Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Hello for a surprise and special, pre-free agency version of the mailbag. This really is like Christmas. We’ll still have our usual Thursday one at 2:30 PM/ET, but with so much going on, I figured it’d be fun to do another one. The landscape from today to Thursday is going to be so much different.

Feel free to ask away.

@HailToTom: Looking towards the future. Post Dwill in 2017, liklihood you think of PIT investing a decent pick in a #2 back ala Cincinnati?

Alex: I don’t think so. It won’t be urgent. Assuming Bell is in the long-term plans, and the Steelers would be crazy not to, he is going to be the guy. The one who plays 85% of the snaps, one of the few true workhorses back. With the way you find running backs, teams drafting them late, off the street, their early-round value has diminished. Sure, there is always 1-2 talents in each class in the first round conversation, but I don’t see much of the point of investing too heavily. I don’t mean to say having a backup isn’t important, we all saw the difference between 2014 and 2015, but the path to finding one has changed.

Edward Hunt: Who do you think is more likely to be back McClendon or Foster?

In percentages of coming back, McLendon. Less of a market for him, cheaper. But I’d rather have Foster back. I am really hoping both end up re-signing though. If the Steelers do that, I’ll be one happy man. Golden, Gay, McLendon, and Foster, were all the free agents I really wanted to retain to avoid creating huge holes when it comes time for free agency and the draft.

Phil Brenneman II: What would be the minimum (in draft picks) you would take for Markus Wheaton in a trade? And do you think there would be a market for Wheaton if the Steelers shopped him?

Alex: Man, I have zero interest in dealing Wheaton. It’d have to be something stupid high like a 3rd round pick. The market would be light. In terms of relative production, he is just average, and going into the final year of his deal, he’ll cost to re-up, without the guarantee he wants to sign. That always kills leverage. Don’t think he’d fetch more than a 7th. Remember, Brandon Marshall went for a 5th this time last year.

@Aknotts66:  chances we keep beachum and move him to left guard? do we have a shot at weddle? Next steeler to lock up #66 or # 26?

Alex: None if the intent is to play left guard. Beachum is, and wants to be, a left tackle. Going to guard only hurts his value. LTs are the ones who get paid, not guards, and Beachum’s best work is at tackle.

There might be a shot at him but that price tag just seems too high. 7-8 million is what it sounds like. The best case I can make for Weddle is Colbert is most aggressive after safeties in free agency.

DeCastro before Bell. If anything, just to lower that cap hit.

Brian Tollini: That being said, is there anyone we can realistically afford in the remaining free agent class. Gresham a good fit?

Alex: Brian, this TE free agency class is garbage. Old and broken down Owen Daniels might be the best guy to talk about. Gresham would be another mid-tier but still pretty cheap option. But then you have big blockers like Kellen Davis and John Philips. Davis was an athlete at Michigan State. Don’t know why it never translated in the NFL and he’s become just a blocker. I’d bring him in.

pghomer: You can have A Billings or S Lawson…who would you choose?

Alex: Assuming McLendon is retained, Lawson. Edge guy is more critical. Long-term prospects at the position are poor and if a guy like Lawson falls into your lap, you don’t ignore it.

Tom Jackson: What impressed you most about Robert Goldens play as the SS for us this/last season? Can be multiple things or just one glaring aspect.

Alex: I am anxious to go back into the All-22 and take a dedicated look at him. I think coming in mid-season is tough and to not have many, or really any, mental blunders is a great place to start for a safety.

He’s a highly conditioned, motivated athlete who played his full compliment on ST snaps in addition to being the starting strong safety for that stretch. I mean, the guy would be the upback, run down a punt, and then go play 10 snaps on defense. Offense go 3 and out? Upback, defense, repeat. That doesn’t get talked about enough.

And I have no problem playing him in centerfield or in the box, even though he’s better closer to the LOS. A fearless guy who sticks his nose in every pile. Fills the alley well. I never expected him to grow like this. In 2013 when he got his chance and blew it, I thought it was over. Special teamer at best. Dude proved me wrong.

T3xassteelers: What are your thoughts on Texas tech WR jakeem grant? I think he’d be a phenomenal pick in the 7th.

Alex: allllllmost put him as my 7th round pick in my mock. He was on my considered list. But I didn’t want to start an Archer, West Side Story type of fight. Because it is difficult to say why he’s different than Archer, but at the same time, he’s obviously a totally different person. And to use Archer against him is incredibly unfair to Grant.

I think Grant is a lot quicker laterally than Dri was. Dri was a straight line dude. Grant will leave spin you out of your shoes. And if Grant runs a 4 flat 40 like he’s said he plans to? Oh my goodness. He’s already been hand-timed in the 4.15 range. Just wait for his Pro Day. You’ll hear his name a lot more. I mean, the dude broke all of Crabtree’s records. He isn’t just a fluke. I want him.

PaeperCup: With the recent big money contracts for less than stellar QBs, will that make it less likely for the Steelers to pick up a quality veteran QB to backup Ben? Who would be your choice for picking up a veteran QB?

Alex: Nah because these guys know they’re backups. Sam Bradford is starting. Kirk Cousins is starting. If you’re viewed as a starer, you get paid because the position demands it now. Every team is freaking out and doesn’t want to trudge along with a Brian Hoyer type. So they’ll spend like crazy to avoid that fear, even though it rarely works out to their benefit.

But Matt Flynn? His market hasn’t changed. My top backup QBs.

Matt Moore
TJ Yates

Both guys with experience, Yates has a playoff win, who are experienced coming off the bench cold. Moore was a pretty decent quarterback in Carolina and one year when Miami was awful.

58Steel: Alex, do you think the Steelers resigning 3 (so far) of their guys “early” signals they are likely to “aggressively” target a FA safety, or just a product of the Steelers having a good number of free agents of their own?

Alex: Nah. I’ve said it before, though I don’t quite have a massive enough ego to go find it, that this offseason should be the one where they re-sign their own. This team is close to the Super Bowl. Keep the band back together. Get Gay, Golden done like they have. Sign Foster, sign McLendon. Now there are no crazy-obvious roster holes. So you can find talent in free agency, walk away if you need to, and be in an awesome position come the draft.

You saw my mock offseason. I was looking at Ishmaa’ily Kitchen. No one wants that in their life.

Jared Gallagher: Which player, that could realistically could be there, would you not hesitate to pull the trigger on at 25?

Alex: I dunno if that slam dunk guy exists yet like I had with Dupree last year. Billings would probably be the closest but it wound depend on the makeup of the roster.

igloojoe: Any 7th round to UDFA QB’s catch your eye for development purposes?

Alex: Ugh, I hate even thinking about a QB. I just don’t want to take one. Not on a train. Not on a plane. They’re Green Eggs and Ham.

But given the fact the Steelers are looking for mobile types, Vernon Adams is a name (that they’ve met with). I mocked them Marquise Williams from UNC. He’s Tyler Murphy like. Boykin from TCU.

Michael James: Rumor is that Will Allen won’t be back, do you think that makes a safety in round 1 or 2 a sure thing?

Alex: Don’t know if a Round One guy is there. Tons of options in Round Two though. But let’s see what they do in FA. Like I’ve said, Colbert has a track record of targeting safeties in FA (Alexander, Logan, Clark, Mitchell).

Bill Sechrengost:  Are there any other veteran DL that fits the Steelers defense (low price, of course) besides that guy Douzable you seem to like so much (not that I would mind if they signed him)?

Alex: I would hope so. It’s a real weak spot. One injury to Cam or Tuitt and the Steelers are in BIG trouble. I know I am on my Douzable kick but I’ve outlined several other linemen I want.

Billy Winn from Indy. Steelers know him well from his time in Cleveland. Limited pass rusher but can clog the run and just has heart. Chases the ball, doesn’t quit. Steelers love that.

I thought I would like Antonio Smith more than I wound up doing. He’s a good athlete going on his mid-30s but I didn’t see much dominance and he really played on just passing downs in Denver. But he’s a fallback option for a one season band-aid.


Ok, that’s all for today. Thanks for checking in on such short notice everyone. We’ll do this again Thursday with whatever the NFL has spit out at us.

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