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Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

If you saw my mention in an article the other day, the end of 2016 is leaving me with a pretty nasty flu bug. It’s a byproduct of blaghing from mom’s basement, far away from the sun’s Vitamin D rays. So I decided it was time to take better vitamins than the generic, multi-vitamin stuff from the store. Apparently, just because there’s a picture of grapes on it, it isn’t always perfect for you.

So I went to GNC’s website last night. And for the first time since probably 1998, the site was closed. Shut down, overnight until today. What? So if anyone can explain that one to me, or give me some advice on how not to have the world’s worst immune system, let me know.

To your questions!!

Steelers12: Hey Alex if had to guess what coaches do you see getting fired and throw in a surprise one

Alex: For the Steelers or league wide? In Pittsburgh, Danny Smith would be the only name. I still think it’s 50/50. I don’t want to see him go but maybe the team thinks otherwise. I do think Richard Mann and James Daniel could retire though. Mann has already said it’s his last year and Daniel could go out with him.

League-wide, my guesses.

Mike McCoy
Chip Kelly
Sean Payton (gets traded to LA)

I think Todd Bowles should be let go too but it sounds like he’s going to stick around.

But what do I know, I grew up a Dallas fan…

CP72: Is spreading out the defense when Ben most effective or did he just get hot at the right time against Baltimore?

Alex: Yeah, I think that helped. But part of that was situation with the Ravens playing more zone, a little more conservative in coverage. Ben really just made better throws, better decisions. I didn’t love all of Haley’s playcalls, too many tight looks, but Roethlisberger forced some of those. There were other, better options, available on his picks. The QBs job is to make a profit on every play. And Ben finally started taking what the Ravens gave him instead of pressing.

SkoolHouseRoxx: What up, Alex! With the MVP conversation being so evenfield, who would you vote for?

Alex: I’ve gone back and forth on it, the little I have actually given it thought.

My pick would come from whoever wins between the Lions/Packers. Think Matthew Stafford still ha a chance if they can win the North. And if the Packers do, I think they will, then their comeback and stellar play of Aaron Rodgers makes him a logical choice.

WB Tarleton: Three, two, or one cheer for Carnell Lake? Do the fans owe him an apology?

Alex: Lake’s done well. Lot of credit to him. I don’t think an apology is in order, they didn’t side-swipe his car or anything, but it should serve as a moment of reflection and pause. An evaluation isn’t made in a vacuum. It isn’t the first month or a group of several weeks.

It’s an entire season, a whole process, from the draft to spring work, to camp, to the season. And coaches are even tougher to evaluate, especially positional ones.

Bill: What do you think about not playing the 3-Bs Sunday?

Alex: All for it. Way it needs to be. I hope Tomlin sits/doesn’t play James Harrison either. He’s 38 and been playing a ton of football lately. Plus, it’s a good time to give Chickillo/Moats reps they haven’t gotten recently. If something happens and someone goes down, I don’t want a guy like Chick going in after being cold for the last month.

Jefferson_St_Joe: I’m now of the thinking that the best Steelers offensive performances are going to come when they establish the pass first and insure #7 is in the flow of the game early. What do you think?

Alex: Thanks for the solid advice on the vitamins. I get your point but I’m generally indifferent about starting with the pass or the run. Generally, you’re going to need elements of both in order to win a game. So if it’s pass first or run, the other will have to compliment at some point.

To start, I’m more interested in how Haley uses personnel, formations, and trades/shifts to get a feel for how the defense wants to respond. Start testing the waters and using one play to set up another. I think that’s more important than if you’re doing it by land or by sea.

Petherson Silveira: Is there a statiscal to RB´s pass protection? Except for the eye test, how can you prove how good a RB is in pass protection? Do you know how many sacks Bell has give up in his carrer?

Alex: Well we track it for Pittsburgh in our sack breakdown, the latest one of which you can see here.

We have Bell giving up just a half sack all season long. He wasn’t charged for any in his shortened year in 2015. Maybe Washington Post has stuff on backs. I know they do for the OL. But they don’t show their work like we do so you can never see what they see.

T3xassteelers: Seeing as stafford is in the MVP convo… has a player that’s won the MVP ever just straight up not been voted to pro bowl before?

Alex: Oh man, that’s a good question. I’m guessing no. But if the Pro Bowl can’t get Sean Lee in, then I don’t think they carry any weight.

William Weaver: Where is the line between spiking the ball to stop the clock and intentional grounding? Could Ben fake a spike to look at AB, find out he is well covered, then go back to just spiking the ball?

Alex: In that situation, he’d probably just throw the ball away, over AB’s head and into the crowd.

But with a running back in the backfield, and a tight end attached, he could spike it and it wouldn’t be a grounding call. Technically, there would be receivers in the area.

@subBurgher: Will Justin Gilbert return any kicks and get some defensive snaps? Who would you like to see get more time?

Alex: Maybe kicks. I don’t know about the defense. Tomlin said those who are dressed will play like normal so I don’t think Burns or Cockrell are losing reps. They are still young guys, even though we think about someone like Cockrell as a vet, and the more reps, the better. So I don’t see Gilbert doing much on defense.

Kicks? Maybe. But I also think they just stick with Cobi if Coates can’t go. Think they like the trust they have in him, his size, and his toughness.

I disagree with Dave’s assessment of Ayers getting/needing time back on kicks. I don’t want a rookie handling that stuff, even in Week 17, and definitely not for the playoffs. Tomlin has often chosen ball security over big play ability. He’s gone to Garry Russell and Najeh Davenport before. And he definitely prefers offensive players tenfold to anyone on defense.

Kevin Schwartz: I was watching some David Johnson highlights yesterday and it really was noticeable that Bell doesn’t break off as many huge gains as other RBs of his stature. My question – is there a reason for this

Alex: Johnson is a more explosive player. They always debated playing him at receiver in high school and college and I even thought he could excel in that role in the NFL. So he is naturally going to be able to bust off some bigger runs.

Blocking might have something to do with it. Having the NFL’s best blocking receiver in Larry Fitzgerald certainly doesn’t hurt. And others have made the point that Bell’s patience may limit some of those huge runs. Safeties are able to come down and fill with the corners working off blocks. So there’s a combination of reasons.

RickM: QB questions. 2017, 2018 or 2019? When do you think the Steelers will attempt to draft Ben’s successor? Who will Landry Jones be playing for next year?

Alex: It could all depend on stars aligning and a guy they like falling but I think they wait until the year before Ben is done or the year immediately after he is before making a heavy investment. This is a Super Bowl caliber team and will continue to be with Ben. I don’t want to draft QBs when I’m trying to get over the hump for a Lombardi. It would suck not having an Artie Burns or a Sean Davis for a guy who is going to ride the pine for thee or so years.

I dunno, I think Jones should stay in Pittsburgh. I don’t think anyone is going to enter a camp with him as the starter so at best, he’ll be battling it out with someone. And I think odds are no matter where he goes, he’ll be the backup. So might as well stay in Pittsburgh and have the chance to start a couple games each year with a Roethlisberger injury.

So I dunno. Maybe he goes to the Jets. Poor guy.

Michael James: My question: Steelers probably take an OLB in round one of the draft, but what are the biggest defensive needs after that?

Alex: Well you can’t have too many CBs. But I would like to throw another end into the mix to improve depth there though L.T. Walton is coming on strong. Big difference from last year.

I’m all for drafting two edge rushers in the top two rounds, by the way.

Wes Lee: What do you think? I was wondering why not too many people were talking about the facemask that wasn’t called against the Ravens’ defense on Antonio Brown’s game-winning TD. Even if it kept A.B. from getting the ball across the goal line, if it were to have been called by the officials,

Alex: Yeah it should’ve been called. And it was missed. But I don’t like to dwell on those things too much. I think that’s an overblown story right up there with the whole Terry Bradshaw/Mike Tomlin saga.

I’m confident the Steelers would’ve gotten another play off. And they would’ve gone for the touchdown, not the field goal. And they would’ve gotten it.


That’s all for this week. I’ll be sure to medicate myself up. Thanks for the advice everyone! Happy New Year.

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