Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

I hate wasps. Bees, I’m cool with. The honey, the pollination, heck, they were Steelers’ jerseys. But wasps have no reason to exist. And in a moment that made me want to burn my house down for the insurance money, there was one in my room yesterday. Finally killed it after a long standoff but now I sleep with one eye open.

I guess there’s no real point to this other to say, wasps are the worst. Let’s sign for a petition to get rid of them. Kozora 2016.

To your Steelers questions!

srdan: Do you see the nickle trend increasing even more this year?

Alex: It’s all about what personnel groupings you see. That’s how you react and decide what group of your own to trot out. And there will be an eventual cap on the amount of 11 personnel you can see. There was a HUGE jump last year from 2014 and I don’t see it increasing much further. If anything, I could see a little regression if anything. Steelers had several very comfortable leads (49ers, Colts) that help pad those stats a little bit.

Dorian James: Alex, if the defensive lineman look good and can’t can you see them experimenting with a traditional dime? ( 4dl 1mlb 6dbs)

Alex: No. Dupree and Shazier are 1st round picks for a reason. Harrison/Jones are going to get snaps. And though you could theorize that Hargrave could be that 3rd DL out there, there isn’t a fourth, unless you’re thinking putting Dupree with his hand down in some packages (which is possible).

Heck, the Steelers tried to even run some looks at a 4-3 last year and scrapped it early on. Though you could see it return vs certain personnel and formations, I’m not expecting a major change. Base 3-4, 2-4-5, and 2-3-6. Those will still be your top three groups.

Boots: Has there been any update on Jarvis Jones’ wrist and whether or not there has been any imporvement as far strength and range of motion since last year?

Alex: It’s fair to assume it’s fine or at least, as good as it’s going to get. Certainly can’t be an excuse for him. He’s gotta produce. He knows it, the team knows it, you and I know it.

CP72: It appears the Steelers feel comfortable with McCullers being the nose in base defense. Do you feel confident about his ability to play 20-25 percent of the snaps at a respectable level?

Alex: Confident? No. McCullers simply hasn’t done enough to earn confidence. It hasn’t been all bad. He can still take up space and I like his effort and hustle. But his size, part of what made him an attractive prospect, also hinders him. He’s always going to struggle to move down the line in zone schemes, maintain his gap. And with so many teams that rely heavily on it, especially in the AFC North, it’s going to be a big issue.

The team might be saying all the right things but that’s their job. He’s basically playing because the other option is a 3rd round kid from the FCS level who might take a little time to develop. I still think Hargrave has a chance to be the Week One nose tackle.

SkoolHouseRoxx: What up, Alex! You’ve said a few times you didn’t like the Senquez Golson pick. What don’t you like about him?

Alex: To preface, my feelings/thoughts on Golson before the draft are pretty irrelevant now. Once a guy gets in the league, all I care about is what he’s doing at this level. So I’m going into this camp with a clean slate on Golson.

But my concern coming out was a short guy who didn’t show a strong vertical. Antwon Blake was vertically-challenged too but had some major hops (39 inch vert at his Pro Day). Golson jumped 33.5 inches at the Combine and is nearly an inch shorter than Blake. Golson’s “true height” was one of the worst numbers I’ve recorded.

Tom Jackson: Hey Alex, what do you think is a realistic ceiling and floor for our defense this year?

Alex: As a ceiling, I don’t see why this team can’t be top five, if you’re going off points per game. As much as we realized the need to improve the defense in the offseason, this is a team that finished 11th in PPG. The difference between 1th and 5th was about a point per game.

It’s fair to say this defense has a reasonable expectation to improve in 2016. Another year under Butler. He was sort of like a rookie last season. Adding Burns, Davis, getting Golson back, Cockrell having another year, probably seeing an upgrade with Golden being out there over Will Allen.

Dupree should take a step forward. Timmons/Shazier will be great. You know what you have in Heyward and Tuitt. This is a team who played solid run defense, got after the QB, forced turnovers, and had pretty good red zone run defense.

As a floor, you’re probably looking at the way it was last year. An edge rush that isn’t quite up to snuff, forcing Butler to be even more aggressive and naturally giving up some bigger plays. And you could feel the effect of losing Steve McLendon, especially early on. So a floor, we’ll call it Top 15.

Maybe a hidden area to think about, if we’re grading the defense in a points per game scope, is special teams. Will the coverage units be as strong? Will Jordan Berry find consistency? If those wind up being issues, the Steelers could lose the field position battle. And that will put extra stress on the defense.

Michael James: What would you consider a good season from Coates?

Alex: Win the #3 job by the end of the first quarter, catch 45-50 passes for 4-5 touchdowns. Maintain his conditioning and becoming a reliable target. Shows some toughness too and maybe even become the team’s kick returner?

Jesse Hernandez: Hey Alex, lets pretend your Kevin Colbert. How do you approach the Le’veon situation this offseason? What kinda contract do you offer him if you go down that road?

Alex: I’m no good at contract talk and all that but you gotta open the checkbook for him. The top paid backs in the league are…

Adrian Peterson
Lesean McCoy
Jonathan Stewart
Doug Martin
Jamaal Charles
Lamar Miller

Lot of talent on here but Bell is better than any of them except for maybe Peterson, though Bell is clearly a more complete back. AP is getting $14 million a year. Maybe Bell comes in a bit under that. McCoy is getting 8 million per. I think Bell would need 9-10, at least.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for hanging out. Camp is only two months away!

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