Welcome back, yinz.
Took last week off because it fell on Thanksgiving and I couldn’t type in between bites of mashed potatoes and turkey. Hope you all had a good one with your family. As usual, ask away with your Steelers’ questions and I’ll get to as many as I can. Will hang out for about an hour, maybe a little extra depending on how many I get.
@richardslaiii: Who does Jesse James supplant next year? Johnson, Spaeth or Miller?
Alex: Definitely not Heath. Spaeth is still under contract and I think he’ll be back next year. For all the high-intensive things they ask their tight ends to do as blockers, taking defensive ends in the run and pass game by themselves, Spaeth still brings a lot of value. Johnson is a free agent and has been phased out of the offense, basically acting as the #4 TE. Don’t think he comes back so in that sense, James will supplant Johnson.
Jones: If they do indeed give Boykin the majority of the snaps in the slot and Will moves to the outside, do you think we’ll still see a lot of the zone defense?
Alex: I don’t think the scheme will change very much. It’s not like you’re putting in a less athletic corner in there so I think schematically, it’ll be the status quo.
@JoshGuckert: Do you think James Harrison is a HOFer? I generally think not, but I think it’s a close call.
Alex: By my own metric, I think he deserves consideration. I believe a Hall of Famer is someone who was the best or close to it at his position for an extended period of time. From 2007 to 2011, he was. But the numbers are going to have a hard time getting him in. 73.5 sacks isn’t a high number relatively speaking. It ties him with Shaun Ellis and Michael Sinclair and just ahead of a guy like Cameron Wake, who will surely wind up surpassing him. If Kevin Greene, the third sack-leader of all-time is having this much trouble, I don’t see it with Deebo. I’d hate to be the Hall of Fame voter who tells him no, though. Yikes.
chris ward: Which Steelers’ player has been the biggest surprise and biggest disappointment to you so far this season?
Alex: Just shooting from the hip here but I think, even in limited work, Robert Golden really impressed me. I viewed him as a core special teamer but not one who could ever make an impact on defense. I still don’t know if he’s the long-term answer, and I don’t think the team views him as such either, but he impressed me filling in for Will Allen.
For a disappointment, I’d actually go James Harrison. Lot of hype around him, even at 37, but he’s been so invisible as a pass rusher this year. Didn’t get the boost you hoped for and he somehow has more sacks last year – when he retired and basically came in cold – than this season. 5.5 to 2.
Bill: In light of the secondary’s poor performance, do think it’s possible he will ‘man up’ a little more?
Alex: No. You’ve seen the scheme already. We’re 11 games into this thing. It isn’t changing drastically all of a sudden. That’s a recipe for disaster. You’re going to get your Cover 3 shell on early down, 2 Man on third and long. Same as it’s been.
@PurpleAxis: will coach Haley ever consider 5 wide receiver sets
Alex: Not anytime soon. You like to at least have a tight end and usually, Haley won’t go any wider than 11 personnel unless it’s late in the game. More options from a protection standpoint. And frankly, I’d rather have Heath and D-Will be my #4 and #5 WR than a rookie like Sammie Coates.
HardPunkKore: Alex, In your estimation on your tape review of Jarvis Jones, how much has he progressed from this years training camp to now?
Alex: I think it’s been positive progression. He is winning the edge more often and as Jon Ledyard pointed out recently, he’s beaten up on weaker competition (Nate Solder and last week, Russell Okung). That’s not high praise but that’s what all players need to do. He’s never going to be a great pass rusher but if you put him in a scheme that allowed him to rush more and drop/reroute less, his sack numbers would be slightly better.
Ask Questions Later: Outside of Jalen Ramsey (Florida State: 6’1, 205lbs.) since he will not be available, who would you pick for the safety option?
Alex: Honestly, don’t know much about the draft class yet. Haven’t had time to evaluate. I’m sure Duke’s Jeremy Cash will be talked about a ton leading up to it. In-the-box thumper.
Spencer Crick: Is it me (and it very well could be) but are there more injuries league-wide than usual this year? On a slightly related topic, is it time to expand roster sizes?
Alex: It’s probably you because each year, we forget about the previous season’s injuries. Nature of the beast. But I don’t run the data that determines that kind of trend. Remember, you’re looking for a trend, not a one-year increase. To your second question, at the least, there should no longer be a 46 game day roster. Open the whole 53 up. There are some logistical issues with that but it’s a great place to start.
Pittsburgh Sports: If you could bench 1 starter and replace him with his backup, who would it be? You have to choose 1, and it can’t be a CB or S. Might as well rule out OLB since they rotate so evenly.
Alex: Well, that is…limiting. If you assume Ryan Shazier is out, give me Vince Williams over Sean Spence. Williams is clearly the better player, Spence doesn’t do anything particularly well. That is sort of picking a backup but if I’m that handcuffed to begin, that’s the best I can give you.
Colin Williams: How has Dupree been progressing and could he turn into annual double-digit sacks guy?
Alex: He’s doing well. Keith Butler spoke to his mental game and how far he’s come along with not making mistakes. Want to see him dominate more as an edge rusher though, dip that edge better. But yes, I think he can become a 10+ sack guy, just as I did when he came out of Kentucky.
Ninja Mountie: Dupree has seemed to hit a wall with his pass rushing skills. I haven’t seen anything new in his repertoire from early in the year. Am I missing anything? What does he need to do to take the big leap next season?
Alex: I think Dupree figured a lot of stuff out early in the year. I actually like his IQ and think he’s a quick study. Helped develop that repertoire early on instead of taking forever to figure it out. Like I wrote, he does need to dip that edge a lot better though. Gets run up the arc too often, taking himself out of plays.
58Steel: Alex, if Heath can’t go this week, do you see Wheaton exploiting the middle again? Who has more catches in the no heath scenario, Wheat or Bryant?
Alex: Sure, the potential will be there for Wheaton to go crazy this week. But I like the Bryant vs Greg Toler matchup. Generally speaking, the safe answer is for Bryant to have more catches. Even last week, Bryant should have had 7-8 to Wheaton’s nine.
frednash: why didn’t #62 play last game?
Alex: Steelers being in nickel a ton is a good place to start. Think Pittsburgh was in base only 13 or so times.
SkoolHouseRoxx: If you could pull the trigger on a big name free agent this coming up year, who would it be and why?
Alex: I honestly haven’t looked at a list or thought about it one bit. Just focused on the season. I’ll probably do my mock offseason again in a couple months so look for that then.
Thanks for chatting this week guys. Great questions. Talk to you next week.