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Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Hey everyone, glad to have you back for another mailbag. Fell at a good time with the Pittsburgh Steelers being off today. As usual, I’ll hang around for the next hour and answer all of your questions. Enjoy the rest of your week and the start of Steelers’ preseason football tomorrow night against the New York Giants.

To your questions!

srdan: Watt tested off the charts this year at the combine. Even deeper than that, he tested probably in the top 5% of athletes at his position.

Have you seen that translate to practices? If not-why?

Alex: I think he looks fluid and comfortable moving backwards. Not always the best at contesting at the catch point but that athleticism helps. He has had trouble dipping the edge, something his three cone suggested, but he never had to work around a 6’9, 340 pound tackle before. I think he’ll do better versus relatively smaller tackles in-game (and what he’s done in practice vs guys like Hubbard and TEs).

But athleticism alone doesn’t mean you’re going to practice well. So much more about technique.

Adam Pristas: On a percentage scale, 0% being Jarvis Jones and 100% James Harrison circa 2008, what percentages would you apply to our top 4 OLBs?

Alex: In terms of how good they will be this year?

T.J. Watt: 40%. Much better than Jarvis. Will get some effort sacks. Run defense will be strong and he’ll have success versus slower tackles.

James Harrison: 45%. Similar to Watt. But he’ll win the edge more often and his play speed will be a bit faster, naturally.

Anthony Chickillo: 15%? It’s hard for me to answer Chickillo because he isn’t likely to see a lot of snaps. Watt/Deebo will rotate evenly. Dupree will play the most of snaps at LOLB. I think Chickilo will play well when given the chance but his snap count is going to be low.

Bud Dupree: 75%. While I have some reservations about him in coverage, mostly man, he still should have a strong season as a pass rusher. Not changing my stance he can hit 12 sacks this year.

Michael James: Hey Alex, judging from your reports there don’t seem to be a lot OL vs. DL drills this year compared to the last years. Is this true or are you just charting other drills (like WR vs DB) more in detail this year?

Alex: I chart OL/DL whenever it happens. There’s just an emphasis on two vs two work to pick up stunts and twists. That’s been one of the best thing Mike Munchak has done. Year before he got here, the Steelers have up eight sacks just off missed stunts. Munchak came in and turned all that around, among a million other things, by working on stunt pickup pretty much every day. I just don’t chart those because it’s more about technique and communication than “beating your man.”

Petherson Silveira: Hey Alex, thank you for all these incredibles Training Camp Diaries.
By week 12 of this season, who are getting a helmet, Landry Jones or Josh Dobbs?
And for what you are seeing, do you think Mike Hilton could be starter in near future in this league?

Alex: You’re welcome, thanks for reading them! Jones will still be the #2 this year. Once the regular seasons starts, Dobbs’ reps go in the tank. Mostly scout team stuff. Jones will keep his spot.

I try not to think about Hilton doing anything else but making the roster. That’s the first step. Show well on special teams, get on the 53 man roster, and go from there. We’ll focus on his upside after he does those things.

RMSteeler: It’s sounding like Matekevich is doing better in coverage than most people seem to think he can because of his 40yd time. Does it look like his read/react time is better than most and making up for speed?

Alex: For sure, that’s always been his calling card. Reads his keys, knows his film study, and diagnoses immediately. But like Vince Williams, he won’t get credit for the plays he makes in coverage. Even if he’s not Ryan Shazier, he can still cover.

And to clear up the discussion, yes, he’s listed as 3rd string on the depth chart. Ignore it. He’s been the first man off the bench when Shazier and Williams have missed.

Nicholas Arnhold: Do you know of any back end of the roster guys on the Giants that the Steelers have previously shown interest in (e.g. bring in for pre-draft visit, free agency, etc.). It seems like the team looks closely at the teams they play in the preseason to pick up from at the end of the preseason.

Alex: That’s a good question. I’d have to research it some more. Steelers had some interest in Kevin Snead, a UDFA who was one of the fastest players in this year’s draft. Guard Adam Gettis used to be on the practice squad. DE Corbin Bryant spent time with the team a few years ago. And there’s our old buddy Valentino Blake.

Jeremy: Hi Alex. Really appreciate your work, especially the training camp diary. I am curious what the story is with DeAngelo Williams. Every time he gets brought up as a potential emergency addition, I see the expert give a blunt “no”. He was a great backup right? He is available, and the coaches seem to respect him, so what is the story?

Alex: I don’t think there’s much of a story there. He’s an old running back. Those guys can’t play forever. Team made a decision to move on and I don’t think they’re changing his mind. D-Will is moving on with life’s work, wrestling and whatever else he is doing. It’s not like other teams are banging on the door. Not many teams are interested in signing him. Father Time always wins, ya know?

Phil Brennemann II: Between Chick and Dirty Red who would you trust more in taking over a starting role for the Steelers were an injury to happen? Secondly, between the 2 who would you predict has the better chance at long term success whether it be with the Steelers or otherwise.

Alex: Hm, that’s a good question. I think it’s close. Level of confidence in each. I’d say Matakevich over Chick. Just because Chickillo isn’t that dominant pass rusher. And the Steelers need a guy like that. Matakevich wouldn’t have to be dominant. Just steady. And everything I know about him suggests he is that guy.

hdogg48: Alex, Who do you think thus far has sustained the most
concerning training camp injury?

Alex: Well my opinion doesn’t mean much. Let’s all recognize that. Gerry Dulac says Golson is going to be out a “couple” more weeks. I think Keion Adams could keep missing a chunk of time, too.

Jesse Hernandez: Hey Alex we know that the Steelers drafted Artie Burns basically for his senior year. Lets just say by your observation had he came out this year instead of last year just how he has developed now would he be a top 15 pick?

Alex: I could buy that. Though obviously, a year in the NFL accelerates development much more than another year in Miami. There’s no Antonio Brown in college football…

CP72: Alex,
Are Justin Hunter, Sammie Coates, and DHB basically the same player? Is Hunter getting to much hype because he’s the newest version?

Alex: No, I think that’s being too vague about it. Even Hunter and Coates have different elements to their game. I like Hunter’s body control and ability to attack the football better than Coates. I like Coates’ route running more than I do Hunter, even on a nine route. Coates does a really good job stacking the CB.

And DHB does laps around both as a special teamer, blocker, and with his versatility.

I will point out the Hunter hype has certainly quieted down since the first four practices, two of which were without pads. And another good day Hunter had, Day Six, was when the team took the pads off again.

Jacob: Dulac said Juju looks like he’s NFL ready even though he was the youngest player in the draft. Would you agree with that assessment? If so, why?

Alex: Yes, I agree with him. His route running has improved. He shows great body control along the sideline and ability to make tough catches. Hard worker, quick learner, great attitude. Doesn’t get too high or too low. Tough kid. So yeah, I agree.

Jeff McNeill: Who has been most surprising good and bad so far?

Alex: Good: I think you gotta give it to Hilton. A lot of time spring puff pieces are just that. Puff pieces. But he’s the real deal.

Bad: I knew Cobi Hamilton wouldn’t be great. But even based on low-ish expectations, he’s been bad. Hands don’t look as good as they did last year.

JohnB: Is Gay an absolute lock this year? Has he slowed at all from last year?

Alex: Yes he is, John. No, he looks about the same. In that, he’s not that fast but no, not any slower.

Darth Blount 47: Hey, Alex! Let’s just go right for the pink elephant in the room. From what you have seen, but almost as importantly, your gut… Did this Defense (and team) get the requisite amount of better through the draft, in order to beat the New Englands’ of the world this upcoming year? I know about “Any Given Sunday,” but realistically, is the improvement actually there? Or are we losing in the AFC Championship game again?

Alex: Hey Darth! I think they have taken steps to close the gap. Of course, New England will be even better on offense. Healthy Gronk, Cooks, all the pieces they’ve added. But this defense will be able to be more versatile and that was one of the biggest issues they had in the AFC Title game loss a year ago.

Robbie: Look into your crystal ball. Will I ever have to see Le’Veon Bell play in a different jersey?

Alex: Yes you will. Even Franco spent a year in Seattle. Bell will play somewhere else. Probably in 2019.

Noah Fabian: Could the Steelers potentially place the transition tag on bell next year and simply match the offer of the highest bidder? Is so how much would the initial tag be worth

Alex: I suppose anything is possible but I don’t find it likely. Transition is so rare, even if the Steelers have done it before to a guy like Worilds (and Jeff Reed, I think??). Franchise is more likely path.

falconsaftey43: Coates played more ST snaps last year than DHB has ever played in a single season. I thought Coates did a good job there as well. Do we give DHB too big of a ST edge over Coates when talking about which one to keep?

Alex: Well I think part of that was because of some of the injuries to guys like DHB and others. In terms of quality of play, DHB is still better.

Reader783: Hey Alex, I submitted this as a question for the podcast, but I’ll ask you too: What do you think is the best path for us with Senquez? If he plays 1-2 games, we’ll probably keep him in my opinion if he plays even “ok”, but in the event he plays 0 games, and can barely get back for practice, do we IR him and perhaps designate him for return? I would feel better waiving Hilton/Allen for re-signing to the 53 than waiving Golson, who I feel would be claimed by many teams willing to take that risk.

Alex: If he plays, let’s see how well he performs. That gets harder to answer. Yea, if he doesn’t, you could put him on IR though I don’t know if I want to use one of my two spots there for him. There’s the sunk cost fallacy. The idea that you spent a lot already so keep spending. If he can’t get healthy now, just cut him entirely and move on. It just didn’t work out and you have to face that reality.

NickSteelerFan: Is golson still eligible for the PS and do you think the Steelers would entertain keeping him there I feel gen doesn’t crack the 53?

Alex: Yes he is. But no he won’t. That’s just stringing him along some more.

Jacob: Has Jerald Hawkins looked as good as he did last year? Any better?

Alex: I think he’s been a slight disappointment from what I’ve seen. But maybe I’m wrong. We’ll get a better idea tomorrow.


Thanks for the chat everyone! Tons of good questions. Talk in a week.

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