Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Hey everyone.

As we do every Thursday, another chat session so you can ask away on anything Steelers. I’ll take an hour to hang out here and answer as many questions as I can. So fire away.

Big White: Alex can you provide some clarity on Steelers dead money issues. I heard a lot the last few years about Woodley and some other guys were still counting against our cap. Are we past those issues??

Alex: Let me preface by saying I am not a cap guru. Dave is. But yes, generally, after this season, the team will be past that. Woodley and I believe Troy as well will be off the books and that will obviously help free up money. The salary cap is also projected to go up roughly $10 million, which will naturally provide relief. Of course, that means all contracts go up, too. Have to be flexible with what “value” is. $8 million dollars now (just throwing out a number) is different than $8 million five years ago. Market is all relative to the salary cap.

RickM: We held the Cincinatti O pretty much in check when we played them in Pittsburgh. Realizing that they will be reviewing that game tape, are there any adjustments you expect them to make to attack our D?

Alex: No, nothing huge. They’re 10-2 for a reason and it isn’t going to lend itself to any wide-spread changes. Maybe some situational stuff and some obvious things, better on third down (4-15 in the first matchup) and run the ball better (78 total yards previously), but nothing crazy. These teams know each other well.

SteelersDepot: Alex, how would you rate Dave’s blahging?

Alex: About a 9.5 out of 10 on the famous Bagel Bite blogging scale. The standard used today to judge blogging.

Phil Brenneman II: if you had to put money down right now on who has the longest/best Steelers career would you bet on Tuitt, Shazier or Dupree?

Alex: Give me Tuitt. He’s the most developed of the three. Even though he might be a little “down” since coming back from his knee injury, he’s still playing at a good level on tape. Really think he can become one of the best duos in the league with Cam Heyward. Shazier’s health is an obvious issue and Dupree is still raw. Combine Tuitt’s athleticism, youth, and incredible work ethic (on and off the field) and you have an All-Pro type player.

Beaver Falls Hosiery: I am worried about Bengals tight end; plus Sanu and Marvin Jones assuming we double team their #1. What is best scheme to manage their passing attack?

Alex: I don’t think there is a catch-all scheme to try and deal with that money weapons. And it’s not like you’re going to see something brand new from the Steelers so it isn’t even worth thinking about an ideal scheme. What it important and relevant is to mix up the coverage you have. Your Cover 3, your 2 Man, your Fire Zone blitzes, the little bit of trap coverages you get. Self-scouting is really important here and an underrated aspect of a coaching staff. Do you know your own tendencies? If you’re the opposition, what is the scouting report going to look like? You have to understand your tendencies and be able to break them enough to keep the opposing offense balanced.

Run a certain Fire Zone on 3rd and long with the opponent backed up in their territory? Show it and bail out of it the next chance you get. Mix things up. If you’re predictable, and play the same way you always do, you’re guaranteed to get destroyed. Especially with an offensive coordinator like Hue Jackson. Incredibly bright mind who throws everything at you.

@Steeldabest214: could you see the steelers keeping Wheaton over Bryant betting on hard work over talent (ala 84 vs 17)?

Alex: I get asked that question, or a permutation of one, all the time. And honestly, I don’t think about that stuff. Wheaton’s contract isn’t up until after 2016. So much could change by then. Maybe Bryant gets suspended again. Maybe Wheaton continues to take off. Maybe it’s a flash in the pan. Who knows. Wasted energy to speculate when there’s so much going on now.

But one thing to point out is that a lot of people see this as a black and white issue. That it’s an “or” question as in, keep Wheaton or Bryant? Keep Wheaton or Coates? Obviously, you can’t keep everyone and the Steelers have let WRs walk recently (Wallace, Sanders). But it’s possible they keep them all. Good WRs are the bread and butter to their offense. Why not try and have them all? I don’t think Wheaton is going to break the bank anywhere.

Matt Manzo: Do you wish we had Polamalu for this year?

Alex: Not really. Hurts to watch guys play so far removed from their prime. I like to remember the greatness of Troy. Not the struggling twilight years.

Spencer Krick: What’s your favorite kind of sandwich?

Alex: As a recent college graduate, I still eat pretty much anything. And anything that is inexpensive. Tuna melts are good. And if I’m at home, turkey and provolone with Miracle Whip (not mayo…ew) is the way to go.

HardPunkKore: With how well AV has shown himself to be, the talk of kicking Beachum inside to G (if he’s even resigned) has picked up again. What do you think of moving Beachum to LG and how do you think he would fair at that position?

Alex: Don’t really dig it. Beachum is best at OT. Not sure he has the strength to be a good enough run blocker inside. Besides, I want Ramon Foster back in 2016 at left guard. So no, not crazy about it.

NinjaMountie: I have some OL questions. Has AV played well enough to keep the team from signing Beachum? What’s going to happen with Foster, will we re-sign him or will we go out and draft a younger version?

Alex: There is still at least four games remaining so I’ll reserve judgment on that question. Lot can happen over a month and each week is a chance to watch him grow. His progression has been rapid after a rocky start and I’m more open to the idea of seeing Villanueva as a starter than I did, say, three or four weeks ago. Mentally, I think he’s getting better, though not perfect, and that was a huge issue for him early on. Not a surprise but an area he’s improved in. Want to see him as a better run blocker though. Isn’t there yet. Much better in pass pro.

I want Ramon Foster back. His play has been above average and the team needs a leader. He’s their guy. People rally around him. If Beachum and Foster are gone, you’re going in with a pretty new left side of the line with a “new” center in having Maurkice Pouncey back for 2016. The line has played great. Don’t take a wrecking ball to it in one offseason.

blackandgoldBullion: Even though you are a smart guy and know what the Steelers are thinking, when it’s 3rd and 3 and the DBs are playing way off, do you feel like breaking the TV?

Alex: Please, I know less than you lead on. I get the frustration. But it’s part of the scheme, part of the philosophy. Play the corners off and let them read the receivers route. Drive on the three step game, play the catch point, break up the pass. I can dig the idea. There are tangible benefits to playing off.

PittsburghSports: You guys posted an article about the Steelers defense using the 3-man rush against the Colts, I think on 11 plays, but how successful was the defense on those plays?

Alex: Allowed 5.5 yards per play. But only one of 10+ yards, the 28 yard sluggo to Andre Johnson. Hasselbeck completed 7/9 passes for 57 yards. One touchdown and one INT. Steelers used it on six third downs and the Colts went 3/6. I’ll let you all judge if that is successful or not.

James Cowen: Should DWill be in the running for NFL comeback player of the year? Been a beast this season.

Alex: Absolutely. And if anyone says know, he’ll probably find it and tell you about it.

Phil Brenneman II: I have often seen people “wish” that Vince Williams could play OLB or for the Steelers to give him a try there. Can you touch on why or why not that would be a good/bad idea…

Alex: It’s simply he doesn’t have the tools to be an edge rusher. He’s an inside linebacker, a thumper, who can stay clean or work off blocks, find the runner, and pop him. Edge rushers have to be explosive, use their hands well, have a variety of moves, and the hip/ankle flexibility to dip the edge and get to the quarterback. Anyone who thinks Vince Wiliams can be an OLB in a 3-4 is nuts.

Look at a guy like Ryan Shazier. Great athlete. Bad OLB. No strength and can only win with speed. Predictable. Watch him at OLB the occasional time they put him there. It’s ugly. They actually drop him the majority of the time now when he does line up outside in subpackage football because he offers no pass rush from the edge.

Nicolas Allen Cotner: Do you think Beach’s short stature for his position is why fans keep talking about eventually moving him inside to guard?

Alex: Yup, that’s pretty much it. Thing people have to realize is that his length is fine. Similar to an All-Pro like Joe Thomas. But I don’t think he fits as a guard due to a lack of overall strength. And I think people need to quit talking about it.

That’s all for this week. Another great discussion. Talk to you next Thursday.

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