Best of Asked and Answered: Friday, November 27

Let's get to it:

TODD WEBSTER FROM HAGERSTOWN, MD: Is it only me or does the offensive play-calling seem questionable? Many times it's frustrating to watch the offensive play-calling resulting in stalled possessions or loss of yards. To me and the group with whom I watch the games, Randy Fichtner seems lost at times.
ANSWER: That's because if you or one of your game-watching pals were calling the plays, the Steelers never would lose a single yard and every possession would end with a touchdown, right? I will admit that I have complained about every offensive coordinator the Steelers ever have had, and in order that group included Tom Moore, Joe Walton, Ron Erhardt, Chan Gailey, Kevin Gilbride, Mike Mularkey, Ken Whisenhunt, Bruce Arians, Todd Haley, and Randy Fichtner. So I get it. I'm guilty, too. But allow me to mention this to you: The Steelers are the only team in the NFL in 2020 to have scored at least 24 points in every regular season game to date. And included among the play-callers whose offenses have fallen short of at least 24 points in every game so far in 2020 are Sean Payton and Andy Reid and Josh McDaniels and Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. There is a belief that every play that doesn't work was called by Fichtner and every play that succeeds was called by Ben Roethlisberger. That's simply not true.

Let me relay a personal anecdote from a few years ago: it was a Saturday afternoon, and my wife and I were in a neighborhood establishment enjoying some food and beverages and watching a variety of the college football games being shown on a number of televisions. There was a group of fans sitting a short distance away, and half the group was rooting for one of the teams in the game they were watching and the other half was rooting for the other team. It was late in the fourth quarter of that game, and one team scored a touchdown with just a few seconds left to close to within one point. I injected myself into their little group, and I asked, "Do you go for two and try to win right now, or do you kick the PAT and play for overtime?" There were no timeouts left, and so the ball had been spotted and the play-clock was running. After some, "Um, well, maybe …" I interrupted again and reminded them nicely that there's no time for indecision, because in less than 40 seconds they have to decide whether to go for the win or not, and if so, decide on which play to call, and that the clock is running. Not as easy as people believe.

Fichtner is not perfect, but right now what the offense is doing is working, Ben Roethlisberger is playing well and isn't getting hit very often, and as already mentioned the offense is the only one in the NFL to have scored at least 24 points in each game this season. There are far more things going right than there are to complain about.

HARRY ELLIOTT FROM MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA: We are currently at 10-0, and the Ravens are 6-4. Should we defeat them on Thanksgiving Night would we then clinch the AFC North Division?
ANSWER: You're forgetting about the Cleveland Browns. Today, the Browns are 7-3, and even if the Steelers defeat the Ravens and the Browns lose in Jacksonville on Sunday, that would make the Steelers 11-0 and the Browns would be 7-4, and each team would have five games remaining. If Cleveland won all five, and the Steelers lost all five, then the Browns would finish the season 12-4, and the Steelers would be 11-5. So there can be no clinching of the division title this weekend.

KEHOS LITVIN FROM LOUISVILLE, KY: Has Avery Williamson received any playing time? He was signed a few weeks ago, wasn't he?
ANSWER: When Coach Mike Tomlin said Avery Williams was acquired via trade with the Jets to provide depth at inside linebacker he was telling the truth, because in the two game the Steelers have played since acquiring him he has been on the field for a total of 19 defensive snaps. He has made one tackle.

CHRISTOPHER GALLOWAY FROM ROCKWALL, TX: Since the Steelers have played Jacksonville and Tennessee this season, what was the reason the old AFC Central Division had six teams in it for a couple of years?
ANSWER: The original AFC Central Division was made up of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Houston. In the early 1990s when the NFL expanded by two teams, and the franchises were awarded to Carolina and Jacksonville, it was decided one team would go into the NFC and one team would go into the AFC. At the time, the only four-team divisions in the NFL were the AFC Central and the NFC West, and so each of those divisions was going to get an expansion team. Dan Rooney volunteered the AFC Central to take Jacksonville, and so Carolina was placed in the NFC West.

Starting in 1995, the NFL was made up of 30 teams, and those were spread out into six divisions – three in each conference – of five teams apiece. After the 1995 season, the Browns left Cleveland and moved to Baltimore, and so the Ravens replaced the Browns in the AFC Central. But the NFL moved quickly to assure Cleveland it would not be without an NFL team for long, and Dan Rooney was not going to allow the Steelers and the Browns to be separated because of the long-standing and bitter rivalry he believed was good for the NFL. Then in 1997, the Oilers moved to Tennessee, and that franchise stayed in the AFC Central Division under a new name.

When the Browns were re-introduced to the NFL for the 1999 season there was no question they would be back in the Steelers' division, and so from 1999-2001, the AFC Central Division contained six teams: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Tennessee, which used to be the Oilers. Also, from 1999-2001, the NFL only had 31 teams which meant there had to be a team with a bye every week of the regular season. Imagine having your bye week on the opening weekend of the regular season? The league balanced itself by admitting Houston as an expansion team, and that's when the league realigned to its current configuration of eight divisions of four teams, with four divisions in each conference.

MARC JOHNSON FROM EUREKA, IL: How does pass interference factor into a receiver's statistics?
ANSWER: It doesn't. Not as a reception, nor as yardage. It doesn't count as an attempt for the quarterback, either. It's only counted in the team statistics under the category of penalty yards.

TOM DUNN FROM BELLEAIR BLUFFS, FL: Besides Ray-Ray McCloud, which Steelers have stood out to you on special teams?
ANSWER: I will start with Chris Boswell, who has made 16-of-17 field goals, including a franchise record 59-yarder, and his only miss came after a bad snap. Others who have had nice seasons, in my opinion, are Jordan Dangerfield, eight tackles and the personal protector on the punt team; Ola Adeniyi, six tackles and a forced fumble; Marcus Allen, five tackles and that alert recovery on the surprise onside kick in Jacksonville; and James Pierre, five tackles and solid work as a gunner on the punt team. And there have been others in what I believe has been a good season to date for all of the Steelers special teams.

KEN COE FROM DARIEN, CT: When a veteran player is given a day off from practice (as is normally the case for Ben Roethlisberger on Wednesdays, for instance), is the player altogether absent from the practice facility?
ANSWER: No. Players given a day off participate in everything that's on the day's schedule, and when the team takes the field for practice those players watch from the sideline or from behind the drills. It's a day off from practice. It's not a vacation day.

PAUL MENG FROM WILMINGTON, DE: Any rumors from the NFL on the number of fans who will be allowed to attend the Super Bowl LV?
ANSWER: According to Adam Schefter, the NFL is planning on having Raymond James Stadium filled to 20 percent capacity for Super Bowl LV. In addition, "Masks will be required and fans will be spaced six feet apart in 'pods.' Given that the seating capacity in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fl., is a little over 65,000 and the possibility of additional temporary seating, attendance could be between 13-15,000 people."

TODD GOODING FROM PORTAGE, MI: I would put the mid-1990s Steelers linebackers up against any outside of the Steelers trio of Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, and Andy Russell from the 1970s. In your opinion what kept Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, or Chad Brown from Hall of Fame consideration? Who had the best chance in your opinion?
ANSWER: Of the three you mentioned, my opinion is Greg Lloyd would have had the best chance to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame had he not been injured in both 1996 and 1997. In 1996, Lloyd tore a patellar tendon in the opener in Jacksonville and missed the remainder of that season. And then in 1997 just as he was rounding back into form following the patellar injury, he sprained an ankle and developed a severe staph infection. Lloyd was a first-team All-Pro in 1993, 1994, and 1995 before injuries turned him into a shell of himself. Had those injuries not happened, I believe he at least would've advanced far enough in the process to have his credentials presented to the Board of Selectors on the day before the Super Bowl.