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Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Since I was out of town and missed last week’s Mailbag, we’re going to do two this week. This one right now and our regularly scheduled programming on Thursday, 2:30 PM/ET as always.

I’ve only been to three airports in my life – Pittsburgh, Charlotte, and Mobile – but the Mobile airport is already going to be my favorite one ever? Hate large groups of people? Hate lines? Security check in? Mobile is the place for you.

Setting foot into the airport to the time we reached our gate took about – no joke – 15 minutes. One line for security. Walk up (there was one person in line), slip off your shoes, throw everything on the belt, go through the totally not harmful radiation machine, and boom, off to your gate.

I believe every airport should be the same size as Mobile’s. Put one on every block. I can’t see anything wrong with that idea.

To your questions!

Brian Tollini: I think one of the biggest question marks heading into 2017 is Sammie Coates & Martavius Bryant. How do you view our WR group and how big of a need do you see that position in the draft?

Alex: A lot depends on Bryant’s situation. Like I wrote earlier in the week, the reinstatement process can drag out longer than what’s supposedly allowed because Roger Goodell generally does what he wants to do in these cases. So hopefully the Steelers have an answer by the draft and I assume that Bryant will be allowed back in.

Assuming that, and assuming AB isn’t shot off into space like the world is trying to tell me right now, the group is pretty stacked. Coates will be healthy and I’m excited to see him back at full strength. He was this year’s version of Antwon Blake. Big reason why he struggled was because he was playing with one arm.

AB is your #1, Bryant/Coates #2, Eli Rogers your starter in the slot. Still have Hey-Bey, Cobi, Ayers to round things out. Not worth drafting a guy in the third round when he doesn’t have an immediate fit on the 53 and certainly has no path to playtime.

All for drafting one late though. High-upside flier, sorta how the pick of Bryant went. Stash for a year. Gotta keep reloading that position and the Steelers have done a great job of identifying talent. So I wouldn’t go without one either. But late.

Peter MacDonald: You secretly and cautiously as pumped as I am about Martavis Bryant’s return? Feel like he might have it figured out.

Alex: I’m excited to hopefully have him back but I have no clue if he’s figured it out. None of us do. Maybe he doesn’t either. We’ve said that line before with him and he’s failed. Rooting for him but I couldn’t tell you where his head is at.

falconsaftey43: 

Did we go 11-5 and make it to the AFCCG or are we picking number one in the draft after an 0-16 season, because I can’t really tell by most of the conversation right now haha.

Serious question, what do you think the future looks like for Dupree? I still don’t see any consistent pressure from him. More of an occasional win due to pure athletic ability.

Alex: Ha, I’m with you. It was a great season. I’m excited for next year!

I liked Dupree’s progression. Think it took him a couple weeks to get back in football shape and trust his hip/groin/hernia surgery. Then he played faster and even showed some bend around the edge. It was a smaller sample size but I saw progression. And that has me excited. But he needs to make that monster jump in Year Three. Has to become the unquestioned top pass rusher on this team.

RickM: I’m not a capologist, but I’m having trouble figuring out how the Steelers can sign Brown, Bell, Tuitt and Shazier to lucrative deals over the next two years with Ben counting $23 M against the cap in 2018 and 2019. Do you personally think we will re-sign all four players?

Alex: I’m not the capologist either so I may not be able to help *that* much. Remember, the cap number will go up over this years too to help offset the costs of Ben’s cap number. And yes, I think they all get re-signed. Steelers don’t let those key players get away.

Just don’t ask me to do the math. I’m bad with an abacus.

Ike Evans: Who do you think they let walk in FA?

Alex: D-Will. Jarvis. Wheaton. Dr. Wallace.

Shark, Steven Johnson, Ricardo Mathews, and David Johnson all get one-year deals and brought to camp but no guarantee they make the roster.

Still wrestling with Timmons. My heart says keep him another year. Brain says let him go. I really don’t know what they’ll do but if they bring him back, you have to think this upcoming year will be his last. Contract must reflect that.

MP34: What is William Gay’s role going forward? It seems some have soured on him after the AFC Championship game. With his contract, would a sub role work? I hate saying it (I hate position switch talk), but depth at Safety?

Alex: Same as last year. I guess you can already call it a “sub role” since he got benched from his outside spot. But unless Senquez Golson really shows up, I think Gay stays in his nickel role for another year. Don’t need depth at safety. There’s already plenty there. They’re four deep at that spot.

Kyle Chrise: if we’re active in free agency, which position would they target: anything other than OLB?

Alex: Hmm, that’s a tough one. Nickel corner, maybe? A hybrid safety/linebacker? Plan to do so soon but haven’t looked at the FA list too closely yet. Expect my first “wish list” out on Monday.

DirtDawg1964: 

Alex, been through about 100 airports in my life. Which makes it easier to get through airports (frequent and trusted traveler status). But Flint is a lot like Mobile. Walk up. Go through. Nice and easy.

What would you says might be the most overlooked position of need? Lots of focus on OLB and WR but where else might we have to look that people are underplaying a bit?

Alex: I think nickel corner hasn’t been talked about very much. I’m guessing this will be William Gay’s final year with the team. Decline in play and the guy will be 33 after next year. That’s about the line for most guys. Should be a heavier investment than people think because outside of Gay, there isn’t a single cornerback on this roster who has taken a snap in that role.

The backup is…who? Golson? Sean Davis? It’s messy.

RASTA: 

where do you recognize our most glaring needs? (be that a player, a position, a coach, or even a scheme)….

….and how do you see us combating those “areas of interest” during the off-season?

Alex: 

1. Outside linebacker (obvious)
2. Nickel corner (as I am mentioning a ton here)

After this, you can sorta arrange them in any order.
3. Tight end (can’t trust Green, though the approach to adding someone is tricky)
4. Hybrid safety/linebacker (wildcard, who knows their view on it, though I think that solves a lot of problems)
5. Running Back (backup to Bell, someone who has a long-term future)

Combating it is the same as usual. Frugal in free agency, maybe a little less than recent years because of money tied up in AB and Bell. And then you have your draft picks. Probably end up with 8-9 after comp picks. Without a ton of needs, you have flexibility to play around with them. So that’s good.

Steelers12: who is your favorite prospect that you don’t think the Steelers will draft but could have the opportunity to

Alex: I dunno, I am better equipped to answer that question further down the line. I couldn’t really give you a name of someone they “wouldn’t” draft. I imagine they don’t have many guys crossed off yet.

Best answer would be someone from a small school since the Steelers don’t dip their toe into that water very often.

Matt Manzo: 

Thanks for all the great Senior Bowl coverage!

What are your thoughts on needing to cut back on Bells carries? Do you think there needs to be more of a committee approach, or just someone to spell him every now and then? And what type of back would you like to see?

Alex: Thanks Matt!

Eh, maybe a little, but Bell is special. It’s just hard to justify taking him off the field because the dropoff from him to the next guy – no matter who it is – is massive. And I think the team alters their playcall when Bell needs a rest while allowing him to remain on the field. Ben’s talked about that before.

I don’t have a “type” I would like to see. Just a talented one, ha.

Jesse Hernandez: Where would rank Le’veon bell in the top 100. And where do you think the national media sees him?

Alex: Well, I don’t have a great feel for things outside of Pittsburgh. I’m a Steelers guy, very niche. But Bell would be in my top 5, I think. He’s the best back.

So you’d have Rodgers, Brady, Watt (not taking last year into account, just total career) and then probably Bell. I know you could argue Von Miller, Mack, AB, Julio, whoever. But Bell is such a unique guy. He’s someone everyone wants to find but no one ever will because his skillset is so special and frankly, kinda weird. It’s like Rodgers. Not another dude like him.

National media? Probably top ten. That’s a safe bet.

Beaver Falls Hosiery: 

Appreciate all your contributions Alex!

What do you think should/will happen with Joey Porter given his arrest and revelations of his antics at high school football teams?

Alex: Thanks!

If Porter is let go, I don’t think it’s because of what he did off the field. It’d be weird to bring him back on the sidelines one week after getting arrested and then saying, oh yeah, that was a deal-breaker for us, you’re gone.

If he’s fired, which is possible, it’ll be for being a bad coach. And that’s tough for us to judge. But I feel like Joey the Player and Joey the Coach are kinda the same dude. And that’s not a good thing to carry with you. I won’t lose sleep if he’s gone.

MattHat121: Who are you rooting for on Sunday? And what’s your prediction for how the game will go? Close, or another blowout like we saw throughout the playoffs?

Alex: I don’t have much of a rooting interest. I am rooting to stuff my face with pizza and buffalo chicken dip.

But Atlanta more than New England. Seeing the team that beat lose is much more gratifying. And I assume if the Patriots again, Mark Wahlberg will make another movie about it.

“Atlanta? Arthur Blank, you messed with the wrong city.” 

My predictions suck. I don’t know how it’ll go. I don’t think it’ll be a blowout though. God, I hope it isn’t. We need one good game from these playoffs.

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