Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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Happy to be with you for our weekly chat.

I learned something this week.

No one in the film or TV industry should ever make sequels or spinoffs ever again. All the good ideas are done.

The Walking Dead? Great show, even if it can occasionally be frustrating (looking at you, Glenn under the dumpster).

Fear The Walking Dead? Pile of hot garbage. The Sean Mahan of TV shows. Sounded great in theory. In practice, you hold your nose and wait for this Kronenberg experiment to end.

The premise started cool. The very beginning of the end of the world. The part we never get to see or are whisked through so quickly we never get a chance to understand. I was hooked.

And no, it’s the same as the regular Walking Dead only without interesting characters, writing, and scenery. It’s awful.

And I still watch it because I am a slave to BIG TV.

To your questions!

Spencer Krick: How bad have the lack of preseason snaps hurt Burns?

Alex: In the short term, noticeably. Hard to get back on that train, as Tomlin says.

But it’s not like the team was counting on Burns playing snaps this season. It’s not like Dupree’s situation. Burns job is to learn and play special teams and he can still do that just fine despite missing a couple weeks of camp.

Now if he is ever pressed into action on defense? Then you’re going to feel the blowback from his injury.

Jared Gallagher: With these recent restructure of Gilbert, where do you think that new money will go towards?

Alex: Probably trying to create relief to handle their 53 man roster and practice squad, since that’s coming down the pike in about a week.

I still think the Steelers will do something with AB’s contract this year. Push money from ’17 to this season. Unless they have a handshake agreement for something else. Maybe they’ll call it Antonio Brown Field.

Not freaking out about it, and you shouldn’t either, but I wonder if this points to a sign that they are worried a long-term deal with DeCastro won’t get done. From the sounds of it, things aren’t going great, and if it would/will, it’d open up a lot of cap space for this season. Which would make something like restructuring Gilbert’s deal less of a need.

But I’m not Omar Khan. Maybe both a Gilbert and DD rework had to be done. Maybe DeCastro along wouldn’t have opened enough space, especially when you consider the team likes to work with about $3 million in cap space for the start of the year and the fact they have $6 billion tied up in injured reserve.

Still hate the Raiders for giving Osemele and screwing up the DeCastro market. Al Davis lives on.

McBringleBerry: Given injuries and suspensions, do you think the 2016 roster is deeper top to bottom than at this time in 2015? If so, what position group or two do you think made the biggest improvements this year?

Alex: Yeah I think overall, it is better, though injuries are taking their toll. We can judge this based off the team’s practice squad moves. Last year, they basically flipped the whole taxi squad like they were on HGTV. Says they didn’t like the group they had.

The second question is easy. Defensive line depth. So much better than last year. Last year, it was Fear The Walking Dead. This year, it’s The Walking Dead.

Rick Grimes and Daryl as Heyward and Tuitt. The all-stars.

McCullers is Morgan, a bit of a pacifist but he’ll throw you to the ground when he has to.

Hargrave is Glenn. A bit on an unknown in the beginning, needed some work, but he’ll become unbeatable like the rest of the group in no time.

And Mathews is Abraham. Another stud they picked up along the way with some sweet hair going on (Mathews’ dreads, Abraham’s mustache).

Gluebucket: How realistic are the chances that Eli Rogers is a big contributor to the offense this year? Or do you think he is going to be one of those that’s on the team but never really plays (e.g. Coates last year).

Alex: Guess it depends on how you define “big.” I think he’ll have a role and will play. So no to the second question. But it’s hard for me to figure out a stat line on Rogers right now. Lot of rotating from WR3-WR5.

Big Buddy: Why have we not been looking at Feeney as ILB, based on his speed, physicality, size, and pass rush ability when not 1v1 against large O linemen?

Alex: That’s a good question. When they first drafted him, I though it was going to be as an inside linebacker. But it’s year one and after you figure out what you have, you can move him around. In the beginning, we weren’t totally sure if Lawrence Timmons was going to be outside or inside. Feeney could take a similar path though unlikely the same career arc, of course.

And to really answer the question on the nose, probably just to keep him in the same role he had last year. Washington moved him around so much. Consistency and stability is important for a career in its infancy. It’s like a spoonful of sugar. Helps everything go down a little smoother.

George Hareras: Which rookie/second year player do you think will have the biggest impact this year?

Alex: Hopefully Dupree. They’re counting on him. For rookies, Sean Davis is bound the play the most snaps but I think Hagrave can offer the biggest impact on a per-play basis. Said that right after he was drafted.

@themicknartin: Think Ross Cockrell will have a good season?

Alex: I do, for the reasons I’ve said a bunch of times before. Time to breath, time to learn, natural progression of a third year player. If he can be a more physical presence against the run, he’ll be just fine.

SkoolHouseRoxx: What up, Young Alex!!! If we only keep 2 QBs this year what one position would take its place? By the way I like Fear! It was actually pretty good Sunday!

Alex: Could be a 10th OL, maybe an 11th LB. Or a 4th TE if Green isn’t ready Week One but also not shuttled to Reserve/PUP. So a lot of options still at play and it makes predictions awfully tough. More difficult than usual.

Jacob: At camp this year, did Jarvis Jones look any better than what we’ve seen from him in the past? Dave Bryan said from the outset he needs some sand in his pants.

Alex: Jones has all the sand in the pants now. At the beginning of his career, yeah, that was accurate. He needs some waves, some ocean, some flow as a pass rusher. Right now, he’s a low-tide marsh.

steelburg: Why isn’t the team even considering Burns in the slot? I know he is injured right now and pegged as a outside corner but Roby of the Broncos played outside in college and started in the slot when he was drafted

Alex: Compare Roby and Burns’ agility drill times.

4.04 Short Shuttle
6.74 Three Cone

4.33 Short Shuttle
6.96 Three Cone

And both of Burns’ times came at his Pro Day, not the official Combine time. Roby’s short shuttle was run at Indy.

Burns has nowhere near the short-area quickness, the lateral movement, whatever you want to call it, to play against the slot’s typically smaller, shiftier receivers. You’d be taking away all the best part of Burns’ game: his length, physicality, long speed. It’s setting a player up for failure.

D.j. Hoy: What’s the difference in skill set/responsibilities between ILBs in a 3-4 when compared to 4-3 LBs?

Alex: Good question! The big difference is 3-4 inside linebackers are going to have to fight through the trash, offensive linemen coming free to the second level, than 4-3 guys. They get to play cleaner. Especially with all the 2-4-5 sets the Steelers use. For a 4-3 team, most sub-packages are a 4-2-5, meaning you still have the benefit of the four-down front to occupy blockers.

Makes playing the run a bit tougher for 3-4 guys. Have to be strong with active hands the ability to shed blocks. 4-3 linebackers can be a little lighter, a little weaker, and be a bigger component to coverage since all three are going to drop quite a bit.

Wes Lee: Senquez Golson says he’ll be ready to play football in November. Even if that does happen, he may not really be in football shape at that time, and let’s face it, the guy hasn’t played a regular season game since we drafted him. Should we just put him on IR and sign Matakevich to a one year deal?

Alex: Golson will probably go on IR anyway. With the new designate-to-return rule, you don’t have to automatically declare. You can simply pluck one player from your IR list after they’ve been on there for six weeks. So you can put Golson on IR, study his rehab, and weigh that against whatever other injuries you’re dealing with.

As for Matakevich, I really don’t know what you’re talking about. He signed a three year deal as part of his rookie contract.

@vibetranscender: For Steelers Mailbag: What do you currently predict will be the secondary depth chart?

LCB: Ross Cockrell, Doran Grant
RCB: William Gay, Artie Burns
NCB: Sean Davis, hopes and tears of Steelers’ fans (honest answer: William Gay or FA pickup)

SS: Robert Golden, Sean Davis, Shamarko Thomas
FS: Mike Mitchell, Sean Davis, Shamarko Thomas

Zach6432: Per PennLive, Golson says he will be back by November. Thoughts?

Alex: The player is the last person I get my injury timetable from. But I hope he’s right.

EDIT: I lied. Here’s the order of the least reliable people to get injury info from.

3. The injured player
2. Homeless man by the corner store
1. Mike Tomlin

Jefferson_St_Joe: In what order do you rank them in terms of importance to the long term health of the team? My order is: 1. Shazier 2. Tuitt 3. Bell 4. AB 5. DeCastro

Alex: There’s no wrong answers here. No bad ideas in a brainstorm. But here’s my take.

1. Antonio Brown – Because he’s the best at what he does. And no one else on this list can say that, even if some come within swinging distance.
2. Stephon Tuitt – He’s going to be a stud. And someone I can’t think about not having out there. *holds boombox over head, outside his window*
3. Ryan Shazier – To have a playmaker like that in your front seven is rare. That kind of athleticism, so prized in 2016, is vital. If he didn’t have the injury history, he’d make a stronger case for #2.
4. David DeCastro – Love the guy to death but he’s not an “elite” player yet. Easier to find a RG than the other positions.
5. Le’Veon Bell – For positional value. RBs always get dinged, even if you’re the second best back in the league. And yes, his off the field problems, even recognizing – and believing! he didn’t fail a test because he smoked pot, present an issue as big as the talent he has on the field.

That’s all for this week. Talk to you guys next Thursday.

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