Best of Asked and Answered: Friday, October 23

Let's get to it:

ANDREW SCHERBIK FROM CHESAPEAKE, MD: When Devin Bush went down, I thought Robert Spillane came in and did a fine job. Will he be the starter in place of Bush and do you think the Steelers sign another linebacker for depth?
ANSWER: Robert Spillane acquitted himself well when he had to line up at inside linebacker following Devin Bush's injury in the game against the Browns. But I would expect the coaching staff to devise an overall plan to replace Bush because it wouldn't be fair or necessarily wise to expect one guy who's currently on the roster to step in and replace Bush. Spillane is tough, a hard worker, and an asset on special teams, but if he had the skill-set to be a one-for-one replacement for Devin Bush, he wouldn't have had to enter the NFL as an undrafted rookie and then bounced from the Titans to the Steelers before finding his niche in the league. Spillane is an asset to the Steelers, but I also believe expectations should be realistic.

CARL SELF FROM TEMPE, AZ: I felt when we drafted Ulysees Gilbert we got a steal in that draft. Do you feel that he's ready to step up, and what have you been hearing about him?
ANSWER: What I feel, and what I've heard are inconsequential. What I know is that Ulysees Gilbert has been inactive this season whenever Marcus Allen has been healthy, and I don't know whether that has to do purely with special teams contributions or if there's something more going on. As a rookie, Gilbert flashed in training camp, and did some nice things in preseason games during the JV portions of those. Gilbert has some interesting skills and maybe those earn him some playing time in specialized roles, but there's a lot of knowing what to do that goes into playing Devin Bush's position.

MATT BARYTON FROM BORDENTOWN, NJ: When Ben Roethlisberger is running the no-huddle, does he have the full playbook available to him? Or is there a predetermined set of plays that he can choose from?
ANSWER: A lot of work goes into preparing for an opponent, and plays are selected and practiced based on what the offense can execute and what can work against the particular opponent. There might be the rare occasion when an adjustment is made to a play that has been practiced to take advantage of a specific situation, but for the most part the coloring is done within the lines. Remember, all 11 guys on the field have to know what they're doing and be able to execute a play for it to have a chance be successful.

PAT HUTCHISON FROM VERO BEACH, FL: Who is the Steelers Digest Player of the Week for the game vs. the Browns? I didn't see it on Steelers.com this week.
ANSWER: I chose the Possession Down Defense, and here is what I wrote to support the decision: "A week ago, against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Steelers allowed a better than 70 percent conversion rate on third downs, and rather than being an aberration it was the low point of a season that left them tied-for-27th in the league in that category. But in an important AFC North game against the best team they had faced to this point, the Steelers defense dominated the Cleveland Browns on possession downs on the way to a 38-7 victory.

"It started on the first third-down situation of the game for the Cleveland offense. Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted a Baker Mayfield pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown that gave the Steelers a 10-0 lead before the midway point of the first quarter.

"It was more of the same throughout the rest of the game, with the Browns offense finishing 1-for-12 on third downs and 0-for-3 on fourth downs for a combined 1-for-15 (7 percent) on possession downs. The Steelers' possession down defense make up the Steelers Digest Players of the Week."

JOE HUBER FROM LEESBURG, FL: In the Cleveland game, the kickoff coverage team looked outstanding. Starting with Chris Boswell's directional kicks to the goal line, many times the Browns were starting inside their 20-yard line. Would you agree that this unit is grading above the bar?
ANSWER: It is. Let's begin with some statistics, starting with the Cleveland game since you brought that up. Chris Boswell kicked off seven times, with five of those into the end zone and two touchbacks. On the five kickoffs into the end zone, the Browns returned all of them, and the starting spots for their offense were at the 21, 25, 24, 18, and 16-yard lines. That's excellent coverage, because the goal in today's NFL is to keep the receiving team inside the 25-yard line because that's where the ball is placed on touchbacks. The Browns averaged 20.4 yards per return in the game, and opponents are averaging 18.8 yards per return for the season through five games. The Steelers currently rank ninth in the NFL in kickoff coverage. Credited with tackles in kickoff coverage vs. the Browns were Chase Claypool, Alex Highsmith, James Pierre, Jordan Dangerfield, and Benny Snell. Players with multiple unassisted tackles on special teams so far are Robert Spillane, Ola Adeniyi, Highsmith, Derek Watt, Dangerfield, who leads the team with five, Marcus Allen, and Pierre.

JIM MILLER FROM BROKEN ARROW, OK: In Sunday's game against the Browns, T.J. Watt was called for offside and the play blown dead. Watt was pointing to the play-clock implying that it had run out. Did he have a case? If the play-clock runs out, is it then a dead ball? Would this play be reviewable?
ANSWER: Yes, the play-clock ran out, and Watt had timed his move to coincide with it hitting double-zeros. But in another example of the "quality" of NFL officiating, it has become a policy for the offense to be given an extra beat to get the ball snapped once the play-clock runs out. Is it reviewable? I would rather have the Steelers penalized 150 yards for offside than have delay of game penalties subject to review.

KEN GLEASON FROM SPRINGBORO, OH: On Sunday against the Browns, the officials missed the call when JuJu Smith-Schuster was interfered with at the end of the first half. Then they call offensive pass interference on Eric Ebron early in the second half. Any explanations for this?
ANSWER: My Mom always preached to me that "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." So I'll go with this: NFL officials are inconsistent.

WADE AGES FROM DALLAS, TX: From what you've seen thus far this season, would you say Dustin Colquitt was an upgrade over Jordan Berry as the punter? Who would you say was the best punter in Steelers history?
ANSWER: I don't think Dustin Colquitt has been an upgrade over Jordan Berry, but there are two things I will say about the move: the punter's most important job is to serve as Chris Boswell's holder, and as I understand it there was some cap savings involved in the move from Berry to Colquitt. So if Boswell is OK with Colquitt, and if the cap savings helped the Steelers get Cam Heyward signed, I'm on board with the move. But me being on board doesn't guarantee that Colquitt gets to finish the season. The best punter in franchise history – from a statistical standpoint, at least – is Bobby Joe Green, who holds the all-time record for career punting average (45.7) and average for a season (47.0).

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