Dude_From_Cali: This could be the year where all 2004 draft top 3 QB's all miss the playoffs: Big Ben, Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning. I hope Steelers sneak into the post season by skin of my teeth. Let's hope.
Ray Fittipaldo: I truly believe the Steelers will make the playoffs if they win their final four games and get to 9-7. But based on what I have seen from the team this season I am highly skeptical that they will be able to win four in a row. They haven't done it all season.
This is a very weak crop of teams competing for the final berth from the AFC. Baltimore has the inside track, but the Ravens have a tough finishing schedule. A team with an 8-8 record might end up getting that final spot. That doesn't happen very often in the NFL for a wild card, but it would demonstrate just how mediocre the AFC really is this year.
Guest: Has Tomlin said why he was laughing after the sideline call
Ray Fittipaldo: Tomlin did not speak to reporters today. Only players were available after practice. My understanding, based on his remarks after the game, was that he smiled because Baltimore kept showing the play over and over again. I don't think he smiled because he felt like he got away with anything. I just think it was the fact that Baltimore was trying to stir the pot by showing the play over and over again on the big screen.
FreeTankCarter: Do you think what Tomlin did was intentional?
Ray Fittipaldo: Until I see the all 22 videotape (which is the coaches copy from high atop the stadium) I am going to reserve judgment on it. I have seen TV replays, but I don't know where Tomlin came from. Did he intentionally move closer to the sideline as the play developed? I don't know and without seeing the all 22 I don;t have an answer for you.
Dude_From_Cali: Steelers just seem out of focus and miss winning by tiny margins. Ray, what are they missing?
Ray Fittipaldo: They're missing a pass rush from the right outside linebacker. The defensive backs don't seem to be in synch in terms of their coverage. Other than a few games the turnovers haven't come as often as they need them to. That's the defense.
On offense, the Baltimore game aside, they've been inconsistent in the red zone and they struggled early in the season with turnovers. They've been much better with turnovers in recent games, but they just don't seem to have that big-play capability, either.
As is the case with most struggling teams, there are a number of issues preventing the team from winning on a consistent basis.
Pennman: Why do the Steelers insist on using Felix Jones to return Kick Offs...he is terrible....Can't Wheaton return kicks?
Ray Fittipaldo: Wheaton has been back on punt. I don't believe I have seen him back on kickoff returns in games. Maybe in the preseason but not in the regular season. Sanders can return kicks and has on a few occasions, but he said earlier in the season Tomlin does not want to risk injury by having him do it on a regular basis.
Jim: I would have like for them to have run the no huddle in the first half but their offensive performance in the 2nd half was great. Three touchdowns in the red zone against the number 1 red zone defense is awesome. I understand the injury part of but besides that has the offense turned a corner?
Ray Fittipaldo: The offense has been much better in the second half of the season. You would have liked for them to convert some of those first-half drives into points against the Ravens, but as you noted they were able to cash in three TDs in the red zone in the second half. There was a time 20 points was enough for the Steelers to win. Now, with the way the defense has been playing, they probably need 24 or 27 points to feel comfortable.
Tom: Do you really believe our team in facing a down turn? The youngerg players are stepping up, leadership is solid after disaster start, and we still have an above average qb. Lest we have a decent kicker and we are above .500, right?
Ray Fittipaldo: There are a lot of older players who are playing their final season with the team. If they don't make the playoffs I think you'll see a lot of younger talent in starting roles next season. That will be different. It could be good, it could be bad. We'll have to wait to see how that pans out. But guys like Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel, maybe even Ziggy Hood, might not be back. Those guys have started a lot of games here. You can argue about their level of play this season, but the fact of the matter is their replacements likely will have little if any NFL experience.
Bill: I saw the KDKA angle and I stil don't believe it was intentional. I'm in law enforcement and i would be laughed out of the courtroom if I presented the video as evidence of intent. Isn't there a delay with the video on the screen and the play on the field?
Ray Fittipaldo: I am not sure if there is a delay or not to be honest with you. Some of those in-stadium video screens are real time. Regardless, if you're talking about courtrooms and evidence and intent, none of that really matters. This is the NFL and Roger Goodell rules as he sees fit. It's not a democracy.
The Chief: Ray, anyway Woodley could move to ILB to pave the way for Worilds to play on the left side?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't know if Woodley is fast or quick enough to play on the inside to be honest. Those guys on the inside have a different build. They are sleeker. Woodley is bigger because he has to deal with offensive tackles who are 330 pounds. It's a whole different animal.
Sam: Good Afternoon Ray, Will we see Worilds remain on the left OLB position and Woodley move to the right or vice versa for these final four games?
Ray Fittipaldo: The way Worilds is playing I would expect him to stay on the left side, but Tomlin has not stated that will be the case.
Mike In Downtown: Any chance the Sunday night game vs Cincinnati gets flexed out of the spot by NBC?
Ray Fittipaldo: NBC let everyone know this morning that the game is staying at 8:30.
Tom: If our kicker doesn't miss two gimme 30 yarders and walk by another attempt, the Steelers would be one game above .500 and considered the hottest team in the NFL. Why is the media making them out to be one of the worst teams ever?
Ray Fittipaldo: And what is Suisham wasn't near perfect in all of those other games? They relied on him an awful lot and he came through. That was a bad mistake in the Ravens game and he did miss two short field goals in the Oakland game, but I have a hard time making Suisham out as a scapegoat for this team. There are too many other players who have struggled more in their job performance.
FreeTankCarter: What is the status of the Beachum and Mike Adams injuries? Can they even put an offensive line on the field this week?
Ray Fittipaldo: Ed Bouchette tweeted earlier that Beachum was limping across the parking lot as the team practiced today. He was likely going somewhere to get treatment. I was told in the locker room that Guy Whimper played left tackle in practice today, but it's still early. Today was an extra day of practice really. We'll see as the week goes on if those guys get healthier. One thing is for sure, Cody Wallace is the new center and he'll be the guy vs. the Dolphins.
Frank: The raven game was a great game to watch. The special team let them down and the defense could played better but still a great game to watch. The reason why they won't make the playoffs is the first four games right?
Ray Fittipaldo: Absolutely. I think at the end of the season the two games they'll regret were the Tennessee and Minnesota games. You have to find a way to beat those teams. I'll throw the Oakland game in there, too. All of teams are under .500. You have to find a way to beat the bad teams on your schedule. The Steelers didn't do that enough this season and that's why they're in such dire straits.
Jim: Maybe I'm nuts but besides the New England game, I think Troy has had a good season. Am I crazy?
Ray Fittipaldo: He's playing a different role this season. They have used him more as a linebacker than a safety in certain packages. He has played very well in that role. I am not so sure he has played up to his standard in pass coverage. He does a lot of guessing. Sometimes that works in his favor and other times it fails. There have been a few occasions this season when it's failed and it's cost the Steelers some big plays. But overall, yes, I agree with you. He has played well for the most part.
Tom: I think this team is really solid and could easily pull and upset or two in the playoffs. On the other hand, with Velasco out and our line in shambles, I don't see us making it past Denver or NE. Is is bad as a fan to sort of hope for a few loses to get that higher draft pick?
Ray Fittipaldo: Playoffs? You want to talk about playoffs. You kidding me? Playoffs?
In all likelihood, they have to win four in a row to even be in consideration. They haven't done that all year.
Tim: If this was Harbaugh, the city would be outraged. That thick white line is there to keep everyone off during live play. His statement that "That's where I stand" is laughable as a rationale. He should be fined heavily and it's embarrassing for Steelers fans like myself. Bush league.
Ray Fittipaldo: I think the league will make an example of him, but it's worth noting he never touched the player and it's debatable if he altered the course of Jacoby Jones. As I said before, I'll reserve judgment until I see the play from a better angle.
JamesinNYC: Lack of big plays on offense due to missing weapons or offensive game plan designed to keep Ben in one piece?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think Ben needs a big receiver who can get down the field and make some plays for him, but your point is well taken that Haley has had to devise a quick passing game to keep him upright. Let's put it this way, they can take a receiver or left tackle with their first pick and they won't be wrong. They're getting it done on offense under less than ideal circumstances.
The Chief: The Blind Side star Michael Oher, seems to be the odd man out for the Ravens, he is only 27, will the Steelers show any interest, after all they see him twice a year?
Ray Fittipaldo: I'm not sure if you want to be investing in other team's castoffs. If he can't play for the Ravens, what make you think he could all of a sudden turn it on and be a starter for the Steelers. You just have to believe in your scouting process and your player development process.
Tom: Let's say Sanders does return a kick and get hurt. How bad would it really be if he wasn't a WR? He has been less than steller this year. Isn't the reward greater than the risk?
Ray Fittipaldo: It's just not the injury factor for anyone fielding kicks, it's that Sanders has a history with injuries. He has been, for lack of a better word, fragile. I think that plays into Tomlin's thinking when it comes to kickoff returns.
Tim: With a line of Whimper/Foster/Wallace/DeCastro/Gilbert and Bell possibly out with a concussion... and people still talking playoffs... what a difference a few wins makes. Everyone wanted the Steelers to go QB in round 1 and now this.
Ray Fittipaldo: Playoff chances are slim, but there are a slew of other teams in the AFC saying the same thing right now. If the Steelers win Sunday they'll continue to be alive because these other teams have some difficult games as well.
John: What do you think Baltimore's final record will be? I'm thinking 8 and 8 which would get the Steelers in the playoff as long as they go go 8 and 8. I'm having them losing to Detroit and New England and possible Cincy if Cincy needs the game.
Ray Fittipaldo: Well, they have the Vikings this week, so I think they'll get to 7-6. That Detroit game is on the road and will be tough because the Lions have to keep winning if they want to make the playoffs. The wild card is that final game with Cincinnati. The hope is the game means something to the Bengals. But hey, by that point the Steelers might be 5-10, too.
Guest: To what do you attribute the large number of blown assignments in the secondary this year? A sign of poor coaching no?
Ray Fittipaldo: That's a good question. We've seen it this year more than other years. I think maybe some players are trying to make big plays because the team is trailing. That's a possibility. But other than that, I don't know. Maybe some of those guys just lost a step and they're not able to recover from their mistakes as quickly as they did previously.
Phil: Ray, I know you're not a tv guy but who is making the decisions to show us the Patroits and Manning yesterday (for the 25th time) instead of Dolphins--Jets, and especially Cincy--San Diego. I couldn't beleive it. Those are our competitors for playoff spots.
Ray Fittipaldo: I agree with you. I'd rather CBS showed us those other games. I think those decisions are made on a national level and not a local level, but I don't know that for sure.
Tom: Who do you trust as your center next year now, Pouncey with bum ankles and knee or Velasco off an Achilles tear?
Ray Fittipaldo: Pouncey. He's had a three month head start in his rehab and there has been nothing to suggest he won't be able to be ready for the 2014 opener.
Dude_From_Cali: Ray, regarding WORIIDS's success on left side. Isn't it common logic 101, RLB plays against stud left tackle. Left LB plays against RT. LT's are better mobile athletes by definition.
Ray Fittipaldo: Perhaps. For people thinking Worilds will get a huge pay day from these past few games I would bring up his inconsistent play at ROLB. James Harrison played the same position and was very productive there. I am not sure you pay a player a big salary if he is, as Tomlin like to say, a one-trick pony.
DK: I believe this talk of "not out of playoffs and good weekend for Steelers" is all ridiculous. I'm sorry but this team does not have talent/coaching/depth to win 4 straight. Going to be a long offseason for all involved...Do you think it's time to start over w two new Coordinators?
Ray Fittipaldo: Honestly, it will depend on how this team finishes. They can still be 5-11, you know. That would mean more changes than if the team went 9-7 and sneaked into the playoffs. And we're talking about the playoffs because the AFC is that weak not because the Steelers are deserving. I think we all realized the Steelers have not played like a playoff team for most of the season.
Ken: Must be some serios damge control going on after practice today. I'm glad the Ambassador is around.
Ray Fittipaldo: Not so much. I think everyone is waiting to see what Goodell does before anything else happens. Thanks for all the questions this week. We'll do it again next week after the Dolphins game.