Here are highlights from recent editions of "Ask & Answered". Bob Labriola is currently taking questions for next week's installment. Submit them below.
CHRISTOPHER CUMMINGS FROM ELON, NC:
Following the coin toss, what is the difference between deferring and choosing to kick? Strategically, is there a reason to choose one over the other?
ANSWER: Yes. If you win the toss, you get to choose whether to kick, receive, defend a goal, or defer. If you elect to kick off, the other team figures to receive. Then at the start of the second half, the other team gets to choose, because you chose at the start of the game. In that scenario, that likely gives the other team the ball at the start of both halves. By deferring, what you are doing is postponing your choice until the start of the second half, which would preserve your option of starting the second half with the ball.
ADAM STATTI FROM FORT MYERS, FL:
Considering the great running backs that this franchise has had throughout the years, Le'Veon Bell's accomplishment of breaking the Steelers' single-game postseason rushing record is remarkable. If you had to assign percentages between the two, how much of that is Bell and how much is the offensive line?
ANSWER: I don't believe it's any more possible to separate Le'Veon Bell's running from the blocking than it is to place percentages on which is more important to good pizza – the sauce or the crust.
BILL JANUS FROM HAINESPORT, NJ:
What is the contract situation with Ryan Shazier? He has now proven to be a great selection and is a better player than C.J. Mosley. He is truly a difference maker.
ANSWER: Ryan Shazier is under contract through the end of the 2017 season based on the four-year deal he signed as a No. 1 pick after the 2014 NFL Draft. As a first-round pick, Shazier also is subjected to a fifth-year option at the Steelers' discretion. The rookie wage scale, created in 2011, requires all first-year players to sign four-year deals. Teams then have the option to exercise a fifth-year option for all first-round picks. The fifth year (2018 for those taken in the 2014 draft) is guaranteed for injury.
The fifth-year salary varies depending on how high the player was drafted. The top 10 selections in the first round receive a salary equal to the average of the 10 highest salaries at their position. For the remainder of the first round, the wage is the average of the third through 25th highest salaries at the position. The Steelers will have to make a decision on Shazier's fifth-year option some time in 2017, usually close to May.
JOSE RUIZ FROM BAKERSFIELD, CA:
If a receiver or runner catches a ball for 20 yards and he fumbles, do those yards still count, or what happens?
ANSWER: Yes, the yards count. If a receiver catches a pass for 20 yards, fumbles, and the opponent recovers, the receiver gets credit for a reception and 20 receiving yards.
MARK JONES FROM LOGANVILLE GA:
In your opinion, what is an immediate need in the draft?
ANSWER: A playmaking wide receiver, a backup running back, some help for the pass rush. Those are three. Maybe one of those is solved via free agency, and maybe more needs become apparent as the offseason progresses. By the way, do you know Robert Donaldson?
ALLAN HAMILTON FROM CROSS LANES, WV:
Who is the largest player you have ever met?
ANSWER: He wasn't a football player, but without question the largest human being I've ever met is Shaquille O'Neal. Several years ago, during the dog days of the offseason, O'Neal was in Pittsburgh filming an episode of that reality show he was doing and he stopped by the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. When he stopped at my office to say hello as he was making his rounds through the building, he literally filled the doorway. Horizontally and vertically. Filled the doorway.
TIMOTHY TURNER FROM MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA
Hey, mate. Really enjoy this Asked and Answered. With the success of Australian punters over the years in the NFL, Brad Wing and Jordan Berry being recent examples, do you think NFL scouts will look overseas more for talent?
ANSWER: I don't know about "look," because even with punters NFL scouts need to see the athlete doing the things he's going to be asked to do in the NFL to make an evaluation. What I believe is that the NFL will become more receptive to overseas talent once that overseas talent has been exposed to American football. Remember, both Brad Wing and Jordan Berry played college football. That's the path to the NFL, I believe. Through college football.