Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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Am I….getting old?

Ok, ok. I know every 40-something is telling me to shut up. And you’re right. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out some of these “trends.”

Like the Harambe craze that is literally on every inch of the Internet. I get why it was a story at the time. Totally justified. But now it’s the rallying cry for every teenager in the world.

Somehow, the Cincinnati Zoo Twitter account has become a job Mike Rowe wouldn’t even take.

I don’t even get the point. There are a ton of funny memes out there. Crying Jordan still kills me every time I see it. Some of those variations show more effort and creativity than an entire Happy Madison production.

But Harambe? What’s the hook? What’s the joke? Someone clue me in. Please.

*shakes fist at cloud*

To your Steelers’ questions.

Peter MacDonald: Got me Alex! Do you see Gilbert getting a hat Monday? See him returning kicks or doing more if so?

Alex: I haven’t gone through all the inactives yet so let’s do that now and figure it out.

QB: Zach Mettenberger
OG: B.J. Finney
DE: L.T. Walton
ILB: Steven Johnson
ILB: Tyler Matakevich
CB: Senquez Golson
S: Jordan Dangerfield

That does leave the final spot in flux. The team has seemed to change their philosophy and want to keep eight offensive linemen “up” on gameday. So I’m hesitant to put Hubbard on the inactive list.

I think they want Gilbert to be their KR but until other injuries kick up, it may be tough to find a role. It’ll be interesting. If someone else is out, Cody Wallace, Roosevelt Nix, whoever, then yeah, Gilbert will definitely get a hat.

EDIT: Forgot Golson! Gilbert gets a hat.

CP72: Alex,
Crystal ball….who plays more defensive snaps this year Artie Burns or Justin Gilbert?

Alex: Whew, that’s a tough one. I’m going to go with Burns. More time in the system, the Steelers still want to find ways to get their draft picks involved, and there’s probably more trust in Burns. Heck, at 21, he might be more mature than Burns at 24.

falconsaftey43: Your take on where this teams stands compared to going into last year by position group?

Alex: Bear in mind this is the first time I’ve put any thought into the exercise.

QB: Better. Landry Jones development. A year ago, I thought he was another washed up QB. So huge jump here.

RB: Better? I mean, a year ago, Bell was also suspended, so it’s kind of a wash. At that time, we didn’t know a thing about what DeAngelo Williams had left. Now, he know he’s the best backup in the league. And I really like Toussaint as the #3. Don’t get why so many people hate him. No one is asking him to be the team’s #1. Like him more than Jordan Todman.

FB: Better. Rosie Nix has my heart.

TE: Worse. Obviously.

WR: Worse. Not Martavis. Boo.

OT: Worse. Just in the sense that Kelvin Beachum is still a better player than Alejandro Villanueva is right now (and right now is the framework of your question).

OG/C: Better because obviously, Maurkice Pouncey has returned.

DE: Better. Tuitt another year, no Cam Thomas, signing Ricardo Mathews, no Cam Thomas, L.T. Walton more time to develop, no Cam Thomas.

NT: Slightly Worse. Javon Hargrave and Steve McLendon are similar athletes though Hargrave is far more advanced as a pass rusher. His run defense, however, is likely to be worse. And will he handle a full 16 game season? Rookie wall is legit. Ask Dupree.

OLB: Worse. Would’ve been slightly better had Dupree not gotten hurt.

ILB: Slightly Better. Because of Shazier’s improvement and hopefully good health. Steelers have done a nice job of reloading their depth after all they lost in the offseason. Fort/Matakevich/Johnson is comparable to Garvin/Spence.

CB: Slightly Better. Mainly for the extra year Ross Cockrell has in the system, though it’s almost difficult to compare to last year’s group because of how fluid it was. Depth was a big question mark last year and remains so this season.

S: Better. Robert Golden a much better option than Will Allen. And Sean Davis can play there if there’s an injury.

K: Better. Boswell > Scobee

P: Better. Berry has developed nicely.

LS: Same.

taztroy43: Who is someone we can realisticalky get via trade or FA at OLB due to only having 4 on the roster?

Alex: No one. Group is set. Roll with what you have. Hold onto your butts.

Walt Dongo: How many snaps do you think Will Gay gets in the slot this year?

Alex: Good question. Depends on injuries and if/when (when) they happen. Any non-Cockrell injury will shuttle Gay to the slot. Sean Davis get hurt? Gay to the slot. Mitchell/Golden get hurt? Gay to the slot (because Davis moves to safety).

So he will get snaps.

But if we assume all stay healthy, I think Gay gets some work there after the Week 8 bye. By then, the team is probably going to want to see Artie Burns on the field, get use of their first round pick, see what they have, and you’re going to see dime packages. That likely pushes Burns to RCB, Gay inside, and Davis to safety, to play a traditional role of the dime player role, more of that Rover.

Bottom line. Gay will get snaps. But pinning a number is next to impossible.

William Weaver: 3rd and long late in the game and the Redskins have the ball. Anyway you see Javon getting on the field with Cam, Tuiit and Deebo?

Alex: I don’t. Not going to believe it until I see even a hint of it. They like their 2-4-5 front. More athletes on the field, more creative you can be with your blitzes and coverage. Three down front is going to limit you some.

You might not like that answer but that’s where all signs seem to point.

Beaver Falls Hosiery: Alex, what do you think the big story line will be Monday at midnight?

Alex: A Steelers win, hopefully.

Can the Steelers limit big plays? Washington spreads you out horizontally with their formations and vertically with their personnel. Gotta be able to tackle in space, especially if you’re running more two high looks to dissuade the deep ball. And when you roll down to single high, gotta stop those 50/50 balls with Jackson/Garcon/Reed.

If the Steelers do that, they’ll probably win. If they don’t, they’ll probably lose. Either way, that’s the storyline.

Matt Manzo: Anybody on our 53 that you wish were replaced by someone cut from the 90 or 75?
And, with all the turnover on ST, do you think there’s been any improvement to the special teams squads?

Alex: To your first question, nah, not really. This roster cut was pretty chalk and the areas they could’ve upgraded in, were done/could’ve been done externally (Gilbert trade, did they look for a #3 TE on the waiver wire?).

Special teams is a good question. I like some of the talent there but lot of new pieces. May be growing pains early.It’s hard to gauge because the group as it exists for the 53 worked in such limited fashion during the preseaosn.

I think coverage units will be worse than last year. They were great a year ago. Just hard to hit that level again. How much worse? I don’t know. Hopefully only a little.

stan: Any idea how Mettenberger has looked in practice so far?

Alex: No clue, don’t go to practices. Hopefully we have no idea how he’ll look in a regular season game, either.

srdan: Quietly the steelers made an acquisition that could prove to be this off-seasons best in Matthews. Without putting numbers to it, what role do you think he will play?

Alex: Ricardo Mathews, professional hat wearer. He’ll do whatever is needed of him in-game. He can play the 4i/5T. He can play the one and the three in nickel. I bet you even end up seeing him at nose in base at some point. A game where McCullers/Hargrave is dinged and inactive and for whatever reason, Mathews has to see a brief look there.

He’s capable of doing pretty much whatever in this defense and not look terrible at it. That’s a plus.

steelersonway27: What is a good output in sacks for this defense as an Outside Linebacker?

Alex: I don’t think the expectations have changed for any one linebacker. Double-digits is ideal though looking at this group, no one is going to do it.

I look at them collectively. I said in the offseason I wanted at least blackjack – 21 sacks. They were at 15 last year. Loss of Dupree doesn’t make me feel good about that.

Jeff Papiernik: Do you think Eli Rogers will have enough production this year to be fantasy relevant?

Alex: Late round flier, yeah, but his upside is capped. Inconsistent snaps, not going to score a lot of touchdowns. Slightly better in PPRs.

Not as big a FFB guy as I used to be in high school (when I was dumb and in a thousand leagues, now I’m dumb and only play in four) but we just had our Depot draft last night. And I’m going to win.



Take your pick…CB Gilbert for a 6th round pick or CB Rowe for a 4th round pick? Why?

Alex: I really like Rowe but man, the 4th (and in the actual trade, could become a 3rd) was just too rich for me. So gimmie Gilbert.

Dom: Who’s going to be the standout special teams player this year excluding kicker punter and long-snapper?

Alex: Rosie Nix. He’s the man. As for a new face, L.J. Fort. The new Terence Garvin.

That’s all for this week. Thanks guys!

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