Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Hey all,

Sorry this is late. March Madness…madness is consuming me and I’m working on another draft history study. Totally lost track of the time. But the usual drill. Whatever is on your mind, ask it below in the comments, and I’ll answer.

Enjoy the Madness today, everybody.

(And go Yale!).

SkoolHouseRoxx: Hey, Alex! How do you feel about Christian Hackenberg?

Alex: Not a big fan, though I admit I never really turned on the tape. The system he was in didn’t do him favors, clash with his coach, a bad line, but a lot of the pressures/sacks were self-induced. Dude looks the part but like so many before him, live bullets are a different story.

CodeNameJerk: Who’s your current draft man crush?

Alex: Probably Jonathan Jones. I’m am forever a defender of tiny CBs. And the Billings love is starting to swell.

Sonny Saks: Please explain why this front office feels the need not to upgrade this defense?

Alex: Well let’s be very honest about the situation. This is March. Not August. We still have the rest of free agency and the entire draft to go through. And then we can see how well the defense was upgraded.

It was a very expensive year to go target a safety or a CB in free agency. Costing teams arms and legs. Maybe if Bryant would put down the joint, the team doesn’t sign Green and invests that money elsewhere.

CP72: The lack of defensive line depth is disturbing. Do you think there will be a body added before the draft?

Alex: I agree, it is a concern. They’ve looked at Jason Jones though he left without a contract. And Pittsburgh is pretty good about getting guys to sign the day they come in. Green and Harris both signed and visited immediately. So I’m holding out hope. Because they’re going to need one.

Michael Stickings: In any event, if they then go WR in the third or fourth, what are 3-5 names to watch for around that time?

Alex: Rashard Higgins is a crafty receiver who still needs to refine his routes a bit but creates separation with his hands as well as you could hope for.

But like I wrote in the study I did, it’s an unathletic group of WRs and the team loves guys who pop off the charts. Only one player fit perfectly and three others missed (barely) in one category.

I think guys like Leonte Carroo, Chris Moore, and Ricardo Louis will be on the radar. And the other ones I mentioned, though they’re largely later round picks. Trevor Davis, Marquez North, and Malcolm Mitchell.

steeltown: After the events of this past week, how do you view the current state of our ILB room?

Alex: I love Spence’s story, wish him the best, but his loss doesn’t bother me. He was an average player that didn’t stand out on special teams. Easily replaceable. Garvin didn’t have that kind of defensive ceiling as a backup but he was a phenomenal special teams player. Those guys come and go but you can’t just add another name to the roster and expect the same production.

They’ll draft someone. But that guy might not be able to play on four phases like Garvin did. Take time to learn and be trusted. We’ll see how the rest of the roster fills out but I have some worry about the state of special teams.

Brian Miller: Do you really think we go into the draft with only our current roster of CB’s and safeties? Also if you could pick any S to be drafted by us, whom would your best fit for us be?

Alex: My *guess* is that they add one low-level safety or corner, leaning towards a corner.

Karl Joseph is getting a ton of buzz. Need to put his tape on. I still like Darian Thompson. Just not in the first.

Pghomer: How would you rank these options?

1-DL Billings
2-CB Alexander
3-DL A Robinson
4-CB Apple
5-CB Jackson III
6-DL Reed
7-DL C Jones
8-Edge -Spence

Alex: My rough guess.

1. Billings
2. Alexander
3. Jones
4. Jackson III
5. Spence
6. Reed
7. Apple
8. Robinson

Edward Hunt: Anybody you could see the steelers signing as a D-Lineman other than Douzable?

Alex: I listed Billy Winn and Antonio Smith as options when I did my wishlist. I wouldn’t mind Jason Jones, either.

RickM: Do you feel the Steelers should have done more to retain McLendon and Spence and how well do you think they’ll do with their new teams?

Alex: Well let’s be fair. We don’t know what they did/didn’t do. It’s pretty common knowledge there was at least a desire to bring McLendon back. But if the Jets can play him more, then it’s no surprise to see him jump ship. I don’t mind losing Spence.

I’m sure both will do well. Spence will probably stay in his backup role though.

Phil Brenneman III: Who do you like better (Hargreaves, Alexander) and why? Is that gap that big?

Alex: I haven’t looked at Hargreaves up close aside from the Combine because like you, I don’t think he’ll be there. I love his feet, they are better than Alexander’s. I think Alexander is a little more fluid in his turn, little bigger frame. I haven’t seen enough to know if the gap is tremendous or not. Sorry.

JohnB: Can you sell me on why we need a NT in the first rd?

Alex: Here’s the thing, John. We can’t look at it as a nose tackle. The position is drying up. We’re looking at it as one and three techs in sub-package football who can do everything.

No one should be asking for a run stuffing, Hampton type. Those guys don’t work. But a big guy who can stay in sub-packages? That’s what we should get excited about. Those are far and few between and immensely valuable.

If the team drafts an Andrew Billings at 25, he’ll play more than just NT snaps. He can rotate into the sub-package, where depth is sorely needed. I’ve estimated him to play up to 60% of the snaps. And if the team is investing a first rounder in a guy, you can bet they’ll find ways to get him on the field more than McLendon.

Michael James: Hey Alex, if we don’t bring in another DL before the draft, do you think they could take 2 DL in the first 4 rounds and would you be comfortable with Tuitt, Heyward, 2 rookies, McCullers and one of Walton/Lyons?

Alex: It’s possible. I certainly don’t try to rule things out, especially in that scenario. This DL class is loaded.

But it’s difficult for me to be comfortable with that group. Ton of inexperience on your roster. One injury and the line is toast. I’ve always said I wanted a vet in free agency and a draft pick or two. Perfect marriage.


That’s all for this week. Thanks guys! We’ll do it again next week. May your bracket remain intact.

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