Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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Let me steal Chris Berman’s thunder and be the last to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and hope you had a good one. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish? I’m a mashed potatoes man. I look forward to being 85 years old, sequestered in the corner, watching the Steelers with my mashed potatoes. Let me live!

To your questions.

CodeNameJerk: Any guesses why Eli Rogers disappears in the 2nd half of games?

Alex: That is a really good question. I’m not sure. Maybe part of it has to do with the Steelers getting a lead and using more 2 TE sets, which leaves Rogers on the bench. That’s the best I got.

COSteel: Drafting another QB this year?

Alex: It could happen, all depends on who they like, who falls, but I think they wait to make a heavy investment. Need to help Ben Roethlisberger win a Super Bowl instead of focusing on who is next.

Brian Tollini: Overall thoughts on Justin Gilbert and his future (if any) with the Steelers?

Alex: I guess they aren’t too different than what they were before. There is a chance, though slim, he could do something on defense. But he’s a low-risk guy who could help out on special teams a bit, though the team has seemed to sour on him as a return man and in coverage so go figure there.

He’s a nice depth piece but not the future. That’ my stance.

@subBurger: Is Gronk’s surgery some type of plot between Belichick & Harbaugh to get at the Steeler? Time seems suspicious to me.

Alex: Can’t rule anything out. I want a full investigation!

The Tony: Would you trade off Cutch?

Alex: I’m not the guy you want to get your Pirates’ advice from (I am a fan though) but no, I wouldn’t, and it kills me to see him in trade talks. Crazy how two years ago, you can go from the face of a franchise to now, being a burden. I know, I know, sports and that stuffs happens all the time, but not a team that finally got talent and competitive.

I’d love to keep him. He’ll turn things around. But him staying looks unlikely.

CP72: Alex,
After attending training camp, which player has been the most surprising and which has been the most disappointing to this point?

Alex: A surprise is hard to come up with, especially if we are judging them off training camp performances. I think I would go Ross Cockrell. He got picked on quite a bit, not to say he was bad, during camp, and now he’s the team’s best cover corner. He’s not a complete corner, he still isn’t physical enough, but he’s ascended into that role. There aren’t a lot of options, to be honest.

Disappointment. Obviously, you can throw Coates in there while of course recognizing the injuries playing a role in his performance. Really most of the receivers, even Eli Rogers, they could be named. I guess it’s a harder choice than I thought. There are certainly players who have struggled but most are in-line with where we thought.

I was hoping Robert Golden would have a flashy, big-star season. And now he’s on the bench. I like Rob G but that is disappointing.

Lambert58: Hey Alex – the Giants look to be a formidable opponent. How do you see this game playing out?

Alex: Hey Lambert! I think it will be close. But the Giants are already a one-dimensional offense, they can’t run the ball a lick, and that plays into the Steelers’ hand. Not too often Pittsburgh loses when they can shut down a run game.

So giving the edge to Pittsburgh here. But the Giants are tough. Aggressive defense. Lot of talent along that front. And they get a bunch of chunk plays in the passing game, which has been a problem area for the Steelers. Look for our scouting report tomorrow!

NinjaMountie: Alex, I asked in the OL article but didn’t get an answer. I’m curious on your opinion on AV. Is he playing well enough to be thought of as the long term answer or do you think they’ll look elsewhere?
Any new improvements to his game? New problems?

Alex: Hey, sorry Ninja, I do try to go back and look but this week has gotten busy for me.

Villanueva had a tough start, maybe the first month or so (sorta like Beachum last year) that had me nervous. I do think he’s settled in nicely. Only 3.5 sacks given up all year, I think? And none recently. His leverage is better, his chest isn’t exposed as much, and I *think* (I’m no OL expert) he has sorta gone back to some of the sets and attacks that worked well last year. Not short-setting as much, he’s chopping the hands of defenders down more often, playing to his strengths.

If there is an opportunity for an upgrade, then maybe, if for anything, to give yourself really good depth. But I don’t think it’s something you chase after. When your team is probably going to end the year averaging around 4.6 yards per carry and have a record low amount of sacks, the line is doing just fine.

Kevin Gobleck: Last week W. Gay posted a state line that consisted of 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. Who was the last steeler to record all three?

Alex: Great question, Kevin! I looked it up and the answer is…William Gay! In 2013. Take a look at the box score.  Pretty crazy, isn’t it?

srdan: do you think the Steelers can sign an Elvis Dumervil like player this off season

Alex: That may still be too pricey, given what pass rushers go for. I’m with srdan on this one. Taking a hard look at Jabaal Sheard in the offseason. I do think they sign someone though, assuming Jarvis is gone and Harrison hangs them up.

srdan: I’m giddy about the 3 rookies.

Can you give me a quick assessment of each of their improvements over the last 4 games?

If you were buy a jersey and it was one of those 3, which rook would you get? Santa has my request for the 25.


Artie Burns – Game slowing down for him. He’s playing faster, playing more physical. He was never soft, the guy can hit, he showed it in college, he was just overthinking. Processing. So that’s helped him a ton. Also, the Steelers aren’t moving him around as much. Letting him play his RCB spot. Not putting as much on his plate.

Sean Davis – Better tackling. Much, much more consistent. That’s the #1 requirement. And he’s doing a good job.

Javon Hargrave- Just reps, man. Getting the chance to have a consistent snap total, knows the role he’ll play week-to-week and getting better.

I dunno man, jerseys are dicey. Go with the Hargrave one just because it’s a little different…and that’s fun.

RickM: Why does our O-line struggle so much in the run game against better D-lines.

Alex: Well, I think you’re answering your own question. Because they are better. I don’t think many teams are having success running on the likes of the Jets or Baltimore.

But beyond that, given that this rushing attack is not a big-play one, they are death by a thousand paper cuts, they end up slogging their way to a bunch of 2 and 3 yard gains against good defenses with no chance of breaking a big one that makes the overall numbers look decent.

That’s all for this week. Thanks guys, talk soon!

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