Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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Another eventful week. Let’s jump into it.

To your questions!

Beaver Falls Hosiery: Hi Alex; how do you rank the DB’s in order of technical proficiency defending the pass?

Alex: In technique alone, it’s still Haden at the top. Which is what you would expect. Mitchell is next. Gets more crap than he deserves because you don’t see all the plays he doesn’t allow to happen. Would put Hilton third, Davis fourth, and Burns last because he’s struggled in his consistency but has definitely gotten better.


what do you think the biggest void the steelers FO will try to fill this offseason as of now? Coaching,safety depth, or maybe even QB depth?

Where do you think the steelers could execute better to make them the clear cut favorites in the AFC?

Alex: It’s always hard to say. Obviously, if Ben retires, we know what tops the charts. Bryant could be on the move and the team is always looking to add at WR. Could see another high investment into the position. Yeah, safety could be on that list. TE too. We’ll see.

As for what they have to do better, it’s all situational football. Third down offense (24th), red zone offense (30th) and red zone defense (26th) are wayyyyyyyyyy too low. No reason they should be struggling as much as they are.


Hey bud, great work this week. 2 questions:

Teams that don’t have physically imposing receivers often run “rub routes” or picks to get them open in the red zone. Especially when very close. I don’t see that a whole lot. I think it’s very effective.

Who you got tonight?

Alex: Thanks man. You’re right, we’re not seeing that stuff enough. I’ve talked about how one of my main criticisms of Haley is that the routes are a little too independent of each other. Thought he got back to more “concepts” the last two weeks. Even the AB TD, which yeah, could’ve been an INT, was a really nice switch verticals call that got AB on the nickel corner. Don’t remember last time I saw that from Haley.

Taking the Ravens. Brandon Williams is back. They’ll get just enough from that offense. Did you know Miami still doesn’t have a single rushing TD through six games? With a really good back. Makes no sense.

PaeperCup: Does AB make Ben a better or worse QB?

Alex: I know what you’re getting at PC but let’s not overthink it. It’s better. No doubt about it. Like the KC TD I referenced above, if it’s any other player, that’s not going for six. That pass is incomplete.

Darth Blount 47: Hey Alex, I guess we have to talk about the pink elephant in the room, right? Can you please explain to me your thoughts about how exactly did Martavis Bryant throw JuJu “under the bus, took a shot at him, or trashed him,” when all Bryant said was that he was a better football player than is JuJu? Which, for the record, many people would agree with MB about. He also then went on to speak effusively, quite effusively about JuJu. And JuJu wrapped it up by saying he and MB are friends and that he understands Bryant’s frustrations. I simply can’t see where Bryant said anything egregious or deserving of the vitriol.

Alex: Hey Darth. We’ll have to disagree. Maybe Bryant didn’t mean it the way it came off but there’s no reason to say it. Why go after some rando on the Internet? Saying things like “yall can have JuJu” and just the general, well, let’s be honest, dickishness of it is what was inappropriate.

Sure, when guys say it, they can give some vocal cues about how each guy thinks they’re the best in the world. But when you type it out, you lose that context. Bryant responding again was him just trying to walk things back after he realized he screwed up (which is why he deleted the comments). And JuJu took the high road, which was smart for him.

Bottom line. No need to get into those things on social media. No need to again complain about playing time. Especially when the guy you’re saying you are better than is making more plays. As Tomlin said, it’s not that Bryant doesn’t have a point (in a way, as I did the video on this morning), he does. But he’s gone about it the wrong way.

WB Tarelton: 

Let’s play, “You can only keep one.”

Vance or Jesse
Artie or Davis
Tuitt or Cam
Pouncey or DD
Watt or Shazier


Vance – more big pass plays

Davis – Close call. But Davis better football IQ. I can trust him more. He just needs to keep making the big plays like he has.

Cam – Love Tuitt. But Heyward has soul.

Pouncey – Again, really close. But Pouncey is so good to the point where it’s just a given. No one even talks about it.

Shazier – Excited about Watt. But Shazier is an MVP-caliber player.

Busforever: Hey Alex, a very serious question here: when a QB throws the ball on the ground right after the snap in order to stop the clock, why refs don’t flag it as an intentional grounding? I secretly hope to see it one day.

Alex: Because it’s not. You have the TE three yards away. The RB right behind. That would be considered a player “in the area.” Ergo, not grounding.

NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex! Are you pleasantly surprised with how well the ILB tandem has played this year? Or is it what you expected? I’ve been very pleased with how well they have both played and stayed healthy to this point.

Alex: Hi Nick! Not really. You guys know I have been really high on Vince Williams. And he, like the rest of this team, has really found their groove over the last two weeks. No one is saying a peep about how much of a liability VW is in coverage.

nikgreene: Assuming Bryant is benched for the Lions game…How could Justin Hunter be used to replaced Bryant’s role (limited as it is) in the offense? More specifically can he block, run a slant or WR screen in addition to being a deep threat?

Alex: Like you said, Hunter is really just that deep threat. He’s not going to offer much more for the offense. Eli Rogers will see the biggest uptick in snaps with Bryant out. JuJu gets moved to the Z, Eli kicks to the slot.

Jeff Papiernik: rue or False: The Lions game is the Steelers’ toughest on paper until the Patriots in week 15. If false, who presents a bigger challenge before then?

Alex: I’m still saying Tennessee is a tougher challenge. But it’s close. Problem with the Lions is that the Steelers’ defense goal is to always stop the run. And the Lions…well, they’re fine with not ever running the football. But their defense has given up too many chunk plays and the QB isn’t efficient enough.

And while yes, both teams have to deal with it, the Steelers play Tennessee on a Thursday. And that’s an offense that throws a lot at you. Difficult to prepare for.

Spencer Krick: 

Hey Alex,

Looking far, far ahead at the offseason, how is this TE group going to shake out? Do you think they find a way to keep Vance?

Alex: Maybe. We’ll have to see how he performs the rest of the way. He’s finally comfortable with the offense, gotten healthy, so now is the time to find out how much of an asset he really is.

Cheddar: Hindsight is 20-20. I know we all root for James Conner for the story, but I personally didn’t love the pick at the time and I remain unimpressed. There’s a lot of players out there I know I and other folks were clamoring for in the 4th who seem to be having pretty great years. If you could, would you toss him back for Carl Lawson or Deatrich Wise? Even later, George Kittle or Des King? Would adding any of those guys have a meaningful impact on our SB chances?

Alex: I don’t know if any one of those guys would have a meaningful impact on the chances this year but sure, I’d swap Conner for Lawson in a heartbeat. Probably even Kittle. Maybe King. I didn’t love the Conner pick when it happened.


Hey alex,

I know this is way too soon but I typically start thinking about next year’s needs (draft wise) about mid season and here we are. My ranked order is this safety, tight end, qb (qb moves to 1 if Big Ben retires). Agree or disagree?

Alex: Well it depends on what they want to do with Mitchell. If they keep him another year, then I don’t know if it’s top of the list because there is no immediate, starting role. But the other two, yeah, they make sense. Like I told the others, it’s still too early to think about.

John Noh: Hey Alex, what does your crystal ball say about Cam Sutton playing any kind of a role this season? Or do you think he’ll be red-shirted?

Alex: Special teams only, I think. Maybe he takes Gay’s spot in the dime tole but I think it’s unlikely. So not a redshirt, I think he’ll come back, but his role will be small.

Grant Humphrey: Hi Alex,
Do you think Martavis Bryant will be traded by the deadline? What’s his maximum market value right now?

Alex: No, pretty confident that he won’t be. Because his value is about a ham sandwich right now. Trading him in the offseason will still be tough. I think you get like, a 6th rounder for him. Maybe a 5th.

CP72: Alex,
Why no fullback in short yardage situations? Nix was blowing guys up and it perplexed me to see him on the sideline on 3rd and 4th and 1.

Alex: A valid question. My best rationale for it was wanting to have extra TEs on the LOS to avoid some of the penetration. I would’ve liked to see Nix out there but still, fullback or not, team has to convert 3rd and short. They have the players to do it. So I focus more on what went wrong on the play as opposed to the personnel grouping.

HiVul: Alex, idk if you like fantasy football so I’ll phrase my question like this: best guess at stat line for JJSS this week?

Alex: Not as avid as I used to be but yeah, I really like JuJu this week. I’d start him.

Bill Sechrengost: Someone already asked about Cam Sutton, but I was wondering with already six healthy CB’s on the roster, it seems Sensabaugh is only a special teamer. Would they trade him (I realize they wouldn’t get much, maybe a 7th rounder) to make room for Sutton to come back since Sensabaugh isn’t really contributing in the secondary?

Alex: Nah. He has no value. And I like having the veteran corner depth. It’s a pretty young group at CB so having someone like Sensabaugh, who has shown he can play all three spots, is nice.

PghDSF: Do you think they should have kept Coates? He at least can run more routes than Hunter.

Alex: I don’t think it would’ve made a drastic difference but I wanted Coates over Hunter as the trade happened. And I don’t feel any differently now.

Phil Brennamann II: 

1. After this season you can only keep one between Hilton and Burns. Who you taking? Assuming it is Burns does the answer change if we hadn’t spent a 1st round pick on him?

2. 2. 3 or 4 years from now will we be talking about Dupree and Watt in the same way we were Harrison and Woodley when they were at their best?

Alex: It’s still Burns. I’ve been critical of him but the ceiling is still there. And I don’t think the draft pick has anything to do with it. You see the flashes, you see the potential, you see the improvement.

Boy, I hope so about your second question. Both guys have that potential. We’ll see.

Thanks for the chat everyone. Talk in a week!

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