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Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Welcome back to your weekly edition of the Mailbag. Question for ya, Steelers’ Nation. Recently, decision makers in the Auto Industry said it would take up to 40 years for roads to be nothing but self-driving cars. In other words, getting all the current cars off the road. Agree, disagree? Will it ever happen? Or will there be some holdouts still driving their 2041 Toyota Camry? Let me know your thoughts.

To your questions!

Steelers12: 

Hey Alex 2 questions for you
What in your opinion is the strength and the weakness of Mike Tomlin and what was it for Bill Cowher?

Do you see the Steelers trying to add a pass catching RB if one becomes available before the season starts?

Alex: I think they have similar strengths and weaknesses. There’s a reason they got a guy like Tomlin to replace Cowher; similar mindsets. Defensive backgrounds. Charismatic, command respect in the locker room, and coaches who have a good feel for their players and what makes them tick. Cowher a little more emotional, outwardly, Tomlin a little more even-keeled (publicly at least). Both guys relate to their players well. Both are able to adapt. Neither are probably hailed as great X’s and O’s guys, compared to some of the others in the league.

Maybe, I kicked around the idea of a guy like Travaris Cadet, but that won’t happen until the middle of camp. Todd Haley seems to like Knile Davis and I’m sure they are hopeful he becomes the starting KR. So he’d have to struggle and compel the team to make a move.

Jeff McNeil: What is your biggest likes and dislikes from the off-season?

Alex: Very little drama. Bryant good, Bell good, all is well. Much better than it’s been. And I love what the team did on the first two days of the draft, even if I wasn’t crazy about taking James Conner in the third.

Biggest dislike: I’m still not 100% sure the team’s vision for the future slot corner. Thought it’d be Sutton but he’s working on the outside right now. He could always kick inside in camp, during the year, or next year, but that’s not a question which has been completely answered. For the future or even the short-term if Golson doesn’t make the roster. Assuming Gay is the starter, who is the backup? Sensabaugh?

NickSteelerFan: Hey alex, love this every week!
Would having a capable backup Nose Tackle on the practice squad and available to call up if needed be a reason the Steelers would keep a lighter, more athletic D lineman over McCullers? And are there any you could see us signing if they were let go at last cuts and placing directly on the roster?

Alex: Thanks Nick! I don’t know if that’d be justification. That guy on the ready for the PS, which I’ not sure who that would even be, could beat out McCullers if he was a “capable backup.” I like Maxey but I don’t see a reason to keep another defensive end around. There’s enough of them.

I could see them signing a nose tackle but I don’t have a name. Haven’t combed through the list. So much will change with performances and injury anyway. Sort of a fruitless exercise in June.

Bryant Eng: What kind of coverage ability does Sean Davis have? Is it possible he will be able to help improve our man coverage issues, or are we going to see him primarily in a 2 high look or in zone?

Alex: On paper, Davis is versatile. Where his CB background helps him. He can play man, unlike a lot of safeties, who aren’t comfortable there. Team rolled him over #2 last year quite a bit. I’ve said it before; one idea could be the team staying in base more often vs 11 personnel by rolling Davis over the slot. Helps the run defense, keeps Hargrave on the field. Are drawbacks to that, limits your coverage options potentially, but we did see a small tick in base vs 11 compared to 2015. Could see it again this year.

So yes and yes to your second question. He can – and will – do both. The more coaches talk, the more excited I am about him. Dealt with a ton of injuries last year. Shoulder, back, who knows what else. And still made strides. Assuming he’s healthy this year, you should see a big jump in his play.

The Tony: Out of all the rookies, which three do you think will have the biggest impact

Alex: T.J. Watt is the obvious answer but the correct one. Team already working to carving out a big role for him. 50/50 rotation with Harrison; Deebo can’t play 800 snaps this year. No way, can’t let it happen. And you know my thoughts on JuJu vs Eli, but Smith-Schuster winning the job is much less certain than Watt rotating with Harrison, which is a given.

Sutton won’t see much time on defense. Nor Conner on offense. Holba, of course, will long snap, so there’s an impact.

steelburg: There has been very little news on the progress of Brian Allen and even less news about Sensabaugh? How are those guys doing specifically Sensabaugh. And what are there chances of making the 53 man roster? As of now I have the team keeping 6 with those 2 on the outside looking in who do you see us keeping?

Alex: I’d love to tell you. But I’m not at OTAs and minicamp. So I dunno. Definitely give you updates during camp. Sensabuahg’s odds are pretty good, Allen’s a bit lower. But the news on Golson doesn’t sound great, meaning Allen has a better shot.

Six cornerbacks is likely but Stafford may complicate things. 6 and 4 safeties aren’t certain anymore like they were prior to the signing.

Jeff McNeil: Brown and Bell are the only Steelers left for the Top 100 list, where would you put them?

Alex: Hmm…well,I am hopelessly biased and don’t watch the rest of the league closely like I do Pittsburgh. For me, both are top ten. Brown will probably slide a tiny bit since he had a “down” year statistically. Bet he comes in at #6. Personally, he’s right around a Top 5 player. Bell will probably come in at 8 or 9. I’d have him at five or six too. Right behind AB.

blackandgoldBullion: Who will make the biggest jump from the group of 2nd year players?

Alex: As I hinted earlier, might be Sean Davis. Playing SS from the get-go instead of bouncing between slot corner and safety. All the injuries. Natural growing pains of a rookie. The same group of DBs around him, with Artie Burns taking a step and needing less hand-holding. He needs to take the jump and I think he will.

falconsaftey43: Hot take time! How many more Super Bowls will Ben and Brady each win.
Bonus: will either take a snap for a different team?

Alex: Brady will win two more. Ben, zero, because Brady will outlast him. No, Ben is done after Pittsburgh. Zero chance he goes anywhere else. I’ll stick my neck out and say Brady goes somewhere else. Belichick will know Brady is done long before TB is convinced. He plays one year with the 49ers.

srdan: Who gets more sacks this year, Harrison or Watt?

Alex: Still going to be Harrison. Edges him out by one or two. Watt will have rookie struggles and 34 pass rushers don’t always hit the ground running. Rare to come in and put up 8 sacks in year one.

falconsaftey43: Assuming they even meet in the playoffs, what has to happen during the Steelers’ season for you to feel confident (as much as you could) facing the Patriots in the playoffs this year?

Alex: More variety of coverage on defense. It wasn’t just spot dropping that got the defense into trouble last year. It was running the same scheme vs the same formations, motions, down and distance. There wasn’t good self-scouting by Keith Butler. That caused as many problems as anything in the title game.


That’s all for this week. Great chat guys.

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