Asked and Answered

The best of Asked and Answered: July 15

With Bob Labriola enjoying a summer break, we've gone through recent editions of Asked & Answered and selected a few memorable questions…and answers.

Bob returns to his normal schedule next week.

Let's get to it:

July 9, 2020
AL TARQUINIO FROM MARS, PA: Do you think Matt Canada, the new quarterbacks coach, will have a positive impact on Mason Rudolph? And did Canada have a positive impression thus impacting Steelers not to draft or sign another quarterback?

ANSWER: As a young player, Mason Rudolph needs a coach who is dedicated to helping him with the fundamentals of his position, a coach who will be a sounding board, who will be watching him on every play in every practice and every game and then evaluating his performance. That will help Rudolph, as well as the No. 3 quarterback. And as I have explained many times previously, assistant coaches do not have the authority to determine whether the team decides to spend a draft pick on a player at their position.

July 7, 2020
GRANT MAESHIRO FROM HONOLULU, HI: For a guy in Hawaii who has only watched our Steelers play on TV for the past 40 years, please tell me a personal story about the game day experience in Heinz Field. Attending a December home game with playoffs on the line is near the top of my bucket list.

ANSWER: During the entire life of Heinz Field, I have worked in my current job, and so while I have seen every Steelers game played in the building, I never have seen one outside of the enclosed press box, which means I have not had any real experience with the game day experience. There are two instances, however, when I could feel vibrations in the press box from the roar of the crowd, and so I only can imagine how loud it actually was. The first instance was late in the 2008 AFC Championship Game when Troy Polamalu intercepted a Joe Flacco pass and returned it for a touchdown to clinch the AFC Championship and a spot in Super Bowl XLIII for the Steelers. And the other was on Christmas Day in 2016 when Antonio Brown extended the ball across the goal line in the final seconds of the fourth quarter to clinch the AFC North Division title for the Steelers and eliminate the Ravens from the playoffs in a 31-27 victory. If you indeed decide to spend a week in Pittsburgh during December to catch a Steelers game at Heinz Field, my wife and I would be happy to house-sit for you.

June 18, 2020
JOHN NOH FROM SAN JOSE, CA: How is a 2-point conversion awarded (if at all) to a player's career statistics especially when the conversion is a successful pass and reception? Does the receiver get the two points or does the passer?

ANSWER: If Ben Roethlisberger completes a pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 2-point conversion, Roethlisberger doesn't get credit for a pass attempt, a completion, or the yards gained, and Smith-Schuster doesn't get credit for the reception or the yardage. The only statistic that counts is the 2 points, and those go to Smith-Schuster. In the case of James Conner running the ball into the end zone for a 2-point conversion, the only statistic that counts is the 2 points, and those go to Conner.

May 28, 2020
PATRICK DILLON FROM WAUKEGAN, IL: Do you have an opinion on why Mike Wagner is not in the Steelers Hall of Honor? He was a key member of the Steelers defense of the 1970s.

ANSWER: I agree that Mike Wagner is an unsung component of the Steelers defense that was a part of those four championships during the 1970s, and my opinion regarding his inclusion into the Hall of Honor it's more about when than if.

May 12, 2020
MIKE PAGOTTO FROM LONG POND, PA: Do you think the Steelers rely too much on "chunk plays" to get themselves into scoring position? It often seems they have a large number of three-and-outs because they are trying low percentage, long vertical passes rather than trying to average 3.5 yards per rush.

ANSWER: I believe the only way for an offense to score consistently in the NFL is with chunk plays. Expecting an offense to be able to execute 12-play, 75-yard drives without any penalties, or sacks, or other negative plays on a consistent basis is just not reasonable. That was one of the things that really crippled the offense last year and made the Steelers the only team in the NFL to fail to score 30 points in any one game – the lack of chunk plays. Teams have to make the opposing defense defend the whole field, both vertically and horizontally.

April 28, 2020
KEN GLEASON FROM SPRINGBORO, OH: Much has been made of the impact that Minkah Fitzpatrick has had on the Steelers, and rightfully so. Before Fitzpatrick came to the team Devin Bush was the most highly anticipated acquisition. What are your thoughts about his first year and his future?

ANSWER: Ryan Shazier was a great player and still was ascending at the time of his catastrophic injury, and he was a clutch and difference-maker in the playoffs. In six career playoff games, Shazier personally had a hand in four takeaways, with two interceptions, and two forced fumbles, one of which he recovered himself, and he also finished with 42 tackles. I mention Shazier because Devin Bush was drafted to replace him, and really stands out to me is a comparison of their rookie seasons.

In 2019, Bush played in all 16 games and started 15 of those. He finished with 109 tackles, including nine for loss, one sack, two interceptions, four passes defensed, one forced fumble, four fumble recoveries, and a defensive touchdowns. Bush played 889 defensive snaps and another 57 snaps on special teams. By comparison, Shazier played in nine games as a rookie, with five of them starts, and his statistics that season were quite pedestrian. In his career, Shazier never finished a regular season with 100 tackles, and he never played as many as 889 defensive snaps over the course of a regular season.

Bush had some issues in coverage as a rookie, which is understandable, and improvement in that area should come as he gains experience in coverage and develops a better understanding of how offenses are looking to attack him in that phase. I'm not going to predict that Bush eventually will become a better player than Shazier, but if we never had seen Shazier play a snap beyond his rookie season, there would be little argument that Bush is a better player.

April 16, 2020
JOHN MAIR FROM RIDGE, NY: With the expended playoff format now in place, I'm wondering how many consecutive years the Steelers would have made the playoffs if it was in place earlier?

ANSWER: If the new seven-team-per-conference playoff format had been in place earlier, the Steelers would be working on a 10-year streak of qualifying for the postseason, and Coach Mike Tomlin would have had the team in the playoffs for every season of his tenure here except for 2009. In 2009, both the Steelers and the Texans both finished 9-7, but Houston would have gone into the playoffs on a tiebreaker. And in 2017, instead of a bye and then losing at home to Jacksonville in the Divisional Round, under the new format the Steelers would have hosted Baltimore in the Wild Card Round.

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