Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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If you guys have questions – and I’m sure you can think of one or two – let me know in the comments below.

Also, if you played, tell me what your favorite Grand Theft Auto of all time is. San Andreas? Vice City? 5? Come out of left field and throw down China Town Wars? Good discussion in the comments section today.

Beaver Falls Hosiery: Alex – any chance the Steelers keep 7 cornerbacks and only 5 defensive linemen? They could always put Maxey on practice squad in emergency.

Alex: Seven cornerbacks are possible but I can’t see five defensive linemen. I can see the team going heavy for the first time ever. Harder to envision they’re going to go so light for the first time ever. So still believe six will be kept, though it’s possible that 6th guy comes from outside the organization if Lavon Hooks is truly the “frontrunner.”

It all depends on how you construct the roster but using my last roster prediction, I would take off my 9th offensive linemen (Feiler) for Haden if I wanted to keep 7. If you kept 4 RBs, you lop off a RB. 4 TEs, same thing. 10 linebackers, same thing. You can make a sacrifice there without really thinning the depth the way you would with only 5 DL.

Bill Sechrengost: Now that the Steelers have traded for a TE and signed a CB, is there another position you can see them looking at to pick up a player that gets cut or another trade?

Alex: Wouldn’t rule safety out. Clearly, the team is taking a match to the secondary. And Golden has played at a “junior varsity level.” There isn’t a 5th safety to keep on the 53. That’s your best bet.

ilamarca: Do the Steelers wish they had David Njoku instead of TJ Watt right now? Did they wish that 3 days ago?

Alex: Nope. Don’t think they do one bit. Watt’s a good one. And if you want to win right now….

1. You need a pass rush. That’s the foundation of the defense.

2. Rookie tight ends don’t often make a big contribution.

And in hindsight, they get a good one in McDonald and have the long-term investment in a really talented guy like Watt. I’m thrilled.

HardPunkKore: Alex, with the season just around the corner, got any bold predictions for the Steelers this year?

Alex: Ha, well they’ve been bold enough the last two days. I think it’s tough for me to top it. I still say Dupree is getting 12 sacks this year.

I think Bryant can score more TDs than AB. Is that bold?

Jonas: What is your take on Willie Gay’s status after the Haden addition?
Is he even more important as he’s a savvy veteran that can communicate with Haden instantly? Is it now more likely a young corner jumps him during the season, if Haden is everything the Steelers are hoping for as the new outside CB?

Alex: Haden said he’s leaning on Gay to pick up the playbook. So I think the answer is yes.

I still think Sutton will push Gay at some point this season. Not right away, Sutton is too far behind, but maybe by Week Four. Or around the bye week. The key about the slot is the ability to communicate. So Sutton has to master that and show consistency, especially now with a new RCB. That’s why Gay will make the team and start out of the gate.

Willie John: What does Terrell Watson have to do to make the 53 man roster tonight, or is he practice squad bound no matter how he performs?

Alex: I still think it’s practice squad for him. Not enough on special teams, never going to be used as a runner. And I think Knile Davis has done well. Especially in the detail of things. Well-rounded guy.

Bryant Eng: Alex, what other possible veteran (or otherwise) waiver wire FAs might merit a Steelers phone call? Lamar Houston comes to mind (DE depth over Maxey/Philon), as do some running backs (perhaps not Forte, but TJ Yeldon?)? Thanks, as always!

Alex: I haven’t looked into it too closely let. I mentioned Angelo Blackson from Tennessee as possible DE depth but that’s a shot in the dark. Not sure about Houston. Little on the shorter side. Don’t think he’s as strong at the POA as a guy like Alualu.

I’ll have to comb over some safeties too.

AustinTxStillersFan: Forget the money- Haden 2017 vs. Cockrell 2017, upgrade or downgrade?

Alex: As much as I’ve cautioned about the Haden jersey and as much as I’ve defended Cockrell – both of which I still believe – Haden is the better player. Someone asked it well yesterday. What does Cockrell do better than Haden? I couldn’t really come up with a good answer. I think straight line speed, they might be around the same. But Haden has better COD skills, the better tackler, playmaker.

I still caution fans that Haden of today isn’t the Haden of three years ago. There’s a reason why the Browns wanted to dump him. And this tweet from Mike Prisuta is ominous.

This is exactly what happened with Brandon Boykin. Dude was hurt, couldn’t run anymore. So I generally agree with Mike’s line of thinking here.


Alex, now that Haden is on board, it seems obvious that there is no spot for Brian Allen.

I’m cautiously optimistic that he’ll make the PS. Are you?

Could he be picked off by a bottom feeding team going nowhere, willing to take a flyer and keep him on their 53 (Cleveland, maybe, wouldn’t that be ironic)?

Alex: Yeah, Allen is gone. He’ll make it to the practice squad. It’s not like he’s been spectacular in the preseason. We always worry about “our” guy getting claimed. But 31 other teams are having the same freakout. Truth is, very few end up getting picked up by another team.

Now come mid-season, you might worry about poaching after injuries set in. Like Mihalik last year. But for now, he’s safe.

NickSteelerFan: Hey alex! Thanks for doing this every week!
Do you think it will be easier for teams to sneak someone to their PS with everyone being cut in the same 48ish hours?

Alex: No problem! One of my favorite articles to do each week.

No, I don’t think it’ll be easier. Pro scouts and pro personnel guys get paid for a reason. They always have to deal with high volumes of players. They’re not going to be fooled. It’s still a list of names…it’s just going to take a minute longer to look it over. Nothing changes on that front. Each team has their sort of shortlist of guys they’d be interested in.


Now that Haden is on the team, unless they decide to keep 7, which CB gets cut that was going to make it?

To me, Burns, Cockrell, Sensabaugh, Gay, and Sutton are hard cuts. Does that mean Hilton goes to the practice squad? Or could one of those 5 (Cockrell?) get let go?

Alex: Gluebucket, my friend, I really don’t know, lol. It’s so over the map. And when you’re a team like the Steelers clearly looking to make big changes, it’s hard to get a read on them. Mike Hilton is all over the place. Dale Lolley thinks he’ll start Week One. Jeremy Fowler had him getting cut. That’s how all over the map we are right now.

My guess is Cockrell still goes. As backups, Cockrell/Sensabaugh are redundant and Sensabaugh is more versatile with more special team value.

Wreckless: Who’s your surprise cut and surprise keep this year, Alex? I say Knile Davis gets cut and they keep Steven Johnson around.

Alex: Yeah, both of those are possible.

Demarcus Ayers seemed VERY confident about making the roster. That would be a shakeup. And that could lead someone like DHB getting the ax.

I don’t think Cockrell counts as a surprise anymore. Especially when someone gets cut and the fans throw a parade for him.

BurghInPhilly: Does a PUP or IR with return designation take up a roster spot? If not, why not keep Golson around? By your and Keith Butler’s account he had a good day 1 of camp before getting hurt (meaning, the foot injury may not be a concern). I know everyone is down on him, but he’ll play somewhere and we may as well take on final look. No?

Alex: No, they don’t take up a roster spot once they are on there. But he can’t go on PUP because he wasn’t on PUP to start camp. He could be around for IR to return but that would require him initially being on the 53 (like Bud Dupree last year). And that means you’re cutting a corner you don’t want to. The payoff of Golson coming back, with no role, no guarantee for future health or success, isn’t worth it.

Austin Saylor: Alex – After we win the Super Bowl this year and Ben retires is there some way we can trade Le’Veon to another (NFC) team for a high 1st round pick to get a new QB? Clearly, I don’t understand how franchise tags work, but if we tag him again next year, wouldn’t we still have an option to trade? Very worried about another QB mediocrity gap like we had in the 90’s…

Alex: Ha, well, I’ll file that as a good problem to have. Yes, could still trade him. But I don’t expect that to happen. Bell will be tagged and he’ll play in 2018. The only wrinkle is if he pulls an Eric Berry and threatens to hold out. We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.

stan: What do you think the chances of a Tuitt extension are? Do we still have the cap space for one?

Alex: I defer to Dave on this stuff and he says Haden’s contract doesn’t change the money enough to affect Tuitt. So same chance as before.

Joseph DeFazio: I have a feeling they keep 5 DL so they have an open spot for an extra S until Mitchell is 100%

Alex: I dunno…first time in a long time, maybe ever, they’ve only kept 5 DL. I’d be surprised.

Great chat guys! Talk to you next week.

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