGEWATER, NJ: I'm ecstatic to see the team sitting at 9-0, but the lack of a running game is a bit concerning, especially against Dallas' and Cincinnati's mediocre run defenses. Also, the Steelers are throwing the ball nearly 59 percent of the time, and I don't want to see a return of the Arians-era philosophy where Ben takes a constant beating. Do you also see that as a concern, especially come playoff time?
ANSWER: Coming into the game against the Bengals, the Steelers ranked second in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass attempt, and including the results from the Bengals game, Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 10 times in 352 pass plays (attempts plus scrambles for positive yardage). Based on those numbers, the Steelers have done a very good job of protecting the passer, and Roethlisberger has complemented that beautifully by getting the ball out quickly when necessary. But the Steelers are going to have to be more effective running the football to make a deep playoff run. That's my opinion, anyway.

TOM GARRETT FROM MOON TOWNSHIP, PA: Every pundit is questioning the Steelers running game. This isn't the 1970s anymore, and the name of the game now is pass first and try to outscore the opposition. The Chiefs are the benchmark, with Patrick Mahomes and his receivers outscoring teams. You see how much trouble the run dependent Ravens and Titans are having right now. Am I wrong in this analysis?
ANSWER: It is not the 1970s anymore, but football at its core still is a game of blocking and tackling, and running the football is part of that. I would imagine that if the Steelers found themselves in a playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, having an effective running game to go up against the No. 28 run defense in the NFL could help control the ball and time of possession to keep Patrick Mahomes and that high-powered offense on the sideline.

DREW PERKINS FROM BEAVERCREEK, OH: With the Thanksgiving night showdown vs. the Ravens on the horizon, it got me thinking about other matchups the Steelers have had on Thanksgiving and Christmas. How many games have the Steelers played on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and what is their record in those games?
ANSWER: The Steelers have played in just two games on Christmas – at home against the Ravens in 2016 and in Houston against the Texans in 2017. They won both of those. The Steelers have a 2-6 record on Thanksgiving, with all of the games so far having been on the road. Their victories came against the Chicago Cardinals in 1950, and against the Indianapolis Colts in 2016. This year's game on Thanksgiving will be the first ever for the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

JEFF ELINOFF FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: What are your impressions of Cam Sutton of late?
ANSWER: Cam Sutton seems to have settled into a role comfortably as an extra defensive back in the Steelers sub-packages on defense, and he is making plays. Through the win over the Bengals, Sutton has 13 tackles, including one for loss, one sack, one interception, three passes defensed, and three forced fumbles. Not to oversimplify things, but comparing the team's top two slot cornerbacks, Mike Hilton is better against the run and is the better blitzer, while Sutton is better in coverage.

A.D. WARNER FROM EAST SPRINGFIELD, OH: When a pass is tipped into the air and becomes a jump ball, what becomes of the rules regarding pass interference?
ANSWER: Once the ball is tipped, whether it be by a defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage or by a linebacker or defensive back in coverage, there can be no pass interference.

NATHAN HURDLESTON FROM CLEVELAND, OH: When I was a little kid, Louis Lipps was my favorite player. I don't even remember much about him, except a vague memory of a big kick return. What are a couple of Louis Lipps' career highlights that might make me feel young again?
ANSWER: What I always will remember about Louis Lipps was how it began. He was the Steelers first-round pick in the 1984 NFL Draft, and during the 1983 season the Steelers' primary weapons at wide receiver were Calvin Sweeney; John Stallworth, who was injured through much of the season; Gregg Garrity; and Paul Skansi. For that reason adding offensive weapons to the receiving corps was a priority in 1984, and Lipps was the first-round pick. In his first regular season game, Lipps showed immediately that he was worthy of being a No. 1 pick. While Steelers quarterbacks David Woodley and Mark Malone combined to complete 22-of-41 passes (53.7 percent), Stallworth and Lipps showed themselves to be a dynamic combination. Stallworth led with team with six catches for 167 yards and a touchdown, and Lipps caught six passes for 183 yards (30.5 average) and touchdowns of 80 and 21 yards. Lipps finished his rookie season with 45 catches, but he was a big-play machine by averaging 19.1 yards per reception to go along with nine receiving touchdowns, plus another touchdown as a punt returner. After he retired, I would run into Lipps occasionally because he has made Pittsburgh his full-time home, and we would talk about him being too late to play with Terry Bradshaw and too early to play with Ben Roethlisberger.

JAMES MAC PHERSON FROM BEACHWOOD, NJ: Let's say the Steelers finish 13-3 and all of the other teams in the AFC finish with four or more losses. By losing to the Ravens on Thanksgiving, the season series with the Ravens would be tied, but the Steelers end up losing out in the tiebreaker with more losses to common opponents Thus, Baltimore wins the division, but we have best record in the AFC, thus deserving the bye. What would happen then?
ANSWER: If the Steelers finish 13-3, and the Ravens finish with more than three losses, the Steelers win the AFC North. It doesn't go to division tiebreakers if the teams aren't tied atop the division, and the way I know they wouldn't be tied atop the division is because – by your own description – the Steelers have three losses and the Ravens have at least four. Might be time to quit researching tiebreakers and maybe crack a fourth-grade arithmetic book instead.

JONATHAN PHILLIPS FROM KNOXVILLE, TN: Is there any plausible way a first-round draft pick gets cut before the starts of his rookie season (besides illegal off the field issues)? Has it ever happened before?
ANSWER: Based on all that goes into a team's decision on a first-round draft pick in terms of man-hours and travel expense that make up the scouting process, I would say there is no way a team would cut that player for performance issues before the start of his rookie season. And since the NFL first instituted the draft in 1936 and the process was much less sophisticated, I have no idea if it ever happened before. I can tell you that many men who were drafted highly by NFL teams opted to do something with their lives other than play professional football. One such player was Bill Shakespeare, a Notre Dame halfback who was the third overall pick of the NFL's inaugural draft in 1936. Shakespeare finished the 1935 college football season as Notre Dame's leader in most offensive categories, including passing (19-of-66 for 267 yards), rushing (374 on 104 carries and four touchdowns), punting (40-yard average on 45 punts), kickoff returns (24.6 average on five returns), and scoring (24 points). He was selected as a consensus first-team All-American and finished third in the voting for the first-ever Heisman Trophy, behind Jay Berwanger and Monk Moscrip. Those college credentials made Shakespeare the first-ever first-round pick in Steelers history, but he skipped the chance to play professional football and went to work for the Cincinnati Rubber Company, where he would become the company's president in 1960. He died in 1974 at the age of 61.