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Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Welcome back to the mailbag, the first one for the official start of the offseason. It ends, of course, with another New England Patriots’ Super Bowl victory, which makes me want to hide under my bed until Tom Brady retires.

I’m not a car guy but I figured if there is one car I need to know about, it’s my McLumina. And I’ve learned a lot about it lately. Some good, some uh, bad.

It has a trunk release button! After 18 months of ownership, I discovered it last week. Round, yellow “fire the torpedoes” button far below the steering wheel.

There’s also a cupholder which only brought a moment of delight. It’s made out of the world’s worst plastic, a thin tray that slides out under the radio so you can knock your drink over everytime you go to change the station. It’ll never be used.

…..and the horn definitely does not work. I thought maybe I was never quite hitting the right area but no, it’s definitely dead. That’s safe, right? 

The McLumina – it’ll be kept forever. Training camp 2035, it’ll be parked at St. Vincent.

To your questions!

Brian Tollini: This really isn’t a Steelers related question because I don’t see any way he ends up with Pittsburgh, but how do you see Dalvin Cook transitioning to the NFL? Really fun to watch this guy in college, wonder if the Ravens could possibly target him-then need offensive weapons.

Alex: He’s obviously a talented runner/player. The bigger issues are two-fold.

1. Off the field incidents
2. History of shoulder injuries

Teams have to be sold on those things to be sold on him. And I don’t know if every team will. In a deep class, it could drop his stock a little. Combine (interview + medical) will be important. More than usual.

Spencer Krick: How big of an impact on improving the pass rush would adding/drafting another Defensive lineman have? I’m asking this because of Art Rooney II’s comments about improving the pass rush: do you think it might be a higher priority in the draft than people think?

Alex: I’ve said I would like another three-tech player to add another layer of depth but it’s not a high priority for me. You have Heyward, Tuitt, Hargrave. They are going to dominate almost all your snaps. If all are healthy, who is coming off the field?

Your best bet would be moments where the Steelers stay in base and Heyward or Tuitt take a play/series off. But that’ll be so few snaps a game. I think they are strong in that regard, pass rushing DL, and don’t need to add a lot. A late round pick, sure, but nothing heavy. Outside linebacker is still far and away the bigger, primary concern.

Kyle Chrise: Obviously talks of trading Antonio Brown have been laughed off. But is there anyone on the team that could potentially be on the trading block?

Alex: Nah, no one really comes to mind. It’s a team looking to add, not subtract. Any move that could get made would come in camp when you know the depth of your team and if anyone is expendable. Steelers know they are getting comp picks too, so less incentive to seek a trade. Think everyone is safe.

Sam Clonch: Does anyone have an idea yet how Kelvin Beachum is going to figuring in as far as comp picks are concerned? Based off one year small salary, or the big money option? Also, has that option been officially picked up by the Jags yet?

Alex: No decision yet but it needs to happen by the 15th. So we’ll know soon. And I assume that decision will be factored into the comp picks. They haven’t been decided yet.

Beaver Falls Hosiery: What to you gauge the chances of Justin Gilbert being re-signed by the Steelers during free agent period?

Alex: Eh, still pretty low. It’s not like $2.2 million is a lot of money. Gotta think pretty low of a guy to try to save, if you were to re-sign him, like a million bucks. Steelers aren’t dying for cap space. If he’s there after the draft, and the Steelers can have a clear look at their CB group, maybe they can make a final decision. I don’t think it’ll happen soon though.

JohnB: Are there any tough, physical WRs out there in the mold of a Ward or Smith that we could pick up via draft? I think that would be a good addition to our corps

Alex: I am just starting to dive into the position. Haven’t seen anyone quite like that. Fred Ross from Mississippi State is a pretty physical dude.

But the Steelers don’t really look for that in the draft. They place a high value on speed. That’s where you should look. Wheaton, Coates, Bryant, signing DHB, all guys who are incredibly fast.

Kevin Reich: Do the Steelers want a well rounded OLB or could they draft a pass rushing specialist like some other teams have?

Alex: Of course you want someone well-rounded. But OLBs are judged by their ability to get after the quarterback. If you can’t do that, or don’t do it well, your worth takes a massive hit. If you have a great pass rusher and a guy rough elsewhere, you can work with that. Hard to do the inverse.

The Tony: From previous years reviewing college players, who are you most surprised by that surpassed your expectations and who hasn’t lived up to your expectations?

Alex: That’s a good question. I guess I haven’t done that sort of self-reflection recently. I think I’d have to get back to you. I hope Josh Garnett has a strong 2017 in San Francisco. Was really high on him and thought he could start immediately. Took him time to get into the lineup.

Maxx Williams was someone I thought would be a slam dunk starter for ten years. And that’s not looking too good.

RickM: Assuming both AB and Bell sign long-term deals with the Steelers this off-season or next, give me your guess as to the dollar amount and contract length for each. Thanks.

Alex: Well you guys know Dave is better at this than I but…

Antonio Brown: 5 years/75 million ($37 million guaranteed)

Le’Veon Bell: 4 years/46 million ($12 million guaranteed)

For Bell, a little higher in the yearly value, a little lower guaranteed because of the off the field history.

The Coach: What are the chances the Steelers get Melvin Ingram, Chandler Jones, or Nick Perry in FA? They do like to grab one starter in FA.

Alex: Yeah…don’t hold your breath. Colbert isn’t as stingy as people think but that is some big money you’re talking about. Look the next tier down for options (Sheard, Simon, Walden).

Matt Manzo: 

Happy Thursday, Alex!

Akuzis draft profile seemed like he has everything the Steelers need in the next DB! Could he really be had at our 3rd round pick?
And are there any others CBs, in the middle of the draft that have his experience(IQ) and versatility?

Alex: Happy Thursday, Matt!

Awuzie would fit the bill very well. Sure, he could end up there in the third round. Cam Sutton is another name, though he could go in the second. Good deal of versatility and I think the Steelers like him a lot. They’ve talked to him.

Johnny Loose: Hey Alex, Nice work on the draft profiles so far. My question: Since Tomlin was non-committal on the coaching staff remaining intact, do you see any changes being made to the coaching staff in the off-season? If so, what changes do you think we’ll see, or what changes would you make, if any?

Alex: Thanks man! Yeah, I think you’ll see change. Just a question of it is a firing or retirement. I think we’ve laid it out before. Richard Mann, James Daniel possible retirement candidates. Mann said before this was his last season and he was pretty strong about it.

If they’re going to fire someone, you’d think we would know within two weeks. There’s been time to go through exit meetings and figure out the coaching staff. Can’t wait too long – free agency is in exactly one month. Staff needs to be together before then.

Brian Miller: I have seen many different grades and rankings on Joe Mathis, but I think he would be a great pick, just not sure what round. Assuming he doesn’t blow up the combine too much, where do you think his true value lies and where he might go in the draft?

Alex: Mathis is a bit of a tough evaluation because the tape is limited. But what is there is really good. He should help himself at Indy. Maybe a Late Day 2-early Day 3 pick.


That’s all for this week. Thanks for a great chat.

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