Steelers News

Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

By this time next week, free agency will have started. And who knows what chaos that will bring around the league. So consider this the calm before the storm, Steelers’ Nation.

You know the drill. I’ll be around for an hour, hanging out, eating Bagel Bites, taking your Steelers’ questions. So fire away.

Steel PAul: Alex in the category or Dlinemen to help out Cam and Tuitt, who do you like for the Steelers in the first round?

Alex: Two guys I’m really interested in. Baylor’s Andrew Billings and Louisiana Tech’s Vernon Butler. Guys that can play all three downs and get after the QB. They’re not just big, lumbering nose tackles. Big boys who can move.

@jameshall616: what’s your take on Mackenzie Alexander?

Alex: Don’t have much of an opinion. Someone else did the report on him. Don’t care much about the zero interceptions this year. Jalen Ramsey didn’t have a pick this year and he’s the #1 DB who is probably going to go in the top five.

@chadprince72: Kevin Colbert takes about taking players with “special” traits. Wouldn’t William Jackson fit that mold?

Alex: Absolutely. Anyone at over six feet, 200 pounds, with that 40 time and ability to hit is pretty special. But taking a cornerback and a non-Power 5 guy would be fighitng a lot of history. Last one? Eastern Michigan’s Ron Johnson in 1978. So yeah…been awhile.

Zachary Wise: Alex, I just mentioned this in another post, but what are your thoughts on Tony Jefferson for safety help?

Alex: I’m interested. Wouldn’t cost the team anything if they pry him away. Gotta watch him more. Man Zach, this safety class is loaded. Gotta put on tape of Rodney McLeod. He makes a lot of sense too and is a UFA. Gotta think the team makes a play for a safety in free agency.

Dom: What percentage chance do you give Nix of being on the roster again next year?

Alex: Pretty high. Can’t come up with a good reason why he wouldn’t be. He’ll improve as a blocker and his special teams ability is huge. So he should be back.

Patty Derbs: With Free Agency just a week away, when should we expect an extension with Timmons to get done?

Alex: Could be before free agency in a week but the team isn’t a dire cap situation. So they could wait. Regardless, it’ll a restructure will get done.

stillers29: A lot of people are saying they wouldn’t take a guy like Noah Spence in the first round due to off the field issues, but he seems to be one of the best pass rushers in the draft, what are the chances we draft him in the first round? Also, how do you think the Steeler’s compare against other NFL teams in terms of helping players with off the field issues?

Alex: It’s really hard to peg a guy like Spence from my outsider’s point of view. We know he had a pretty bad addiction but by his account, being drug tested often over the last two years, he’s been clean. Will that change when he gets money and fame and is in the spotlight, as opposed to a small place like Eastern Kentucky? I don’t think the off the field issues take him off the board completely though, to try and answer your question better.

As for your second question, it’s difficult for me to say. The Steelers obviously have great ownership and stick by their guys. It’s an excellent coaching staff that has been together forever. In a word, it’s stable, and when your front office is stable, you can offer the same stability for your players. So that’s big. But where do they rank and compare? They’re up there but I can’t put an exact number on it.

Brian Miller: How high do you see J. J. going potentially after that combine and what are your thoughts on the W & M kid?

Alex: Like I wrote in my report, I am higher on Jonathan Jones more than most, and put a 3rd on him. Though I care more about traits than projection, big fan of him.

Houston-Carson is certainly interesting and he ran well at Indy. But he’s raw, a small school kid making a position switch (one year at safety) and that’ll time time to develop. Potent special teamer though. Will be an asset there while he learns.

srdan: Alex, in your opinion, of the steelers free agents, who signs first with another team?

Alex: Tough one. No one is signing right away. Maybe Kelvin Beachum. Or Boykin.

PittsburghSports: Top 5 most overhyped prospects, post-combine(either hyped by their combine numbers or exposed by their poor combine performance).

Alex: Whew, tough one for me. I’ll give my best shot at it.

Noah Spence
Jason Spriggs

Yeah, that’s all I got right now. I suck.

ivanho: who do you think are the top street free agents that would not factor in to that compensation formula, that could provide depth on the DL or at LB, as well as maybe a potential starter at CB, S or OL.

Alex: Right now, all that we can talk about are players who have been released. Those guys don’t count against. And that list is just starting to form. I need to watch how good of a blocker he is but Scott Chandler interests me at tight end. Dave’s suggestion and link with Rahim Moore is interesting.

Gluebucket: Do you see us taking a D-lineman in the first round?

Alex: I’m certainly not ruling it out. I get there are studs in Heyward and Tuitt but there is nothing behind them. What if one of them goes down, as Tuitt did for two games last year. What if Heyward blows out a knee Week One? Steelers are in serious trouble. So if there is talent with a guy like Billings or Butler, I’m not opposed to it. That guy could wind up playing 40% of the time on a week-to-week basis.

Bill Sechrengost: Is that a new trend, larger guys who transition to the OLB position and have to take off some weight for the position?

Alex: No, and I think trying to get to caught up in year-to-year moves makes your head spin too much. There isn’t a “one size fits all” look for an outside linebacker. You just recognize that you’re looking for skill sets and guys that can fit into a role, regardless of where they played or what weight they played at. I mean, Woodley was 266 at the Combine. Chickillo was 267. They drafted the 252 pound Bruce Davis. The 245 pound Jarvis Jones. The 254 pound Jason Worilds. They’ve all been different sizes, body types, roles. I don’t see much of a trend of correlation from that standpoint, though there are probably others out there that I’m interested in finding out.

Phil Rippke: What did you think of Golden’s performance at safety? Why can’t he be a viable starter?

Alex: I’m a fan and he’s probably just as perplexed as you are why he can’t be one. It’ll be interested if the Steelers view him as a viable one. If they don’t, he’ll probably look to sign elsewhere.

58Steel: Alex, I know you did a mock. But can you throw out a potential “surprise” pick by the Steelers in the early rounds (one that will make this discussion board light up with fury)?

Alex: Well I gotta be pretty secretive about it and I have a mock coming out on Monday. So I can’t tip my hand. I don’t even know who I’m mocking them but I have a couple fun ideas in mind. Nothing crazy though. Don’t expect Carson Wentz to come to Pittsburgh.

That’s all for this week. Same place, same time next Thursday, to discuss whatever happened in Day One of free agency. Buckle up.

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