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Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Hey all,

Good to be talking to you after an awesome Week One win. Thanks for sticking with us the whole week as we continue to cover the Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory and get you geared up for their Week Two battle with the Cincinnati Bengals.

If you subscribe to my Youtube account, keep an eye out tomorrow afternoon, probably a little after 3 PM/ET. Trying something new and I’m pretty excited about it. If you’re not around, no worries, it’ll be archived and posted to the site later that day.

To your questions!

WeWantDaTruth: Why the penalty after AB’s touchdown? While I personally didn’t care for the dance (or any of them),

Alex: As Dave wrote, it was for his sexually aggressive gesture. You can look at what he wrote here. 

JohnB: With Timmons slowing and Shazier not being able to stay on the field,Jones contract year and Harrisons last year which do you see being the bigger priority, ILB or OLB at years end?

Alex: Still OLB by a country mile. You’re still counting on Shazier to be in your long-term plans. And then you signed Vince Williams who can function in that Timmons role. With the increase in dime, needing only one ILB on the field, the position loses value.

OLB doesn’t have a lot of long-term prospects, Dupree aside (and his ability is still largely unknown) and it’s still a critical position to this defense. You’re going to see one drafted within the first two rounds in 2017. Book it.

William Weaver: How would you go about containing AJ Green?

Alex: Unfortunately, I’m still searching for that magic wand of how to shut him down. From an overall standpoint, the Steelers have to be great communicators. Can’t make any mistakes, blown coverages, someone unsure of where to go/who to cover. Can’t make anything easy on him. I think his long TD on Revis last week was partially a blown coverage, an over concept where someone screwed up. That’s making it easy on them.

Honestly, if I could have my way, I’d shadow William Gay on him. Need someone who is physical and a good tackler. They’ll throw as many screens as they will deep balls (I’ll have a great stat on that tomorrow in my Bengals’ scouting report). Cockrell isn’t physical enough in space.

Gay is more than comfortable and experienced enough to deal with the nuances of playing each side, field/boundary, with both safeties, whatever. Cockrell, maybe not so much, but he’ll have to deal with it. We know he’s a high IQ guy so he can adjust – and I’d much rather have him on LaFell.

Also, sacrifice a goat. No bad ideas in a brainstorm.

Edward Hunt: Do you think in the future they will look to mix man to man coverage schemes with their zone coverages?

Alex: I think in a lot of ways, they already do that, and are trending in that direction. Combination coverages is how a lot of defenses need to play. Be able to have zone to the call side, man to the backside. That’s what they did in the Shazier/Butler breakdown I just wrote about. 

The Steelers did a lot of it with Ike Taylor. Allowed him to press, shadowed their top receiver. He was fast and had size. That’s what the Steelers are going for with Burns, Gilbert, their interest in Jackson, etc. Yeah, that’s the way they’re going. No question.

Jeff Papiernik: Do you think Davis in the slot will be the long term solution for this year?

Alex: Yes. Until there’s a compelling reason to make a change. If he isn’t your slot guy, the other option is to move Gay inside and Burns at RCB. So it comes down to who would you rather have out there: Davis or Burns? And Davis is way ahead development wise than Artie.

Davis is the more highly conditioned, experienced (in college), refined, and trusted player than Burns. And every week he gets 45-55 snaps while Burns only sees 5-10, Davis inches ahead. He gets more reps, more time to make mistakes, more chances to work on his game.

The second Golson went down, Davis was put in the slot. And that was when Burns was still healthy, too. That’s been their plan from Day One. You don’t just make a change halfway through. Stay the course, unless Davis is abysmal week-to-week.

ScottBoss: Do you think Shazier’s knee is a big deal or they are just being precautionary so far?

Alex: Ha, I wish I knew. Last year’s “boo boo” turned out to be a six week injury. Just taking it week-by-week. The Steelers are as close to the vest as anyone with injuries.

falconsaftey43: If the Steelers give up 120 yards and 1 TD to AJ Green, do the Steelers win or lose?

Alex: When Green has posted a statline similar to that (or better), the Bengals are 2-2. So it’s a coin flip, believe it or not.

Week 15 2012: 10/116/0 – Bengals win 13-10
Week 13 2014: 11/224/1 – Bengals lose 42-21
Week 7 2015: 11/118/1 – Bengals win 16-10
Week 13 2015: 6/132/1 – Bengals lose 33-20

Johnny Loose: Just curious about your thoughts on picking up Justin Gilbert. I know its tough to predict what kind of impact, if any, he will have down the road.

Alex: Like I said after it happened, it’s a “meh” move. Don’t hate it but I’m not exactly expecting to get anything more than a KR and decent to good coverage guy.

draframe1: When will it be time to hit the panic button for the pass rush?

Alex: What’s the old saying? Two’s a trend, three’s a problem. So I guess following the Eagles game though if they look just as invisible as they did last week against the Bengals, who just gave up seven sacks (and they weren’t from blitzes), then yeah, I’ll be worried.

Yeah, Butler is going to blitz a lot more than what he did Monday night, but again, all the pressure can’t just come from what Butler has to draw up. Guys gotta win. Like I said, the OLB group had me worried before Dupree and terrified when he went to IR.

CP72: Will we see more of the anti-Blitzburgh or was that a specific scheme Washington? It was boring, but effective.

Alex: You’ll definitely see Butler do his thing. That was pretty gameplan specific. One, because Washington runs so much darn empty set. Makes you declare any blitzes and you don’t want to do that with all the weapons they have.

Two, because like he said, Washington was expecting the Steelers to blitz heavy. Mad props to him for having to restrain himself (he loves to get after it) and being passive, giving them a whole new look.

But with the Bengals, for example, there’s no hiding anything. They know the Steelers, the Steelers know them. So might as well do what you do best – which is to blitz.

Now, looking at least year’s numbers, he blitzed about 22% of the time in both matchups vs the Bengals. That’s on the low-ish end of things for him. But yeah, you’ll see it more Sunday and throughout the rest of the season. Can’t wait to see what he has cooked up for Carson Wentz in Week Three. He’s going to make Dick LeBeau proud.


Thanks for the chat everyone. Talk again in a week!

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