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Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Welcome back to the mailbag. Let’s jump right into whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

Richard: Do you see Arthur Moats being used more as an ILB this year due to the depth chart?

Alex: I don’t. Outside linebacker or bust. If they add at ILB, it’ll be someone else. Probably outside the organization. Position could be addressed at final cutdowns. So keep an eye out.

falconsaftey43: They’ve signed a tryout guy the last couple years, who’s it going to be this year?

Alex: I’ve been circling Phazahn Odom, the tight end out of Fordham, since he’s been signed. 6’8 250, decent athlete. He’s going to look good in shorts. Making a couple splash plays is how you get noticed in these settings. Marcus Tucker told me that he caught a deep ball a year ago that – he thinks, looking back on it – literally got him a spot on the 90 man roster.

Catching up on the handful of tryouts who weren’t already reported. T.J. Neal from Auburn had a ton of production at Illinois. Maybe he latches on at a spot with weak depth, inside linebacker.

Xi37: I haven’t heard much talked about re: Sutton’s punt return ability. In 2015, he was 2nd in yardage and 1st in return avg in the entire country. Why hasn’t this been discussed more?

Alex: I dunno, we’ve written about it several times. Think Dave had a detailed article on him. But it’s been downplayed by people like me because of Tomlin’s track record not using defensive players and rookies in that role. We’ll see if Sutton can change his mind. Still think it’s tough to beat AB out. No one is better than him objectively. It’s about if someone can get close enough for you to be comfortable. And I think a rookie on punts is scarier than a rookie on kicks.

Petherson Silveira: Now that Compensatory Pick deadline is past us. Can you see the FO bringing Justin Gilbert back to compete for roster spot? What price you assume ILB Hodges would ask for to play for Steelers?

Alex: I don’t think Gilbert is coming back. Drafting two corners closes that window. There’s enough competition. And Gilbert never seemed to want it badly enough. Smart to move on. Hodges, I assume it’ll be a low amount of money. Maybe not the vet minimum but close. At this stage, as we near summer, no one is getting paid. Cap space is tighter for most teams, the market has dried up, and teams have the leverage. Guys just want to get into a camp and compete. Hard to be demanding.

JohnB: What position(s) provides the best chance for a undrafted rookie to make the team this year?

Alex: Inside linebacker and safety. Could see a 5th guy added to both if they’re good enough. But it starts with a player having the talent alone to make it, not just because of a depth chart. And this UDFA class is U-G-L-Y.

And I know everyone points to how good this roster is and how guys want to go to a place to compete. Here’s my counter: easily their best UDFA is Ethan Cooper, a guard who chose a place where he has a very slim chance of making the 53 barring injury. And no, he’s an Eagles’ fan – not Steelers. So I don’t totally buy the argument.

SkoolHouseRoxx: What it do, Young Alex!? Do you see anything on tape that suggest Keion Adams could beat out Chickillo or Moats for a spot?

Alex: What Adams will do to win out isn’t really going to be evident on tape. It’s all going to be about special teams. He’s a good athlete, better than Moats, so we’ll see. But it’s hard to make any sort of evaluation right now.

Beaver Falls Hosiery: 

Alex – have you done a 53 man roster prediction yet?

Which positions will have the biggest battles for spots during camp?

Alex: Nope, that’ll go up Monday. I don’t think it’ll have many surprises though. Maybe one I’m kicking around if I can make it work.

WR and CB will be insane. 1 on 1 matchups in camp are going to be a treat. OLB too with Moats/Chick/Adams. Going to be a lot of fun.

The Tony: I saw the Ravens had interest in Sammy Watkins and Matthews from philly. Who do you think would be better suited for them

Alex: Matthews. They have enough vertical threats. They need a chain mover especially as Pitta declines. He was their top 3rd down target a year ago. Matthews is an excellent, and better, replacement for Kamar Aiken.

Nolrog: Is Bryant under contract for just this year or next year as well? I thought it was just this one, but I read somewhere he had 2 years left still.

Alex: You are correct, good sir. His contract toiled and runs through the 2018 season. So two years remaining.

falconsaftey43: Rushel Shell has an interesting background and actually seems like one of their better UDFAs, any chance he makes some noise?

Alex: Interesting is correct but maybe not a great thing. Top recruit who never lived up to the hype and bounced around schools. He ran really slow, even for a bigger guy. I can’t say I get too excited about him. Or any of the UDFAs. The only one I haven’t watched yet is Christian Brown, the DE from West Virginia.

The only one who really caught my eye is Ethan Cooper, the guard, and we all know he has a tough path to the 53. Excellent practice squad candidate.

Like last year, he could be the only one of the UDFAs to make the practice squad. May end up seeing a lot of players being signed from outside the team to fill the taxi squad at the end of camp. Lot of roster turnover at the bottom is possible.

RickM: We’ve talked about the loss of weight helping the speed and agility of Bell, Williams, Gilbert, etc. I realize that Bryant’s extra 15 pounds should help with contested catches, but won’t that blazing speed we saw on quick screens be gone? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a guy accelerate like he did.

Alex: It’s a fair point. We’ll just have to wait and see. All I know is for a guy to actually train for apparently the first time ever, which is such a crazy thought in the NFL today for guys who dedicate themselves to football every day of the year, including the offseason. I have to think it will be beneficial to him. Bryant is no longer a guy just showing up and getting by on natural ability. He’s applying himself. And that has to be an asset.

Matt Correll: With the lack of depth at Safety, what are your thoughts of having William Gay move there? I know that it has been mentioned already in passing on the site and on the podcast, but having watched the defense closely the past few years, do you think he would be a good fit there? Could that be why the position wasn’t addressed in the draft for FA?

Alex: I don’t want to say the lack of safety depth is that bad. I think they like the group they have. Golden and Dangerfield are capable spot-starters. The only issue is that there’s just four guys without a 5th seemingly making a big push. So there’s a spot at the bottom, which could create competition.

I don’t think Gay moves there. It would be to free safety and I don’t know if I want him in all that space. The odds are still good the team keeps 6 corners and 4 safeties anyway so they aren’t compelled to find the 5th guy.

Ricardo Dias: Hey Alex, big fan from Brazil! Do you think that Conner will be used in a rotational role or Bell will continue to be wornd out by Tomlin/Haley? Colbert did told that he wants to see James Conner contribute in ST this year. Thanks!

Alex: Hey Ricardo! Happy to have you in the chat. I think Conner will spell Bell for a couple carries per game. Can’t see it much more than that. Bell is still the best back in the league and it’s really hard to justify taking him off the field. Especially if he gets a long-term deal and you’re paying him out the nose.

And if Conner struggles as a blocker/receiver, he still won’t even come close to Bell’s ability even if the rook does well, you’re more limited in where you can use him. Maybe he’ll vulture away some short-yard situations from Bell, like the Steelers tried to do with D-Will recently (against the Chiefs, I think?). Conner better suited for that than D-Will anyway.

Peki: Alex, do the Steelers have any interest in signing James Comey off waivers? At 6’8″, might he be a project like AV, or perhaps a backup TE? Thanks for all your work on the site.

Alex: LOL! I seriously had no idea he was that tall until I saw a comment about it yesterday. I bet Mike Munchak could turn him into a great left tackle.

steelburg: A 2 part question who are two current FA you hope the team signs before camp? Second question the team has traded for a player the last 2 years if you had to pick a guy they would trade for this year right befoe camo who would it be?

Alex: Sorry Steelburg, I don’t have a great answer for you. I haven’t spent much time thinking about either of those things. Maybe an inside linebacker. But I couldn’t give you a name. I know people keep mentioning Gerald Hodges.


Thanks for the chat! Talk to you guys next week.

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