Welcome back to another mailbag and a very Merry March Madness to you all. May your brackets stay intact longer than mine. Which, based on where things are going, could end very soon. COME ON VIRGINIA!
To your questions!
Brian Tollini: With the 30th selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select T.J. Watt-OLB Wisconsin. I am on board despite the limited time he has spent in the position. High motor, strong/huge hands, good technique, great bloodlines…not a lot of talk about him compared to others, what is your opinion of him?
Alex: He’s one of the next on my list to watch. If you follow/trust Tony Pauline, he said the Steelers like him but probably not enough to take him with the 30th pick. I think ultimately, I’ll like Lawson and Rivers more than Watt. So not in love with the idea of taking JJ’s bro that early.
Jeff Papiernik: With how FA has shaped out so far, what is your up to date prediction of the positions the Steelers will address specifically via FA?
Alex: Well option are dwindling for the Steelers. I think they do end up with a cornerback, who I don’t know, but they’ve shown so much interest so far, it’s hard not to see them walking away with a name. That eases the obligation to take one super high in the draft, a little bit, at least. They’ll probably nab Brandon Flowers for a veteran minimum deal. I won’t love it but I’m expecting it.
Edward Hunt: Who are some of your favorite picks for the end of the draft? Guys you would like the Steelers to take.
Alex: I’ll have a better answer closer to draft day because I am still focusing so much on early/mid round picks. But I liked Jimmie Gilbert, who I profiled the other day. Guy you can kick inside. Nate Gerry from Nebraska is a really solid 6th round pick. Haven’t forgotten about guys I mentioned early in this process. People like Chad Williams (WR/Grambling) and Isaac Rochell (DE/Notre Dame).
RickM: What do think their mindset is regarding the buck LB? The interest in Hightower was a surprise. What happens next? Do they look elsewhere in FA, or opt for VW or opt for the draft? If it’s the draft do you anticipate a true ILB hybrid or a Safety/ILB hybrid. Thanks.
Alex: It’s a good question. The heavy interest did surprise me but as the last “top” free agent on the market, it’s not a shocker to see that level of interest. We know the Steelers liked him coming out of Alabama, know Butler was a big fan. So stupid not to explore it. He also offered something off the edge so he wasn’t *just* an inside guy and obviously, Williams gives you nothing there.
I have faith in Vince Williams. I didn’t see the need to sign Hightower for so much. Depth isn’t great so they’ll probably draft someone. Maybe a FA move but unless the guy is willing to play for the minimum and knows he’s the backup, eh, I’m not that interested.
Yes, I really hope this is the year they go after that hybrid type. It’s the way the league is evolving, as it needs to be, and the Steelers have to follow suit. They’ve been trying to play dime the last two years with Robert Golden. There’s clearly an interest/desire.
Jared Gallagher: Say Martavis Bryant gets reinstated, which of the now 7 different receivers do you think would make the team?
That last one is pretty tentative. And Coates does need to have a good camp to secure his spot (I still have confidence in him though).
SkoolHouseRoxx: What up, Young Alex! I know he’s been injured, but what do you think about signing Jamal Charles to put behind Bell on a cheap deal?
Alex: I’ll pass. If you want an older back with a lot of mileage and injury history, just bring back D-Will. Go through the draft. Teeming with talent this year.
srdan: AK, who you got in the final four?
UCLA, Louisville, Gonzaga, Villanova. Pretty chalk. Bruins cut down the nets.
Bill Sechrengost: Alex, I know everyone seems to be picking the Steelers to take an OLB/Edge guy at the end of the 1st round, but if they went CB again this year, what 2 or 3 CB’s at that spot would you like them to take?
Alex: Kevin King is an Artie-Burns clone so he makes a lot of sense. Tre White has a chance to be a Day One starter in the slot, no easy task, for sure. Those would probably be the two guys as I sit here today.
Lambert58: If Reuben Foster were to somehow slip to #30 would you take him? Would the Steelers?
Alex: As much as I may have drooled over Vince Williams, yes, in a heartbeat. Foster is a top 5 guy in this class and is a true three down guy. I don’t expect him to get anywhere close though. That dust-up at the Combine isn’t nearly as bad as people reacted. Not going to hurt him.
Michael James: Hey Alex, two questions: Are you concerned about Carl Lawson’s poor 3-cone time? What are some of the FAs left that you would like to see in Pittsburgh?
Alex: A little, I mean, it’s hard to ignore it and to do so entirely would be homer-ish. But I don’t think it’s the end-all. Or something the Steelers seem to care much about. Jarvis and Dupree had poor three cone times.
The free agent pool is pretty picked over. Basically fall back on the list of names from the beginning. Mo Claiborne, Benny Cunningham, and maybe some sort of Jason Jones-type of DL. A versatile pass rusher.
Do you think it is essential for a potentially drafted TE to be an adequate blocker?
Of the top 10 prospects, rank the best blocking TEs in this class (or all around TEs if you prefer): Howard, Njoku, Engram, Everett, Shaheen, Butt, Legget, Sprinkle, Hodges, Kittle.
Alex: Essential? No. You just have to know the kind of guy you’re getting, how he wins, and how you can scheme away his faults while still playing your offense. If you can do all that, you can justify a guy. That’s how Green fits/works.
I haven’t seen all of these guys and some, like Shaheen, I haven’t watched a second of game tape. Other guys were writing a good bit on tight ends. I started Sprinkle last night and he’s probably the best guy I’ve seen so far. Howard is really good, Njoku and Engram give effort. Everett is going to be bad at it, Leggett tries and did it but wasn’t great. Kittle is strong. Hodges is going to take time because he doesn’t even know how to get into a three point stance.
Don’t forget about Toledo’s Michael Roberts. He’s right up there with anyone.
Brian Miller: Alex, IYHO does the recent news on Lewis from Michigan change the Steelers perception of him or alter their potential draft strategy on him?
Alex: We’ll have to see how it plays out. Get the full story, see where the legal process is at by draft time. Maybe the charges get dropped. But definitely a story to monitor.
Robbie: Who leads the team in tackles next year? Bell finish 2nd in catches again?
Alex: Shazier. And yes, Bell does.
falconsaftey: Do you think if they drafted a true FS type (Marcus Williams?) that Davis or Mitchel could play the “hybrid” in the box role? Assuming the rookie FS stays back, and the other of Davis/Mitchel play the SS spot.
Alex: Well I think I pretty much answered this in the Jenkins article but no, I don’t and wouldn’t. Mitchell….definitely not. I know he’s a big hitter but he’s literally been a single high center fielder his entire football career. He’s not moving off that spot and I like having him back there as that hub of communication. I certainly wouldn’t trust a rookie to do that.
Davis, yeah, you could make a case, but I want him to grow and develop at one spot. Too much moving around already and the team quickly bailed on the idea of him playing slot and safety. Yes, he was a rookie, yes things were a little different, but let Davis take that accelerated next step at SS. Let him grow off where he got comfortable playing. So that’s why I am against taking a true FS. A big box guy (6’0 210+) with coverage skills? He can be the hybrid type.
That’s all for this week. Great chat everyone. May all your brackets come true.