Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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I have found the perfect security system, hardly any cost required. Christmas lights. Because apparently if you turn them on full blast, they will blind any intruder.

I walked up to my front porch last weekend trying to bring the groceries (read: Bagel Bites) inside and the lights were on maximum overdrive, flashing like it was a rave. Literally disorienting as I was trying to open the door. Guaranteed any burglar is skipping over your house if it looks like the screen of Dance, Dance Revolution and stealing from the Millers instead.

It has my full endorsement.

To your questions!

The Tony: Should the Steelers bring back Timmons if he’s willing to come back on a discounted rate?

Alex: That’s a good question. Timmons has had a legitimately strong season, not even grading on the curve or anything. But I think it’s still time to move on, unless you get a one-year, cheap deal. As the saying goes, it’s better to move on a year early than a year late.

The bottom line is that he is in his 30s, with a ton of mileage, and his play will inevitably drop off. And it’ll probably happen fast. And I don’t want money tied up in that.

Brian Tollini: With our WR depth in question, do you see the Steelers using both Bell and D Will at the same time, with D Will at RB and Bell at WR?

Alex: Maybe a tiny bit, as it was before. But no, they will primarily have just one running back on the field, though that guy (Bell) could be split out a lot. It’ll be an element of the offense but far from a staple.

Ken: Alex why do they run Bell into the ground late in the game? It’s late in the game the cheap shots have started and they keep Bell out there. How stupid is that?

Alex: If you’re speaking about the Giants game, it was still a 21-7 game. It was far from over. So I have no objection to still using Bell. It was the smart call. Needed to secure the win.

falconsaftey: Should Coates (if healthy) drops and all be playing over Hamilton?
Coates: 282 snaps, 20rec, 425 yards, 2TD
Hamilton: 260 snaps, 11rec, 138 yards, 1TD

Alex: I don’t think there’s any question that Coates is the more talented player. But we’re not judging on the body of work the entire year. Coates obviously needs to get healthy and get his confidence back, two things that may not happen this year.

Hamilton has been pretty uninvolved in the offense but to his credit, he has made some difficult, combative catches. Some big grabs on third down. And Coates hasn’t done that. So there’s value there. If Coates can start making those splash plays, then yeah, he’ll get more playing time.

Ace: Alex, nice work on the pod. Would you rather the PS place a tag on Bell or let him walk and use those big bucks to sign a high dollar OLB? If its the latter, who would you like to see them target out of the big name UFA’s?

Alex: Thanks, Ace! I want the tag on Bell. He isn’t – and shouldn’t – be going anywhere. Way too valuable and we all know the Steelers’ MO is not spend a huge chunk of change on someone on the market (though they’ve spent more than people think, Mitchell and Green weren’t super cheap).

Go with the known person vs the unknown. Especially when that known is the best at what he does.

I will have to wait and see who becomes available but I’m all for Jabaal Sheard coming back to the AFC North and signing with the Steelers.

MattHat121: General question about the team: Given their recent opponents, how much do you think they’ve actually improved on both sides of the ball, vs. benefiting from easy(ier) matchups? Do you see the NYG has the season’s most complete win?

Alex: I think they have legitimately improved. It can be both. That have played easier teams and they have improved. If they laid an egg against the Giants, lost that game, then you could attribute the improvement to playing crap teams in bad situations.

But the Giants were the litmus test – and the passed with pretty much flying colors. Defensively, I know this sounds a little cliche and hokey, but they’re more physical and aggressive now. Playing faster, hitting harder, getting their swagger back. And that’s what is feeding them.

Will it be this good the rest of the way? Probably not. But it is improvement, no doubt.

Was it the most complete win? You could argue the Chiefs win was the most complete one. I’d probably go with them. But this was a great win, no doubt.


Just for you Alex, a Mike Mitchell question. 🙂

Last Friday there was a report which quoted Mitchell as saying the coaches had found a “tell” for one of the Giants Receivers, saying he did something with his gloves, likely an adjustment like A.Brown makes which was reported on last season.

Did you or any of the other writers notice which Giants player they may have been talking about, either by the films you watched or last Sundays game?

Do you think players should be talking about this sort of thing? Or was it a ploy by Mitchell to invent something that wasn’t there to throw some doubt into the Giants minds?

Alex: To be honest, I saw the headline, never read the story. And I haven’t looked too closely. I bet it was the Giants’ Sterling Shepard. Cruz has been in the game too long to give that stuff away. And it’s probably not OBJ either. But a rookie? Yeah, I could see it.

Yeah, maybe it was a ploy by Mitchell. Or maybe it was a report that wasn’t supposed to be given? An off the record convo that went on the record? That happened with Bob Holtzman years ago when he reported something (I forget what it was, a trick play?) and Mike Tomlin was pretty pissed about it in his post-game presser.

But I dunno, I don’t think about it much. A lot of the tells are probably known. Chip Kelly’s entire offense has been exposed. We’ve pointed out some of Big Ben’s hots before. It’s less hidden than you think, I bet.

Steelerman24752: With Heyward out and Hargrave injured whats the possibility of the team calling up Lyons? iirc he seemed to flash in preseason.

Alex: Yeah, probably. They’ll have to call out someone, even though Lyons nor Johnny Maxey are nose tackles. But it will give depth overall and a sub-package role for maybe a few snaps. They can’t go into a game against the #1 rushing attack with just four bodies. Not going to happen.

CP72: Alex,
Could we see more two tight end sets? Cobi Hamilton just isn’t very productive. Why not get Grimble or James on the field with Green?

Alex: They’re still a base 11 personnel team but yeah, I think you are already seeing that (I haven’t crunched the numbers yet and Matthew Marczi will probably do it). Especially if you can get a lead and start grinding away. As Green gets more snaps, and last week was really the first week of that, you’re naturally going to get a lot of two tight end sets.

James had 45 snaps, Green 35, David Johnson 21, and Chris Hubbard 18 against the Giants. That’s a lot of heavy personnel.

Jeff Papiernik: Given the recent improvement in play of Burns, Davis, and even Mitchell, do you see Ross Cockrell as the weakest link in the secondary? (I find myself saying “Dangit Cockrell” at least twice a game).

Alex: I don’t. I think he’s still a strong piece. You might be saying “Dangit” because he’s often facing the opposing team’s top wide receiver. And that’s a difficult life to live. You’re going to give up some plays. But I think he’s really good at catch points and has broken up a ton of passes.

He has his problems but he’s the best cover corner on this team in my book. Better than Gay, better than Burns.

Phil Brennerman II: Alex best guess based on what you have seen so far. Is there a single current OLB on the roster 3 years from now? (or is it 4 when they have to decide on Dupree)

Alex: Yeah, Dupree and Dupree only. James Harrison might have the second best chance, lol.

To your other point, nah, keeping Bell in was a fine move. The reason why the Steelers had killed so much clock and had the chance to salt the game away was because of Bell and him reeling off 19 and 12 yard runs against a top five run defense all game.

You don’t take him out and put him back in if things go sour. You try to be proactive and get the game over with now, rather than entertaining that chance. And yes, you’re right, there is a big dropoff from Bell to Toussaint. If D-Will was healthy, maybe it’s a different story.

TJ Solomon: I know there is a good chance McCullers sees the field more this week due to Hargrave’s injury but why doesn’t he usually see more snaps?

Alex: Because the Steelers are still in base about 30% of the time so that limits the chance of McCullers being out there. Takes a big chunk of that pie away.

And Hargrave is playing really well. Would be foolish to rotate him out more often as his play improves and he starts finding his groove.


What do you think gives this weekend? One of the best pass blocking Olines, or a very good pass rushing team? I have my money on Munch. How many sacks do you think we give up?

And can you rank our 5 olinemen in the order you think they have played this eyar? Mine is Gilbert, foster, pouncey, Decashtro, 78

Alex: We’re talking about the Steelers’ OL vs the Bills’ pass rush? I would give the edge to the Steelers. Think the ball will be coming out quicker with the bad weather. Fewer deep shots, like the Cleveland game. I’ll say the Steelers get sacked twice. But that’s just a guess, who knows.

My ranking that I’ve thought about for seven seconds.

1. Pouncey
2. Foster
3. Gilbert
4. DeCastro
5. Villanueva

ilamarca: If the Steelers lose to the Bills this week then win their remaining 3, and the Ravens win their 3 games outside of Pittsburgh, both finish 10-6. Who gets the tiebreaker in that case?

Alex: Oh man, you’re making my head hurt, lol. I’m not sure. So Pittsburgh and Baltimore split the series…it would then come down to go AFC North record, I think? And Baltimore would have the advantage, I think. Don’t quote me on that.

Reader Michael explains it better in the comments. Actually, I’ll post his answer here.

The Ravens win, because of their common games record. Division record would be the same, so it comes down to common games. They would have wins against against the Bills, Patriots, Eagles, Dolphins, while the Steelers would only have wins against the Redskins, Giants and Jets.

SkoolHouseRoxx: What up, Alex! If we could replay a game against a opponent we lost to instead of playing the Bills, who would you choose and why?

Alex: The last 42 seconds against the Cowboys. That was gut-wrenching. Still don’t want to think about it.

Sdale: Sorry Alex, I’m late to the party, so this may have been asked already. With McCullers at nose in the base, is he a good fit at all for the Bills rush attack?

Alex: Eh, not really. Lot of misdirection, lot of stuff on the perimeter, and McCullers isn’t going to help defend that. I want guys who can penetrate and blow up a lot of this slower developing runs, or power runs where there’s gaps that open up. And he won’t help a lot. Less than Hargrave.

Michael James: Apparently Harrison wants to play two more seasons. If he asks the front office, does he get a new contract?

Alex: I dunno man, I didn’t hear that myself yet. If he does though, it’s hard to see the Steelers turning him away. We’ll see.

Thanks everyone. One of my favorite chats of the season. Talk to you next week!

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