Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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Welcome back to the mailbag. Camp only a couple weeks away and thank goodness for that. Real quick, I saw one of the worst things anyone could ever do at a restaurant. I hope and pray it’s either a hoax or something that people don’t actually do. A “tipping hack” where, according to this Business Insider article from December, you lay the tip out on the table at the beginning of the meal and “dock” the waiter/waitress whenever they screw up.

“To sum up the block of text above, you go to a restaurant and lay out five singles on your table. You then meticulously pay attention to your waiter’s service throughout the meal, knocking off a dollar every time a mistake is made. The post summates that your server will be so afraid to lose any part of that already-low tip that they’ll produce uncanny service just to make the full five dollars.”

No, no, no, no. Never, ever do this. Please tip your wait staff kindly, even if the service isn’t the best. You never know what the real issue is. Poor job by the cooks to get the food out, a hectic night where they’re short-staffed, something happening in the person’s personal life, you get the idea.

And if you ever openly dock someone’s tip, I hope they spit in your food.

To your questions!

Zach Rosen: As for the Q why do so many people think Coates is gone he showed that when healthy he can be a smaller game breaking mini Bryant.

Alex: It’s a recency bias. You remember Coates for what he did last. Which was play like crap, though it’s explained by the injury (why people can’t make the connection, I struggle to understand). There’s frustration with Coates because there’s so much talent and the production hasn’t matched. But I remain optimistic.

Alex Roarty: What’s your assessment of our two AFC North rivals, the Bengals and Ravens?

Alex: Bengals added at the skill positions with Mixon and Ross but they’re going to take a step back because of that woeful offensive line. Worst front five in the AFCN. Gutted when they lost Zeitler and Whitworth. Baltimore’s offense is clearly going to struggle but the defense remains strong. And you know Steelers/Ravens will always be close. In a season projection though, not just the individual games, the Steelers are clearly the best team. In theory, they should run away with the AFC North crown. Doesn’t always work out like that though.


Is our run defense and underrate problem? And is it one the team has recognized (almost all the talk is about pass defense, even that coming form the team.)

3rd 1-4 rushing Steelers gave up a 1st down on 25/32. League avg was 16.4/24.9.
The 32 1st downs given up by rushing on 3rd and 1-4 was the 2nd most frequent scenario a team gained a 1st down against the Steelers. (most frequent was 61 via pass on 1st and 10). League wide, that scenario was much much further down the list.

Alex: Those are solid stats and it’s clear you’ve done more research than I on the subject (kudos to you). I’d have to look into it further.

Obviously, the team was without Heyward for the back half of the season, Tuitt missed time, Hargrave was still a rookie, and Mathews was ineffective (and hobbled the last month + playoffs). So there’s some context in those figures.

One disadvantage the Steelers have is their 2-4-5 nickel. Any 4-3 team is going to a 4-2-5 in sub-package. They keep the big uglies up front, which helps in short-yard situations. The Steelers may always be at a disadvantage, a downside to their scheme/front. Something to consider.

I’d be curious about those numbers during/after this year, when you’d expect the defensive line to improve.

Steelers12: I saw on here where someone said it was Mike Tomlin’s fault that Artie Burns (who is a grown man) didn’t pay his traffic tickets, why do you think Tomlin is prone to so much unnecessary blame?

Alex: Because Yinzers gonna Yinz. Sometimes, it’s just that simple.

Bob Francis: What would it look like schematically to get 3 OLBs on the field? What do you think about it personally? Will the Steelers do it?

Alex: Ehhhhh….don’t count on it. I’m not sure how it would look. Probably some 3rd downs, where they will interchange their ILB and OLBs. So something where Vince gets removed for the 3rd OLB. But I don’t think you’re going to see it. There’s enough of a rotation, especially on the right side, where Watt and Harrison can get on the field. I want to keep it simple. Not put too much on anyone’s plate. Let guys play fast. Do their job.

Jeff McNeil: Which defenses during your time were the best and how do you think this defense could match up, in theory?

Alex: Well, my timeline is a lot shorter than a lot of other people. But it’s gotta be the 2008 Super Bowl winners. Had it all. Top talent, sacks, interceptions. James Harrison with 16 sacks, Troy healthy for every game, picking off seven passes. Woodley also hitting double-digits. 51 sacks total, 20 picks (Tyrone Carter was second on the team).

Team-wise, #1 in points and yards allowed. Only two teams scored more than 21 points. In eight games, opposing offenses scored 10 or fewer points, including a stretch of three straight. As dominant as you’ll get in this offense-heavy era.

Matt Manzo: Which player gets replaced first? On either the depth chart or the 53?
Matakevich, Golson, Mcullers or Grimble?

Alex: Golson and McCullers are in a race for last. Could be both at the same time. Wouldn’t shock me. I’ll give the edge to Golson as most likely because he has more competition. But he could turn his career around. McCullers…not going to happen.

Matakevich is safe. Grimble is a little more dicey.

StolenUpVotes: Greg Lloyd or Kevin Greene? Which one do you put on the 2017 steelers?

Alex: Not a big fan of Lloyd the person and Greene was statistically more dominant. But man, give me Lloyd. That nasty, that fear. Opposing offensive tackles would faint at the sight of him and Deebo. Joey Porter would be the world’s best hype man.

The Tony: Will Martavis Bryant have more touchdowns of 40 yards or more this season than JuJu Smith-Schuster have total touchdowns?

Alex: Wheww…that’s a tough one. In each of his two playing seasons, Bryant had two 40+ touchdowns. I think he can get three this season. But if Smith-Schuster can be the starter in slot, or have a heavy influence in the red zone, he should do better.

So three for Bryant, four for Smith-Schuster.

Robbie: Who is the worst starter and best reserve on the roster? Assuming Harrison still gets ample snaps I wouldn’t count him a reserve.

Alex: Worst starter, Dave and I talked about it last week on the podcast. Probably Burns, though he should grow. He’s too up and down based on what we’ve seen so far.

Best reserve? Call me biased but I still am a fan of Robert Golden. He’s not long-term starter material, last year showed that, but he’s as steady as they come. Run fits, tackling, ability to play either safety spot, I have a lot of comfort with him as the #3, which is where he fits best on any defense.

Chickillo is a sleeper too. He’ll have a good season if he can see snaps. Dupree isn’t going to be rotated the way Harrison will.

WeWantDaTruth: Who is a better CB at this point in their career: William Gay or Derelle Revis?

Alex: Gay. More committed to the game. Higher football IQ. Never had the supreme talent like Revis. With that talent gone, Gay wins with his smarts and taking care of his body. Dude just doesn’t miss time.

nikgreene: Even if Coates does well in training camp/preseason and makes the team, what role could he have in the offense? It seems his skills are duplicated by Bryant’s and I’ve never heard he can play from the slot. Would he play outside in a 11 personnel kicking Brown into the slot (and leaving Rogers/Juju off the field)? I guess I’m just wondering if Coates is solely injury/suspension insurance for Bryant.

Alex: It would be a reduced role, of course. But there is still the chance for snaps in 4 wide sets. Think about it. AB, Bryant, Eli/JuJu, and Coates. Good luck stopping that.

You don’t have to play in the actual slot. Receivers can be stacked and split out wide. You can be creative. And if the idea is to use 4 WR sets, you’ll see it in some capacity, then you can rep it in practice. In Haley’s offense, receivers have to move around and be versatile. Bryant has gotten reps in the slot. So he could play there.

NickSteelerFan: It seems like next year will be a great one to take a QB early. Do you think the Steelers will take one 4th round or higher next year, or maybe every year until they find the one they want as a replacement?

Alex: Very hard to say this far out. But I expect them to take one high, first or second round, in the next two years. They aren’t putting all their eggs in Dobbs’ basket unless he pulls a Prescott.

Spencer Krick: Do you think Bell gets a contract before the deadline? If so, call your shot and pick a date!

Alex: The date is the easy part. If it gets done, it’ll be the day of the deadline, July 17th. Won’t get done on a weekend, anyway. I do think it gets done but I don’t have any sort of high confidence in it. Just my guess. Steelers don’t let their elite talent get away. They want Bell, Bell wants to stay. Usually these things get hammered out.

Craig M: What’s the skinny on this TE Odom, is he really a great prospect for the future? I’m a James fan but when I saw what Green brought to the table I decidedly wanted a possible upgrade at TE.

Alex: I mean, he’s not a great prospect. He is interesting because he’s tall and athletic, a good way to try and move on from the Ladarius Green failure. But he’s going to have his struggles. Big time. Completely raw as a blocker. Practice squad material. Don’t see him as a real threat for the 53.

falconsaftey43: 26 RBs have reached 6000 yards from scrimmage in their 1st 4 seasons. 8 of those went on to repeat it with at least 6000 yards from scrimmage in seasons 5-8. Will Bell be the 9th?

Alex: That’s essentially a question of if Bell will be healthy enough to have do it. But he still did it in the first four years while playing all 16 games once. I think he will have better luck the next four and yes, he’ll do it.

Great chat everyone! Thanks for stopping by.

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