Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Welcome back, Steelers’ nation. Hope you all had a great Christmas and a Happy New Year tonight.

Like usual, I’ll be taking your Steelers’ questions for roughly the next hour. Will do my best to answer at least one question from everybody. Think I’ve been pretty good about doing so.

I’ll throw in a fun question back to you all. Best/worst movie of 2015? I’m not a huge movie buff but like hearing about the best and worst from the year. So hit me with your best shot.

Let’s get to your questions.

@ca_salasv: why is Cowher so adored? His numbers are similar to Tomlin’s, are we just spoiled?

Alex: I think time blurs the negativity and focuses on the legacy. He wasn’t nearly as adored when he was coaching as he is when he’s out of it, and you’re left with the overall good memories of a Super Bowl winning coach. I bet Mike Tomlin will too be remembered as a good coach, even if he doesn’t touch the Noll/Cowher level (Noll himself is in a class all his own still).

Two weeks ago, after the mic’d up segment showed Tomlin rallying his guys, we all loved him. Couple days later, the Steelers’ lose, people want him canned. Way it goes. Knee-jerk world we live in.

SkoolHouseRoxx: What do you think about trading up in the first round this year if someone we really like is available? Thanx!

Alex: I’ll give you the answer I know Kevin Colbert will give us every time he’s answered. It’s always in the mix. It depends on what it will take to trade up, who the player is, all the typical draft factors. The team has a little less ammo losing the 5th rounder for Boykin and though that won’t stop the team from trading up, it is a factor.

@gciddy: pick one surprise player on defence team this year that will show the biggest improvement next year?

Alex: Oh man, I don’t feel like I have many choices. Vince Williams will do well whenever he gets the chance but I’m not sure that comes in 2016. Probably still will have to wait for an injury to occur. I know a lot of fans have given up on him, and I can’t say I am confident in him, but I haven’t turned the page on Cortez Allen. If, and that is a big if,  he can stay healthy, the guy can play. And there will be an opportunity for him to compete. Just worried that knee is chronic.

Spending an offseason and camp with the Steelers should be a plus to Ross Cockrell, too.

kidsgottheremote: 1) Do the Steelers finally draft a CB in the first round?
2) Is this Timmons final game in black & gold?
3) Will Bill Cowher come save us like Flash Gordon?

Alex: No, and I don’t think they take a CB that high. Emphasis this year will be re-signing their own (Gay, Cockrell, Blake will all be back) having Cortez back in the mix along with developing Golson/Grant. Don’t think the Steelers see it as a need the way fans do.

Nah, think Timmons is back. Contract extension to lower that nasty ’16 cap hit though, for sure.

I wish I could counter with a clever movie reference to your last question. I’ll just say I know many fans who would love to see him return.

Grandmaster Fistage: There is obviously a lot of contributing factors, but what is your opinion in regards to some of the causes for the Steelers’ unfortunate lack of quality evaluation for the cornerback position?

Alex: I think this would induce the Tomlin saying of, “If I knew the answer, I’d bottle it and sell it.” Hard to answer because I don’t know what their criteria is in their evaluation process, what their plan was when they drafted guys that flamed out, if there was disagreement in some of the picks. So much behind-the-doors stuff we will never know. I just know it’s been a problem and they have to fix it.

Spencer Krick: On a scale of 1-11, how excited are you to go to the senior bowl? Is there a particular player you’re excited about seeing?

Alex: Ha, extremely excited. Going to be a great opportunity not only to watch practice and talk to those playing but to connect with some very smart and respected draft-minds. Any chance you get to pick their brain, you have to be grateful and excited for the chance.

I am very early in draft prep, will dive in the moment the Steelers’ season ends, but there will be a lot of talk about the safeties. Jalen Mills is one guy I can’t wait to see. Same with Darian Thompson.

Matt Manzo: Should we be concerned that Haley can’t adjust to two high safety’s?!

Alex: No, and I don’t think one week should paint with that kind of brush. The Broncos’ surprised the Steelers by coming out in two high and the Steelers, by the end of the game, did just fine. If Brown makes that catch in the end zone, if Ben hits Wheaton on the following 3rd down, if AB gets a foot down on another long near completion, if Ben doesn’t make two terrible throws that lead to INTs, if Bryant makes the catch at the end of the game, we’re not having this discussion. Lot of the issues Sunday weren’t on Haley.

blackandgoldBullion: I have never seen a team like the Steelers D, where they give up so many successful 3rd and long plays. They should be stopping them, even making big plays. This frustrates me most. Why and what would you try, Alex?

Alex: That’s another excellent question, and one that doesn’t have a great answer. I’ve written about their inability to stop four vertical concepts, haunting them the entire season and highlighted specifically over the past several weeks. In the run game, the Steelers are struggling to stop the run out of the nickel. It’s really about execution. Guys, especially the inside linebackers, not getting off their blocks. And it led to some big plays Sunday in some “and long” situations.

Tim Ray: How many different defensive plays do you think the Steelers have in their toolbag, and how do they switch them up? Obviously they do a lot of cover three on first and second down and switch to mostly 2 man under on third downs.

Alex: I wouldn’t even dare try to guess at the sheer number of plays. Sure it’s a large number. You’re right in that you get Cover 3 on early downs and 2 man on third and long. You’ll also get some true Cover 2 from Butler, some Cover 6, and the array of fire zones that they run. Several variations of those, many that we’ve covered throughout the year. Their Scar blitz, their Storm Blitz/Coverage, etc.

That’ll do it for the chat this week. Thanks as always for hanging with me and please have a safe and enjoyable New Year.

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