Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to the mailbag and thanks for stopping by. As usual, I’ll be around the next hour to answer all of your Pittsburgh Steelers’ inquiries.

To your questions!

Sonny Saks: Alex,
Would take the trade off of two quality starters (ILB ad S) to let Bell walk?

Alex: Nope. Because it’s certainly possible you can have your cake and eat it too. You can find starters at ILB and S without losing Bell, who then you’d have to try and replace anyway. With their overall strong history of drafting well at the top, Colbert and company can do it.

Spencer Krick: 

Hey Alex Dude,

What do you think will have the bigger impact for helping the Steelers defense: The Draft or Free Agency?

side note: looking forward to the Free Agency shopping list.

Alex: Hey Spencer! Still going to be the draft. They’ll make a move in FA but it’s not going to be a major splash. The first and second rounders are almost a given to see immediate playing time these days and there’s certainly positions where they’ll have that opportunity. I think for almost any year, the draft is going to have a bigger impact in Pittsburgh than free agency.

Grant Humphrey: Alex,
Who’s your personal favorite ILB prospect in this draft, that the Steelers could possibly take?

Alex: It’s still a little too early for me to be talking about favorites yet. But I like some of the names listed. Evans from Alabama. Fred Warner from BYU would be a good fit. I need to watch more of Malik Jefferson from Texas. They’ll have options though. That much I’m confident of.

The Tony: Hey Alex!
This is probably the toughest question you will get this week, nay! This year!
What is the best Nic Cage movie of all time?

Alex: Can I say none of them? Or is that blasphemous?

I haven’t seen too many of his movies, to be honest. I don’t watch a ton of them in general. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the 90 minutes I saw of Trapped in Paradise on TV one night in college. It was as terrible as the reviews suggest. That’ll be my lone, random connection to Cage.

Steeler SonofFarmer: Joyner, Fuller, Hitchens, or Brown if you get a chance to sign 2 of them for better price who will you sign??
And will you let Bell walk away for #1 draft pick??

Alex: I need to add Hitchens to my list. Cowboys fan and friend of mine said he’s legit. I’m not interested in Fuller. Joyner is a great player but I haven’t even entertained the idea because his price range isn’t close to the Steelers. I’m not quite sure what “better price” means but if hypothetically, I could get him for cheap, then sure, I’d do it.

Bell for the #1? That’s tough. I mean, it sounds good but who am I taking with it? Barkley and hope he becomes the next Bell? Maybe I’d do it. I guess I would have to sit on it for awhile. Sorry for the non-answer.

Wreckless: Who’s one popular prospect that you’ve watched so far in your draft studies that you just don’t buy into all the hype for? For me, it’s been Leighton Vander Esch.

Alex: Ehh, I don’t know if I have a great name yet. For all the hype Marcus Davenport got before the Senior Bowl, his performance definitely didn’t match up as a Top Ten guy. I don’t view him like that.

Watch out for him to go to Tampa, by the way. Licht likes him.

T3xassteelers: Do you guys have one of Keke Coutee or Dylan Cantrell on your draft writeups? Really curious what you guys have to think about both. Cantrell is going to be a special guy that probably won’t be drafted till 6th round or so. Not many 6’3″ 235 lb. WRs with the blocking/speed/strength combo as him!

Alex: We haven’t done a report on either yet. But keep reminding us and I’m sure we’ll get to both. Still a long ways to go.

CP72: Alex,
How much weight do you put behind keeping Haden for his veteran experience? Starting Artie, Davis, Sutton, and maybe a rookie safety sounds a little scary.

Alex: Sure, it factors in. How much? It’s definitely not at the top of the list, or probably even in the top three, but it’s there. Not only just the experience but locker room attitude. For all the crap that happened this past year, Haden was a breath of fresh air. A guy who doesn’t seem like he rides the roller coaster, the same approach as Tomlin. Good communication is aided by stability and leadership and I think Haden has shown to bring both. And that’s one reason why they don’t want to lose him, even with that high base salary.

PghSDF: Can Bell be transition tagged? If so, then let him set his value and then the Steelers can decide to match.

Alex: Yes, he technically can, but there’s no purpose to it. Because Bell got the franchise tag last year, even with the transition (which is normally cheaper as it takes the average of the top ten positions, not top five like the franchise) he’s still getting paid the same amount. The transition is top ten at the position OR 120% of the last year’s salary, whichever is greater. Meaning that Bell still earns $14.5 million and probably ends up playing elsewhere. Not what you want.

Info here:

“(a)  Any Club that designates a Transition Player shall be deemed on the first day of the League Year following the expiration of the player’s last contract to have automatically tendered the player a one year NFL Player Contract for (A) the Cap Percentage Average of the ten largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position (within the categories set forth in Section 7(a) below) at which the Transition Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year, which Average shall be calculated using the methodology as in Section 2(a)(i)(A) above; or (B) 120% of his Prior Year Salary, whichever is greater.”

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Given the top end QB talent in this draft, how much trade activity do you expect to see in the upcoming draft? How might it effect the Steelers plan on draft day?

Alex: Feels like it’s going to be a lot. Not only in draft picks, which always happens, but maybe more players getting dealt this year than in a typical season. Sounds like it’ll be super active. The Steelers, I’m sure, will mostly sit on the sidelines.

Andrew Bruno: Alex, would you trade Martavis for no less than a fourth round pick in this years draft?

Alex: It would probably take a third rounder for me to deal him. I don’t expect him to get moved. Suspension history, drama last year, expiring contract, I don’t know why anyone would offer more than a 6th round pick for Bryant. He has more value to be a Steeler one more year than a late round pick who is unlikely to register that same impact in his entire career.

HdMartinez: Hey Alex,
What do you think of the rumors of teams calling to trade martavis..
and what would be enough compensation for you to trade him?

Alex: I saw the rumors but didn’t think they were credible enough. I’m all for smaller blogs/websites to do some breaking news – I think it’s awesome. I’m proud when we do it too, like when we broke the Le’Veon Bell injury back in 2015. But normally, when those reports happen from guys like us, they get confirmed by the mainstream pretty quickly (and ours was within the hour).

There’s been no follow-up on any rumors since. So I don’t buy into it. And not going to address if it’s enough or not.

NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex!! Thanks for doing this!
If everything seems to be going full bore into sub-package football would you rather have an OLB/ILB hybrid, ILB/SS hybrid or S/CB hybrid to add to this defense?
Also assuming the top 5 DL next year are Heyward, Tuitt, Hargrave, Alualu and Walton, would you prefer #6 to be more NT, 5T, 3T or 4-3 DE?
Thanks man!

Alex: That’s a good question. There’s no bad answer here but I dig the ILB/SS hybrid. The guy who can thrive on third downs. Match up on the TE, maybe a slot receiver, a great back out of the backfield. The biggest issue some teams, and now the Steelers without Shazier, face is their 3rd down/sub-package personnel. Who is your dime LB? Your 4th CB? Your 3rd safety? You need answers against 10 personnel, against empty, against backs that are used primarily as receivers (James White, Danny Woodhead, etc).

Right now, the Steelers don’t have that answer. Hopefully Cam Sutton can step into the dime role. They still haven’t found someone for that role in the last three years. Two seasons of Golden (didn’t work), one Gay (only marginally better). And you need an ILB who can be an every down guy. I love Vince Williams but I know he’s not really that guy. Certainly wasn’t used like it. So you need that hybrid guy, like a Bucannon or a Tartt, or Daniel Sorenson.

Nicholas Arnhold: Have you seen much of Jack Cichy from Wisconsin in your studies of Watt last year and other Badgers this year? He’s a name I keep hearing and I’m curious of your thoughts (health as a determining factor, of course).

Alex: Not much of him yet. My Wisconsin LB focus was on Garret Dooley. But I’ve heard good things. Medical, of course, going to be critical for him.

Darth Blount 47: 

Greetings and salutations, Alex! I have a bit of an interesting question for you…

Even for someone like myself that has desperately wanted us to draft defensive players after defensive players, until we get it right, I’ve started to think about all areas of this team that can and need to be improved. Often, when you can make a move that has a total ripple effect in a positive way, you gain more than you realize. Your article about Terrelle Pryor, thinking indeed about our 4-6 WR’s, and the idea of finally getting Brown off of ST’s once and for all, has led me to contemplate the avenues. Would you pull the trigger on a 1st round WR this year, if I told you that it would provide the following: Insurance against Bryant (when/if he leaves or trouble), an immediate starting Punt AND Kick returner, an immediate quality 4th WR – in the vain of JuJu on impact, and it finally solves removing Brown, gives Ben more targets, helps save Danny Smith’s job, and gets us back to having a weapon to flip field positions?

How valuable would a guy like that be for us right now?

Alex: I think the easy answer here is just to dismiss it and rabble rouse about defense, defense, defense. And sure, defense is HIGH on the priority. But I’m open to all ideas. And more importantly, I’m just looking for talent in the first round. You can’t miss on these guys and when the Steelers do (Jarvis, maybe Dupree?) you can really feel the impact.

So my short answer is: I’m not opposed to the idea. Now, he’s got to be much more than just a return guy long-term. And you need to define that role. But I don’t want to get into a box where it “has” to be either one position or another. Or one player or bust. That’s how you screw up, reach, take bad talent (see Edwards, Troy).

Obviously, it is very likely defense is the pick. But in a vacuum, yes, there is a scenario where I’d take a WR in the first. I understand the thought process.

Phil Brenneman II: 

I guess the question I am leading to is where is the disconnect between what I am liking in these guys and what others are? I acknowledge Smiths athleticism allows for that crazy ceiling but if I was grading him vs say…Jewell I would say Smith is A+ athlete and about a B football player whereas Jewell is an A+ football player and about a B athlete and I am taking the A+ player.

Do you think I am just not giving Smith enough credit or am I overrating Jewell? Or do I have both right and I am just looking for a different skillset than what most teams want right now?

Alex: Ha, yeah, lot to unpack here. I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong. Because it’s your opinion. And I can appreciate going against the grain. We need more of that in the draft/media world. I mean, I disagree with you, Smith is the #1 linebacker, but it’s all about what you value. If you value something more than another thing, your grade is going to be different. And that’s what every team aims to do. It’s not just a straight scale where nothing is weighted. What’s our scheme? What’s our philosophy? What will this player be asked to do in our offense/defense? Does he have those traits to succeed? And a ton of more questions other guys can probably frame better than I.

So yeah, I think you summed it up well at the end. You’re just placing a different value on different traits. And that’s ok.

Michael James: Roquan Smith is there at pick 15, do the Steelers now seriously look into a possible trade-up?

Alex: You could try but that’s still going to be tough to do. I’d rather trade up five spots to get Tremaine Edmunds. Cheaper and a guy with a huge upside.


what’s up Alex

I know you’re still diving into drafts/mocks, but wondering if you had any thoughts about DeShon Elliott. I’m less impressed than i think a lot of people are. Not to say he’s bad.

Alex: I’m one of those guys you’d probably disagree with. Big fan of Elliott. Think he fits well as a productive underclassmen. Good athlete sideline-to-sideline, opportunistic, good tackler, lot of upside. Here’s my full report.

Steel Realist PAul: Hey, Alex! If there’s an OLB available in the first or second that is a higher value than ILB or S, would you pull the trigger? Anyone you like there yet as a good fit for the Steelers? Thanks!

Alex: Sure. Similar to the conversation I had with Darth and OLB makes even more sense as a need than WR. I’m not locking myself into either ILB or safety. I don’t think that’s a good approach to take in general. It’s all about the value, talent, and grade.

For names. I like Okronkwo from Oklahoma. He’d be high on my list.

Thanks for all the questions! Talk to you next week.

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