Sun, 29 Nov 2020

Asked and Answered: Oct. 27

The Steelers
29 Oct 2020, 05:30 GMT+10

Bob Labriola

Let's get to it:

TIM DAVIS FROM MORGANTOWN, WV: Who calls the defense if guy wearing the green dot on his helmet goes out for a play?

ANSWER: The rule allows for one player per team to be wearing the green dot, which signifies which player has the radio receiver in his helmet that allows him to receive communication from his sideline. If the player with the radio receiver is not or cannot be on the field, it's fair and allowed for a different player to wear a helmet with the radio receiver in it. If it's only one play, and it's known that it only will be for one play, the call could be communicated from the sideline either directly or via hand signals, but teams and their equipment staffs are prepared to make a quick switch to keep the lines of communication open.

DAVID BEGGS FROM MASON, OH: With the Ravens returning rested from their bye this week, and with the way the second half ended up against the Titans, what do you think coaches and players will need to adjust for a victory in Baltimore?

ANSWER: Don't be a minus-3 in turnover ratio.

CHRIS TROMBETTA FROM PLUM, PA: How could the Steelers totally abandon a game plan in the second half that dominated the Titans in the first half? To go away from a run game that consumed so much time off the clock? I must be a dumber fan than I thought.

ANSWER: I wouldn't say you're a "dumb" fan, but you might want to check your arithmetic. In the first half against the Titans, the Steelers ran 39 offensive plays, and 14 of those were runs (35.9 percent). In the second half, the Steelers ran 35 offensive plays, and 11 of those were runs (31.4 percent). First of all, that's not a significant difference, certainly not enough to justify the charge of "totally abandoning" the run, and you also have to take into account that the offense converted 8-of-9 on third downs in the first half but only 5-of-9 in the second half, and that disparity cut down on the number of offensive plays they would have run in the second half, and with the lead it's a reasonable assumption that a number of those would have been running plays. And finally, in the first half, the Steelers 14 running plays gained 68 yards (4.9 average), while their 11 runs in the second half gained 26 yards (2.4 average). If you expect a team to keep running the football, it has to be effective when it runs the football. In the second half, the Steelers weren't effective, and so they tried to make first downs and possess the ball a different way.

KEITH CLARK FROM BROOKLYN, NY: The scheduled Sunday night game is 2-5 Dallas at 2-4-1 Philadelphia. Will the league flex the Steelers-Ravens to Sunday night, or will CBS fight to keep the game?

ANSWER: At this time, there are no plans to move the kickoff of Steelers at Ravens from its scheduled 1 p.m. time slot. But as we have learned during this global pandemic, things can change and change quickly based on the results of COVID-19 tests.

LARRY JONES FROM BELPRE, OH: How does a one-year contract signed midseason work? Reportedly, Antonio Brown signed a one-year contract. I assume it doesn't expire next year at midseason?

ANSWER: Your assumption is correct. NFL contracts are based on the league calendar, not the Gregorian calendar. Here's an example of how an NFL contract signed midseason would work: Let's pretend Antonio Brown signed a one-year contract worth $1.7 million, which means he would receive 17 game checks worth $100,000 each over the course of a full NFL season (16 games plus the bye week). But if that contract is signed with a team that already has played eight games, or had played seven games and had its bye, then those eight checks would be deducted from the $1.7 million. That would leave him with nine checks at $100,000 apiece, or $900,000.

PAT HUTCHISON FROM VERO BEACH, FL: In all your time watching the Steelers, in your opinion, have they ever had four wide receivers of this quality?

ANSWER: You must be young, because I remember an era when the Steelers regularly started two Hall of Fame wide receivers at the same time. Lynn Swann and John Stallworth. Add two other capable NFL players to two Hall of Famers, say Jim Smith and Theo Bell, and those are four of higher quality. I mean no disrespect to JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and Chase Claypool, but Swann and Stallworth are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's important to respect the rich history of a franchise as storied as the Pittsburgh Steelers.

TODD METZ FROM WILLIAMSTON, SC: How was Jordan Berry able to join the team so quickly? Didn't he have to clear COVID-19 protocol?

ANSWER: There were no COVID-19 protocols violated in the transaction that brought Jordan Berry back to the Steelers and had him punting for the team in Nashville against the Titans. Berry was isolated for the proper number of days and was tested as required. Just because a few members of the media got the story wrong doesn't mean the Steelers violated any rules.

RICKY DANIEL FROM BEAN STATION, TN: I'm old enough to have watched every Super Bowl the Steelers have played, but I'm a little fuzzy remembering their record in those seasons. Could you tell me their best start in those years?

ANSWER: In 1974, the season that ended with a win in Super Bowl IX, the Steelers were 1-1-1 after three games and 4-1-1 in the first six games; in 1975, they were 1-1 after the first two weeks and 5-1 after the first six games; in 1978, the Steelers started 7-0 before losing to the Houston Oilers at Three Rivers Stadium; in 1979, they started 4-0 and then were 5-2 after seven games; in 1995, they started 2-2 and then fell to 3-4; in 2005, they started 2-1, and then got to 3-2; in 2008, they were 2-1, and then 5-3; and in 2010, they started 3-0, and then were 5-2. So their best start was in 1978.

PAUL SMITH FROM ONTARIO, CANADA: Why are the Steelers not using Chase Claypool more? Against the Titans he was non-existent.

ANSWER: Even though this sounds to me to be a fantasy football issue with you, I'll play along. Against the Titans, Chase Claypool was on the field for 51 of the 79 offensive snaps, which was third among wide receivers behind JuJu Smith-Schuster (65 snaps) and Diontae Johnson (59 snaps). And actually, it was the Titans who determined which of the receivers would be targeted the most with their coverage. When Tennessee's coverage showed the Steelers it wasn't going to allow Claypool to have a big game, Ben Roethlisberger went to Smith-Schuster and Johnson, who combined for 18 catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

THOMAS HERMAN FROM OKLAHOMA CITY, OK: Teams go into halftime and make adjustments to the offense and defense. Do they also discuss what adjustments their opponent would/should/could make to try to prepare for said adjustments?

ANSWER: An NFL halftime is 12 minutes, and they start the clock on those 12 minutes immediately after play in the first half concludes. So in 12 minutes, a team has to get off the field, get into its locker room, handle any minor injuries and bathroom breaks, take care of its own adjustments, and then get onto the field and be ready to play in 12 minutes. There is no time to discuss and try to teach what the opponent might or should do.

DICK VOCHEK FROM PORTAGE, PA: How are the length of the timeouts determined? In the game against the Titans, Ben Roethlisberger called a timeout in the first quarter as the play clock was dwindling, and it was only a 30-second timeout. However, when the Steelers called timeout following the two-minute warning, it felt like the timeout was three minutes long. Please explain if you know.

ANSWER: At every NFL game, there is a guy standing on the sideline wearing a fluorescent green baseball cap with the NFL logo on the front. He is known as the Green Hat, and while the league deserves no credit for creativity in the name, that guy is the liaison between the game's referee and the television truck of the network broadcasting the game. Without getting into too much minutiae, television requires a certain number of breaks during certain segments of the game. If there are not a lot of natural breaks created by the flow of the game - touchdowns, punts, injuries, and the other things that typically allow the network to go to commercial - the Green Hat will make up that deficit through other means, including the length of timeouts. If there have been a lot of breaks, then the timeouts are not given as much time because the network doesn't require it to get through the assigned inventory of commercials. So, the length of a timeout is determined by the amount of commercial time the network needs to fill at a certain point in the game.

ANTHONY McCOY FROM PEARLAND, TX: I was just trying to understand why the Steelers released former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett so soon? Also, why didn't the Steelers go after former Raiders punter Marquette King? Steelers players mentioned him a lot on Twitter. He's a solid punter.

ANSWER: It should be evident that the NFL doesn't believe J.T. Barrett has what it takes to be a quarterback in the league. When he came out of college in 2018, he was undrafted, and then he also wasn't signed immediately after the draft when each team typically adds about 10 players, which means each of the 32 teams passed on him at least seven times and then didn't want him as an undrafted rookie. Barrett eventually hooked on after attending a rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, and in the three seasons since he has been cut four times from practice squads by three different teams. And since he's currently out of football during a season where teams are permitted to have expanded practice squads that include players with no limit on their years of experience, it's clear to me that Barrett is missing something that NFL teams believe they want or need in a quarterback. As for Marquette King, it's the same rationale: If he's such a good punter, why is he out of a job now, and why has he been out of an NFL job since 2018?

DAVE HORCHAK FROM CHERRY TREE, PA: In a recent column you mentioned Bruce Arians publicly disagreeing with Art Rooney II about the need to alter Ben Roethlisberger's playing style as part of an overall desire to protect him better and lengthen his career. Do teams train coaches to help them with the media? Do you think Arian's comment was tinged with job security worries since at the time Ben wasn't ready to change his style? And third, has Arians changed his mind about protecting his current franchise quarterback?

ANSWER: First, would you need to be trained in not publicly disagreeing with your boss? Second, the job of a coach is to give the player what he needs, not necessarily what he wants. And how is it better for your job security when you side with a player over the owner? And here are the full-season sack totals in each of the years Bruce Arians has been either the offensive coordinator or the head coach of an NFL team: 51, 35, 40, 47, 49, 50, 43, 42, 41, 41, 28, 27, 41, 52, 47. So far in 2020, Tom Brady has been sacked eight times in seven games, but anyone who doesn't believe Brady is actually the one in charge in Tampa is delusional.

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