Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to the mailbag. Wow, what a week. Let’s dive in.

To your questions!

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Alex, I think we know(or we think we do) who the Superbowl favorites are in the AFC. Is there an NFC that you think of as a favorite to make it to the big game? Personally, I’m at a loss

Alex: It’s definitely more competitive now that Carson Wentz is done for the season. I don’t think there is a clear favorite. I lean towards Minnesota but it’s a dart throw. You can make a case for New Orleans, Philly, Seattle, Carolina, and the Vikings.

SkoolHouseRoxx: What up, Young Alex! Is there a running back you would have chosen over Steven Ridley to pick up?

Alex: Hey SHR! I didn’t give it much thought. I was like most of us and assumed Watson would get the call-up. But watching Ridley Monday, he looked good for getting his toes back into the water.

Often, it’s not just about what name has the most value or who looks the best on paper. It’s about finding guys who are ready to come in right away. The guys on the workout circuit, the guys who were on rosters during the year. That’s why the idea of bringing in DeAngelo Williams, something every fan chanted for, was sooooo dumb. The dude hadn’t stepped on a football field in 11 months. For a guy like Ridley, who spent time on a roster, went through an entire camp, he’s still not all the way in football shape. Now compare that to a 35 year old who hasn’t done anything in a year.

That’s why the workout circuits exist. Every Tuesday, teams bring in a list of tryout guys, to have people on speed dial if they have an injury. Mike Hilton had a workout before being signed. Ridley worked out and then was signed. Gotta give it up to the pro scouts who stay on top of these things.

Eddy: Do you think there’s any chance we’ll see Josh Dobbs against Cleveland? If so, what are some areas you will focus on and what does he need to show?

Alex: Nope, definitely not expecting it. Starters are still going to play for at least a half. And if the NE/NYJ game is close, they’re going to keep playing. You’re guaranteed rest next week so you have more leeway playing guys this week. And if Ben does come out, Landry is next up. Because if something happens to Roethlisberger in the playoffs, the reps Landry gets in this game is going to be a small comfort. Dobbs won’t even be active. See ya in the preseason, rookie.

Michael James: Who do you think the Steelers will ultimately have to play in the divisional round and who do you want the Steelers to play in a best case scenario?

Alex: This is going to sound like a lame answer but it honestly doesn’t matter to me who they play. Any team is going to be tough, have their own challenges. There aren’t many teams limping into the race. The AFC is close so the teams who are finishing the year strong (Baltimore, LA) have the best shot to get in.  And then you’re obviously playing someone who has won a playoff game.

So I don’t know who it will be because there are so many directions it could go. Maybe Baltimore again. That’d be fun.

Matt Manzo: Hey Alex!
What adjustments, if any, can we make on D to fix the run game? Or is it just needing better execution? I’m worried about it going into the playoffs.

Alex: A little bit of both. Some of the issues vs Houston was guys not getting off blocks. A lot of it was just poor run fits. Too many guys in the same gap, not playing good technique out on the edge (Haden on Blue’s 48 yard run is a great example). Still some weird alignment stuff going on with the ILBs being set on the edge. Maybe that’s Butler trying to stop those outside zone runs.

Steelers have been in dime on earlier downs, too. You’ll get it in 2nd and long now, too, not just third down. Miller had a 12 yard draw on 2nd and 22 Monday when Pittsburgh was in dime. So there’s some of that. But sure, them rushing for 176 yards and over 6 yards a pop doesn’t sit well with me. And I was concerned that Tomlin…well, wasn’t.

Brian Tollini: In your opinion, which player that is currently a starter on defense our weakest player? 2nd part, is the player you mention a starter next year still?

Alex: Hi Brian! I still don’t have much trust in Burns. He can have good games like he did against Houston (albeit not vs Hopkins) but I’m always worried about him making a critical mistake at the worst time. And it says a lot that the team went to Haden last second and asked him to travel with Hopkins instead of having he and Burns split time. Obviously, they didn’t want 25 to have any part of 10, who they knew they had to contain (and openly said as much). That’s a pretty clear dig at Burns.

JohnB: Which fan narrative annoys you more, changing a guys a position (ILB to Safety, OLB to ILB) or a “guys a great player that means he’ll be a good coach?”

Alex: Ooh, good question. Probably the changing position. At least the player to coach makes some level of sense on paper. And I get that a lot of people don’t really understand coaching and the different requirements and challenges it takes. Plus, there’s a ton of examples of coaches who played; I mean, most of them did, at some level.

But there aren’t many examples of safety to ILB. Or QB to WR. Or whatever. And some of them just get outlandish. Someone suggested Jesse James play ILB to stop Gronk…what? And people are so incessant about it. Super annoying. I’ll light my laptop on fire before I ever hear “Shazier to safety” again.

falconsaftey43: People fret too much about rush yards or pass yards. points obviously matter most, but drive success and total yards matter much more than either pass or rush alone. HOU was fewest points and 2nd fewest yards surrendered by Steelers this season, why are so many focused on the total rush yards surrendered?

Alex: For me, it’s less about total yards but yards per carry. If Houston would’ve averaged 3.5 yards a carry and run up a bunch of yards because they were still handing it off when it was 34-6. that’s fine. I wouldn’t carry. I usually stay away from the “total” numbers like that because aggregate doesn’t explain efficiency. But Houston averaged 6.3 per carry, a crazy high numbers, for a pretty “meh” rushing attack with a bad offensive line. I’m never happy about 6.3 per carry, regardless of the final score.

And true, Houston didn’t score, but they also missed out on points too. Totally bungled their goal line possession. Should’ve had points there.

CountryClub: Maybe the Pats were in the Steelers heads, maybe they weren’t. But after playing the game they played a few weeks ago, I don’t think they’ll have any fear going into NE for the AFC title game. And, I honestly would expect them to win The Steelers are the better team if they’re healthy (minus Shazier, of course). BTW, Hopkins ruled out of this week’s game. Brown just has to worry about Julio now.

Alex: I agree, there’s no fear. It isn’t impossible to beat New England in New England like some think. It’ll be difficult but this team can do it. A game with Haden, AB, Gilbert all healthy and ready to go? Let’s do it.

Darth Blount 47: Let’s say you have a significant portion of your bank account split off and allocated as the “Bagel Bites” slice of the pie. Would you be willing to bet that important sum, that Joe Haden is a starting Steeler CB come 2018? Or how about Martavis Bryant as a starting (1 of 3) WR?

Alex: If money wasn’t an issue, Haden would be back. But I guess that’s sort of an easy answer to give. If they can make it work financially, I think Haden will return, even under that hefty salary. He’s proven himself and I don’t know if you want to drop off from Haden to Sutton right away. But I don’t know how the cap and things will look.

Bryant is tough. Does he still want out? He has been involved a little more and has played better but probably not like how he wants to be. But again, as was the discussion before, what’s his trade value? An unhappy, inconsistent WR with a history of suspensions? You’re getting like, a 7th for him. Probably better to keep him and take whatever risks come along with that.

Phil Brennemann II: Alex which of these 2 Killer B’s playoff performance do you consider more important to our success. Bince Williams or Bud Dupree?

Alex: I love me some Bince but it’s gotta be Dupree. If he turns it on, look at, sky is the limit for this defense. All starts with the pass rush. Dupree having the game of his life is bigger than Williams having his best one.

lou rock: Alex, Now that we have a bigger sample size, who should get the most reps in replacement of RS— Forte, Spence, Matakevich or Gay?

Alex: Regardless of what I think, the pecking order is clear. Spence on early downs, Fort as the lone ILB in dime. I guess I can live with it. But I don’t know why Fort can’t be the every down guy. I guess they just don’t trust him to anchor vs the run well enough.

Ben Saluri: What’s your thoughts on the Steelers signing Haden to an extension?

Alex: Sorry Ben, almost missed this one. It’s an interesting thought – can you rework the deal to keep him around? But I don’t know if that’s terribly likely. The Steelers knew what contract they were signing him to.

Thanks for the chat guys. Talk again in a week.

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