Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

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Hey everyone, hope this week is treating you well. And that you’re surviving these late games. Two more left.

To your questions!

Balok Plight: Do you think they will sprinkle some more Conner in at RB to change the pace and save 26 a bit for the stretch?

Alex: Not until they lock things up. Their goal is to win. And Bell gives them the best chance. I think their plan is to win now, lock up the North, hopefully lock up a bye, and then rest Bell Week 16 and/or 17 (probably fewer carries Week 16, full rest the finale) and get that bye. Then he’ll be ready for the playoffs.

CP72: Alex,
Le’Veon Bell has 19 catches the two weeks. I think not coincidentally the offense has looked it’s best the last two weeks. Is this as big of piece of the puzzle as I think it is?

Alex: Oh absolutely. The offense thrives when Bell is getting the ball. That means Ben is spreading the ball around, checking it down (making smart decisions) and giving the ball to his playmakers. So yeah, it’s huge.

They just have to figure out those screens. Swear the Steelers are the worst RB/TE screen team in the NFL.

srdan: Do you buy into the rhetoric that we’re hiding parts of our defensive playbook in order to surprise the pats?
And if you do, how much of this is hurting players like Artie who is much better suited for man? If you look at his goof last week, he covered that post like a blanket!

Alex: Nope, not for a second. Now, could the Steelers stress things, do something different specific for the Pats? Yeah. That’s how gameplanning works. But they’re not going to avoid using something that could work against a team they’re playing now just so the Pats don’t see it later. They’re going to do everything they can to win the game that’s in front of them.

It’s like what I just wrote about the Packers game. Butler used his amoeba defense, 1-4-6 front against their 10/01 personnel. That was new. You do what it takes to win. Any coordinator who intentionally sabotages his team in that way should be fired.

Real quick side note. One weird thing that happened in the third quarter, well after the Burns TD. The Packers ran the same concept again (without the flat, which was more delayed). And Burns took the post and Mitchell played the deep third to the outside. I don’t know if that was an adjustment. But it was weird.

Paul Brodak: With Safety (and CB) play being sub-par, why isn’t J.J. Wilcox playing more?

Alex: Obviously, CB play has nothing to do with Wilcox. Wouldn’t matter how bad the corners were playing. It doesn’t influence how much time Wilcox sees.

Who would you bench? Wilcox for Mitchell? Wilcox struggles in similar ways as Mitchell. Probably even moreso. And Davis isn’t playing that bad. If you think about all the guys who have given up big plays over the last month, Davis is low on that list.

Golden is the first off the bench anyway. Now, a good question is why Wilcox began the year as the #3 and then Golden jumped him. What changed? You’d think with more time in the system, Wilcox would leap ahead. Went the other way. I don’t have a good explanation other than the obvious. Golden is just outperforming Wilcox in practice. More trust in #20.

The Tony: Hey Alex! If you had to make a top 5 power ranking so far in this season, who would be your top 5 in order

Alex: Oh man, that’s tough. I’m probably not the best to answer that. My guess.

1. New England
2. Philadelphia
3. Pittsburgh
4. Minnesota
5. LA Rams

New Orleans would be 6th. But I really haven’t spent much time thinking about it.

Grant Humphrey: Hey Alex,
Do you think that Joe Haden can come back in time to play the Patriots? If not when do you think is the soonest he can return?

Alex: I’m not sure Grant. I don’t have inside info. Recent reports seem optimistic. I still think the Pats game is pushing it and you don’t want to rush Haden. I think Week 16/17 is more realistic. But confident he’ll return before the regular season ends.

JohnB: Who do you think is going to be the last man standing as far as retirement goes out of the 04 QBs? Ben, Eli or Phil?

Alex: Good question. I think it’s Eli. He’s taken the least amount of abuse. And those Manning’s play forever. He’ll probably want to play at least four more years to guarantee a revenge game against the Giants.

Charles Mullins: Can we bench bell this week so that Burfict doesn’t end his season?

Alex: “We don’t live in our fears.” – Tomlin

Bryant Eng: Hi Alex. This could be wishful thinking, but assuming we go man more often in situational football (e.g., critical third downs, etc.), particularly against the patriots, will that help the secondary clean up mistakes. OK, let’s be honest about what I’m asking – when we play the Patriots, we’ll go man more often than usual (correct?), and that should make life easier on Burns than zone assignments, yes? Hoping these big play ailments won’t be as exploitable against NE.

Alex: Yes, I suppose that’s true but man isn’t a crutch. You can still screw up. There’s certain things that make man coverage harder (picks, stacked releases/bunches, switch releases) and there’s things that make zone coverage harder. And even if you clean up mistakes in terms of blown coverages, you can still lose in man-to-man. Dump of to the back, screen play, eyes aren’t on the ball, guys are late to rally. That happened on the screen against Green Bay that went to the house.

So playing man alone doesn’t mean all the woes are solved. Some are. Some new ones pop up.

Kyle Chrise: Any possibility this year’s situation with James Harrison is because the franchise initially thought he would contribute more (due to Watt being an unknown quantity). Now they know he won’t, but they won’t cut him, because they do not want to repeat what happened to Troy Polamalu?

Alex: I think the first part of that is true. James wanted to come back, the team knew he could be an asset and at the time, had an unclear pass rush situation. Watt ended up being way ahead of the curve so Harrison’s role diminished.

I don’t think the second part is. They’re not keeping him around just to appease him or so that he’ll show up at his Hall of Honor induction four years from now. They’re keeping him because he’s an important locker room presence and when/if guys get hurt, or just worn down (Watt is a rookie, dealt with an injury, and this is the time where rookies begin to hit the wall) Harrison could wind up with a roll.

Like Porter said. Deebo is a relief pitcher. Maybe more like a closer. It’s not the 9th inning yet. We’re in the 7th inning stretch.

SkoolHouseRoxx: Whats good, Young Alex!? Let’s say there is an alternate universe we’re Ben never contemplated retirement: After rounds 1 and 2 how would the draft had unfold?

Alex: That’s hard to say so early at. It’s hard to say before free agency. But I think we all generally know the needs/wants. TE, FS, another corner wouldn’t hurt. It’s all going to depend on who is available. I don’t have a feel for it yet. I don’t think anyone does.

Ninja Mountie: Alex, I’m going to ask an offseason question. Would you really pay Bell the Franchise Tag rate next season? If so…WHY!!??

Alex: Yes. Because I want to win a Super Bowl. Bell helps to get me there. Keep the stars around as long as you can.

What’s the other option? Let him walk? Massively downgrade at the position and hamstring your team for 2018, possibly Ben’s final year? I’m not good with that.

Daniel Santo: 


When will JH92 see the field? Will it take an injury? Or does he start playing more in pass rushing situations?

Alex: He won’t come in during pass rush situations. That’s not how the Steelers rotate their OLBs. They go by series. Yeah, it could take an injury. Still don’t rule out a role late in the year. But even when he’s out there, it won’t be for a large amount of snaps (barring injury).

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Alex, where do you stand on the ‘AB for MVP’ debate? I know he won’t win, but do you think he’s a deserving candidate?

Alex: I mean, I probably sound like a homer but I think he’s deserving. All the plays he’s made to win the game/keep the Steelers in it. Hardly ever a bad rep from him. He’s not going to win it but yeah, I think he’s worthy.

Although…I have been kicking around the idea that AB isn’t even the MVP of the Steelers. Maybe I’ll do an article on that sometime.

Doug Andrews: Alex i’ve always wondered what “limited” means on an injury report. If there’s not much tackling not really physical practices what does limited mean?….they were able to stretch sit and watch practice?

Alex: That’s a good question, Doug. I’m not at practice so I can’t answer that fully. Here’s how the NFL defines “limited.” Hope it helps.

“Limited Participation: means less than 100 percent of a player’s normal repetitions.

The term “normal repetitions” applies to a player’s participation in both individual drills and the
team portion of practice. Consequently, a player who participates in less than 100 percent of his
normal repetitions during either the individual or team portion of practice should be listed as
“Limited Participation.”

A player who participated in individual drills, but does not participate in the team portion of
practice should be listed as “Limited Participation” for that day.
A healthy player who is injured during practice and, as the result, is unable to complete the
practice should also be listed as “Limited Participation,” with an accompanying description of the
player’s new injury or reaggravation of a prior injury.

A player who participates in individual drills, but for medical reasons does not take his normal
repetitions during the team portion of practice and is assigned to the scout team should be listed
as “Limited Participation.” Participation on the scout team, no matter how extensive, by a player
whose normal repetitions would be with the starters but for his medical condition, would not alter
the player’s proper designation as “Limited Participation.”

Kevin Reich: Rather have on Steelers next year Flacco or Eli?

Alex: The asteroid.*

*Ok, Eli. But after his 22nd interception in Week 3, bring on the Asteroid. Don’t save me, Harry Stamper.

I gotta duck out a few minutes early. Thanks for the chat, guys. Enjoy the weekend.

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