Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome to the first Mailbag of 2018. Hope the New Year is treating you right.

To your questions!

Mr. Goodkat: Stupid, but fun hypothetical: You have to stop Gronk from gaining 10+ yards on 1 play. You know he’s getting the ball, but you can only play him man-to-man — no help. Who on the current roster do you pick? Does your answer change based on field position (Between the 20’s vs Red Zone)?

Alex: Hmm….good question. I think you gotta still go with Sean Davis. With his CB background, he’s comfortable covering man-to-man. And he’s the only guy who is going to offer that blend of size/length/athleticism. He didn’t do a bad job in the first matchup. Gronk made a couple great throws and used leverage on a couple more of them.

My answer may only changed not on field position but where he aligns. I’m much more comfortable with Davis over Gronk when Gronk is in the slot. But split out, isolated on a red zone fade? That’s one time where I probably go with Artie Burns. Burns is a risk over Haden but the length/strength is the deciding factor for me. I’ll roll the dice and pray.

Lambert58: Hey Alex! I read your article about Dupree highlighting his run stops. He had ZERO tackles against Cleveland. Is this guy really the answer at OLB? To me, he lacks want to and aggressiveness. He doesn’t seem to like to stick his face in the fan. Often looks like he can’t get to the spot where he needs to be whether defending the run or rushing the passer. Your thoughts?

Alex: I don’t want to call him a bust. He’s not Jarvis Jones. His career isn’t over. But sure, you’re looking for a lot more out of him. My expectations were as high as anyone so there’s nobody who is more disappointed than I am. Still think there’s an injury factor at play but you can’t hang onto that excuse forever.

I’m not sure if it’s a “want to” issue. People say that about Burns and I don’t think it’s true. It’s just a technique/positioning problem for Burns and I think some of the same could be true for Dupree. I should take a deep dive into that.

As a pass rusher, like we studied during the bye, we’re looking for him to be able to convert speed to power and add a counter move, preferably something inside, that will only help him win the edge. So tackles can’t sit on the speed move.

Phil Brenneman II: 


For each of these opponents name the one player you hold out for 1 game if given the chance if they were to face us (and none of that “I want to beat the best stuff”. We want to go to the SB no matter what)

Alex: So we’re suspending one of the opponent’s players? Can I just choose all QBs? Except the Chiefs. Give me Alex Smith, not Mahomes. I’m all for seeing Nathan Peterman.

But to make this more interesting, I won’t choose QBs.

Tennessee: CB Logan Ryan. Guy can line up anywhere. Outside, slot, he’ll blitz, play the run, well-rounded guy in LeBeau’s defense. Now the Titans don’t have an answer to travel with Antonio Brown.

Kansas City: TE Travis Kelce. I know the Steelers have done a good job slowing him down in the past but that’s because of all the attention they’ve paid to him. No Kelce frees up the defense dramatically.

Jacksonville: CB Jalen Ramsey. Take your pick, Ramsey or Bouye. Both are great. I think Ramsey is a little more physical so I’m taking him. Gotta hurt that Jaguars’ secondary.

Buffalo: NT Kyle Williams. Could’ve gone with another corner here but mixing it up. I know the Steelers ran over the Bills last year but I’d love to see them stop the run without Williams, still going strong and playing a high volume of snaps. Emotional leader, too.

Beaver Falls Hosiery: what is your biggest concern going into playoffs? ILB group; TE’s; secondary etc?

Alex: I have an article coming on Monday about my biggest concern but defensive communication/chunk plays. Still hasn’t been fixed. Pretty fed up.

Cinko123: Hey Alex, what’s your New Years resolution?

Alex: Watch the Steelers win a Super Bowl.

Intense Camel: What does Cam Heyward have to do to make the Pro Bowl?

Alex: Cure cancer?

For real, the league is going to have to change the position groups on these ballots. If Heyward keeps getting lumped in with 4-3 DEs, it’s going to be pretty much impossible for him to do it. Doesn’t have the name value of guys like Bosa and Mack.

The Tony: Happy New Year Alex. Two questions for you. Who has a better shot at the Hall of Fame; Ward or Harrison? Also what is the most iconic Steelers number of all-time? The number that everyone associates that player with. I’d have to go with 43

Alex: Good questions, Tony. I honestly think Harrison does. He was legitimately the top guy at his position for a multi-year stretch. Ward never was. Harrison’s sack totals don’t look as good stacked up to others because he got such a late start on his career but he was the more dominant player. And I think that’s going to stick in the mind’s of the voters more than what Ward did, a really good career but rarely a “dominant” phase. Ward got overshadowed by the flashy receivers. No one took the spotlight away from Deebo.

Iconic number? That’s tough. 43 is a good one, tough to argue there. Bradshaw’s 12 might be another top one. When a guy quarterbacks a team to four Super Bowls, it’s a pretty easy association. Ward’s 86, too, for how loved he is by the fanbase. I’ll rank them.

1. Ward – 86
2. Troy – 43
3. Bradshaw – 12
4. Bettis – 36
5. Lambert – 58
6. Franco – 32
7. Blount – 47

Grant Humphrey: Hey Alex,
Maybe just maybe do you see Stevan Ridley being a guy that is re-signed in the offseason and can compete for a roster spot in camp?

Alex: Sure, I’d love to see him back. But maybe he turns his work now into a better opportunity somewhere else in the offseason. Ridley knows he has little chance for playtime behind Bell and Conner will be back come camp.

CP72: Alex,
Little early I know, but do you think giving Bell 14.5 million on a franchise tag is a reasonable thing to do?

Alex: Yes. Because the only thing less reasonable than giving him the tag is not giving him the tag and letting him walk. If Ben comes back, you don’t let your star RB play somewhere else.

Chad Weiss: Hey Alex give me the best addition to this team this year
Alu alu

Alex: Oh wow, what a list. No wrong answers here. I gotta give the edge to Haden though. Position that needed some more talent to it. He hasn’t been the perfect corner some make him out to be but no doubt, an upgrade to over Cockrell/Sensabaugh. And created better depth because of it. I’ll rank them but again, it’s close.

1. Haden
2. Smith-Schuster
3. Watt
4. Hilton
5. Alualu

Edo M: palace intrigue question. if it is true that Harrison asked multiple times to be released and was denied, do you think Harrison’s behaviour to be justified? Ya know, often people react to what they are presented with and all this controversy could have been eliminated if Tomlin would have simply granted our 6 times pro bowler and SuperBowl MVP and all time sack leader a simple wish.

Alex: I believe he did ask for his release. That’s not something Harrison would just lie about. But no, that does not excuse or justify childish behavior. Not showing up to practice, falling “asleep” in meetings, the ones that he showed up. It’s like Martavis Bryant. His gripe may have been justified, I think both guys had a point, but it’s the way you act on that that is wrong.

Being unhappy doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want.

SkoolHouseRoxx: What up, Alex the Great! As you may know, Ben Roethlisberger is the only player in history to throw for 500+ yards 3 times! Which 500 yard game is your favorite of Ben’s?

Alex: Hey SHR! No wrong answers again but the original, as usual, is the best. That game-winner to Mike Wallace against Green Bay? Wow, what a play. One of the top 5 throws he’s made in his career. We should all go watch it again.


Random fun question.

If the Steelers were an NBA and MLB team who would you pick them to be similar as based on success/history/etc.?

Alex: Hey man, how’s it going? You’re stretching my sports knowledge though. In basketball, gotta go with the Spurs. Consistently successful, not a super flashy team, steady, great head coaches, great players, defensively/fundamentally sound with a dynasty run.

Baseball…the Cardinals? For similar reasons. Fanbases aren’t well-liked outside of their city either but they’re die-hard fans.

Michael James: Hi Alex, you have to chose between those two scenarios:
A Steelers-Jaguard and Patriots-Chiefs divisional round, or a Steelers-Titans, Patriots-Bills divisional round.
Which one do you take and why?

Alex: For the record, I don’t pay much attention into who I want to see. Steelers will play who they’ll play. And if they play their game, they’ll win the Divisional round. But to answer the question, give me the Titans. I’m not sure the upside of the other scenario. Patriots are still going to win, Steelers just have a more difficult matchup. I know Ben wants to see Jacksonville again. I’m cool with seeing them eliminated.

Ray Istenes: What does the defense have to do to get off the field on 3rd down more consistently in the playoffs. Giving up those long 3rd down conversions to the Brownies was maddening.

Alex: Good question, Ray. I think part of it is staying at home, doing their job. Linebackers get moved too easily in zone coverage. Pass rush has to stay in their gap, not give the QB escape lanes to extend the play, Especially if they face a mobile QB like Mariota/Alex Smith. It’s all about the details.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Alex, a lot of the ‘top rated’ QB prospects have now declared for the draft. Do you now think the Steelers have a legit shot at getting that quarterback of the future in 2018(given the depth at the position)?

Alex: Sure, it’s possible. We’ll have to see how the class plays out. But a lot of names now that Darnold/Rosen have declared. Someone could fall into the late first. Question is…do you go for it? Or if Ben is returning, do you add an impact player and try to win a Super Bowl with him? Tough call.

Jeff Papiernik: Now that we’ve seen both play at least a season each….who would you have rather had in the draft….Artie Burns or William Jackson?

Alex: William Jackson…and I’m guessing the team wishes they did, too.

That’s all for this week. Terrific chat. Thanks for stopping by.

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