New series we’ll try out here on Steelers Depot. Hopefully this doesn’t just turn into me talking to myself, but for the next hour, I’ll take questions on anything related to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Leave them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter, but all answers will take place in the text here.
Can’t guarantee I’ll get to them all, just depends on how many are asked, I’ll grab as many as I can.
JohnB: Do you think Chick has the ability to be a quality starter for the steelers at OLB?
Alex: Man, we’re still so early into that evaluation. He looked good in training camp but that means almost nothing now. Loved the traits he showed then – the first step, the bend, the variety of moves he used to win to get to the quarterback. But have to see him take snaps in a real game. Chickillo isn’t going to stop teams from adding another OLB in the offseason, something they’re likely (and should) do.
Letowmia: Follow up question : Do you think Anthony Chickillo has more potential than Jarvis Jones?
Alex: Always difficult trying to make a comparison between a guy with a full body of work like Jones and Chickillo with a clean slate. I can’t see Chickillo being a lot worse as a pass rusher but Jones does a lot of things well. Drops into coverage a ton – over 22% of the time. That’ll produce low sack numbers. And he is still a positive run defender.
The Doubting Thomas: Antonio Brown was raving about the “pick” set up on the long pass and run leading to the winning FG last week. How was this a legal play and the one penalized earlier illegal. It certainly looked the other receiver intentionally got in the way…of two guys?
Alex: I am far from a rules expert and those kinds of calls are open to interpretation. If you look at the one that was flagged, David Amerson got helicoptered around, John Elway style. That is more obvious of a collision and is more likely to be called. On the one that wasn’t called, it was really Wheaton and the DB going at it. The DB was pressing Wheaton pretty good. There wasn’t a lot of contact between the “picked” CB and Brown. But he couldn’t take a great angle to AB because of Wheaton and the DB being in the way.
Think of the first one as being a speed bump. And the legal one as a detour. Detours are legal, speedbumps aren’t.
Deuce22: Does Ben play this week? Apparently set to practice today per Ed bouchette.
Alex: No one knows. Not even Ben. Has to practice and see how the foot responds in the morning. My guess is no, he doesn’t.
Dom: If you could have one past Steeler in this team who isn’t a Hall of Famer and has no chance of getting in the Hall of Fame e.g Polamalu, Ward etc. who would you choose?
Alex: So many players to choose from, it’s impossible to get this question “right.” If I’m reading it correctly, you’re asking what Steeler I would like to have that would help this team now. The Greg Lloyd answer is a great choice. I’m pretty convinced Kevin Greene will never get in even though he’s been on the ballot.
Does Donnie Shell count? I know he *could* and people like Tony Dungy have banged on the table for him, but I doubt he gets in. He’d look great at strong safety right now.
How about an in-prime Aaron Smith? Tuitt, Heyward, and Smith would be a ridiculous trio.
Bill Sechrengost: How many of the following Steelers free agents do you think will re-sign with the Steelers in the off season: Steve McClendon, Ramon Foster, Antwon Blake, Willie Gay, or Kelvin Beachum
Alex: Gay will almost certainly be back. He left once – it didn’t work out. Think McLendon comes back on the cheap. Foster isn’t the forgone conclusion we thought at the beginning of the year. Blake won’t be loved more outside of Pittsburgh. Beachum…who knows. Torn ACL makes the situation murky. Doubt he is ready for Week One. Think the Steelers can get him on the cheap. So it’s possible they all come back. You know the Steelers prefer to re-sign their own than venture out. And with some other obvious holes to fill (SS at the top of my list), they can’t afford to have to address other areas.
@DHevKCCO: What do you think the future holds for Shamarko on this team? I’ve been rooting for this kid from the start
Alex: I root for him to but the future in Pittsburgh is bleak. Getting benched at the start of the year and then surpassed by Robert Golden tells you what you need to know. Three seasons of unhealthy, unproductive play. It’s time to move on. Coaching staff doesn’t trust Shark and the coaching staff isn’t changing anytime soon.
@sbeeghley: when does L Bell get unfairly tagged as injury prone like Shazier?
Alex: A lot had to do with how seemingly innocuous Shazier’s injury seemed. With Bell, you could see the injury. You knew it was bad right away. Shazier was slowly ripping a band-aid off. Tomlin calls it minor and then Shazier misses five weeks. He practices, he misses the game, rinse repeat. Frustrated a lot of fans and I think that led to a lot of the anger.
justafanlikeyou: Last year McClendon was an undeserved whipping boy because fans are in love with McCullers measurables. This year it’s Antwon Blake. I know Blake hasn’t played like a top corner (he isn’t expected to be one) but does he deserve the hate he’s receiving?
Alex: I like to think I’ve been objective in talking about him. To answer it directly, no, he doesn’t deserve the hate he’s getting. As I’ve pointed out, the guy is clearly hurt and it looks like both of his arms and dealing with injuries. A left thumb injury and a right shoulder/hand issue. It’s not surprising he is missing so many tackles. Remember Marcus Gilbert two years ago? Came out after the season how he was playing on a bum ankle. Ramon Foster would say it swelled up twice the normal size. I bet a similar story comes out after the season when we find out Blake was playing with a broken thumb and a torn labrum or whatever.
Personally, I think the guy has the physical tools. Quickest feet of any CB on this team. I like his COD. I’m no CB guru but a lot of his issues are mechanical. Trouble transitioning out of his pedal. Had one CB guru tell me he thought Blake was playing too high. If he cleans some of that up, he’ll be the CB he looked like in 2014. But the dude is as tough as nails, fearless, and will support the run. That endears itself to Pittsburgh.
Ask Questions Later: Hey Alex, big question that I am sure you have saw me rave about but want your take.
Considering Pittsburgh’s current salary cap issue, Allen’s inability to play plus his cap hit, and Timmons’ decline in play and his cap hit, would it not be out of the question to consider Timmons on the chopping block?
Alex: I think it’s more likely they restructure his deal to lower his cap hit than outright cut him. I don’t think the Steelers are in dire cap relief, either. And you know the cap will continue to rise a couple million each year.
Pittsburgh Sports: Have you actually seen Dave in person, or is he more like the man behind the curtain?
Serious question: I would love to see the Steelers play a 3-3-5 Nickel defense, so we can keep the 3 CBs on the field, but put a little more muscle on the line. Do you know of any other NFL teams that use it?
Alex: Dave is like the wind. Never see it but it’s always there.
I can’t think of any team off the top of my head. I get playing that 2-4-5 look vs 11 personnel makes life against the run tough. It’s a challenge every team faces, not just Pittsburgh. But if you play the 3-3-5, you’re either pulling a pass rusher off the field or an ILB, a core cover guy. Having the extra LBs lets you have more freedom in your playbook. Lets you be creative. And I prefer that, frankly. I don’t think the solution is to change the formation. But how you can get better in the grouping you’re in. Keith Butler seemed most upset that some of the team’s “run defenses” produced big plays. That’s an individual issue – not scheme.
@CowhersChin: Who Should we (Steeler Fans) be rooting for tonight in regards to Playoff eligibility? Jets or Bills?
Alex: Frankly, I don’t pay attention to a lot of that stuff. I’m like a coach. Just cocoon myself and focus on the Steelers. Think the Jets are the better team though. Love that defense and getting Nick Mangold back is big for their rushing attack. So go Bills, I guess.
Michael James: Hey Alex, do you think it’s possible the Steelers go for another OLB high in the draft, since Jones won’t turn into a superstar (and his time in Pittsburgh might be limited) and Harrison will retire or play one more year?
Alex: Yes, that is very likely. And preferred. Only Dupree has upside as a 8+ sack type of guy. Moats and Jarvis are speed to power guys. Not that that can’t be effective but they’re never going to be dominant.
NinjaMountie: Okay, Alex, a couple of us are talking about AV in another thread. What’s your opinion of him so far? How far has he come? Do you see improvement? What’s you projection of him?
Alex: It’s been tough. Frankly, his military backstory (which I love and respect and is infinitely more important than football) has shielded some of the criticism. If that was Stingily, or Beachum, playing like that, there’d be a lot more hate.
That isn’t to say he doesn’t do some good things. There’s the natural length/strength no one else in the league has. He can chop your hands and knock you down like that. Did it to Allen Bailey and Aldon Smith, two high-profile guys. Length lets him push edge guys up the arc when he’s beat.
But he’s always fighting that 6’9 frame of his and it will cause him to double-over. Mental part of the game has been tough for him. Stunt pickup has been an issue though it got better last week. And he can’t always get into the defenders chest. Hand placement needs work.
His work ethic and movement skills are unmatched. But technically, he’s rough. I don’t know what to make of him for the future – there’s still seven games left so I’ll take that time to reserve judgment. But I miss Beach.
SkoolHouseRoxx: Hey Alex! As of right now, what positions are of the most need in 2016 draft? I think 1. CB 2. SS 3. OL
Alex: Obviously, a lot depends on what happens to the pending FAs. If William Gay and Antwon Blake are brought back, CB need becomes a lot less. If they both walk, it might jump to the top. Foster staying/going is huge, too.
Strong safety seems like the most obvious need. Golden has done well but I’m not sure if he is a long-term answer and the team might not think so either given they put Will Allen back in as the starter. Golden is a FA, too. Shark is clearly not the guy.
I’d call outside linebacker and DE the next two priorities based on the current layout of the roster.
Guzik28: Will the Steelers have a “color rush” uniform?
Alex: Truthfully, no idea. I don’t pay attention to jerseys. Unless their the BumbleBees. Those are haunted by ghosts.
falconsaftey43: What’s your honest assessment of Boykin as a player?
Alex: Good player. Very fluid, very smooth. No wasted motion in his pedal like Blake. Seems like a willing/reliable tackler. I have nothing bad to say.
falconsaftey43: Follow up, do you think Boykin should at least be in a rotation at CB, or is Gay’s presence in the slot what keeps Boykin off the field?
Alex: Yes, that is my belief. Boykin is only viewed as a slot CB and the team has Gay as the top slot guy. Won’t move Gay outside because they like the hub of communication they get from a veteran guy in the slot.
Thanks for the great questions and feedback everyone! Feels like this was a success. Let’s do this again next Thursday – same time, same place.