Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to the mailbag. Bye week is behind us. Now we hit the part of the schedule where none of us get any sleep. After this Sunday, Steelers have a Thursday night game followed up by three straight night games. Hope you used up your sick days…

To your questions!

HardPunkKore: Who has shown the most improvement and who has regressed the most?

Alex: Most improvement…can I say Joe Haden? Obviously, being healthy was the key factor for him but he’s night and day now compared to the past two seasons. He will still gamble and can get beat on double-moves (sluggo has burned him three times this year if I remember right) but there’s not much bad you can say about him.

Another name, though not a critical player. Really happy with how well LT Walton has come along. He’ll never be a star, or even a starter, but solid backup piece who stuffs the run, stays on his feet, and runs as hard to the ball as anyone.

Regressed…that one is tougher. No one jumps immediately to mind. Bryant I guess is a pretty obvious answer but you have to factor in all the time he missed and how long it’s taken for him to catch up.  Can Ben be the answer? Or is that to sacrilegious?

Grant Humphrey: Hey Alex,
Do you see the Steelers possibly taking a look at Martellus Bennett? It may seem a bit far-fetched but he would be a nice target for Ben.

Alex: I don’t. McDonald is your pass catcher. Bennett wasn’t exactly having a great year anyway. He’s a guy who has always seemed to bounce around. That sends up some red flags. By the time he picks up the playbook, it’s getting late in the year and there’s no defined role.

Beaver Falls Hosiery: Hi Alex! Which of the remaining 7 trap games concern you the most?

Alex: Haha. All of them.

NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex!
When looking for an upgrade over Dan McCullers in the next offseason (draft or FA), Do you think the Steelers should go for a typical NT type, a 3-4 DE type or try something new and go for a 4-3 DE type (6’4″ish, 275 lbs)

Alex: I don’t mean to give the lame answer here but I don’t focus as much on size as I do just getting talented players. If you’re looking to replace him, you’re grabbing someone late in the draft. I care about traits and in the 6th/7th round, work ethic has to be at the top of the list.

Look at the guys who have been the late round hits. Antonio Brown. Tyler Matakevich. Kelvin Beachum. All guys with extremely strong work ethics and great instincts. When the Steelers have focused on flash, they get Gerod Holliman. LT Walton is a great case of the former group. Not flashy. But a hard worker who the coaches really like. So that’s what I care about before I even look at how they tip the scales.

But a little more to your point, yeah, it’s a lot more of a need to find DL who can rush the passer. The run-stuffing cloggers are fading away. Which would lend itself to someone who looks more like Hargrave and less like McCullers.

Darth Blount 47: Alex, now that we are halfway through the season, and have the ability to look at how other draft picks have performed, would YOU still draft Cam Sutton with one of our 3rd round picks? And if not, do you have a name that you’d rather have instead?

Alex: Hey Darth! We’ll do the Depot draft exercise of picking one player taken after Sutton but before the Steelers 4th round pick. Couple names I’d throw out.

Carl Lawson – who I thought was a first round talent. Bengals got a steal.

Rasul Douglas – had concerns about him coming out of WVU but he’s done a really good job for the Eagles. And fits the mold of what the Steelers look for.

Eddie Jackson – safety who has had an impressive year. Heir to Mike Mitchell, which would be nice. Steelers don’t have that guy on the roster right now.

Jesse Hernandez: If Ben ultimately retires this year how would you feel about going after possibly Sam Bradford?

Alex: Meh, not loving it. Let me throw out one crazy theory. If Ben retires, why not go after Andrew Luck? Irsay seems to hate the guy and they’ll be picking high in the draft to get another QB. Bit of a discount with the Colts looking to unload him and you get one of the most talented QBs in the league.

There’s risk of course with that shoulder but let’s be honest. The Colts are a mess. It’s hard to fault Luck and knock him for an injury that probably should’ve been taken care of 12 months ago. Get him in a stable place and he’ll play like the elite QB he is.

SkoolHouseRoxx: What up, Young Alex! Can you see a scenario where we don’t draft a QB early this draft?

Alex: Absolutely. If Ben comes back, the Steelers will still be gunning for a Super Bowl. Draft a QB and you don’t get a piece to help you right away. Imagine if the Steelers didn’t have TJ Watt right now. And just from where they’re going to be picking, late in the 1st round, it’s harder to find QBs you like who are available. Sure, one guy might be there but then you gotta really like that guy. Doesn’t always happen. So yes, entirely possible they wait.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Alex, how big an impact do you think a healthy Marcus Gilbert can have on this offense?

Alex: Pretty big. Hubbard has struggled in pass protection. But you can’t also blame all the offensive woes on not having Gilbert. It’ll be nice to have him back.

Phil Brennemann II: 

Ok Alex it is time for the superbowl run and we are pretending the trade deadline hasn’t passed. You can trade 1 Steelers starter for a starter from another team of roughly equal value. Who do you trade and who do you trade for?

So just to give an example you can’t trade Jesse James for Von Miller but you could give up Le’veon Bell for Travis Kelce or something along those lines. This may be tough on the spot so feel free to save my question for last if you want time to think about it or you can just answer it in the comments whenever you have a good answer for me.

Alex: Oh that is a tough question. I’m not sure if I really want to make many moves. This is a Super Bowl winning team without a lot of obvious weaknesses and I don’t want to rock that boat, even in this hypothetical scenario. And I don’t know what position I’d want to give up.

Maybe add another WR to ensure you have that vertical threat? Anthony Chickillo for someone? Phillip Dorsett? Does Kenny Stills count? I’d love to get Mack Hollins. I’d trade Chick for Mack, they seem on par as talented backups. Fun question though.

The Tony: Do you think the NFL will take the Steelers off Sunday night against the Packers? If they do, would that benefit the Steelers to play at 1 or would they perform under the spotlight?

Alex: I’m not sure. My *guess* is yes they will flex the game. Which is probably a good thing. For all parties. That stretch of a month-long night game is rough. Players are creatures of habit so going tot he “normal” time is nice. All I know is that I am rooting for a 1 PM game so I’m not awake until 4 AM writing. No fun.

CP72: Alex,
3rd down conversion allowed is much better this year. Is the biggest contributor better personnel or has Keith Butler done some things differently in the scheme?

Alex: That’s a good question. I know broadly, the Steelers haven’t played a lot of man-to-man this year. But I’ve pointed out that they do it quite a bit on 3rd and medium, crucial get-off downs, to a high degree of success. So it’s Butler calling more man in part because he’s comfortable with the personnel he has to execute it. So one feeds the other, I think.

SteelCity: Power running teams (Bears / Jags) bad match up or just bad execution previously?

Alex: Probably both. Two teams who know they have one way to win and went out and executed. Get a lead, run the ball, wear the defense down with power runs. Steelers certainly did themselves no favors either.

Ike Evans: 

You know I like draft talk Alex. So if the season ended today…how would u rank the draft needs for this team. I’m thinking

1. Playmaker at safety
2. Tight end
3. Qb

Alex: Ha, waiting for you to start talking up your Pitt boys, Ike. Yeah that all sounds pretty solid. I don’t spend as much time thinking about draft needs. Who knows what free agency and all that will end up changing. It’ll change something, at least. But hard to disagree with those three.

Steelers12: Alex if you were going to a brawl in an alley, what 5 Steelers would you take with you to do battle with?

Alex: For starters, I am definitely not fighting. I’m small and scared. You could burn down my house and all I’d do is write a strongly worded letter. So I need backup.

Alejandro Villanueva – 6’9, 340 pounds and a former Army Ranger? Yeah, that’s an easy one.

James Harrison – I mean, duh.

Vince Williams – He’s big. He’s physical. And he might be a crazy person. No one wants to fight someone they think is legitimately crazy.

Ryan Shazier – Dude is jacked. He could win the fight by himself.

Mike Hilton – A sleeper pick! No one would take hims seriously. But I bet he’d rip someone’s head off. And he’s closer to my height, which makes the idea of me walking with the rest of the Steelers a little less laughable.

I’m adding a 6th in Rosie Nix. I know it’s supposed to be only 5 but if you want to disagree…fight Rosie to decide.

Matt Manzo: Hey Alex!
How do you feel about the way we’re using, or not using, Harrison?
Would you rotate him in with Watt? Or play with Watt on Duprees side and Harrison on the other?

Alex: Hey Matt! I guess I get it. Even the Lions game, where he could’ve been a successful pass rusher, the way they were using the OLBs, dropping them into coverage so often, it made sense to bench Deebo. Hopefully he gets some burn late in the year like Joey Porter alluded to.

Great chat guys, thanks for stopping by. Talk in a week!

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