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Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Hey everyone. I’m an idiot and totally forgot about doing my weekly chat yesterday. My bad. So we’ve just shifted it to today with it returning to its previously scheduled day and time next week.

And in honor of my favorite movie villian from my favorite movie, here’s to remembering Alan Rickman aka Hans Gruber.

Anyway, to your questions.

Willie John: What strategy do you think the Broncos will employ to guard the Steelers passing game without Brown?

Alex: I think you’ll see what the Steelers expected last time, now that their safeties are healthy. Single high safety and man up across the board. Lot of man-free. Be physical, press, throw off the timing of the play and let your pass rushers go to work. Force those receivers to win off the line and get themselves open.

James Cowan: Who are your picks for the weekend?

Alex: My uneducated guesses: Patriots, Seahawks, Cardinals, and Broncos. So same as you, James. Woo hoo!

Brian Miller: Who in your mind has to have the biggest impact on offense and defense (besides Big Ben) for the Steelers to pull off the improbable upset?

Alex: Oh man, that’s tough. I look at both coordinators – Todd Haley and Keith Butler. Haley has to be creative to manage the million issues, from an injury and opponent standpoint. Butler has to decide how often and when to get after Peyton. On the field, the run game can’t go for 26 yards and expect to walk out of Denver victorious. Not going to happen. So Toussaint and Todman.

Defensively? Bud Dupree has to succeed versus Michael Schofield. And how about Mike Mitchell. Reading Manning, not getting looked off, and taking away the deep ball against two guys who can get vertical, Sanders and Thomas.

Frank Nitti: Any chance we’re going to see Brandon Boykin as punt returner on Sunday?

Alex: Doesn’t sound like it. Expect to see Wheaton. Tomlin wants the punt returner he trusts the most anyway. Underrated reason why AB has kept the job. Takes care of the football, makes good decisions, in addition to being a playmaker.

Phil Brenneman III: Which is more important to the Steelers winning (assuming Ben is down of course): Landry Jones playing well or the defense playing well?

Alex: The defense playing well. Because even Jones playing “well” isn’t going to be enough. The defense is going to have to make some big, splashy plays.

58Steel: ho do you feel may be the difference maker on defense. I love Shazier from Day 1, and he should play well, but my money is on Jarvis Jones this game.

Alex: I mean, it’s hard to pinpoint one person. Like I said earlier, I think Dupree and Mitchell are two guys that have to come to play.

Michael James: Based on his development this season, do you think Dupree has it in him to turn into a really dominant edge rusher the next two seasons?

Alex: Sure. I was super high on him coming out of Kentucky and my stance hasn’t wavered. I know it wasn’t his best year as a pass rusher but to play the volume of snaps he did and not look lost is a huge testament to him. To play in the NFL for the first time, with a positional coach for the first time, it’s really an impressive season when you look beyond the box scores. Can’t wait to see him take the jump next year.

JohnB: If Ben happens to play which scenario do you find more likely to happen: Coates gets in and shows some solid play or Wheaton having a day like vs Seattle?

Alex: Well, I don’t think either scenario is that likely, taking Wheaton to the extreme. But I don’t think Coates will play a ton. 10 snaps, max. He’s the #4 WR. We should be talking about Heyward-Bey filling the role more than Coates. Wheaton has a much better chance to be productive than Coates.

That’s all for this week. Thanks everybody and let’s do it again next week, hopefully talking about another Steelers’ win.

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