Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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Good Thursday afternoon, Steelers’ Nation. This is the calm before the storm. After today, we have Combine workouts that basically parlay themselves right into the beginning of free agency. Before you know it, it’s the draft and we’re all losing our minds.

I think the chaos of that can be summed up in this video, which is one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. Even the Duke Boys would wince at what this 18 year old idiot (running from the cops) did in his Tacoma. Dude landed on another car in the parking lot, with a woman inside. Everyone, miraculously, was ok.

To your questions!

Brian Tollini: I am all for re-signing Law Dog, but is this the year we can mix in a hybrid linebacker/safety? Could (FA-Cards) Tony Jefferson be that guy? Any names in the draft that would make sense?

Alex: Sure, I think the Steelers have been trying to do that for the past two years, mostly with Robert Golden. Hasn’t really worked. I don’t think Jefferson is in the cards, especially for just that role because the money he’d get doesn’t justify the use. But you’ll see Jabrill Peppers, Josh Harvey-Clemons, and I think Haason Reddick as guys who could do that. That’s one reason why Reddick separates himself from the other EDGE guys at 30.

jger15: Still thinking a second tier DL will be the FA priority? Also, is Munnerlyn a possibility or is the CB draft class too strong to invest there?

Alex: Maybe a nose tackle to create some competition for McCullers, whose spot is pretty secure right now but shouldn’t be. But I don’t think it’s a big need, especially if the team plans to bring back Mathews. If they don’t, and sure, even if they do (Mathews was underwhelming last year), you can look for another pass rusher. Because Walton isn’t going to offer much.

I would love to get a slot corner I feel could start from FA. It’s tougher to do that in the draft because slot is the toughest position to learn. Need a really bright guy. You’re playing in so much space, you’re the most used blitzer, you have to support the run, you’re facing all different types of guys (big TEs, RBs, traditional slot WRs, #1 WRs who get moved inside to try to exploit you), it’s tough living. I don’t think you can expect a Cam Sutton or Jourdan Lewis to be your Day One starter. So FA makes sense and that is part of the allure of a guy like Munnerlyn.

cencalsteeler: How’s the McLumina been running?

Alex: Ha, she’s running strong! Last thing replaced with her was the turn signal a couple weeks ago. Aside from having no horn, random missing panels, and absolutely no power (despite the engine actually sounding good when it revs), she’s perfect!

I plan on keeping the McLumina forever. I’ve done the math. I think I can get through 2038 with her running well.

Jeff Papiernik: Look into your crystal ball Alex. Which positions, if any, will the Steelers address specifically via free agency? And as a bonus, give me the names of who you think those players will ultimately be

Alex: *shakes magic eight ball*

*ask again later*

Seriously though, it’s so hard to say. Like I wrote above, I’d like a nickel corner because that’s someone who can start right away. An edge guy can play right away, can rotate with Harrison. So I’ve outlined Munnerlyn. Dave has talked about Verner.

If they do go edge, I think John Simon makes sense when you read the tea leaves. Mid-tier player, Ohio State kid, Steelers brought him in for a visit, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

But then Colbert has gone and hit us with Mike Mitchell and Ladarius Green two of the last three years. And those moves came fast. So who knows. It’ll be fun.

NinjaMountie: Being that Moats and Harris are our only real options for any real cap relief from being released, do you think that we will release them both?

Alex: The good news is the Steelers shouldn’t need much in the form of cap relief. If they get cut, it’ll be more likely for performance reasons, having other guys cheaper and/or better.

Harris…yeah he probably goes. Hawkins looked good in camp this year and I bet the team is high on him. Hubbard played better than expected. There’s two tackle options. I don’t see how Harris will really fit into all that. Moats, we’ll see. If the Steelers draft two EDGE rusher high (top four rounds) then he could be in trouble because they aren’t going to carry six. He’ll have to fight with Chickillo for that last spot.

There is something said though to have a guy who can help show everyone the way. Harrison is a leader by example. He’s like AB. The vet WRs who were most vocal and helpful to young guys were Wheaton and DHB. Moats is like them.

CP72: Say the Steelers went Edge, Corner, Running Back, and Tight End with their first four picks. In a perfect world not one them would be a week 1 starter do you agree?

Alex: In a perfect world, sure. That’s how it goes for every team. Either because you have enough talent that they don’t have to start or just in a vacuum, sitting a rookie for a little bit helps get their feet wet. To ease up the ladder.

At the least though, an EDGE guy will be playing Week One. Rotate with Harrison. That much is clear. Cornerback is unlikely to start, running back is impossible. Tight end…eh, who the heck knows.

mokhkw: Listened to an audio interview with TE Adam Shaheen from December where he says he hopes to run in the 4.8s. He looks much faster on film, probably due to the level of competition. Would a 4.8 or 4.9 time affect his stock significantly?

Alex: I don’t think so, honestly. Remember, he’s a big guy. He’s 278 pounds. You can’t compare what a 235 Evan Engram or 246 David Njoku runs and compare that to someone 30-40 pounds heavier. Put a 30 pound weight on Engram’s back and see how well he does. A 4.8 would be respectable. Of course, you’re also looking at his 10 split and his explosion numbers to get a gauge for how athletic he is.

The fact he’s still running pretty well at a really big size makes him all the more attractive.

Phil Brenneman II: If you are the GM of the Steelers do you consider OLB a big enough need that you would trade up to get the top guy? And in asking that Alex, do you consider the top OLB in this draft that much better than the options the Steelers are likely to have at 30?

Alex: No, I wouldn’t, because the depth is so good. I mean, who is the top guy? Barnett? Harris? Lawson? Reddick? Ask five people, you probably get five different answers. Let the board come to you. That’s my approach.

Michael James: A miracle occurs and O.J. Howard, Sidney Jones and Reuben Foster are there at #30. Meanwhile the only worthy pass rusher left is Carl Lawson. Which one do you take?

Alex: Ha, wow, what a miracle. Give me Foster. He’s the best guy. A top five pick falling to 30th? Unless he went all DB Cooper, that’s the steal of the century.

Draft is all about collecting talent. The ones who win are the guys who draft the All-Stars. Five years from now, no one will remember or care what your draft needs were. They just care about results of the guys you took.

Robbie: Hey Alex. Is there any player(s) in the AFC North that you’d trade this year’s first rounder for? If so who?

Alex: That’s a great question, Robbie. Definitely a lot because they’re proven guys. No projection needed. A list off the top of my head. To be clear, basing this off Steelers’ wants/needs. So a guy like Joe Thomas is worth a 1st rounder, no question about it, but for Pittsburgh, it isn’t worth it.

In no order…

1. AJ Green
2. Brandon Williams
3. Jamie Collins
4. Tyler Eifert
5. C.J. Mosley

Bill Sechrengost: I have always wondered something. When I read up on the background for some draft picks, I keep seeing some that have multiple positive drug (weed) tests. I’m not sure why those players would still be on the team. Why doesn’t the NCAA have a uniform drug testing policy? Or do they? Just wondering. Thanks.

Alex: I’m really not much of an expert on NCAA rules because they are so complicated, arbitrary, and often, just downright silly. Teams have their own policies and handle a lot of that stuff.

When you’re a superstar, you get a lot of leeway. If you make the school money, you can Brick Tamland and kill a guy and you’re spot is safe.

The system works!

* I looked into it a little closer and yes, obviously, pot is banned by the NCAA. But per this AP story in 2015, schools have been more relaxed in punishing players.

“The NCAA last year cut in half the penalty for athletes who fail screenings for substances like marijuana at its championship events, and its chief medical officer is pushing for college sports’ governing body to get out of the business of testing for rec drugs altogether. The AP found that some of the nation’s biggest universities, from Oregon to Auburn, have already eased their punishments as society’s views on marijuana use have changed. Marijuana use among U.S. adults has doubled over a decade, according to government surveys, and recreational use is now legal in four states.”

Steelers12: Hey Alex i was a big Donnell Pumphrey fan but i have cooled on him as of late what are your thoughts on him?

Alex: Not a big fan. Guy has great feet and can miss people in space and I am happy he got his weight up, now at 176, but no return experience for a guy who needs it in the NFL and won’t be an every down guy. I’ll pass.

T3xassteelers: When would be the absolute earliest you’d take a RB? Saw they met with foreman is the reason I’m asking.

Alex: The thing about the draft is that it’s hard to say no to anything. Drafting is like an improv comedy group. It’s always “yes and…” Never a straight “no.”

Draft a RB in the second? Maybe. I can’t rule it out. The third? Yes, and…

WR in the first? Let’s roll with it.

But to try to answer it as clearly as I can, probably the third. Talent pool will still be deep and other needs will be addressed. You don’t want to spent a 1st or 2nd round pick on a guy who may end up playing 10% of the time his rookie year.

Really fun chat, everyone. Enjoy the Combine!

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