Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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Don’t want to waste any time. Let’s dive into the mailbag.

To your questions!

Beaver Falls Hosiery: Hi Alex – which off season free agent signing will prove to be the most productive in the regular season: Knile Davis, Justin Hunter, Tyson Alualu or Coty Sensabaugh?

Alex: Alualu, definitely. He’s a lock to make the team, which only he and Sensabaugh are right now. And he’s the only one with a clear path for playing time. Sensabaugh won’t see time on defense unless there’s an injury (or an angry mob of fans kidnap Ross Cockrell. Possible!). Alualu has had a great camp and should be the top backup at both end spots. Smartest signing Colbert made.

Phil Brennemann II: I know D Will isn’t coming back Alex but based off of what you have seen so far from Davis and Toussaint would you rather have one of those 2 coming into this season or have D Will back? (lets assume health is good and he is in football shape for this excercise)

Alex: Ha, I was fine with the team moving on then and I’m still fine with it. Toussaint and Davis have done well in camp, about as well as you could hope/expect. D-Will was going to keep depreciating. Backs age like my McLumina.

KaiDex411: Could you give us more details on Burns this camp compared to last? I know he has looked better but how much better does he look?

Alex: Well you have to remember Burns missed a good chunk of camp last year. So it’s hard to really compare the two. But clearly, a year in the NFL, a year to focus solely on football (didn’t do so in college because he ran track), has him more confident and ready to embrace the challenge of facing Antonio Brown every day. So much of a corner’s game is his competitiveness, his mental toughness, ability to bounce back after getting beat (they all do, especially when you take on AB). And Burns has really shown growth in those areas.

Rene Gonzalez: I know it might be hard to evaluate, but who of the defensive starters that are injured right now concerns you the most?

Alex: Keion Adams might be one guy who ends up on injured reserve. Certainly wouldn’t rule it out. Golson, more time he misses, smaller the window becomes. To have any chance, and it’d still be really small, he needs to get back for the third game.

The team probably is being cautious with Mitchell but the one concern I have with him is something I expressed before. In 2015, Keith Butler cited not having his whole defense getting reps together as one issue for their awful start. And Mitchell has missed pretty much all of camp, just the first two non-padded practices. With injuries elsewhere, Shazier missing a lot of time, that could be an issue again.

Jefferson_St_Joe: Do you think Golson has a shot of getting on the practice squad?

Alex: No. He’s a guy you just cut ties with. Admit it didn’t work out and just move on.

Darth Blount 47: Let’s jump in the ol’ time machine and fast forward to the end of the Pre-Season and to the very start of the Reg. Season. Is it pretty safe to assume based on all that has transpired, that Cam Sutton will be the 6th CB on the depth chart? Behind Burns, Cockrell, Gay, Sensabaugh, and even Hilton? And if so, how big of a disappointment has this Camp been for him for you? (Not ultimately playing at all in the Slot and injured basically all of the time)

Alex: Yeah, it’s possible. That last CB spot could be a rotating one, whoever had the best week in practice, whoever shows the most on special teams. Sensabaugh might be the top backup everywhere. Even though he hasn’t worked in the slot at all during camp, he’ll probably get work there in the regular season when lines get thinner. Not sure if you’d play Hilton over him out of the gate. Sutton’s rookie year certainly shaping up to come on just special teams, that’s for sure.

It is a disappointment anytime a guy is hurt and can’t work. He won’t play against Atlanta but should be back for the third game. So there’s still some time to evaluate.

Ace: Hey Alex- Bell related question. What would you do with him next year if you can’t come to an agreement on a long term deal. Also, thoughts on a Tuitt extension? Worth Cam H money?

Alex: Hi Ace! They won’t come to an extension. Your only option is to tag him, which they will. Not letting him walk.

I haven’t thought long and hard about the Tuitt extension. He’ll be within striking distance of Heyward money, even if he isn’t quite there. But worth every penny.

MP: Hi Alex
Shazier starts and finishes 12 regular season games this year. Over or under?

Alex: Ugh, you did your homework. Picked a good number. Started 12 games the last two years. I dunno, such an impossible thing to predict. I dunno, I guess I’ll take the under? I mean, he’s never been over and he’s already bogged down by a soft tissue injury. But who knows. Sure hope it’s the over.

NickSteelerFan: Are special teams contributions considered for Oline and Dline when making the last few spots? I know they are for every other position, but I wasn’t sure about the trenches. The Francis Kallon report about his running down on a kickoff got me thinking about this.

Alex: That’s a good question. I’m probably not super well equipped to answer it. Generally, I’d say no, because even those guys who do it in the preseason won’t be counted on as starters for it in the regular season (like Kallon). I think something like that just speaks to the athlete he is and makes him an interesting stash on the taxi squad. It’s not about the ST work; just the traits that you see when you watch him move covering a kick.

ThatGuy: Here’s an easy one: Over/Under 11.5 wins this season?

Alex: I’m going to be “that guy.” The buzz kill. Taking the under and saying 11. Steelers always lay an egg to some team. AFC North is still always competitive. They won’t sweep even if they’re clearly the best team on paper (they are). The back half of the schedule is crazy tough and has some short weeks.

Even with good paper teams, they haven’t won 12 games in 6 years. So I’ll go with an 11-5 season.

stan: is Alualu good enough to be figured into the decision-making on how badly we need to re-sign Tuitt?

Alex: Not at all. Zero effect.

Jesse Hernandez: Is Martavis Bryant noticeably stronger or faster so far during these past couple practices?

Alex: I’m not sure about faster, he’s always been wicked fast, but he looks bigger. No one has tried to tackle him yet so it’s hard to say if he’s been stronger. Not a lot of combat catches either.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Have you seen anything from the tight end group that would inspire you to believe they will be more productive than last year’s group was?

Alex: Well I hope Jesse James continue to ascend as a receiver, though his ceiling isn’t terribly high. But this group has been…underwhelming in camp. So it’s hard to say I’ve seen things that inspire me, outside of the logical thought that young guys will improve.

Boots: How much do you feel the defense has improved from last year to this as camp is breaking?

Alex: I think they’ve improved by leaps and bounds. More experience for Burns, Davis. More consistent, less breakdowns. You’re not shuffling pieces around like last year. Working Burns into the lineup, having Davis in the slot, realizing it was too much, kicking him to safety, starting him there mid-year. Kind of a mash unit.

We know who the starters are this year. There isn’t any debate anywhere, except for Watt/Harrison snaps, but you knew it was going to be a split. There’a a level of comfort in that. Knowing who the guys are. And they’ve improved.

jger15: Any scenario (outside of injury) where you foresee both Hilton and Allen making the 53?

Alex: I’m glad you mentioned it. Go check out my 53 man roster prediction…

Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt: Alex quick question since you’ve been to training camp this yr do you feel that our defense is now capable of keeping up with our offense?

Alex: I don’t look at it in those terms. I just know the defense has improved.

That’s all for this week, gotta run out to camp in 20. Talk to you guys next week.

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