Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to today’s mailbag. Tomorrow begins the on-field portion of the NFL Combine and runs through Monday. Meaning, I’ll be locked away in my house all weekend. Which, ok, is what I normally do anyway. But this weekend has a purpose.

As usual, send over whatever is on your mind with the draft and free agency closing in.

To your questions!

Spencer Krick: 

Hey Alex,

Is there a specific prospect you’re looking forward to seeing at the combine?

Alex: It’s always difficult to narrow one down. But I know Texas safety DeShon Elliott is a pretty divisive prospect. Some think he’s a potential 1st rounder. Others see a middle Day Three guy. How he runs and the fluidity he shows flipping his hips will be big. He’s also a one year starting junior so this is his first real exposure to NFL scouts. Lot on the line.

jger15: Hey AK! So with Colbert’s recent comments, are you now thinking RB, S or OLB in the first round? If so, can you tease any names you’d like to see there before your mock next week?

Alex: Well I don’t want to give away too much in my mock (out Monday, for those who didn’t see). And I’m still kicking around ideas. But I am feeling much more confident it won’t be an ILB. I still don’t think it’ll be a RB either. Bell is back, for at least 2018, so whoever you’re drafting in the first isn’t seeing much playing time.

CP72: Alex,
Who’s the prospect that the combine made you like more than his tape told you should? Think we all have one.

Alex: Hmm, that’s a good question. I’m sure I definitely have one. Just trying to think back. I’d probably have to go through old notes. But I remember Travis Feeney crushing his Combine workout. 4.41 40, 40 inch vert, 10’10” broad. Crazy numbers. But made me ignore his thin-frame and the history injury. And injury ultimately booted him out of the league pretty quickly.

Doogie: saw a mock with Uchenna Nwosu – LB, USC, as Steelers first round pick, whats your impression of this guy?

Alex: I like him. But don’t know if the team is going to view him as an edge guy. Maybe inside. He views himself as an off-ball player. Either way, wouldn’t take him in the first. Perhaps the second.

Intense Camel: Would you trade bell for the giants #2 pick? If not, what package would you consider worthy of making this deal?

Alex: I’ve been asked that a lot lately. Still wrestle with the answer. Gun to my head, yeah, I would. Just because I’m pretty sure 2018 is Bell’s final year. We’re also, in this hypothetical, going to ignore how tough it would be for Bell to be dealt without officially being under contract.

Dustin Stover: 

Hey Alex,

Do you think there would be any consideration the team might cut Mitchell and possibly have a CB, such as Sutton or Gay, take over the FS spot?

First time submitting a question to the mailbag!

Alex: Hey Dustin, thanks for dropping by! Hope you can more often. I don’t think Sutton moves and I don’t think anyone who does will be expected to take over that spot. Keep Sutton at corner. Need the depth there, need someone to be the 6th DB, and I want him to at least challenge Burns in camp. If you move Sutton, you’re thin at corner again. Need more than three.

Gay is just a dart throw to try to give him a better shake at sticking on the roster.

To me, if you move anyone, it’s Brian Allen. Not to start in 2018 but be groomed as a potential starter and give yourself better depth. Trying to find a true FS since Golden isn’t really that guy.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Which prospect will be the biggest disappointment at the combine this weekend?

Alex: Man, that’s tough to predict. I do think we’ll come out of the Combine with most people (if they aren’t already) wanting Sony Michel over Nick Chubb. But it’s hard to pin down a guy who will perform poorly. It’s impossible to know which guys have trained hard, prepared the right way, etc. Sometimes, you get a guy who is hurt or sick and it drops their numbers without us knowing the underlying reason. Remember Demarcus Ayers poor 40 time (4.72, I think?). He had a broken finger and struggled to push off out of his stance. So it looks bad but in hindsight, makes sense.

Ben Saluri: I really think ILB Josey Jewell has to be on the teams radar in the 3rd…Thoughts on him and other middle round ILB’s…Thanks

Alex: Sure, he definitely could be. Especially now that it’s looking like the team will at least wait some amount of time before going after an ILB. Others you could consider in that range are BYU’s Fred Warner and South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard. Dorian O’Daniel is a tweener but option on Day Three. Shaun Dion Hamilton from Alabama has good tape but spotty medicals.

NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex! Love this time of year and love your coverage!
With Malik Jefferson’s ability to be an effective rusher and also being very good in coverage, and being 6’3″ and over 240lbs, I’ve heard it thrown out there that he could be a good OLB prospect. With the Steeler’s new emphasis on coverage from their OLB’s, could you see them using him in that way if drafted?

Alex: If he gets drafted here, I assume he’s staying inside. I don’t think he’s going to be a good enough edge rusher. And sure, the coverage numbers are up but probably less than people lead you to believe. Watt dropped a bunch but we were comparing his percentage vs Jarvis Jones/James Harrison from a year ago. Of course Watt will drop more. That’s part of his skillset. And it wasn’t 60% like some claim (one media member once said, factually, Bud Dupree drops 75% of the time. Not even close). It was 38%, about 8-10% higher than what the right side did in 2016. That’s still a lot but not as drastic as some of the info out there.

One other reason for why the team dropped their OLBs more last year? They played 10-15% more base defense. More base defense = higher chance of dropping an OLB (rushing four, which Butler did at a very high level). So there’s a lot of variables.

Yes, the OLBs probably drop a lot more than even say, five or six years ago. But why it has to be such a hot topic now? I’m not quite sure.

Anyway, that’s me taking the scenic route to answer your question. Jefferson stays inside.

Zach6432: Manziel has been working out with Hayden and has mentioned that he would be willing to be on a teams practice squad with $0 guaranteed money. Do you see the Steelers signing him to the practice squad? Perhaps he could turn it around in a good organization?

Alex: Nope, not going to happen. That’s great he is working with Haden but Haden’s relationship isn’t going to sway the team to sign him. There’s no reason, no value, no need for the drama and controversy that’s going to blow in for whoever signs him. Steelers have had enough of that.


Do the Steelers need to make better use of role players?

Obviously every team would love to have 11 starters that never come off the field, but I feel like the Steelers rely too much on that philosophy. We haven’t seen this coaching staff successfully carve out niche roles very often for guys with a particular skill set (gadget RBs, designated pass rushers, redzone target, matchup coverage player). They’ve dabbled with it (Watson short yardage, Derrick Moye in redzone, Golden Dime backer) but haven’t had much success. They could have found a way for Harrison to see some pass rush snaps, or for Conner to get more playing time to give Bell more of a break etc.

Alex: Offensively, I have no issue with the division of labor. When you have some of the game’s top athletes and players, you aren’t looking to get them off the field. Bell being off the field, replaced by anyone, has a negative impact on your team. Keep 26 between the white lines.

Defensively, there’s a case to be made, but I’d argue Butler did a lot of “niche” this year. Number of sub-packages and personnel groupings were at a high level. I think 11 in total this year, compared to only 4 or 5 in 2016. You had big dime, big nickel, 2-2-7, different goal line looks, their 3-4 over front, 3-4 regular, nickel, dime, and a couple others I am forgetting. Maybe that’s not exactly what you would want but it’s still pretty niche, still using role players.

Grant Humphrey: Hey Alex,
There aren’t a lot of them, but what is the biggest need in the offensive side of the ball.

Alex: Slot WR depth. JuJu goes down..who is the guy? Eli? Marcus Tucker? So that’s gotta get addressed.

And with Tomlin’s history of using offensive players in the return game, some of those WRs/RBs can fill some obvious needs there as well. That doesn’t get talked about like it should.

Steel SonofFarmer: 

hey alex,

I have couple names that i want to know what round you think they will go can you help me with that???

Arden Key Edge LSU
Chandon Sullivan CB Georgia state
Donte Jackson CB LSU
Anthony Miller WR Memphis
Deshwan Elliot S Texas (one of my favorite)
Hercules Mata’afa Edge Washington State
Mason Rudolph QB Oklahoma State
Cody O’Conell OG Washington State

trying to do some mock draft but need some reality check lol…

Alex: Eh, that’s going to be tough for me to answer on a lot of those guys. Especially still early in the process. We just saw OSU’s Billy Price go down with an injury on the bench press. Could totally change his draft stock.

Key is late first-early 2nd. He needs a good workout. Elliott is all over the place. I think he goes 2nd. Rudolph possible 1st rounder. The other guys…I’m not sure. Sorry man. I dig the DBZ avatar though!

Mr. Goodkat: A player does not have to sign the Non-Exclusive tag to sign an offer sheet and (effectively) be traded for 2 first round picks. Can this be negotiated down? Matt Cassel was traded to KC for a 2nd, but that was after he caught the Pats off guard and actually signed his Non-Exclusive tag.

Alex: Yes. I believe in a previous conversation, someone brought up Cassel as precedent. Still, don’t cling to that idea. Odds of Bell getting traded are remote. This is a team that won’t consider trading Bryant. What makes anyone think they’re eager to dump Bell?

That’s all for this week. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy the Combine and be sure to stick around Depot. We’re tracking everything and will have reaction/analysis each day.

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