Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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Glad to be back in our usual Thursday spot for your questions. I know we asked this question before but I’ll throw it out one more time since we’re winding down to the draft. What prospects that we haven’t covered yet would you like to see us profile? Let us know in the comments.

Let’s not waste any more time and get right into this week’s edition.

To your questions!


If Peppers, Watt, Obi and Lawson are on the board, who would you take? Who do you think Colbert would take?

IF Conley was in that mix, does he trump all of them?

Alex: I’d take Obi, though I need to check out Watt more. Peppers…it depends if you believe the report that Colbert really likes him. You can make a case for all those guys though I think Lawson’s is the weakest.

If Conley is there, I don’t know if he trumps them all. I wouldn’t guarantee it.

Spencer Krick: Do you have any draft day rituals?

Alex: Nah, nothing really. Just buy a bunch of food. Post-draft is fun, refreshing Twitter every three seconds in eight different tabs to try to find the UDFAs. I just watch by myself so I can focus. Nothing exciting, I promise.

Kevin Gobleck: Which players best fit the steelers mold at each position in the draft?

Alex: That’s partly what we’re figuring out in the studies I’ve been doing. So I’d have you check them out. It’s easier to talk about it there than my trying to rehash a novel here.

Michael James: How many sacks do you think Bud Dupree will have next season? Do you expect him to develop into an elite edge rusher in 2017?

Alex: It’s certainly going to be a huge year for him. But given the improvements we got to see him make in limited work last year and his continued work with Chuck Smith in the offseason, I expect him to reach double-digit sacks. The Steelers certainly need him.

Steel SonOfFarmer: 

DO we really need a WR if Martavis Bryant is back,if yes what round will you pick a WR???

And do you know anything about Chris Odom OLB/ILB???

Alex: Nice DBZ avatar, my man.

A WR isn’t nearly as important if Bryant is back, of course. I’d still invest in one because the team is so good at evaluating them but not until Day Three.

But will Bryant be back? Can’t assume yes. The fact the team has brought in five receivers doesn’t exactly make them sound confident. If he isn’t, you could see one taken on Day Two.

I don’t know anything about Odom. Sorry. Can you clue me in?

JohnB: In terms of a OLB in the first couple rds, do you think the Steelers will value pass rush ability over coverage ability in order to get desired results?

Alex: Yes but that’s no different than any other year. But whoever they take has to show the traits to be able to play going backwards. Especially because ROLBs in the Steelers’ system drop more than the left. About 20% on the left, 25-30% on the right. That’s why the Combine Drill and Pro Day workouts are so key for guys like Carl Lawson or Charles Harris, guys who pretty much never had to do it before.

Your edge guys need to be flexible, have the ability to drop and move around. That’s one big advantage the 3-4 has over 4-3. You want to be able to hide where that 4th rusher is coming from. If a guy can’t/doesn’t drop, you lose that advantage.

Jeff Papiernik: Let’s say Kinkhabwala is right, and Steelers select best available DB in the first round. Who are your top 5 DBs for this draft that could potentially be available at #30 (i.e. No Malik Hooker)?

Alex: Personally? In no order because my rankings aren’t done.

Kevin King, Obi Melifonwu, Chidobe Awuzie, Tre White, Cordrea Tankersley

But King nor Awuzie seem likely to land in Pittsburgh. And I am not super confident Melifonwu will drop, though it’s not impossible.

Bryant Eng: Do you agree with the premise that the Steelers view their Third Round Compensatory Draft Pick as a bonus slot? Recalling the Dri Archer pick, I imagine the Steelers are decidedly convinced taking a QB with one of their two Third Round Picks is destiny.

Alex: I don’t really agree with the approach or idea but yes, I can see the the justification and rationale for that if the team took a QB (which I think has a good chance of happening). We’re on the same wavelength, Bryant.

CP72: There’s a lot focus on playing man defense. What would playing man do from a schematic perspective that’s makes the Steelers feel like need to play it more often?

Alex: Mainly that it’s not zone….lol. But seriously, it’s just realizing that it’s really tough to defeat elite QBs – like Tom Brady – by spot dropping. They will spread the field horizontally, go 4 and 5 wide, and the route concepts are sound enough to get guys open. Or receivers like Edeleman who do a great job of finding grass and working to open spots. The ball comes out quick, because it’s such a quick and easy progression, and it is hard to get pressure.

Man coverage tighens up the windows and can be more disruptive, forcing the QB to hold the ball in the pocket and giving the rush a better chance to get home. That’s the very basic idea, anyway.

Nick Webb: Do you think Mike Mitchell could play the SS/$LB role in sub packages if we were to draft a more pure FS like Baker or Williams?

Alex: No way. Mitchell is the pure FS, even though we think of him – and he is – a big hitter. His whole career has had him playing deep center. Watch him in Carolina. He’s 20-25 yards deep playing opposite Robert Lester or Quinton Mikell. Don’t move him. If anything, move Davis, but I’m not crazy about that idea either.

If you want a hybrid guy, just draft a hybrid guy. Don’t move two guys around to fix one spot. That reminds me of a John Caprulo joke when he’s talking about his dad fixing his car.

“Well I fixed your wipers. But, uh, your brakes don’t work anymore.”

Robbie: What 2017 draft pick would u give up to add Prime Heath Miller to this team?

Alex: The Steelers’ 30th pick. No question about it. What are the odds you’re going to do better than Heath? And if you want Big Ben playing for five more years, you need to either give him a brand new knee or Heath Miller. Someone please develop such sorcery.

Burgh Bell: With bringing in 4,so far, QB’s for pre-draft visits, which player and in which round to you like him?

Alex: Asking me about QBs is akin to asking Casey Hampton about what his favorite brand of kale is. I’m against the idea entirely so hey, maybe I’m not the best dude to ask. My stance is to wait at least another year for a QB. That obviously may not happen.

I think Josh Dobbs and Brad Kaaya are two favorites with that 3rd round comp pick. Who will they take of the two? I dunno. I’d lean Dobbs just because I bet he was so impressive in the interview and on the board. Easy to fall in love with.

Matt Correll: In your Pre Draft Tracker post you point out that the Steelers ended up drafting three players (Hargraves, Davis, Hawkins) that they brought in last year. Now that this year’s visits are almost complete, who are three players that they have brought in that you hope the Steelers end up drafting this year?

Alex: Good question, Matt! I’m a big fan of Derek Rivers and on a personal level, would take him at 30. Jarrad Davis is a guy I really love even if it would kill me to shuttle Vince Williams back to the bench. Later round guys, I’m also a big Mack Hollins fan. Thought he’d be a late round pick but I guess Todd McShay had him going in the third round in his last mock? So maybe my hopes are out the window.

Brian Tollini: Budda Baker is my new draft infatuation. Thoughts on him as our first round pick?

Alex: You know, that’s one guy I haven’t spent much time on. He’s small but I know he’s a big hitter. I wonder how the team will view him? As a slot guy is my guess. You know I think the Steelers need to invest in a long-term answer at the position so I wouldn’t hate it.

SkoolHouseRoxx: What’s Good, Young Alex!? Out of all the guys you have in all of your mock drafts, who is the one prospect you want the most?

Alex: Hmm…that’s tough because I’m always changing it. I mean, I’m still a big Carl Lawson fan. I would really like Tre White at 30, too. I try not to think about the *one* guy I want to see a Steeler because then I’ll act too irrationally about it. Sorta like Billings last year. Try to remove the “want” from the process as much as I can.

You don’t want to be that guy screaming on Twitter about how the team passed on “your” guy. That’s just silly.

McBringleberry: myself like many are assuming Steelers draft a RB this year. what’s the earliest round you would take a RB this year? if you had to guess, what round do you think Steelers take a RB?

Alex: I think that conversation begins in the third round. You’ll see one somewhere between the 3rd and 5th round, I’m pretty sure. Even though I don’t love him as a prospect, I can really envision James Conner going to Pittsburgh in the 4th.

PaeperCup: Loaded question, is there a reason that you can think of as to why we don’t see many “all-around” type players coming out of college these days?. i.e. a TE that can both block and catch. A DB that has coverage skills and isn’t afraid to tackle. an Edge rusher who get to the QB and play the run. Followup, if there are a few of those that are excellent all around players in this draft, who are you thinking of?

Alex: That’s a good question. Football is just specialized. As roster sizes get bigger, especially in college where you can have a billion players, you can be niche. A situational pass rusher. In-line blocker. Kick returner.

Plus, it’s just easier. If you’re a non-Alabama type, you ain’t getting that elite guy. So you need to find a guy who is really good at something.

Here’s a really dumb parallel I can make. I used to play an online football game called Goal Line Blitz. I spent a stupid amount of my mom’s money on that game. And when I first joined a team with my player, the owner of the team told all of us to put our points into speed. Just speed. The idea was to be really good at something than just average at everything. Because then you’ll have an advantage somewhere.

To your follow up, I mean, there aren’t a lot of those guys. Some at the top I haven’t studied too closely yet. Myles Garrett is obviously one of them. Foster is another and I like Jarrad Davis a ton too. I think Marlon Humphrey can be that “everything” kind of guy. OJ Howard is a rare breed at tight end. But the list is limited.

Darth Blount 47:  Would you have cut Ladarius Green, and designated him a post-June 1st, in order to use that money for other needs? And if so, and you now need a TE, who and when would you target one in the draft? And if you wouldn’t have cut Green, what are you realistically expecting from him this season?

Alex: I guess my answer is short because it’s still no. He’s worth another season for all the reasons you stuck your neck out in the first place to sign him to a sizeable deal by the team’s standards. I can’t trust him for 2019, but I can hope for him to do something in 2017. Fine with him staying. Not like the Steelers were dying for extra money anyway.

Sam Clonch: Steelers haven’t failed to make a 1st round pick since before Chuck Knoll was hired, and the Steelers were relevant. Was that a philosophy he brought with him, and has stuck? Or pure coincidence?

Alex: That’s a good question. I think it’s a bit of both. You have to remember before Noll, the Steelers had some really bad coaches. And The Chief let them do their thing, he wasn’t there to question or second guess. So you had a guy like Buddy Parker who hated rookies. Wasn’t worth his time. So he traded away draft picks like candy.

In 1958, they didn’t have their 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th or 8th picks.

In 1959, they didn’t pick until the 8th round!

In 1960, they didn’t pick from the 2nd to the 4th round.

In ’61, they didn’t have a first rounder. Or third/fourth.

In ’62, they didn’t pick from the second to the 6th round.

In ’63, they didn’t pick until the 8th round AGAIN!

And even Parker was canned, they didn’t have a first rounder in 65 of 67.

So I bet that had quite a bit of influence, especially on bringing in a coach who wanted to build through the draft which after all, was Noll’s philosophy. That’s how he built the team and that philosophy has carried over. Given the first round success they’ve had under Colbert, you can see why they chose to stay the course.

Awesome chat this week! Talk to you next Thursday.

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