Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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Lot to talk about today, I’m sure. Let’s jump in.

To your questions!

Jesse Hernandez: Do you think coty is going to win the job by week 2?

Alex: I really don’t know, to be honest. Clearly turning into a competition. But Sensabaugh has had the luxury, in camp at least, of seeing a lot of DHB, while Cockrell had to match up against Bryant. Backups are always the fan favorite until they get exposed on the field. But for the sake of shaking things up, who knows what Tomlin has planned. I still prefer Cockrell.

CP72: Hey Alex,
After all your time spent in Latrobe..
What concern did you have that is less after what you witnessed and what concern has increased?

Alex: Position group wise, I’m not too sure where I’d go with that. Maybe the DL depth but I wasn’t that worried about it going in. It did reaffirm that it’s as strong as it’s been in a decade and I am happy Walton looked competent at nose.

Player wise though, definitely Artie Burns. Knew he’d make a jump but didn’t think he would take the leap he did. The CB group is still messy but they’ve at least been able to define who their “guy” is. Who is going to take on #1 WRs. That’s a good place to start.

AustinTxStillerFan: 1) Has Tomlin press conference schedule changed this year?
2) Can you evaluate Tucker’s play on ST? He’s looked good to me there and seems to be a r phase ST player, yet not even mentioned in WR6 talk.

Alex: I don’t think it has. Still should be Tuesday’s at noon. Just gets wonky in the preseason.

Yeah, Tucker has been solid there. But he’s not in the DHB level – game isn’t special enough to elevate him there. And DHB has the resume, the speed/conditoning, and ability to play everywhere that would give him the leg up in a conversation like that.

Michael Joseph Jackson: Would you agree that CB, TE, ILB are the biggest needs in next year’s draft?

Alex: I don’t get too caught up in that stuff because we knows what is going to happen. Maybe Ben retires. Or Bell is gone. Or Cam Heyward follows Elon Musk to Mars. I dunno.

But as of today, yeah, CB/TE are definitely on my radar. ILB, not as much, because I still have more faith in Vince Williams than I do Cockrell/Jesse James (as of today).

nikgreene: Hey Alex. There is a lot of consternation on this site, and elsewhere, that Bell’s absence from training camp and preseason will have a significant adverse affect on his performance and increase his risk of injury. Where do you stand on this issue?

Alex: It’s no secret I wanted Bell in camp Day One and still think it’s dumb that he wasn’t. But no, I’m not going to lose my mind over conditioning/injury/playbook. It’s not “significant.” And definitely not the “has Bell damaged his reputation?” nonsense. Bell will be back, he will score many touchdowns, and fans will love him again. Not a single fan is going to boo him when he rips off a 30 yard TD against Baltimore.

D.j. Reynolds: Alex, thanks again for your superb coverage of camp! My question is 2 parts: 1. (other than Hilton) who was the biggest surprise; and 2. who was the biggest disappointment to you?

Alex: I think Feiler’s strong play impressed me. Matakevich was solid but in ways I assumed he would be (tackling, supporting he run). Again, the level of growth we saw in Burns came as a surprise.

Disappointment, you could combine Jesse/Grimble into one big ‘ol ball of “meh.” James was definitely better but neither looked great in combat/difficult catches, which is their calling card in this offense.

steeltown: If you could only pick one bottom of the roster player from the list below to keep on the 53, keeping in mind special teams contribution and positional need, who would you keep and why?

DHB, Trey Williams, S.Johnson, Maxey or Feiler

Alex: I mean, Maxey doesn’t offer a lot of value but not keeping him means you keep only 5 DL? That’s pretty light. So from a numbers game, you want to keep him.

In play/value, it’s still DHB, even off the ugly camp.

hdogg48: Alex….do you think Bell will have enough practice in
to play week 1 against Cleveland and if so how many carries/targets?

Alex: Yes, he’ll take the first snap week one. All systems go when he returns.

Total touches? Again, a normal workload, I think. 20-25 of them.

Boots: What did you take away from the few practices you saw for Sutton?

Alex: Honestly, nothing. He got one full practice, and it wasn’t in pads, before going down mid-way through the second. He worked on the outside Day One, saw work in the slot Day Two. That’s about all I got, unfortunately. We’ll all find out together – the coaches too.

stan: Do you think that Cockrell might be hurt? He doesn’t look like his old self.

Alex: Nah, I think he’s fine. Here’s one thing I’ll say about that ugly showing vs Atlanta. One of Cockrell’s best traits is his football IQ. Above the neck. Preparing to play. In the preseason, I assume there is very little of that going on. So when he got beat on that go ball down the right side, it came against a rookie I’m sure most of us have never heard of. So you don’t know how fast, how good these guys are. And that creates those kinds of problems. Just something to consider.

Haole: Is Dave Bryan contractually obligated to say “pounding the table” every time he mentions Danny Smith’s name?

How do you stack the AFC North right now? I think everyone puts the Steelers at the top, but how far above the rest of the division? Are either the Bengals or Ravens in a position to provide any sort of challenge this year?

Alex: Yes, it’s in Dave’s contract. And the only reason why Danny Smith still has a job. Thanks, Art Rooney!

The AFC North will always be competitive in any of those matchups, Steelers vs Bengals/Ravens/Browns. There are no layups or gimmies. But on paper, the Steelers are the run away favorites to win it all. Anything else is a major disappointment.

I think the Ravens will finish 2nd. Offense sucks but the defense is good enough to carry them. I would not be shocked if the Browns finished with a better record than the Bengals. They’re better in the trenches, especially the OL.

Dart Blount 47: 

Hey Alex! Do you play in any Fantasy Football leagues? And if not, why not?

As an addendum… Can you please give me your precise prediction for Martavis Bryant’s numbers this season. Receptions, Yards, and TD’s. Thanks!

Alex: I do! We should get a Steelers Depot league this year…who is in? Used to play in wayyyyyy too many in high school. Like 30 leagues. I am an idiot. Scaled back a lot, now in like, three or four. One is an IDP league and one is a long-time 20 team keeper league I’ve been for probably like 10 years now.

Ha, well precise predictions aren’t my thing. But it’ll be a big year. 65 receptions, 1000 yards, 10 touchdowns. That seems close enough.

Jeff Papiernik: Do you think Steelers will claim someone off waivers and put them on the 53 when the cutdowns happen? Do you think more than one position could be addressed? (For instance, upgrades over Maxey, Golden, and/or Grimble)

Alex: There’s a good chance, at least, if history is any indication. DE is possible though I think they like Maxey. A 5th safety could be added. TE is up there too if Grimble keeps struggling. Obviously, dependent on who is out there. Pro scouts have their hands full.

Brian Allen:  Any early candidates from camp cuts and from possibly next year’s draft that might bolster our TE Corp instead of continuing to wallow in mediocrity? I have mentioned Vance McDonald but I am open to suggestions, thanks!

Alex: I honestly haven’t spent a lot of time on it. McDonald is an interesting idea but his salary is way too high. That was a mega-contract the 49ers foolishly signed him to. So pass on him.

Shane Mitchell: Does Hilton need to win the 2nd string slot position to make the team?

Alex: I dunno, it’s still such a mess to try and figure out. I think it’s a valid question to ask if Hilton would truly be next man up in the slot in the regular season. It’s not a slam-dunk yes. The back end of the roster is so uncertain. Clearly, the team is looking to shake things up, which makes what they do unpredictable.

Troy Day: Although I say growth out of James last year, the TE group is meh as you say – think front office is looking at free agents?

Alex: To give you the cliche answer, they’re looking at all groups. But yes, TE could be at the top of the list.

Good chat! Thanks guys, enjoy the tune-up game.

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