Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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Thanks for coming back to this week’s mailbag. And most importantly, thanks for actually reading this and our site. Because that’s apparently becoming a lost art in 2017. We’ve seen MTV shift back to video and the headliner, Fox Sports going all video. Now, Ken Rosenthal and many others are forced to report on their Facebook page. A cable news network who say they want to compete with ESPN and their top baseball writer has the same platform as your grandma.

While there may be some executives who believe that’s the future, they are wrong. Dead wrong. And the reaction/immediate success from places like FS1, whose website traffic tanked following the shift, are already proving it. I shouldn’t have to read Rosenthal on his Tumblr account. Or scroll past a mess of Colin Cowherd hot takes. There is still a huge community who want to read. And I know you, Depot reader, are part of that. Thank you.

To your questions!

Bob Francis: Running low on Steelers-related questions, so have you watched Hard Knocks or All or Nothing? What did you think? Would you like to see the Steelers on either? Would they ever do it unless forced?

Alex: Haven’t seen All or Nothing. Watch a little bit of Hard Knocks but I don’t get HBO. It’s an awesome look behind the scenes though. As a fan, I love it. If I were I team, I’d hate it. So yeah, on a personal level, would love Pittsburgh to be featured. But you know they would only do it if that had to. For as close to the vest as they keep things, they don’t want to be filmed like that. All in-house, personal stuff, and they – along with probably every other team – would prefer to keep it that way.

treeher: I see the articles and discussion about Ben not performing on the road. I see a lot of blame placed on Ben, maybe on injuries to teammates, but I don’t think I’ve seen any blame placed on coaches. IMO, some of the play calling has been awful, especially in the red zone. What’s your take?

Alex: Anything we’re talking about a big picture issue, like the offense not performing on the road, the issues are multi-layered. Putting it squarely on any one person or unit, quarterback, coaching staff, whatever, is usually wrong. So you’re right it’s a more nuanced issue than just Ben’s fault. You can point to bad play calls that didn’t put him in successful situations.

It’s a difficult issue to pin down but I look at the inability to run no huddle, or at least, not as effectively, when you’re dealing with the crowd. Ben thrives when he can change up the tempo and go fast, calling his plays, and keeping the defense on the field in the same package. Harder to do on the road.

I hope they are under center less too in 2017. Maybe that’s a cure on the road. Go shotgun – and pistol – more often. Put Ben in his most comfortable situations.

Nicholas Arnhold: Hey Alex, now that we’re fully through the off-season workouts, what chance do you see all draft picks making it onto the final 53? Also, what are the top three things you’ll be looking for at training camp this year?

Alex: Greg Warren’s release obviously ensures Holba is making the team. So that greatly increases the odds. All of them could make it, there’s a case to be made for everyone, but it is rare to happen. Odds are, someone gets sent to the practice squad. Most likely are Brian Allen (raw, CB has depth) or Keion Adams (if he loses out to Moats). Everyone else will make it.

MP34: Hi Alex, I have a hypothetical question for you. Do you think that the 1995 Steelers would be as competitive in the current NFL? Good running game, just a game manager QB, great defense. I feel there are only 5-6 teams with a legitimate QB and a chance for the Super Bowl. The rest try and fail to emulate the passing teams, rather than focus on running the ball, or winning time of possession. What are your thoughts?

Alex: Oh man, I dunno, MP. I was two years old when that team played. And we’re going back to the “compare eras” debate, which usually end up with us getting nowhere. They’d probably look like the Chiefs with Alex Smith. Good, not great QB, but a well-rounded team. Probably not enough to get to, much less win, a Super Bowl, but a playoff run is in the cards. Just like KC.

Beyond that, I don’t know if I could be much help.


Here’s my question. You get the choice of taking any impact player (you can define what that means) off any other roster and add it to ours. However, you have to give up an impact player on our roster (you cut them outright, not a trade to the team you took a player from). You can add one offensive player (and release an offensive player) and one defensive player (and release a defensive player).

Would you entertain it? And if so, who would you add and who would you let go?

Alex: Wheww, that is a doozy of a question, DD. I don’t know if I would do anything like that. The Steelers’ roster is strong, not perfect, but strong, and I’d hate to mess with it. But that is a terribly boring answer to give you.

On defense, which is where I’d start, you gotta take an outside linebacker. So give me Von Miller and make sure this pass rush is as good as it needs to be.

Impact player is tough to define. Does my cut have to be on the same level as Von? Or just any impact player? Can I cut Mike Mitchell for Von? I’d do that, and you know I’m a fan of Mitchell. But the trade off is well worth it. Bud and Von? Watt rotating in? And oh yeah, Deebo. What genie do I summon for this to happen?

Offensively, it’d have to be a tight end. So let me have Gronk, if we’re shooting for the stars in this hypothetical. I’ll roll the dice on him staying healthy. Can a linemen be an impact player? If so, I’d have to cut DeCastro. Finney won’t be the same but good enough. Worth it if I get the best tight end in the league.

Steel Jatt: Hey Alex, Do you think steelers will be still looking in free agency after the camp??? and can they pull a trade from the wide receivers who will not make the team??? What is the chance Adams making the team, I know he need to beat Moats but if he perform just like Moats will steelers choose him over Moats??

Alex: Lot to unpack here. Yes, I think they will make a move after cutdowns. They usually do. TE, ILB, NT all could be in play. We have a long ways to go before really knowing their needs. Injury, performance, and who is available all play key factors.

I don’t think trading a WR is impossible, even though I saw many believe it was in Matthew’s article last week. Player for pick isn’t likely but player-for-player deals seem to becoming more common. Your guy won’t make the roster, their guy won’t make it. So Justin Hunter for an ILB? That makes sense.

It’s going to come down to special teams with Adams. He knows that’s his ticket. He is the better athlete but he’ll have to show consistency, after all, he is playing on a unit he’s never been on before, to earn Danny Smith’s trust.


Hey Alex, we have almost made it to Training Camp!

Is there one DT/NT who might legitimately be in danger of not making their current team (not on the Steelers now) that you would like to see being signed to the 53 in place of McCullers/Philon/Hooks?

Alex: Almost! Thank God for that.

I actually wrote about that a couple weeks ago. Check it out: four potential replacements. 

I’ll list the names so everyone can see them: Steve McLendon, Sealver Siliga, Matt Ioannidis, and Mike Purcell.

KingoftheAFCNorth: We have a lot of speedsters on our team. Who do you think is the fastest with pads and fastest without?

Alex: Still pretty sure it’s DHB, with or without. Didn’t he have to sit out the race the team had last year? Tells you all you gotta know.

But Bryant, Burns, Coates, all right there with him. Burns stayed step for step with Tyreek Hill last year. That’s some serious wheels.

Robbie: Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams or James Farrior and Larry Foote?

Alex: Can’t go wrong here but give me Shazier and VW. Farrior was really good. Shazier can be great.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for stopping by and your continued support.

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