Best of Asked and Answered: Friday, October 9

Let's get to it:

JEFFREY L. WALKER FROM LOS ANGELES, CA: Are short cornerbacks the norm in the NFL? Are there no good, taller cornerbacks out there?
ANSWER: I don't know what you would consider "taller" cornerbacks, but here are some heights for some of the better players at the position currently in the NFL. Jalen Ramsey is 6-foot-1, Marcus Peters is 6-0, Richard Sherman is 6-3, Stephon Gilmore is 6-1, Patrick Peterson is 6-1, Quinton Dunbar is 6-2, Marlon Humphrey is 6-0 and Marshon Lattimore is 6-0.

There is some belief among scouts that "taller" cornerbacks can have trouble covering wide receivers because their longer legs can slow down their process of flipping their hips to change direction. The most well-known example of this, at least in Steelers history, is the disagreement that Bill Nunn and Chuck Noll had over Mel Blount. When Blount was coming out of Southern Univeersity and was going to be a part of the 1970 NFL Draft, both Noll and Nunn liked him and believed he could become a top professional, Nunn believed that at 6-3 Blount was too tall to play cornerback and would be a safety in the NFL. Noll disagreed and believed Blount had enough quickness to go along with his speed and strength to play cornerback. Nunn often told this story and praised Noll for having the courage of his convictions, but there apparently is something to the issue of cornerbacks being too tall.

JOSE ECHEVERRÍA FROM PANAMA CITY, PANAMA: How come the Patriots-Chiefs game remained scheduled for Week 4, and the Steelers and Titans were force take Week 4 as the bye and were rescheduled for Week 7? What was the difference in criteria?
ANSWER: The difference as I understand it is that there continued to be positive COVID tests recorded among the Titans for several days after the initial positive tests. That indicates the virus was continuing to spread instead of being isolated in one or a few individuals. The problem was doctors couldn't be sure that Titans players on the field were not carriers. In fact, on Saturday, Oct. 3, another Titans player and two more staff members tested positive, and then another positive test occurred on Sunday, Oct. 4, which indicated the virus was still spreading, and the NFL wanted to do what it could to prevent it from spreading to the Steelers during a game that weekend. The fact that the outbreak among the Titans began on Sept. 24 when they placed practice squad cornerback Gren Mabin on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and players and staffers still were testing positive nearly 10 days later was what led to the postponement. As for the Patriots-Chiefs game, it wasn't until Monday morning that the New England traveling party departed in two planes for the flight to Kansas City, and then only after there were no positives tests among the Patriots for several days. There is no guarantee this will turn out to be the correct response, but it's how the league has decided to respond. Currently, the NFL and the NFLPA are in Nashville investigating whether the Titans violated protocols that were implemented to enable the league to conduct its 2020 season.

NATHAN GEISLER FROM BOISE. ID: I have always wondered when the Steelers switched from a 4-3 defense to the 3-4? Was it when Bill Cowher became the head coach in 1992?
ANSWER: Chuck Noll was the one who introduced the 3-4 defensive alignment to the Steelers, and the 1982 season was the first one in which the Steelers used the 3-4 alignment as their base defense.

RAYMOND DICOLA FROM GROVE CITY, PA: I think it was in the Texans game, when Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball through the back of the end zone and was called for intentional grounding. I've seen this done in many NFL games and never was penalized. Why the penalty that time?
ANSWER: Far be it for me to stick up for NFL officials, but I remember that I thought intentional grounding was going to be called on that play as soon as it happened. There were no receivers in the area, and Ben Roethlisberger was not out of the pocket. I believe it was the combination of those two things that drew the flag. If he had been out of the pocket, or if there had been a Steelers receiver anywhere in the area, I don't believe a penalty would have been called.

CARLOS ROBERTO FROM BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL: Which were the three games in which the Steelers scored the most points in their history?
ANSWER: On Nov. 30, 1952, the Steelers defeated the New York Giants, 63-7; on Dec. 18, 1966, they defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 57-33; and on Oct. 17, 1954, they defeated the Cleveland Browns, 55-27.

PAUL MARTIN FROM SAEGERTOWN, PA: I'd like you to check me on a rules interpretation. If a receiver goes airborne to make a catch and is knocked out of bounds by a defender, the pass is incomplete. If a receiver goes airborne to make a catch and is carried out of bounds by a defender, the pass is complete. Is that right?
ANSWER: That used to be a judgment call by the official, who could rule the pass complete if he believed the receiver would have come down inbounds if not for the contact made by the defender. That rule has been changed, and now in both scenarios you describe the pass is incomplete. And if I now get 1,000 questions about why the Steelers coaches don't teach the defensive backs to carry opposing receivers out of bounds to cause completed passes to be ruled incomplete, I'm holding you personally responsible.

NATHAN WONG FROM BUTLER, PA: Ben Roethlisberger has had great receivers over his almost two decade tenure. Who makes your top-five list, in order, based on chemistry with Ben, production, and being a clutch player?
ANSWER: I have neither the time nor the interest in the type of research project required to rank the receivers during Ben Roethlisberger's 17-plus seasons in the various categories specified in your question, but I will give you my list with a brief reason why I included each player. This list is chronological, based on when the receivers joined the Steelers: Hines Ward, because during the eight seasons he played with Roethlisberger he had 575 catches, three 1,000-yard seasons, and 48 touchdowns; Santonio Holmes, because of Super Bowl XLIII when the pair hooked up for nine receptions for 131 yards (14.6 average) and the championship-winning touchdown, with four for 73 yards and a touchdown coming on the decisive drive; Mike Wallace, who finished with a ridiculous number of 40-plus-yard touchdown passes from Roethlisberger; Antonio Brown, whose time with Roethlisberger resulted in six 100-catch seasons and seven 1,000-yard seasons, he led the NFL in receptions twice, in receiving yards twice, and in receiving touchdowns once; and JuJu Smith-Schuster, whose first two seasons in the NFL resulted in 169 catches for 2,343 yards and 14 touchdowns, including two that covered 97 yards.

KEN WALDROP FROM ONTONAGON, MI: Mike Hilton has not only covered well but is fantastic on the blitz. I know the Steelers don't do contracts during the season, but could Hilton be an exception? The thought being his price may be going up quite a bit if they wait for the offseason.
ANSWER: Here's the thing about a policy: If there are exceptions made, then it isn't a policy. The Steelers don't negotiate contracts during the season. Not for Mike Hilton. Not for Bud Dupree. Not for JuJu Smith-Schuster. Not for any player, because if an exception is made for one guy, then all of the other guys start wondering why an exception wasn't made for them. Then you have players thinking/wondering/worrying about contracts instead of playing winning football. So, no exceptions for anyone, ever. That's why it's called a policy.

TONY TURAY FROM SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA: I'm not sure I understand your response to the "poor spot and failed challenge" on the Ben Roethlisberger play in the Texans game. Are you saying that an "obvious" error (on making a call during a game proven by video replay), is still at the discretion of the officials? What is the point of having video replay challenges?
ANSWER: Your naivete is charming. I don't know how long you've been watching NFL football, but it can't be too long if you still believe that instant replay and the challenge system corrects all obvious errors while also confirming the correct calls. As for the two questions you pose, allow me to answer them succinctly: Yes. Exactly. And I close with the words of Chuck Noll, a staunch opponent of instant replay as an officiating tool, when told that the purpose of it was to get calls right. Countered Noll, "What if it doesn't?"

NATHAN GEISLER FROM BOISE. ID: With the Steelers having only three head coaches since 1969, who did Dan Rooney and the Steelers interview for the head coach vacancies in 1969, 1992, and 2007? And did any of them later become head coaches with other NFL franchises?
ANSWER: In 1969, before Dan Rooney settled on Chuck Noll and presented him to his father as the preferred candidate, the job was offered to then-Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who declined. In 1992, the four finalists for Noll's job were Joe Greene, Kevin Gilbride, Dave Wannstedt, and Bill Cowher, with Wannstedt (Chicago Bears) and Gilbride (Chargers) getting other jobs. Then in 2007, the four finalists were Ron Rivera (Carolina and Washington), Ken Whisenhunt (Arizona and Tennessee), Russ Grimm, and Mike Tomlin.