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Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Welcome back to another chat. Thanks for taking the time to talk some Steelers with me. If you’re interested, I am hoping to try out my first Periscope session sometime over the weekend or next week. Please try to show up and ask questions so it isn’t me awkwardly looking into my phone for 20 minutes. No one wants that. Look for a day/time on Twitter.

Gotta ask you guys. Especially the ones older than me. Steelers aside, because they always make us happy, was Kobe Bryant’s 60 point performance last night the most fun you’ve had watching a player? Not saying the greatest, or that you even like the guy (I’m pretty indifferent but was even rooting like crazy), but just pure enjoyment.

To me, it was. There weren’t any stakes. No playoff implications. Nothing that would affect a legacy. No losers. The Jazz were eliminated from the race earlier, the Lakers long ago. All the other pieces will be forgotten by the end of the year. All that will remain is Kobe Bryant, shot after shot, draining jumpers, threes, and driving to the hoop. I loved every second of it.

Curious to hear you’re answer and fire away your Steelers’ questions.

Jeff Papiernik: Which draft scenario would you rather have happen? Option A: R1. Andrew Billings, R2. Darian Thompson, R3. Jonathan Jones. Option B: R1. William Jackson III, R2. Javon Hargrave, R3 Justin Simmons.

Alex: I am totally happy with either scenario. Getting guys I really have been targeted. I’ll take Option A because Billings and Jones are guys I feel super strong about, and I only feel that way about Hargrave in the latter, but if someone wants to take B, I’m not going to try to argue against it.

Brian Tollini: Curious to your thoughts on a particular player I am very high on that isn’t getting much buzz to Pittsburgh. Sheldon Rankins, DL Louisville.

Alex: I don’t anticipate Rankins even being there but no, I don’t consider him in that Billings/Butler mold. Rankins will function best in a 4-3. He’s lighter, quicker, and doesn’t have the anchor those other guys do. Could be a sub-package guy but can’t play the 1 at a high enough level. And that will limit his snap count and ability to get involved in the defense.

Kevin Gobleck: Who are your top 5 prospects?

Alex: Have watched roughly 100 guys so far. Couple at the top I’ve missed so far.

1. Laremy Tunsil
2. Jalen Ramsey
3. Myles Jack
4. Jared Goff
5. Corey Coleman

Dorian James: Both players being equal; would you rather a safety or corner in round 1 and pros and cons of your decision.

Alex: Safety and it isn’t that close. Safety is much more important to this defense than corner. Asked to do so much more, wear every hat in the book. Corner is one of the least valuable positions on this team. Cover 3 heavy scheme. Get physical guys who can hit and wrap up and you can win. Those types don’t have to be first-rounders.

Ryan Barton: Team Ironman or Team Captain America?

Alex: Never got into the superhero stuff. Don’t even watch a ton of movies. But I listen to a lot of movie reviews. I trust Red Letter Media to tell me all I need to know.

RickM: Who’s the best player in the draft who could fall to #25 and would you automatically take him if that happens?

Alex: Billings is my guy because I don’t think he falls all the way to 25. Could see the Bengals stealing him one pick ahead while Minnesota and Washington are excellent candidates, too.

If Noah Spence falls, and I get the feeling he will, there will be a conversation about him. If the team is comfortable with the off the field, and I have zero clue if they are, I believe they’ll scoop him up.

Alex: With the blockbuster trade today, do you foresee that pushing players down that may have not been available for the Steelers? Who could those names be?

Alex: My fellow Alex, I don’t see if having that kind of trickle down effect. The top ten guys are still going in the top ten. The order is just being jumbled up a little bit more. Like I wrote earlier, the biggest effect is Baltimore is getting a top 3 talent with the 6th pick. Tunsil, Ramsey, Jack. Odds are strong one of them will be there.

Big White: Alex, with the suspension of Martavis Bryant we obviously have DHB and Coates having to be key contributors on long passing downs. If either of them were to go down with injury, who do you see as perhaps being a game day addition to the roster.

Alex: Well, if either one of them goes down, you still have 3 receivers. Brown-Wheaton-Coates/DHB. So you can still run your 11 personnel just fine. If something crazy happened and two went down, I think Eli Rogers gets first crack. Profiles the best as a slot guy, which is what you’ll probably most need. But we’ll let training camp play out. That story is far from being written.

You might see some more 12 personnel of James and Green. Sometimes the best approach isn’t to force your hand but to adapt your scheme and the groups you use.

The Notorious TOM: On a scale of 1-10 how much of a mongrel am I for *really* warming up to the Paxton Lynch at 1:25 idea?

Alex: Eh, I get the idea behind it, and as crazy as it’d sound, I’d rather them take Lynch at 25 than say, a Prescott in the 3rd, or a Vernon Adams in the 5th. Those are just wasted picks. At least Lynch has a chance to give you something, even if it isn’t for three years. And Lynch does have some similarities to Ben. Big, strong, and Lynch has a pretty advanced pump fake that Ben shredded defenses for most of his career.

But no, I don’t want a QB. I don’t want one in the first. I don’t want one in the fourth. I don’t want one in a plane. I don’t want one on a train.

steellife007: We have obviously shown interest in A’Shawn Robinson and I like him as prospect, but I do not see him being able to play the NT position in our base 3-4. Do you disagree with that assessment, and if not, how do you see us using him if we did pick him?

Alex: I really need to go take a close look at him. Robinson weighed in at just 307. He’s a long, leaner looking frame. Much different than Butler or Billings. I would see him as a “true” rotational defensive end, behind Heyward and Tuitt. And in that case, the “35%” argument is actually true, because that’s about the max snaps he can get, barring injury.

However, if the team goes that route, you obviously want to get him on the field to justify that investment. So maybe you see a wrinkle, a 3-3-5 look. Many people have talked about the idea, most of it is just fluff, and I try to rebuff it, but I am not opposed or staunch in the fact new wrinkles won’t be sprinkled in. Maybe it will work (Golden dime defender) maybe it won’t (4-3 looking fronts that were scrapped after the first two weeks).

Derek: Thoughts on trading down if a couple of the higher tier corners, Billings and Joseph all on the board.

Alex: Trading down is always a good idea. I love the articles that get written about it. THIS is the year the Steelers should trade down. There’s always a great argument to make for it. It’s easy. Don’t have a guy you love, move down, more picks, yadda yadda. Look at Tennessee. They own Jeff Fisher’s soul now.

So I’m never against it, though I recognize Colbert has never really done it, but my feeling isn’t any different this year than it has been any other year.

Wes Lee: I just wanted to say, I feel the Steelers need to pick up a NT in the draft. I hope the first three picks go like this:

1. CB 2. S 3. NT

Alex: I dunno who that third round nose would be. The guys I’m looking at, Billings/Butler/Hargrave are all gone by 89. Really don’t see Hargrave making it that far. He’s a stud.

Ask Questions Later: Billings or Butler. Both are excellent candidates, but which one would you have more?

Alex: Billings. Stronger, better anchor, more dominant player. Dude was one on leg last year and was still difficult to stop.

Rob S: In what way do you think today’s big trade may affect the Steelers? Or are we too far down to see any impact?

Alex: Like I wrote in the article, Baltimore is probably going to get a great player. Cleveland could still stay at 2, or if they don’t get the QB they like (Rams take him) they could trade out to who-knows-where. Eagles at 8? So they get picks and probably improve.

But for Pittsburgh, I don’t see a clear affect here.

Aj Gentile: Alex could the Titans having multiple picks in the second and third effect what the Steelers will do since they seem to need defense also?

Alex: It’s negligible. It’s not like it was a lock the Rams were taking only offensive players. It’ll be the furthest thing from my mind come draft day. Unless, of course, they take Jonathan Jones. Then I’m going on Sherman’s March.

@MrJoeyMike: if steelers take WJ3, Alexander, Apple in the 1st Neal, Bell, Cash in the 2nd, could you see them looking at A Johnson in 3rd?

Alex: Johnson might be the 3rd round guy who makes the most sense. I don’t know a ton about him or his draft stock, mid-late third seems later than where he’ll go, and I want to see him be a nastier player. So yeah, I guess it makes sense, but I’m not super crazy over it.

T3xassteelers: Who is your favorite safety in this class that isn’t Ramsey and why?

Alex: Whew, tough question. Lot of guys I like. Maybe no one I love. I am warming a lot up to Justin Simmons. He doesn’t hit like Joseph or Neal and I guess Simmons doesn’t have an “elite” trait but the guy does so much well. Smart, versatile, productive, athletic. Could be tremendous value in the third.

Matt Manzo: Do Chris Jones and Vernon butler belong in the conversation for 1st round Dlineman?

Alex: I really like Jones, and you can toss him in there, but he’s more of an end, not a nose, and that diminishes his value. I’ve always had Butler in the convo. Maybe in the outer circle but he’s sitting with me at the cafeteria table.


That’s all for this week. Really, really fun chatting with everybody. Catch you next week.

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