Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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Sorry for the earlier edition of Ask Alex today. The McLumina is getting inspected at two so had to bump this up.

Do cars without working horns still pass inspection? Asking for a friend.

One other thing to pass along to you guys. If you’re like me, you absolutely hate those “they’re real people!” car commercials. They’re the worst and loop 500 times during every commercial break. The A.V. Club did an interview with someone who participated in it and talked about how strange/dumb it was. Worth your time.

To your questions!

@steelersstop: Would you agree that this years D-Line is the best since 05-06? 3 good starters, quality depth in Alualu and Walton, even McCullers can play

Alex: It’s hard to compare. The prime Aaron Smith/Brett Keisel/Casey Hampton is tough to beat. But I think Alualu is the best FA defensive linemen they’ve brought in the past three years. Much better than Cam Thomas, duh, and a better run defender than Ricardo Mathews. With Hargrave settled in at the nose, it’s a very strong group with solid depth.

falconsaftey43: Jesse James, Eli Rogers, Dangerfield, Williams.
Alex, where do you fall on these guys for current status, and their realistic ceiling?

Alex: James can be an average #1 tight end. But as we’ve talked about, his skillset fits well for what Pittsburgh wants to do. The way we value him and the way the team values him are different. I don’t think Heath Miller could’ve had that kinda of long-term success on a lot of other teams. He just fit the Steelers so well.

Eli, a borderline slot guy. You know my thoughts there. JuJu is going to really push him and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if the rookie was the starter in the slot. It’s the only place he can go. Rogers better make sure he’s figured out any of the work ethic problems he had last year. Can’t get behind in this crowded group.

Dangerfield is still a backup for me. A good one, he played well against the Chiefs, but your classic backup box safety and a hair-on-fire special teamer. I like the guy and like his story. Fought hard to carve out a spot/niche. Respect.

Williams can be a strong two down linebacker in this league. No doubt in my mind. I’ll get it but will be bummed if he’s taken off the special teams unit. Such a tone setter. And really freakin’ good. Guy like him isn’t easy to replace and I don’t think we’ve talked about that enough.

Gluebucket: With the drafting of Juju and Sutton, FA pick ups Sensabaugh and Justin Hunter have been largely forgotten. What do you think their chances are of making the team/having an impact?

Alex: I think Sensabaugh’s odds are strong. We go back to the history of Colbert. Only one FA brought in under him hasn’t made the roster. Sensabaugh is younger than Gay, a better athlete, and just as versatile. Pretty sure he’ll begin the year as a backup but he’ll be on the roster.

Hunter. He’s interesting. The talent is big, he’ll look good in camp, make some big plays, but obviously, the position is so stacked. His path is rough. Sammie Coates is going to have to struggle. They aren’t going to carry three Z receivers.

Or Coates/JuJu is going to have to make the team feel like DHB is expendable on special teams. I don’t count on that happening.

George Hareras: Hey Alex,
Which position do you think we are the most thin at? I kind of feel outside CB could get troublesome even though I like the starters. If we’re playing more press man and we have an injury who becomes the next man up?

Alex: Probably inside linebacker, though you can argue TE post-Green release. Though I believe the team is high on Tyler Matakevich, getting a glimpse of what he did vs Miami last year, and part of the reason they didn’t draft an ILB.

At corner, I imagine Sensabaugh is the top backup on the outside. Both spots. It’s hard to say who the next man up is in the slot because we don’t know who the first man up is. Yesterday in OTAs, Gay ran first team slot, Golson second team. Assuming Sutton third.

Camp will tell us a lot, of course. Very unsettled situation.

WeWantDaTruth: How is Golson looking in OTAs? Would be huge if he can contribute in 2017.

Alex: I’m not at OTAs. But he’s there, he’s healthy, so that’s good enough for me. I’ll let you know more during training camp, when it really matters. Right now, Golson just needs to get back into NFL shape. Basically hasn’t been…ever, really. You’re not in football shape in the pre-draft process (the NFL doesn’t care about your shuttle time), and the injuries kept setting him back.

@steelman58: alex what position might the steelers look when camp comes and rosters get cut.

Alex: Kinda goes hand-in-hand with the weakest position. Keep an eye on ILB, safety, and yes, tight end.

Guillermo Garcia-Gomez: Do you see Dupree getting 8+ sacks if he stays healthy all season? I think even with the return of Cam, if we don’t get 15+ sacks from the OLB position this year that we will continue to have the same problems on defense against the great QB’s whether Burns and Davis improve or not.

Alex: Yes I do, and yeah, he better if he’s healthy. Such a huge year for Dupree. Seven or fewer sacks would be a disappointment, to be honest. You can consider him the X Factor on the defense this season. Because you’re right, you gotta get home with four and that is on the OLBs more than it is the defensive line.

D. j. Reynolds: Alex, am I the only one that sees Sutton as both inside and outside capable? I think if Golson is truly healthy, they could even begin Sutton learning the outside. I just don’t buy that Sutton is Golson’s replacement! I think the hope is both develop. Many in the comments to recent posts seem to disagree with me on this.

Alex: No, I think we all realize he could move around. Obviously, he played on the outside in college. But so did Golson and they kicked him inside. It’s best to teach Sutton one spot to start and I am guessing that’ll be in the slot, since that’s his best chance to get on the field. And you want someone, at the very least, ready to take over next year, and I have more faith in Sutton than Golson.

Now, if Golson plays really well in camp, maybe the team takes a new course with Sutton. Who knows.

Matt Correll: Alex, yesterday it was noted that the 75 man cut has been eliminated, and so teams will all be cutting from 90 to 53 at the end of the preseason. Do you think this change helps/hurts any particular Steeler players chances of making the team?

Alex: No, I don’t think it really helps anyone’s odds of making the roster though those questions can’t really be answered until we get to that moment. Maybe someone does make a splash play on STs that earns another look. But those getting cut for the 75 don’t have great chances of making it, even if they got to play in the last game.

But I support the move. The cutdown was dumb. Those 15 guys need something like the last game when all the starters rest. That’s the whole point of the 4th preseason game and the league was cutting the players who need it the most. Plus, I cringed seeing some of the starters – mainly the offensive line – starting and playing a lot of snaps in that last game purely because of the numbers game.

John Noh: Alex, given the logjam at WR, do you see any trade-bait candidates among the bunch?

Alex: It’s possible. But it’s hard to pin point who that name could be. Maybe if Coates and Justin Hunter have strong camps, and Hunter is the odd man out, he gets dealt. Sorta like Dorial Green-Beckham.

Steelers12: if the Steelers don’t reach a long term deal with Bell before the season starts could you see him very well playing elsewhere next season and beyond? And is there a TE out there you could see as trade bait for the Steelers?

ALex: No, I don’t think he’s going anywhere. The Steelers are good about getting deals done with their stars. Something gets worked out sooner or later. You don’t have a thinking-about-retiring Ben and then let his star RB go somewhere else. Might as well sign the retirement papers for him at that point.

I haven’t explored TE trades so far. Won’t be able to answer that until further into camp. Someone mentioned Vance McDonald the other day, which I kinda liked. 49ers admitted they are trying to move him.

Steve Johnson: Alex, CB Brian Allen, do you think his chances are good in making the final 53?

Alex: Depends on how you define “good.” But I think he’ll show enough of the good to be on the roster, yes.

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

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