As promised, we’re setting up another mailbag today to pass the time and kick off your week. I’ll keep checking this one throughout the day. Won’t end it after an hour like usual. Feel free to stroll in whenever and shoot over what’s on your mind.
To your questions!
Guillermo Garcia-Gomez: What do you see as the biggest weakness of this team heading into 2017? Is it still the defense simply because if they don’t get enough pressure with 4, the secondary will get exposed again by elite qb’s no matter how much the young guys have improved?
Alex: I don’t like to paint with a broad brush and put a blanket statement on defense. I think there is still – maybe not a worry – but an uncertainty over the teams ability to get home with four. Maybe that does make it a worry. Hopeful for Dupree and Watt but those two guys have never concretely done it in the NFL. And the Steelers are banking on being able to do that this year, like they have for the past several to very mixed results.
Can the secondary create enough splash plays? Haven’t gotten enough there, either. That has to improve, too.
Matt Manzo: I heard some of Butlers most recent interview, when talking about man coverage. He said something about how now Ben will be able to practice against man more than he has in the past.
It made me wonder if Ben not practicing against good man corners has anything to do with his inconsistency or road woes?
Alex: That’s certainly possible and a good point to make, Matt. We’ve seen man-heavy teams give him problems. It’s why the Bengals are always a thorn in his side. Or Miami last year. Baltimore has played more man coverage and they have the talent in the secondary to match. Seeing it in practice will certainly help Ben, no doubt.
Seeing more complex coverages in general is going to be big. I bet he saw Cover 2 more than anything in practice last year. Get into a game and teams are pattern matching, playing man, and it’s a bit of an adjustment, even for a vet like him.
Nick Steeler Fan: Who do you believe is the most likely player that was on the 53 last year that you think could be cut from this years squad?
Alex: I’m taking your question very literally here, Nick. Fitzgerald Toussaint. He. Gone. I bet you didn’t even think about him when you asked the question. That’s how obscure he’s become. And how easy it is for me to answer.
Cobi Hamilton is also in a bind. But he could land on the practice squad.
@TheCanvasGuru: What are your thoughts on
@Quez_G ? Coaches comments were uneven however, Ayers just said he looked good.
Alex: I think I’ve made my thoughts pretty clear on him. He’s got quite the climb to make. Not impossible, not ruling him out, but the comments made from Colbert/Lake over the months haven’t been promising. As Lake said, he’ll have to stand out as a gunner on special teams.
Spencer Krick: Who do you think could be the most realistic surprise cut when the 53 is finally put together?
Alex: Hmm…well it is tough to come up with a realistic cut and a surprise. We know Dan McCullers spot is up in the air. Could one of the safeties be in trouble if Stafford plays well, which I think he will. Talking about Golden/Dangerfield. That’s not impossible.
And of course, you have a guy like Coates, who if he tanks at Latrobe, could play his way off the roster. Lot of competition, lot of fluidity.
We know FA signings are generally near locks. But with all the competition in many of those rooms maybe someone gets squeezed out..Which FA signing this year is most likely to not make it to the 53?
– Tyson Alualu
– Coty Sensabaugh
– Justin Hunter
– Kniles Davis
– Daimion Stafford
(My guess is Kniles Davis.)
Alex: I would put Davis as the third most likely to get his pink slip. Still think Hunter is the most because he was essentially brought in as Martavis Bryant’s insurance policy. I think he’ll look good in camp but if Bryant does too (he will) and Coates follows suit, it’s really hard to figure out how he gets on the roster. He’s my order, most likely to not make it to least.
Davis could struggle but he has less competition for the #3 RB spot/KR than the other guys have at their positions.
1. Justin Hunter
2. Daimion Stafford
3. Knile Davis
4. Coty Sensabaugh
5. Tyson Alualu
srdan: Alex, do you think the next defensive pro bowler is on the steelers roster today? Meaning not Cam or Shaz or James.
Alex: Yes, I do. I mean, I hope so. It’s a real bad sign if for all the youth on this defense, none of them make it. Dupree has a great chance to make it this year. Watt, obviously, is someone we have high hopes for. Burns could put up some nice INT numbers, increasing his odds. Tuitt is Pro Bowl worthy but I don’t know if the stats will ever get him over the top. But yes, they have one. Hopefully more than that.
@JUSTTYPER: The new FA DB signed this Spring has a 60% + chance of making the team. T or F?
Alex: Assuming you are talking about Coty Sensabaugh, true. We know Colbert’s history of FAs. Hard to think Brian Allen and Golson are going to knock him off.
Jeff McNeil: I believe that Aaron Jones is one of the most underrated, not by many Steelers fans, players the Steelers ever had. How would you compare him to Tuitt?
Alex: You are probably asking the wrong guy, unfortunately. Jones was out of Pittsburgh a year before I was born. Looking at it from a statistical perspective, Jones never topped more than two sacks with the Steelers. Tuitt’s done that each of the last two years and has more sacks than Jones did in Pittsburgh (9.5). Venture to say Tuitt is the better pass rusher.
WeWantDaTruth: Lots of competition in the WR room. Instead of simply outright cutting ones who don’t make the final roster or putting them on the PS (where they might be picked off), wouldn’t it be better to trade them?
Alex: Of course, that’s the optimal scenario. But other teams know your room is crowded too and players are getting cut. They can wait you out. Have all the leverage. So it’s tough to do. We are seeing some more player-for-player deals lately and hopefully that trend continues. Player for pick is tougher.
Matt Manzo: Since you’re up all day I’ll ask a second question!
What does Terrell Watson have to do to make this team?
Alex: The 53? Pray.
The practice squad. Be detailed oriented. Follow your blocking rules. Secure the football. Show well in pass protection (he’s a big guy). Catch the ball cleanly. Help out on special teams. And give me some interesting trait as a runner. Burst, power, something that makes you stick out for the other guys doing the same exact Football 101 stuff.
Dshoff: Alex, I have very high hopes for Dupree if he improves his lean against offensive tackles and refuses to get pushed past the qb. i talked to another Steelers fan and he says that the lean can’t be taught; either a guy has it or doesn’t. I don’t agree, I think Dupree can learn to do a much better job in this area. What do you think?
Alex: I’m more on your side, Dupree looked tighter in college but he’s lost a lot of weight since then. He’s worked with Chuck Smith, one of the best pass rush coaches you’re going to find. Flexibility can be improved. It’s not something static where you can never get better. Lot of guys take up yoga to work on those things.
And Dupree has shown more flashes of being able to bend the edge. He’ll never be Von Miller but it’s not going to prevent him from being a successful pass rusher, which I expect him to be.
stan: What are the chances of a late FA signing for depth at TE or ILB?
Alex: Before camp? Low, barring injury. There’s always going to be guys who go to PUP that could affect the lines. I think you have the group you have, go into camp, evaluate, and then make any final decisions. Wait until final cutdowns and see who is available. Then you may see some action, stan. ILB has a better chance than TE.
I’ve got two questions for you today:
I always tought that AB will be our future slot receiver so I really don’t understand the Juju selection. Yeah, he’s gonna be useful for the 4 years of his rookie contract, but after that period we got AB filling that position like nobody else can. 2 round seems way to high for me especially when we’ve got Rogers who I think can become one of the best slot receivers in the game. Why?
Secondly, I would like your opinion on Jesse James. I think that he’s treated unfairly by a lot of fans who think he’s just a role player. I’m really high on him, I think he’ll get as close to Heaths standart as anyone. I just reviewed some tape and his blocking was phenomenal last year. Remember the Raiders game or the second Dolphins game?
Alex: Why do you think Brown is the future slot receiver? He isn’t going to be, though he will occasionally move there to shake a matchup or put him in a new split. He’s going to be the team’s X (weakside) receiver and continue to be the best one in the league.
And even if he moved inside down the road, four years is a long ways away. You want guys who can help the team win present day in Roethlisberger’s final year or three. JuJu is going to offer that. They took him because of how young he is, 20, so a lot of room/time to grow, his maturity, and that he’s a playmaker. Read what Ayers said in our interview today. Tomlin loves playmakers. JuJu is more dynamic.
I like James. He’s growing in a big way as a blocker, especially for the second half of last year. Was a rough start for him. Leverage is better and he’s driving his legs to finish his blocks. Not a great receiver but he can make catches in traffic. That’s really important.
Jacob: What % chance do you give the Steelers of hoisting #7 this year?
Alex: It’s gotta be low for any team not named New England just because of how hard it is to do. So keep that in mind. That said, because New England exists, and got better this offseason, I am not terribly optimistic. Arbitrary number but I’ll say a 10% chance.
Steelers12: Hey Alex who is a player who played for the Steelers that you didn’t fully appreciate until he was gone, for me it was Ryan Clark
Alex: Clark is a good one but I like to think I appreciated him at the time. That was my mom’s favorite player. Even got an autograph one year at camp from him.
My choice…I guess I would have to think about that some more. Maybe Farrior? Even though I’m high on Vince Williams, I feel like a lot of fans will be answering Lawrence Timmons in five years.
Ike Evans: Who finishes the year with more tackles shaz or vw…..who finishes with more sacks…deebo, dupree, or tj?….who finishes with more TD’s ab or marty
Alex: Oof, Ike, giving me the difficult ones. Going back and forth on Shazier and VW. Shazier will play more snaps, good health willing. But VW is going to see the runs his way as the strong side backer…then again, Shazier is more likely to be coming from the backside and will play cleaner. Toss up. Give me Shazier by a nose.
Sacks…Dupree. Much easier.
Touchdowns, it’s close. I think Dave and I talked about this on a recent podcast. Would not be surprised to see Bryant have one or two more.