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Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

So I totally blanked and forgot to do the mailbag on Thursday. We’ll substitute Thursday for today and take your Steelers’ questions for the next hour or so. Whatever’s on your mind, this past week against Miami, tomorrow against New England, or anything else Steelers/football related.

SteelCity: Is Jarvis Jones skill set that of a 4-3 outside linebacker?

Alex: I guess considering how weak of a pass rusher he is. He would do just as well in that system as he would here without the pressure and focus on his sacks. But I don’t focus on that stuff too much. That’s not going to help the Steelers right now.

Steelers12: Hey Alex do you see the Steelers drafting an heir apparent for Ben Roethlisberger in the next two years

Alex: If they fall into it. But to draft the heir, you usually need to be drafting pretty high, and as long as Ben is around, the Steelers aren’t going to be picking in the top ten. Maybe they take someone in the mid-rounds but it’s hard to say that guy could be the heir – just in the way no one called/thought Landry Jones as the heir.

It might not be until Ben’s final year or the year after before they can make that type of investment. When you’re a Super Bowl contender every single year, it’s hard to justify taking such a developmental pick.

George Hareras: With the huge expectations coming into the season for AB, has he lived up to the hype?

Alex: Probably not though I don’t think that’s really his fault. Obviously, the pace he’s on for receptions and yards is still impressive but not in the stratosphere category the past two seasons.

James Cowan: How many of the OLBs do you think will be on the team next year? Also, do you think Bell will be back next year?

Alex: Three: Bud Dupree, Arthur Moats, and Anthony Chickillo. Jones and Harrison are gone. Yeah, I think Bell comes back at worst, and probably still most likely, under the franchise tag. No way Pittsburgh lets him test the market.

dennisdoubleday: Many will consider this sacrilege, but if AB wants more 15M+ per year in his next contract, would the cap money be better spent on a top-end FA pass rusher?

Alex: Nah. No FA pass rusher is the future Hall of Famer Brown is. You don’t have the view the events as mutually exclusive. You can sign AB (they will) and explore some serious ways of upgrading the pass rush.

One mid-tier FA signing + two high draft picks (first 4 rounds) in the position. Now you have Dupree, your mid-tier guy, Moats (mid-tier with experience in system), and two other high upside picks. It’s a nice blend that helps you now and in the future. And you get to keep AB. Everybody wins.

SteelCity: From your film review rate Artie Burns development so far

Alex: I have been surprised by the amount of playing time he’s gotten but in that same breath, watching him, you can understand why.

It’s been rocky but this is a 21 year old rookie who came out of school a year early, got rotated a lot at school, and had a track career. It’s no surprise he’s struggling with the details players have to be perfect on at this level. He’s showing potential though and that does give me a lot of optimism. Once his knowledge of the playbook picks up and he becomes more assignment sound, we’ll have a more accurate evaluation of his talent.

Steelers12: Hey Alex just one more random question do you see any changes on the Steelers coaching staff next year

Alex: Yes. Richard Mann is likely to retire. Who knows, maybe James Daniel does too (those guys seem like best friends, always hung out at camp together). So those spots will need to be filled.

As for anyone getting fired, I don’t think it’ll happen. But we’ll see.

falconsaftey43: Previous years. AB made impact plays even when doubled. This year, he still has really good stats, but hasnt made much of an impact outside of the 1st game. What’s different?

Alex: It’s a good question. You could argue having a guy like Martavis Bryant had an affect, a dynamic player. Coates has shown flashes of that too but I don’t know if defenses respect him the way they did MB.

I think defenses are playing more 2 Man and are doing a great job of bracketing him. I think they’re just being more effective in doubling him than they have in the past and teams have put the blueprint out of how to slow him down.

Keith Evans: which long-term injured player will have the biggest ‘return to the line-up impact’ on this team’s performances?

Alex: I’m guessing Dupree counts? Because that’s my pick. At least, he better be. Number one thing this team needs right now is a pass rush. I don’t think I have to convince anyone of that at this point in the year.

Marcus Gilbert right up there, if he counts as “long-term” injured. Too many guys to count.

falconsaftey43: Why is coach Lake blamed for the secondary problems, while coach Munch is only praised and never blamed when DeCastro is struggling and AV still shows the same technique issues

Alex: That is, and I try not to fall on this too much because then I just sound holier-than-thou, probably falling back on #narrative. Munchk has a good reputation here, Lake doesn’t.

But that isn’t completely unfair. When you completely turn around a starting five, you get more slack because of this recent accomplishments. It’s not like Lake has created the same turnaround.

I generally stay away from blaming coaching. Not because they’re blameless, they’re the pillars of teaching, but that it’s so difficult to quantify their impact. Their impact comes Monday-Saturday. And there’s no coaches film for that.

toonasteel: Given that quote, what glimmer of hope do you hold onto (Offensively, Defensively, STs, or Patriots errors) that the Steelers may be able to utilize in a huge upset over the Evil Empire?

Alex: The glimmer that we just saw the Dolphins upset the Steelers when no one gave them a chance. It’s football, it’s the NFL, it’s weird and unpredictable. The Patriots aren’t complete exceptions to that. Heck, they’ve lost Super Bowls in games where they were the star-studded favorites.

That’s what makes the game fun. At least, until the league flags them for that too.

Matt Manzo: Alex, do you think there’s any chance Sean Davis sees the field tomorrow against one of the TEs?

Alex: From what the coaches and Davis has said, it doesn’t sound like it. Talked about him being a backup this week. I would expect Justin Gilbert to see a ton of time against Gronk/Bennett. Some Shazier, Burns, some bracketing. Can’t stop them with just one guy. Mixing matchups and coverages. That’s how you win.

PaeperCup: Could this be a Trap game for the Patriots?

Alex: I don’t believe in that notion for stable organizations like New England and Pittsburgh. Players have been in too many bad losses before, coaching staff been around the block to know how easy it is to lose a game. So no, no trap game. Wasn’t for Pittsburgh in Miami last week either.

Matt Manzo: What are your expectations for Hargrave this game?!

Alex: I don’t really know but I know he’s gotta be an impact player. The Steelers probably aren’t/can’t blitz Brady. Gets the ball out too quick (1.9 seconds). So they’re going to have to get home with four. The edge guys probably aren’t going to get home, meaning the best source of pressure will have to come the interior – Tuitt, Hargrave, and Mathews.

The Patriots’ interior OL is athletic but they’re smaller. Thuney and Mason are some of the tiniest guards in the league. Tuitt needs to ball out.


Thanks everyone! Talk to you next Thursday!

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