Presented by

Inbox: They don't stay down for long

The next stage of improvement starts there

210929-insider-inbox-2560
Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin

Braedon from Vestal, NY

Will this be the first Aaron Rodgers vs. Roethlisberger matchup since the Super Bowl? Rodgers missed the 2013 and 2017 matchups due to his collarbone injuries, but I can't remember if there were any other games in between.

There were not. You are correct.

Jake from Albuquerque, NM

Run to throw, sounds like a good plan to defeat the Steelers. Go Pack Go!

Pittsburgh's run defense has been rather stout through three weeks. The Steelers' biggest problem is they haven't been able to run the ball. Just 153 rushing yards over three games.

Mike from Lompoc, CA

With the Steelers back on their heels for the moment, will the Packers' rush be disruptive enough to create more mistakes/turnovers? When Roethlisberger is on his game the ball comes out mighty quick.

Yes it does, but Big Ben already has been sacked eight times this season, and he's thrown three picks. I wouldn't say the Steelers are on their heels necessarily, though. They chalked up an impressive Week 1 road win at Buffalo, then lost a hard-fought battle with the Raiders. Last week they played a bit of a clunker at home. Mike Tomlin teams historically? They don't stay down for long.

Christopher from Frederick, MD

What will the Packers have to do well to beat the Steelers?

Stay balanced on offense despite Pittsburgh's tough run defense, and limit the big plays. Make the Steelers execute their offense all the way down the field.

Dana from Santa Fe, NM

On the final completion of the 49ers game, Davante Adams went down on his own in order to allow the Pack time to spike the ball, killing the clock. If the nearest 49er had not touched him at that point, wouldn't the clock have continued to run? He lays there, or tries to get up and run, in either case using much more than the famous 3 seconds.

A popular query today. If an offensive player gives himself up, which is exactly what Adams smartly did, the play is over. He does not have to be touched down.

Jacob from Ironwood, MI

What did you think of our decision to kick a field goal to go up by six in the fourth quarter instead of going for it on fourth down? If we hadn't won the game, would that be a question pestering Matt LaFleur this week?

Another popular question, but I don't understand why. Kicking the field goal there was the obvious call, so an opposing field goal doesn't tie the game. You essentially give your defense an extra 35 yards to defend. It was fourth-and-4. If it was fourth-and-inches, that's a different discussion.

Matt from Des Moines, IA

Was there any communication with the league office and ML about the hit on Davante? Will Ward be fined for that?

If he's fined, national reporters usually have that news first on Fridays.

Ryan from Baldwin, WI

This is in reference to Justin Tucker's record-breaking FG on Sunday, at what point is that record unbreakable? There has to be a breaking point that the human body cannot create enough force to kick the ball that far, not to mention, the trajectory alone gets lower creating a higher chance of it being blocked. At some point it may get to Favre's consecutive starts streak and be untouchable.

At this point, I'd say there are only two ways someone might top 66 yards: If there's a really strong tailwind, or if the kicker gets a free kick (off a fair catch on a punt) so he can take a longer approach and the defense can't try to block it. Speaking of approach, did anyone else see Drew Brees on NBC's Sunday night pregame show point out how Tucker took a baseball-like crow hop to start his footwork on that kick? Amazing.

Daniel from Catonsville, MD

An issue with coaches of any sport is how much to say regarding calls/non-calls to the officials, because there can be reprisals by them. I saw video of ML talking to them before going into the locker room at the half and he was not happy with them. Did the refereeing get worse in the second half because of ML's lecture to the officials?

That's a rather serious attack on the integrity of professionals who take their jobs very seriously. The integrity of the individuals is far from the problem with the NFL's officiating.

Kathie from Grand Forks, ND

A couple years ago, the media and everyone was all in an uproar about bad officiating. I think that time, it went in the Packers' favor, and Aaron Rodgers said the wisest thing I've ever heard him say, among many wise things. "Just keep playing." That essentially sometimes the bad calls go against you, and sometimes they go for you, and that in the end, he thought it evened out, but instead of worrying about it, the players just have to keep playing.

I think the II archives would verify I said it, too, only I was channeling my inner Dory from "Finding Nemo": Just keep playing, just keep playing, … Perhaps it's time to bring that one back.

Jeff from Belton, TX

The O-line seems to be a strength. We have options at every position with backups. No concern with David Bakhtiari being out and Elgton Jenkins needs to get healthy. Jon Runyan has improved from Year 1 one and the two rookies, wow, they still make mistakes but learn from it.

That was the most impressive thing about the unit's performance, which I highlighted in my Monday story. Fairly early in the game, Yosh Nijman had the facemask penalty, Royce Newman gave up a sack, and Josh Myers mistimed the fourth-down shotgun snap. All costly errors, yet none of those guys got thrown off track and they, well, just kept playing.

Tyler from Cross Plains, WI

With how well Nijman played at LT, especially against San Fran's front, do you see a possibility of Jenkins moving back to LG when he returns from his injury?

At this point, after just one start, I'd say no. With the amount of help given, I don't think you want to limit Rodgers' perimeter options that much on a regular basis. But if Jenkins misses another game or two and Nijman continues to play well with increased solo responsibility, I wouldn't rule it out.

Sean from Cortland, NY

With Mason Crosby's game-winner and being one of the most clutch kickers I've seen, I'm curious to know his career stats for possible game-winning kicks? Thank you!

That was the ninth game-winner of Crosby's career, including the one in the '16 playoffs at Dallas. He's also hit four game-saving field goals (that tied the score, in a do-or-die situation) when the Packers ultimately didn't win – '08 OT loss at Tennessee, '13 tie vs. Minnesota, '14 NFC title game at Seattle, last year at Indy. With some quick research, I counted seven times he has missed (one was blocked) in game-on-the-line moments, only two since the middle of 2015. So that would make him 13-of-20 overall, including postseason.

Paul from London, UK

When Corey Bojorquez punts, he seems to hit the sidelines more often than not, pinning the returner to one side of the field or other, hopefully making tracking and tackling the returner a little easier. When Mason Crosby kicks off he goes straight down the middle of the field every time, seemingly making it easier for the returner to have two options of return routes, or three if he goes straight back where the ball came from. Should he aim more for the sidelines to prevent this?

That's a tough task when swinging away for deep kicks at the same time, due to the out-of-bounds risk that would put the opponent on the 40. Directional kickoffs are usually shorter for the added control.

Kirsten from Madison, WI

Would it make sense to "expand," but simplify the review process? Each coach gets two or three challenges per half, and they can challenge anything, but have to specify what they want reviewed so it's not a "just go look at everything that happened on the field for that play" thing. Then the head official can call a challenge when he thinks the refs royally messed up. There are some risks for abuse in that system. But with a limited number of challenges, coaches would still need to use them prudently.

Considering potential avenues along these lines will be necessary for the league at some point, I believe. There will be no perfect system, but everyone's in agreement (or should be) the current one must be improved in a fairly significant way, and I could see that involving additional in-stadium oversight and probably adjustments to the challenge process.

Willy from Isny, Germany

Hi, what where the WRs showing with their arms held up before the two spikes against the 49ers? An orientation for the right lineup at the line of scrimmage for the other players?

Exactly. By sticking out a fist either in front or behind, they were signaling to their teammates (and perhaps the officials, too) of their intent to be aligned either on the line of scrimmage or in the backfield, helping to assure a legal formation. It's funny, you submitted this just moments after I had rewatched those plays and noticed that for the first time myself.

Dan from Eagan, MN

I do not see Kevin King earning his spot back on the outside. Is the job his on the inside, or will Chandon Sullivan be pushing for playing time?

It'll be interesting to see what the coaches decide. Slot corner assignments can be matchup-based at times, because the receivers come in all shapes and sizes. My best guess at this point is when three corners are on the field, they'll want Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and King, but health, matchups, performance, etc., will all factor moving forward.

Eric from Herscher, IL

I have been super impressed with De'Vondre Campbell as he has now become a three-down linebacker and cannot leave the field. So the obvious question is why was he so easily available off the street, and why was he available so late in the free-agent game?

Most likely the cap crunch. A lot of mid-level free agents did not find, nor get, what they were looking for on the open market. I don't fault them for biding their time, waiting for a better offer. Eventually, you have to take the best one out there, and in mid-June, that was the Packers for Campbell.

Eric from Erie, PA

To my untrained eye it seems like Rashan Gary has been struggling with his pass rush. He seems to be either getting swallowed up in protection or over-pursuing and running himself out of the play. No doubt the guy has talent and skill, could getting Za'Darius Smith back in a few weeks help get Gary some more opportunities? What have you seen so far from him this season?

Getting Z back will help the entire defense, there's no question about that. As for Gary, he's making the transition from being a part-time player to a full-time one in this league. It's all part of the process.

Nicholas from Baltimore, MD

I don't want to take anything away from what the offense did, especially in the final 37 seconds of the game, but man this defense is letting us down at key moments in games: End of first half, start of second half giving up 14 points. Possibly giving up the game at the end there. Third-down defense struggles. Lack of consistent pressure. I could go on. What gives?

I'll cut the defense some slack at the end of the first half after the kickoff return, and they almost pressured Garoppolo into a fateful mistake anyway. But to your larger point, it's all about third down right now. The Packers are playing defense well enough to get third-down opportunities, but they're not cashing those in, allowing 16-of-30 so far (53.3%), 30th in the league. The next stage of improvement starts there.

Joe from Swansea, IL

Yes, players not plays. But part of the game Sunday centered on an injury-plagued, inexperienced Packers O-line and an injury-plagued, inexperienced 49ers secondary. I thought our coaches did a better job of minimizing our weakness while exploiting theirs. Bottom line: Do we sufficiently appreciate LaFleur and his staff?

Those who don't haven't been paying attention. As I mentioned on "Unscripted," the Packers went shotgun/empty backfield on third down almost exclusively, planning for Rodgers to scan the field pre-snap and throw quickly to avoid that third-down pass rush. But don't sell the Niners staff short, either, considering what they dealt with on their back end. As Wes mentioned, defensively they went out-of-character and shifted to Cover-2 to compensate for the injuries. They held the Packers in the second half without a gain longer than 12 yards until the final drive.

Greg from La Grange, KY

Mike, love the WYMM feature. As a former HS coach I know how time-consuming film study can be. My question: Do you know what you're going to focus on before you start, or do you roll tape and see what catches your eye?

Usually the latter, but in this case it was both. I knew I wanted to dissect the last two completions. The goal-line motion plays were unplanned additions.

Mike from Plover, WI

How important was this win for the team going forward?

Very. To deal with the ebbs and flows of a game like that, on the road against a top team, and find a way to come out on top, that's good seed for the psyche.

Jim from St. Petersburg, FL

This team's first quarter (well, 3/17ths) identity is shaping up to be "responds well to adversity," both from game to game and from possession to possession. What adversity will they have to overcome to beat the Steelers?

That's the beauty of this game. You never know. If it's adversity you can prepare for, the response isn't as valuable. Happy Wednesday.

Advertising