Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Good to be back for another weekly chat. You know the drill. Send in your questions in the comments or via Twitter and I’ll answer one from everyone. Lots of draft talk going around but free agency is looming and there is a ton of worthy discussion on the subject, too.

I’ll start out by answering one question I’ve already gotten on Twitter. We’ll get to the rest throughout the chat.

@jameshall616: who is your favorite guy in this draft for the steelers. Regardless of where you think he’ll be drafted who’s your favorite.

Alex: That’s a great question James. I could talk about a top 5 guy, I know the parameters of the question let me do that, but let me give you a slightly more realistic name. Alabama LB Reggie Ragland. Steelers are going to love this kid. An athlete, physical, intelligent, humble dude. Mainly seen as an ILB or MIKE but played OLB in Mobile, personally calling and asking Phil Savage if he could have the opportunity. A guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder but is far from arrogant. Mike Tomlin will love him. Keith Butler, a former linebacker, will love him. If the board doesn’t look too appealing in Round One and he’s there, I wouldn’t be shocked one bit to see the Steelers nab Ragland.

Chadprine72: Which player are you most intrigued to see next week at the combine and why?

Alex: I guess I don’t have one name circled. I am hearing a lot of good thing about how Indiana OT Jason Spriggs will test. Which shouldn’t be surprising given what I’ve seen on tape and in person during the Senior Bowl. In a pretty weak tackle class that lacks depth, Spriggs can help put some separation and gain ground on the top tier, though he’ll never be in the Tunsil/Decker/Stanley class.

I am interested in the edge guys. Not a ton of them out there. Want to see what guys look good in coverage, flipping their hips. Circle Carl Nassib.

@pghdavenat: I know steelers never trade up. But who in your opinion would be worth it?

Alex: I’m not sure there will be a guy. Maybe I haven’t found him yet. I like Bud Dupree more than I liked Noah Spence and Dupree was the only guy I would’ve traded up for last year. That, obviously, didn’t need to happen. Sorry if it sound cliche, but I don’t know if there is that guy, especially in a year where the team doesn’t have their 5th/6th round picks.

@steelersfan5692: thoughts on Darian Thompson Rd 1

Alex: I’m on board. Maybe driving that bus. Given the need and the Steelers’ history of investing high in safeties, on the market or in the draft, it makes sense.

@zgoulden14: Weddle in Pittsburgh is pretty far fetched, but he did say he’s chasing wins over money. Think he’s interested in the Burgh?

Alex: Yeah, I imagine he would be. The Steelers are usually pretty stingy about money though and no matter how important winning is, you still want to be paid what you think you are worth. Pittsburgh won’t be the only team that has a history of winning and they might have the stingiest checkbook. But I imagine there is interest, just like he’ll have in a lot of teams.

I don’t think the idea of Weddle is far fetched as much as it is overblown. He’s the only guy people talk about despite this being a strong safety class.

PittsburghSports: How about a 4 rd mock draft off the top of your head?

Alex: I am doing a mock next week and don’t want to give anything way. I’ll give you this though. I have been playing around on Fan Speak, doing some mock drafts, just to get an idea of the layout and what areas I need to look more closely at (DE, EDGE, and OT are definitely three). I don’t put much stock into them, just messing around. But here’s a mock I liked.

Darian Thompson
Hunter Henry
Jihad Ward
Jonathan Jones
Dean Lowry
Caleb Benenoch
Chris Moore

@RickLove040870: asked yesterday doing away with OLB for guys that play both standing or hand in dirt 280 can hold the line or cover a back

Alex: If I am understanding the question right, I think the idea – Colbert talked about this and I was seriously thinking about doing an article on it before the comments (they don’t seem so insightful now) – but with the subpackage, you’re more open to who you can take. The guy who is viewed as a 3 tech? The Steelers have a 3 tech more often than they have a 5. So it doesn’t make any sense to write him off because he doesn’t fit the system. Now, there still has to be traits that make sense for a guy to play the 5, and I bet the Steelers will still value length (34+ arms, check out Heyward/Tuitt/Walton off the top of my head, all around that mark). But there is more flexibility.

I heard it put well on a podcast with Josh Norris and Sigmund Bloom. It’s not about positions anymore. It’s about roles.

Brian Tollini: I haven’t looked too deep into the TE class yet, do you see a TE that could be drafted on day 2 that could be a future starter for us?

Alex: It’s a pretty weak class. Could Hunter Henry be there with the Steelers’ 2nd pick? Unlikely, the way Maxx Williams came off the board some 10-15 picks ahead, but that’d be the first guy to talk about. Pittsburgh loves their Buckeyes so Nick Vannett in the third wouldn’t surprise me.

But like I wrote they other day, if the Steelers target a TE, it has to be someone who they feel can beat out Spaeth. I don’t think they’re interested in a guy they know can’t crack the top three. Go big or go home.

@kaitlyn_mulli37: Do you ever find that there isn’t enough info on a player to ask good interview questions? How do you research?

Alex: That’s a great question and appropriate with the interview I had with Stefan that went up today. Usually there’s enough background info on a player, even if I haven’t watched his tape yet. Enough information in his team bio or feature pieces (check local papers from where the player went to high school, there’s always usually one, feel-good story) to be able to talk to a guy for 15 minutes. And then there are some standard questions I’ll ask anyone that give me 2-3 extra topics to learn from. And during the interview, I’m always good for at least 1-2 follow up questions.

I think I ended the McClure interview with 16 questions but only had 12 jotted down before I called.

@truebluecanuck: James Harrison was great but is he returning again as a player? Hoping not as this does no justice for long term

Alex: I have no idea what James is doing. It doesn’t even sound like James knows what he’s doing. Said it would be about six weeks to figure that out. So team will know after free agency but before the draft. I love Deebo but do tend to agree. Him retiring would help heighten the need for an edge rusher and hopefully be a catalyst for the team to invest in one. If he doesn’t, I could see them kicking that can down the road. And that would be a mistake.

@PrimeTimeHeimer: Will a guard changing sides typically have difficulties? 66 would move over if Foster goes, yes? Don’t want new guy next to AV?

Alex: I don’t pretend to be a former lineman or coach. So I can’t say for sure. I imagine for a veteran like DeCastro, who is comfortable in the league and in the scheme, he could make the flip without huge issue. Do it early in the offseason and you can rep it in OTAs, camp, the preseason.

If Foster goes, then yes, I want a familiar face/voice next to Villy.

James Cowan: Will the Steelers take Ragland though? Colbert doesn’t like players from Bama.

Alex: That’s a valid point though I saying he “doesn’t like” is a bit too strong for my tastes. Each player is different and it doesn’t really matter the school they came from.

Another argument against. The last Bama player drafted by Pittsburgh was in 1998 (DeShea Townsend). The last player from Kentucky was drafted in 1991 (Jeff Brady). Until Bud Dupree last year. I like using draft history, but usually not when it comes to something focused like a specific college. It can blind you.

@UmbreaAeternus:  do you think instead of picking the option on Jarvis they might offer him a cheaper, long term deal?

Alex: I do. Dave convinced me. From a negotiation standpoint, it’s easier to work a deal that doesn’t start with the 8 million price tag you put on him. If the goal is to rework the contract before that final year starts, which it would be because they aren’t paying him 8 million for one season, then you might as well avoid that and give yourself some better leverage.


Which reclamation project do you think pans out this year and which will be off the team?

Mike Adams
Cortez Allen
Antwon Blake
Brice McCain (if resigned)
Landry Jones
Will Allen

Alex: Blake. Just because he’s healthy. I hope Cortez can turn the corner. He’s talented but that right knee just seems like it’s going to give out after a couple weeks of stress. Now you all hate me for picking Blake.

Lukesaenz: What are your thoughts on someone like Bruce Irvin if they dip into the FA pool.

Alex: Nah, I don’t see it. Even if he doesn’t get ten per year, he’ll get a lot, and I don’t think it happens. Harrison waiting to make his decision is probably going to make the team wait too, and pick someone up in the draft who is much cheaper.

Phil Brenneman II: Alex if you had a crystal ball and knew in the upcoming draft you would get a game changer at the position which one would you value getting most? LB, S or CB?

Alex: I mean hey, I’d be happy with any guy like that. I don’t care where he plays. I know it really comes down to what position you value the most. Throw cornerback out the window. Comes down to LB or S. Give me an edge rusher. You saw what Von Miller did. The Steelers go to Super Bowls when they have a player who racks up a million sacks.

Nicholas Allen Cotner: Why Iwuoma?

Alex: Because he is the greatest Steeler ever.

Tom Jackson: What would you like the FO to do with the Safety position till the draft?

Alex: I’m all for re-signing Robert Golden but Colbert didn’t mention him in his chat with the media. If that was intentional or not, I’m not sure. If they don’t, I’ve listed the free agents I like.

Isa Abdul-Quddus
David Bruton
Eric Weddle
Husain Abdullah

I could see Abdul-Quddus as that Mitchell type signing and would love it.

Ask Questions Later: If Robert Nkemdiche somehow slides into the second round late, do you think the Steelers would pick him up?

Alex: Oh man, I hope not. Dude seems like a mess. I prefer my prospects to not fall out of windows.

Intropy: Who is doing the best draft-applicable analytics work that is available to the public?

Alex: I would highly suggest checking out Matt Waldman. Great football mind and into analytics.

@SteelBeeba: what do you think changes if we sign McCain?

Alex: I don’t think much does. Team could still very well be interested in Gay and Blake. I think McCain helps give you slot depth – you saw how they had to move to get Boykin as soon as Golson went down because they had no other slot options. And maybe they’d like to keep Gay outside all year and have McCain be Golson’s backup (or could start if Golson flops).

But it is a sign that when it comes to corners, they like the group they have, and they’re not going to be splashy.

Garrett Hunt: What are the differences in required skill sets for outside corners versus slot corners?

Alex: Change of direction is huge. Slot guys have to be able to defend any route and any stem. Have to be shifty and able to flip, turn, explode. So that’s one of the big things. Quick feet. Why the position usually goes to a smaller guy.

falconsaftey43: Since you’ve been following the draft closely, list a player that you really liked that ended up going late and is now a good player, and one player you were high on that turned out to be a bust.

Alex: Oh man, I would have to really think about that one and have to wrap this chat up. They didn’t go late but I really like Tyler Lockett and Chris Borland. Both did well, at least, Borland did before retirement.

He wasn’t a bust, and I don’t think he ever got a fair shake, but I loved Nathan Enderle/QB Idaho coming out of college. Drafted in the 5th round but never threw a pass.

Michael James: If Harrison retires and the front office doesn’t like the OLBs in this years draft, do you think they would try to talk to Tamba Hali, since he could be the (battle proven) solution for the next 2-3 years

Alex: I get the connection, a Penn State guy, but Hali is on the downswing of his career and dealing with some injuries. He’s also made it pretty clear he wants to stay in Kansas City so I doubt it happens.

Fantastic chat and great talking to you all. This was one of my favorites. See you next week!

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