Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Hey Steelers’ Nation. Hope you’re having an awesome week. Know we are getting close to one of the few “dead seasons” the NFL has. But we’re still here, pumping out content and like every Thursday, taking your Steelers’ questions. So hit me up in the comments below and I’ll get to them as quickly as I can.

falconsaftey43: Do the Steelers have a decent option to backup Tuitt/Heyward in the base 34? If not, would the plan be to just go nickle 100% of the time in the event of an injury?

Alex: The options aren’t great. Ricardo Mathews was primarily a nickel rusher in San Diego but I imagine he’d be the top backup at the five, unless an L.T. Walton makes a surprisingly big jump.

The Steelers would still have to stay in their base even if there was an injury, just as they did when Tuitt went down midseason last year. The Steelers were still in base 32% of the time. It’s all personnel base. Can’t be in nickel versus 12/21 personnel.

CP72: Alex when you go to Latrobe who is the person you’re most interested in watching and why?

Alex: Whew, that’s a good question. Too many guys to name, I think. I don’t expect another Alejandro Villanueva but Brian Mihalik is another fun project for Mike Munchak. 6’9 former defensive end turned offensive tackle. He won’t contribute to the team in 2016 but it’ll be interesting to see if Munchak can strike oil again.

natty: With another draft season & time with Steelers Depot under your belt, where do you envision your scouting development changing from here?

Alex: That’s a good question, Natty. I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it yet. I know Dave and I have discussed maybe making tweaks to the process for next year. Just making sure we’re efficient, using our time wisely. This is usually the time I am more willing to go back and read other people’s reports and see how they work and the things they look for. Don’t usually do it in-season because I feel like there’s a risk of me being influenced by it and conforming to group think.

And as always, our goal is to produce more reports each year. Had 108 in 2015. 152 this season. Looking to reach 200 for 2017. Maybe that means we have to shorten up our reports a little bit though. I don’t really know right now.

Ike Evans: Alex….who are the starting OLB’s, CB’s, and WR’s in september of the 2017 season.


OLB: 1st Round Pick in 2017 NFL Draft/Bud Dupree
CB: Gay/Burns in base, Gay/Burns/Golson in nickel
WR: Brown/Wheaton in base, Brown/Coates/Wheaton in 11 personnel

sdale: If we do go after a free agent CB, do you think it would be as a starter, or as depth?

Alex: It’d be for depth. If you’re adding starters to your roster in May, you’re in trouble. By this point, the roster has been constructed and the team has a pretty good idea of who is going to make this team, with one or two surprises always popping up.

The ones Matthew mentioned all seem to fit. I don’t think it’s about the “who” as much as it is bringing someone in to add that veteran depth. But if Grant stays at CB, the deck might already be set. Gay, Cockrell, Golson, Burns, Grant are five right there with the futures guys and Donald Washington, who I guess you could call the “vet” of the back-end after Isaiah Frey was released.

Lambert58: Alex, I’m start to get more excited about Artie Burns. Having looked more deeply into his game by now, how good do you think he can be? (upper ceiling?)

Alex: I don’t think my opinion on his ceiling has changed much, even from the moment he was drafted until now. He is a talented guy who checks all the baselines: height, length, speed, ball skills, playing in a competitive conference.

It’s more about how the team develops him. How they mesh their scheme with Burns’ strengths and teach him to thrive in the existing scheme. That development is as important as the talent itself. A 1970 Dodge Charger isn’t going to drive well if a 16 year old is behind the wheel. Doesn’t matter what’s in the engine. And the Steelers are driving this car. They determine how well this experience goes.

Jeff Kotova: Alex, I see Bjorn Werner just signed with Jacksonville, did the Steelers have any interest in him?

Alex: I don’t know but I doubt it. This team is 6 deep at OLB. And Pittsburgh already has an underwhelming 1st round OLB on its roster. I’m not interested in starting up a collection.

Johnny Loose: Good afternoon Alex. Who do you think our sack, interception, forced fumble leaders will be this year on defense?

Alex: Whew, these are always tough to guess. Mine doesn’t mean much.

Sack: Dupree
Interception: Gay
Forced Fumbles: Mitchell

Michael James: Hey Alex, do you think all of Tuitt, Heyward, DeCastro and Brown will get new deals after the season?

Alex: Heyward already got his long-term deal. I think DeCastro gets down before the start of this season. Tuitt/Brown before the start of 2017.

Ivanho: Based on the moves made this off season, do you think the Steelers are trying to use this opportunity to improve their salary cap situation, or do you feel like they will still restructure some of the contracts out there to allow for extensions to the inpending FA group

Alex: Cap questions are more up Dave’s alley but I think we all recognize the Steelers are in a pretty good place cap wise. Were able to make some splash signings in FA without having to restructure anybody. No one released was due to a cap casualty.

I think DeCastro gets a long-term deal which will lower his $8 million cap hit in 2017. That will create additional space and give the Steelers some space heading into the season when they inevitably have to sign players to their roster to fill in for injured players. Like to have a 2-3 million cushion.

Spencer Krick: How much do you think Jarvis is worth?

Alex: $3-4 million per year, probably. An average player’s contract.

Steel Jatt: Hey Alex what do you think is our weakest group with all the addition of free agent rookies and Udfa?? And do you think culliver (CB) can be in steelers radar for depth??

Alex: I am still worried over the ability to get a consistent pass rush. Travis Feeney may have upside but he’s not doing anything for this defense in Year One.

The secondary depth has talent but also a ton of youth. Grant/Burns at corner, Sean Davis at safety. Would ask a lot if they were pressed into action.

Great chat this week, everyone. Talk to you in a week.

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