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Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Hey yinz,

The Steelers are in the playoffs and life is good. As we do every Thursday around this time, I’m here to chat Steelers and ask any questions that are on your mind. So let’s kick off this 2016 edition, the first of many.

Fire away.

CodeNameJerk: If the Steelers do lose at some point this offseason which side of the ball do you think will ultimately be responsible?

Alex: Always a combination of things, obviously, but if you made me choose a unit (can’t forget special teams!) it would be the offense. This team isn’t going to a Super Bowl scoring 17 points a game. If the offense can’t produce, this team isn’t making it out of Cincy.

RickM: Which team (if either) will be hampered most by a wet field with rain/drizzle falling, and why? And will it affect the play-calling?

Alex: I’ll sound like Mike Tomlin here. Weather effects the same equally. Doesn’t give advantage to either side. It’s not like one group is a smash-mouth type and the other is Air Raid. Both teams will have to establish a run game, but they know that coming in. I am worried about the Steelers’ ability to run the ball based on how bad it was last week.

chris ward: What player matchup in the Steelers-Bengals game are you looking forward to watching the most?

Alex: Ben Roethlisberger vs Reggie Nelson. Isn’t thought of much but Nelson has Ben’s number. Three interceptions this year. Six in his career vs #7. No one else has more than three. Ben needs to play clean. If Nelson gets him once or twice, can almost chalk up a Steelers’ loss.

Kevin Gobleck: what are your picks for the wc games?

Alex: Chiefs over Texans, Redskins over Packers, Seahawks over Vikings, and I’ll get back to you on that other one, haha.

The Notorious TOM: On a scale of Steven Seagal to Hercules how heroic will Shamarko Thomas’ heroics be on special teams this Saturday?

Alex: He’ll be Bruce Willis, the most heroic man of them all. Not even debatable.

falconsaftey43: Is their an ELITE QB in the NFL right now?

Alex: If you’re judging it based on play this year, which it sounds like you are, yes. Brady, Palmer, and Cam would all be in that group for me. Wilson also playing at a high level.

Matt Manzo: Do you think Butler will take his own advice, and blitz Mcarron more than in the last game?
And have you seen anything from Toussaint that makes you fell better than this time last year?

Alex: Yes, I would expect Butler to blitz the Bengals more than he has the first two times around. Not as manic as he was versus Cleveland but a lot more than the sub-25% he’s been at vs Cincinnati. Yes, I am fairly confident in Toussaint. More than the situation last year. Line needs to block better. Can’t stress how awful they were against a horrid Browns’ unit last week.

Ike Evans: Do you think they resign McClendon in the offseason or roll the dice and move forward on mccullers and another draft pick at nose tackle?

And also…what kind if minimum contract do you think it would take to resign sean spence this year? (if you think they should give him one at all…i know youre much higher on vw)

Alex: Yes, I think this is the offseason of re-signing their own. That is obviously usually the mantra but even moreso this season. Don’t think they lose too many players. McLendon is a must re-sign, even for how little the position plays. McCullers didn’t show nearly enough this year. A couple of positives but not enough to be the starting NT.

I don’t think it’ll take much to re-sign Spence. I don’t have a great number to it. Maybe a 3 year, 4.5 million deal with small signing bonus. I won’t be too choked up if he walks. Like you said, I am higher on Vince. He can be a starter in this league. Don’t see if from Spence. No special trait to his game.

Zach6432: Whats the status of Lev Bell and Pouncy? Any chance either of them make it back for a playoff game?

Alex: Bell is on injured reserve so he is done for the season. Pouncey could in theory come back but considering he hasn’t practiced and there hasn’t been a peep about his status, safe to assume he is done for the season. There’s a .0001% chance he comes back this year.

*cue so you’re saying there’s a chance response*

The Chin: If you had to take a stab at what we roll out there once this season ends as a defensive secondary, who do you foresee? Same group with the addition of Golson? Or something different?

Alex: There will be less change than people think…or want. I think Gay, Cockrell, and Blake all come back. Throw in Golson, Grant, and Allen, all in camp. That’s six right there. There will likely be a draft pick but I don’t expect it to be a high one. A 4th-5th rounder. Maybe a low-key FA signing to compete. Not a lot of wiggle room for a “splash” signing.

Spencer Krick: Is it safe to say the Steelers will go into the 2016 draft with the philosophy of just picking BPA on defense?

Alex: Generally, yes, but obviously, it goes a lot deeper than that. Safety, outside linebacker, and defensive end are three spots I’m expecting them to address.

letownia: What do you think are the chances of resigning Boykin?

Alex: I still really doubt it. He wants to be a starter, not pigeonholed as a slot, sub-package guy. The Steelers clearly don’t see him as that and I bet another team will. Plus, the Steelers rarely offer the same cash as other teams. Would be very surprised to see him back.

SkoolHouseRoxx: Hey Alex! If DWill can’t go Saturday who do you think we will lean on more, Toussaint or Todman? Or do you think they’ll split carries?

Alex: It’ll be Toussaint starting. No doubt about that. But Todman will rotate in. Toussaint can’t do it all on his own.

Michael James: How would you target the first 4 rounds in the draft (positions or specific players you would love to have)?

Alex: I haven’t given much thought to it and don’t have players but positions I’m looking at: SS, OLB, DE, OT. If Beachum is gone, the Steelers will come back with very little tackle depth. Gotta add somebody to that mix.

Keith Evans: which player has exceeded your expectations the most this season?

Alex: Oh man, that is a good question. There are several good candidates: Villanueva, Gilbert, Golden, and we can’t forget Chris Boswell for providing stability and the most unstable position the Steelers had dealt with.

But I’ll hang my hat on Roosevelt Nix. Again (sorry!). Guy who I thought had zero, and I mean zero, shot to make this team even after the first week or two of camp. But the dude worked his tail off, beat the odds, and became an incredibly important niche player. And I can’t wait to see him in camp in 2016.

pdupuis: If we win the coin toss would you receive or defer?

Alex: Hard to argue with Tomlin’s logic. We have Ben…we want the ball.

JohnB: Should we go back to drafting DEs that we can turn into OLBs? I know its easier said than done and a lot of teams are doing the 3-4 but it seems we were more successful with that stance.

Alex: Well, I’m not sure if the team has exactly gotten away from that. I mean, Dupree played with his hand down quite a bit, though yes, he also stood up and dropped more than most guys you’ll see at that level. I don’t think drafting a position and converting a guy is really the issue. It’s just about finding the right guy and skillset, regardless of how he was used. That matters more than the loose position he was tagged with in college.

I like taking guys who have experience with their hand up. Guys who have dropped. I think it helps the learning curve. Dupree had a lot to learn this year and the fact he was able to play the volume of snaps he did, at a mentally high level, speaks to that experience kicking in.

srdan: Simple one AK. Who has more sacks this weekend?

Alex: Not sure if you’re asking what team or player on the Steelers. Assume the former. I’ll say the Bengals do. Brought Ben down 5 times in two games. Steelers got their sacks, too, but I really like that Bengals’ four man rush.

That’s all for this week, everybody. Great chatting with you. Look forward to it next week, hopefully talking about another Steelers’ win.

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