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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Hello everyone and welcome back to the mailbag. As usual, let me know what’s on your mind in the comments below.

To your questions!

Mr. Goodkat: Would you kick the tires on Elvis Dumervil or Pernell McPhee to compete with or back up Bud? Seems risky to roll the dice at such an important position, and older guys have shown capable of providing value as situational pass rushers (Peppers, Feeney, etc..) over the past few years.

Alex: I think I’d pass on both. Cap space right now doesn’t allow for a whole lot of extra moves anyway unless we’re talking about something for the minimum. I’d rather go through the draft. Develop that way; that’s how Pittsburgh has always done it. And Colbert calls it a strong edge class. I don’t see them going through FA when they like the prospects of that group. Counter to their philosophy. And I agree with that decision.

In Pittsburgh, there’s not a true situational pass rusher anyway. You don’t have guys coming in on third downs. They rotate based on series. So it works different with the Steelers than some other teams.

Brian Tollini: With free agent signings of Bostic and Burnett, I have started to look more at edge rushers in the draft. Along with being difficult to pronounce,Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Uchenna Nwosu are 2 guys that stand out for me. Is Okoronkwo athletic enough to be a starting OLB for us and do you see Nwosu as purely a guy that needs to be moved to ILB? Thoughts on these 2 guys as Steelers?

Alex: Okoronkwo would be a really solid selection in the second round if things break the right way. Get a true pass rusher who can corner the edge. Dupree, Watt, they’re not as natural at it. He can stand up and move around. Did some of that at Oklahoma. And he has the length to play the position, too. Short but not small.

Nwosu is versatile. I think you could make a good argument for kicking him inside in the Steelers scheme and still play him outside a little bit, which the Steelers ILBs naturally do anyway, especially on third downs. That’s a guy who I hope is on the Steelers’ radar again, in that Round Two range.

NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex, thanks for doing this I look forward to it every week!
Now that we have signed a FA safety and ILB, which positions could you now see the Steelers addressing higher than they would have previously? Any players that would fit the bill for your preference?

Alex: Thanks for asking questions every week. Hopefully my answers are sensible today. Feeling pretty lousy. That “haze” you get when you have a cold/the flu. Not fun.

I don’t think the Burnett/Bostic signings are going to change much of the draft outlook. They’re short-term options, not long-term pieces. Still have every reason to take an ILB or safety in the first round. Signing those two just gives the Steelers options and if they can’t get one of those guys early, it’s no longer the end of the world. But short answer, it really doesn’t change the outlook at all.

I still argue OLB should be in bigger consideration in the first round than it is. Just hard to find a name who fits, especially after Tomlin nor Colbert showed up to watch Josh Sweat workout.

Bryant Eng: Realistically, I don’t see Davis moving to FS, but I don’t know how talented our new DB coach is. I don’t think the recent signing change the draft plan. Reid in round 1, Burnett resuming his old role as a Ryan Clark type FS until Reid is ready – then logging 50%+ snaps as a hybrid (a role that’s been missing). Does that sound realistic, and if not safety is still a need – who do you like in later rounds (2/3) if we, say, draft Gesicki or LB in round 1. I’m big on Edmunds (VT), but isn’t he a box type? Thanks!

Alex: Well I don’t see Burnett playing FS. He’s your SS/box guy. The only way Davis doesn’t move to FS is if they draft a Bates/Reid and they start the season there and Burnett is used in 6 DB sets (or maybe Davis will be used then, who knows). But with the way things look today, Burnett is strong, Davis is free.

West Virginia’s Kyzir White is a name to stow away for Rounds 2 or 3. Kinda similar usage as what Burnett did last year but he’s a better athlete and has a higher chance of patrolling centerfield.

CP72: Alex,
I’m surprised how comfortable people feel with the tight end position. Vance is a question mark. James and Grimble are kinda just guys. What’s your thoughts on spending a Day 1 or 2 pick on the position?

Alex: I mean, I’m not super opposed to the idea. You just have to find a guy who gives you something new. That’s why I hone in on taking Mike Gesicki in the first. Not that I’m demanding it but if you want a sleeper/surprise, that’s the name I can’t quit. He’s going to give you that ideal matchup down the seam, even more than McDonald (whose health is still going to be a question – can he play all 16 games?).

Rookie TEs usually don’t do much their first year. It’s a tough transition. Even Njoku took his lumps up in Cleveland. And I want that first or second round pick to make an impact right away. Neither of those guys sit on the bench. So if you’re not taking an impact receiver, I’m not sure how else you’re going to use him.

Darth Blount 47: Hey, Alex… let’s dish. I think it’s time we talked about the elephant in the room. No, not Daniel McCullers… our forgotten 5th round pick last year, Brian Allen. When Dave Te was on ‘The Terrible Podcast,’ the one guy he couldn’t gush enough over in the draft, was Allen. And now, he’s become our forgotten draft pick. Literally holding zero expectations for Steeler Nation. So here goes… What is the best thing to do with Allen? Right now, he’s likely our 6th CB (behind Haden, Burns, Hilton, Sutton, and Sensabaugh). So should we consider a move to Safety? How about back to WR? The guy is 6’3, 215 pounds, ran a 4.43. Improved to a 38′ Vert at his Pro Day. His 3-Cone time was a stellar 6.64. So not only should we give this kid a chance somewhere, but I don’t think he should be as forgotten about as he has become. Dave Te would certainly NOT approve. He’d slide in at 4th at Safety and even possibly 4th at WR. Better than being 6th at CB. What say you?

Alex: Some of that might not get figured out until after the draft. Going back to receiver….eh, I’m against that. Too big of a transition. That’s a desperate, last attempt thing. I’m fine with moving him to free safety. Depth is weaker there than it is at corner right now.

But there’s time to sort it all out. Maybe they draft two safeties, one early, one late, because they had the second guy graded as the highest player left. Or maybe they end up taking a corner because they felt he was the best player left. Either way, it has an impact on Allen. Corner, safety, both options are on the table. Don’t have to provide a concrete answer right now.

Grant Humphrey: Hey Alex,
Why do you think the Steelers decided to bring back Dan Mccullers?

Alex: Just depth. It doesn’t mean the Steelers have to pass up adding another DL in the draft. They better bring in more competition. But the Steelers have what, only 70 guys on the 90 man roster right now? There’s spots to play around with. And like I wrote in the other article, maybe Karl Dunbar has a different evaluation of him after going through his tape.

You all know how I feel about McCullers and I’m certainly not excited about him returning but it really doesn’t matter. Provided that there are some other options who end up in the mix.

Daniel Santo: Alex,
It is my belief that our FA signings were to fill our biggest areas of need so that we can take BPA in round 1. With that being said, Steeler Nation would meltdown if we took a QB or TE. How likely would it be that we take L. Jackson, M. Rudolph, or M. Geisicki? AND if all 3 are there at 28, which one of these guys do you see us taking?

Alex: Yes, you’re right about the FA approach. Not going to say a QB is a zero chance possibility but it’s still really, really unlikely. This is a team here to win a Super Bowl. Not get a “maybe” for the future. So of those three, it’s Gesicki, and I wouldn’t be mad about the pick, either.

Ike Evans: Hey Alex…what position, if any, do you think is a double dip possiblity in the draft…..the more and more I look at it I feel like they are going to dip twice at WR…which may seem counterintuitive given we have a fee good guys but this is a deep WR class and there are some guys later that give us some return man value

Alex: That’s always tough to say. I think a double-dip is more of a talent thing than it is a depth chart need. Where you just happen to take another guy at the same position because the grade you have on him is higher than the rest. Receiver makes sense though. Your Z replacement for Bryant, and then like you said, a KR/PR. You might not find both in the same guy.

Outside linebacker is possible. Depth isn’t currently great and Colbert said he thinks it’s a strong class. Which means you might get that 2nd/7th round double-dip again, because they have those guys highly graded.

The Tony: Alex,
What do you think of Jerome Baker? I would take a good look at him in Round 2

Alex: Haven’t taken a good enough look at him yet. Sorry man.

Phil Brennemann II: Alex if someone could tell you with accuracy today that there is an 85% chance that Mason Rudolph would be a successful heir to Big Ben would you be happy/okay with the pick despite him not playing for 3 years? Or would you still pass and just hope for the best a year or 2 from now when the draft rolls around?

Alex: I mean, I’d be happier with the selection but those are a lot of weird variables there. I just want players who can help you win now. Even if Rudolph turns out to be a success, there’s no guarantee you’re going to field a team as talented as this one top to bottom five to five years from now.

In 2019, you’re probably without Bell, Bryant. Ben is another year older, AB is 30, etc. The time to win is now. That’s why I am against a QB and then of course, you have to hope the guy you choose is the right guy. Or else you’re totally screwed.

John Noh: Alex is there anyone in the first round in this year’s draft class you think would justify moving up for, a la Troy or even Santonio?

Alex: Sure, there a lot of players I’d like to trade up for: Roquan Smith, Derwin James, Tremaine Edmunds, Harold Landry. I bet the Steelers feel the same way. But wanting to get that player and what you’re willing to give up for him are two different things. With only 7 picks this year, and the comp situation not looking great for the 2019 draft (2020 should be good though), there isn’t a whole lot they have to play around with.

Daniel Santo: Alex,
If you could take one Steelers player from the 70’s and put them on our team today to fill a need or replace a diminishing player, who would it be and why? (Good Luck, there are so many great options here…)

Alex: Gimmie Jack Lambert. All day. All this poor communication? He’d take care of it.

Jeff Papiernik: Assuming Steelers draft a safety in let’s say the first 3 rounds, and now you have Davis, Burnett, and draft pick as three of your safeties, would you be open to keeping Dangerfield over Wilcox for the special teams contribution aspect (and saving ~$3 million in the process)?

Alex: Sure, that’s possible, though the money doesn’t really matter anymore. You’ve budgeted out what you have to budget. But it’s possible both get kept too. Minimum, you’re keeping 10 DBs. Davis, Burnett, draft pick, Wilcox, Dangerfield, there’s five safeties. Pittsburgh only kept four of them last year but it could swing the other way. Doesn’t have to be an either/or.

Steel SonorFarmer: 

Hey Alex,

After all the addition for Steelers, I’m thinking that they will not sign any free agents until the draft is over, do you think we can sign Reid or Tre if they will be still in market??

After another week of analyzing the draft prospects, who is your riser and who is going down in there draft stock in your opinion.

Alex: Nah, they’re done making big splashes in free agency. Boston and Reid aren’t coming here. Riser/faller, eh, I haven’t put a lot of thought into that. Like I’ve said, maybe Bates creeps into first round territory.

Kevin Reich: How many legit 1st round talent players are in this draft?

Alex: For most NFL teams, it’s fewer than 32. Going to vary year to year, team to team, but somewhere around 22-26 first round grades a club will give out.


Going to wrap this one up a couple minutes early. Thanks everyone for stopping by.

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