Welcome back to the mailbag. Programming note. Since there’s no podcast for Monday with Dave Bryan away, we’ll do another one of these on Monday. Probably for the same time, 2:30/ET, but if that changes, I’ll let you all know on Twitter.
To your questions!
Petherson Silveira: Alex, if all players under contract are 100% healthy and supension free, who is the best team in the league this year?
Alex: Still New England. Somehow, that roster got even more loaded. And they’ll still be heavy favorites against the Steelers, as much as it pains me to say.
CP72: With all the talent on offense I feel like the defense flies under the radar a little bit. There’s some young exciting talent. Agree they’re underrated?
Alex: I don’t know if I’d go that far. They’re still generally unproven. There’s a lot of talent on defense but it’s still a group that has to put it together. To be fair, there hasn’t been much time to show that yet. 2017 is the year for it. But we can’t forget how poor each unit was at points last year. How the Steelers were on pace to have their fewest sacks ever mid-way through the season. The splash plays allowed in the secondary.
There’s promise. There’s talent. Now is about execution.
Ross McCorkie: Things going as they are now, who do you have for the top 5 in receptions on the team.
1. Antonio Brown – 100+ catches. Easily.
2. Le’Veon Bell – He’ll catch at least 70 passes this year. Probably more. No other receiver will. Last Steelers’ WR not named AB to do it? Mike Wallace in 2011.
3. Martavis Bryant – Back in the offense. Still involved in a big way. 55-65 catches.
4. Jesse James – Maybe a sleeper here. Despite being on and off the field for Green, he still caught 39 passes. Another year to work on his game, grow, and be the full-time guy? Should catch 50 passes.
5. JuJu Smith-Schuster – He and Eli Rogers might end up taking away from each other if there’s some sort of split. Where Rogers starts/plays the first month, first half, whatever. Even in that case, he’s still a good bet for 30-35 receptions.
Guillermo Garcia-Gomez: How much do you expect Burns to be improved this year, and how many INT’s do you think gets?
Alex: Should be a big jump. First offseason ever where he’s fully comfortable and 100% focused on football. More man coverage should suit him well. It’s hard to quantify but he won’t have those terrible Baltimore/Miami games where he’s completely forgetting about basic rules (attack upfield shoulder, crack/replace in the run game).
Dude still got three interceptions as a rookie. With a year under his belt, he should have at least five. Teams may target him a bit less now that he’s not rookie and fresh meat.
Haole: If you can only pick one guy on the entire roster, who are you most looking forward to seeing in training camp
Alex: Hmm, great question. I think Sean Davis. Knowing all we know now, all the injuries he dealt with, he’s prime to take a major step forward. Hopefully we get a feel that’s happening pretty immediately.
NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex! I know Brian Allen is pretty raw yet this year. By next year could you see him being an option in the middle of the field (Slot cb/s type)? He’s got great size to cover TE’s and if his 3-cone time translates, it could be a great place for him to contribute. Thoughts?
Alex: Sure, I think that’s possible. Next year, not this year, as you point out. But those things are so far away in football years I haven’t spent much time thinking about it. Everyone is looking for an answer for the headache tight ends and Allen could be that guy. Better than Golden.
Thanks for the chat, everyone! Heads up, I think next week’s is going to get moved to Wednesday. Or early Thursday morning. Mark it down as TBD for now.