Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Welcome back, Steelers’ Nation to another group chat. Know we’re hitting the lull of the offseason but fire away any questions you have.

kdubs412: What type of punishment could the Ravens be facing for their Rookie OTA violation?

Alex: Fine, loss of draft picks, and loss of future OTA practices are all in play, depending on how egregious this is in the eyes of the NFL. It’ll be worse if there is clear evidence the Ravens knew what they were doing was against the CBA. Either way, if they’re found guilty, they will be punished.

Big White: Alex, I’m interested in a story that was ran a few months ago regarding Ben’s weight. I thought i saw something where he was taking a more active role in keeping it off in the offseason. Any idea where he was as a rookie and now as a veteran as far as his playing weight?

Alex: I generally don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, to be honest. Ben will be Ben and Ben knows what he has to do to get ready. According to NFL Draft Scout, he weighed 241 pounds at the Combine. He’s “listed” at 240 but we know the website never changes those numbers. I’m sure he’s been in the 250-255 range at times. Maybe he’s looking to get back to his college playing weight.

T3xassteelers: What are the odds we see Burns starting week 1?

Alex: Not impossible but not great. His path, most logically, is to beat out Ross Cockrell to be the LCB. With Cockrell going into his 3rd year in the league and 2nd with the team, and showing well last season, it’s hard to see Burns usurp him out of the gate. Maybe he gets rotated in more after the bye. Pittsburgh certainly wasn’t shy about their CB rotations last year.

Michael James: Hey Alex, how do you see the race for the last two open roster spots at DL plays out?

Alex: I think Ricardo Mathews will have a spot. Not guaranteed he will but his experience and decent tape in San Diego, along with the history of free agents making the roster, all work in his favor. The last one, assuming the team keeps 6, is pretty open. I guess I’d give the edge to L.T. Walton because I at least know something about him. Really know nothing about Lyons.

Doctor Noah: Alex, what are your thoughts on Chickillo’s development and where he fits on the team at this point? And what about Matekevich – if you had to put money on it, is he going to turn heads in camp and transcend his seeming physical limitations?

Alex: A lot of that remains to be seen. Chickillo had a nice training camp last season and made an impact play on special teams, so he really did all he could do for a rookie year that had limited opportunities. I’m expected him to play well immediately, carry over what he did last year. It has nothing to do with momentum, just development.

I think Matakevich will make the occasional play that makes fans go crazy but of the “back three,” Chickillo, Feeney, and him, he’s the worst athlete by far. And those ones usually lose out.

Dubai Steeler: 

1) what (if any) veteran free agents do you think the Steelers should look at?

2) This may have been asked already, by don’t recall it in the Podcasts. How surprised were you that Jonathan Jones went undrafted? I think we are all now hoping that he does not become a steal for New England.

3) Which Steeler player currently projected onto the 53 man roster are you most concerned could become a weak-point or liability during the season?

Alex: I don’t have many free agents in mind the Steelers “should” look at. There’s still guys out there I like. Mainly along the DL. Douzable, Winn, but I’m not going to be choked up if they aren’t brought in. And they probably won’t. The roster is pretty much set at this point. Look around and the depth is pretty much where it needs to be. They might just be short an OL. Usually see them at 15 and I think they’re sitting at 14 right now.

Yes, I was surprised JJ fell out of the draft. But if you try to make projections about the draft, expect to be wrong. Most thought Jeremy Cash would get drafted on Day 2. Some people thought Vernon Adams was a 1st round pick. No one thought the WR/TE from Princeton would go in the 4th. Being wrong comes with the territory.

Like I wrote, I am worried just about the defensive depth in general. It’s pretty young. If we assume the starting secondary, in the Steelers’ 3-4, are: William Gay, Ross Cockrell, Mike Mitchell, Robert Golden. That means the backups are: Senquez Golson, Artie Burns, Doran Grant, Sean Davis. Combined, that group has played a total of one NFL snap. No idea how they will perform. Not even the team has a clue.

You just hope your evaluation and development is on the money.

falconsaftey43: Alex, any Steelers players drafted in 2015 that you’ve changed your opinion on (from your post draft reaction) after seeing them in training camp and preseason and some of them play for a year?

Alex: Nah, not really, mainly for the fact that most of these guys have barely played. Not ready to think much differently based off a limited (or no) sample size. I thought Chickillo did progress quicker than I thought he would. Smooth transition. Bit unexpected.

taztroy43: Do you think we should try and sign wheaton now as opposed to this offseason; just in case he has a breakout year? What are our chances that we resign him period?

Alex: It’s a nice thought but I imagine he is low on the priority list. Bell, DeCastro come first. Plus, would Wheaton even want to sign right now, knowing his numbers will go up with Bryant’s suspension, cashing in on what Sanu/Marvin Jones got? I doubt it.

Jeff Papiernik: Who will be the backup to Heyward or Tuitt in the base 3-4? I don’t think Mathews or Hargrave fit the bill

Alex: I’m going with Mathews. If it isn’t, this team has a reckless amount of faith in L.T. Walton or have given Heyward and Tuitt the secret to immortality. Would be stupid to bring in Mathews as just a nickel rusher. Everyone else can play in multiple fronts so Mathews should, too, and I think his skillset in San Diego translates to playing the 5, even if he’s shot (6’2) and didn’t play much there with the Chargers.

Thanks for those who are still sticking around and asking questions. Talk to you all next week!

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