Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to the Mailbag. Hope everyone is enjoying the 7-0 whooping the Penguins put on Philly last night. And hey, the Pirates are off to a good start. So far, so good all around. For the Steelers, the draft is almost here. Feels like it’s flown by this year. You know the drill. Ask whatever is on your mind in the comments below.

To your questions!

Spencer Krick: So, what offensive player would you want in round one?

Alex: If you can get a top WR, like a D.J. Moore, I’d be happy with that. Maybe Calvin Ridley too, though I’m worried about how “meh” he tested. I wouldn’t be mad about Mike Gesicki either. Don’t think it’ll happen but I’ve stated that case several times on here.

falconsaftey43: Previous years, Dave posted some Position ranking posts were readers could rank guys at various positions. Any chance we could see that again? Would be really cool to do and then merge the results into a “Depot Big Board” and see how the draft would end up if we were all in charge (spoiler, it’d go terribly).

Alex: Do you have a link? I don’t know if I remember those. Maybe I can take a look and bring it back.

Lambert58: Hey Alex, why do you think Tomlin and Colbert have neglected the OLB position with draft visits? To me, this a big position of need. Your thoughts?

Alex: Keep in mind there are still 13 spots left open. So who knows, maybe thing bring in five of them and this question becomes totally moot. They’ve also been to Pro Days with some of these top guys and maybe didn’t feel the need to bring them in.

I get what you’re asking but it’s hard to say anything about what they have/haven’t done with so many spots still available. These things feel like they come in waves anyway.

Brian Tollini: You are forced into choosing a 1st round pick from the following…Derrius Guice, Kerryon Johnson, Sony Michel, DJ Moore, Courtland Sutton, Calvin Ridley, Nick Chubb, DJ Chark, & Ronald Jones. Who, why, & could it happen?

Alex: So I’m choosing one? Or asking how likely it is they take any of them? It won’t be Johnson, doubtful on Michel, not going to be Ronald Jones either. I don’t see it with Chubb.

So that leaves Guice, Moore, Sutton, Ridley, and Chark. I would take Moore. Valid comp to a former Maryland WR, Stefon Diggs. Could it happen? Yeah, I think it could. Based on the evidence, Guice is the most likely because it’s now obvious they’re pretty smitten with him. If you assume LVE is off the board at 28, Guice may end up being their highest graded player on the board. He’s your most likely, even if I’m not thrilled with the pick.

Matt Manzo: Hey Alex!
Do you think the FO will know what the future holds for Bell before the draft? There’s not a chance of us drafting a RB in round one and then signing Bell to a long term deal, right?

Alex: A very good question. If by that first question, you  mean if a deal will get done by the draft, the answer is 100% no. They’re not even thinking about a Bell deal right now. Too much else going on and Colbert has said as much. They won’t get close to talking again until the mid-July deadline. That’s just how these things work.

If they draft a RB, it would certainly seem like the Steelers are moving on. Or at least, certainly won’t budge a penny off their current number. And I assume Bell will be pissed and probably not even want to try to work out a long-term deal. So in short yes, drafting Guice in the first would effectively shut down all future contract talks.

Darth Blount 47: I’m going to give you a small list of names, of guys that most of the “pundits” claim will be gone by pick 28, and please put them in order, top-to-bottom, of who you would take for us if they had fallen.
Mike McGlinchey
Calvin Ridley
Leighton Vander Esch
Harold Landry
Lamar Jackson
Vita Vea
Denzel Ward

Alex: Ok, I’ll take a crack at it.

1. Harold Landry. Has a chance to be an elite pass rusher. If he falls to 28, I’m sprinting to the podium.

2. Leighton Vander Esch. For need, for talent. I do worry that he isn’t as physical as he might need to be. But it’s easy to like everything else.

3. Denzel Ward. For the excellent value/talent. But he doesn’t fit the mold of a current Steelers’ corner.

4. Calvin Ridley. Worried about the testing but the tape comes first and it’s very good. Replacement for Bryant in 2019. You can get him on the field right away, too.

5. Vita Vea. I don’t know what you do with him but he’s a good enough pass rusher to rise above the typical zero tech type.

6. Lamar Jackson. Coin flip between him and McGlinchey. I do like Jackson’s potential so I’ll slot him here.

7. McGlinchey. DO NOT WANT.

jger15: Given their reported Jabril Peppers interest last year, are there any comps in this year’s draft they could have their eye on? Is a Justin Reid, Ronnie Harrison or Jessie Bates comparable? Or will Burnett likely fill that void in your opinion?

Alex: I think Reid would be the most similar. Excellent athletes, played all over, strong pedigrees and production. But I don’t worry about the comps too much and don’t think the front office does either. Every player is going to be different and you’re just trying to judge them independently, not framing them as the “next insert name here.”

Burnett just means I can see this team take either a SS or FS. Making their draft selection more flexible. That’s all.

CP72: Alex,
How much weight do you put into Evans playing an SEC schedule vs the teams Vander Esch and Boise played?

Alex: I mean, it’s hard to argue with history. It’s not the say-all, end-all but we know the Steelers track record. Does that mean a guy like LVE can’t be their pick? Obviously not.They clearly are high on him and there’s tape against Power 5 teams, like the Oregon game he excelled in. And they were going to take William Jackson two years ago. But generally, they are going to stick with guys who played top competition so that hopefully, the evaluation is a little less muddied.

NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex! What is your opinion about the Steelers bringing in more mid/late round or UDFA possibilities as opposed to higher end talent? Do you see a benefit in picking in the back end of the 1st round because we can afford to scout these players face to face better as opposed to picking at say #10 and needing to bring in the top 15 players and using half of your visits in order to be prepared for any scenario?

Alex: They do it every year. Here’s a list of those guys from 2017.

Carroll Phillips (UDFA)
Samson Ebukham (4th)
Keion Adams (7th)
Francis Kallon (UDFA)
Patrick Gamble (UDFA)
Jaylen Myrick (7th)
Jason Croom (UDFA)
Pita Taumoepenu (6th)

Maybe the list is slightly up from last year but if it is, just barely. Let’s see who else they bring in. There’s still 13 spots left. And hey, I want their UDFA classes to be better. They’ve been really bad the last two years, even understanding you’re not going to hit on even 20% of the names.

Here are the UDFAs from the last two classes.

Johnny Maxey DL 6-5 283 Mars Hill
Tyriq McCord LB 6-3 241 Miami (Fla.)
Will Monday P 6-4 210 Duke
Giorgio Newberry DL 6-6 295 Florida State
Christian Powell RB 6-0 235 Colorado
David Reeves TE 6-5 255 Duke
Jay Rome TE 6-6 250 Georgia
Quinton Schooley OL 6-4 298 NC State
Canaan Severin WR 6-2 205 Virginia
Devaunte Sigler DL 6-3 290 Jacksonville State

Nelson Adams, DT 6-3 287, Mississippi State

Christian Brown, DT 6-3 295, West Virginia

Ethan Cooper, OG 6-2 322, Indiana-Pennsylvania

Francis Kallon, DE 6-5 295, Georgia Tech

Keith Kelsey, LB 6-0 233, Louisville

Scott Orndoff, TE 6-4 253, Pittsburgh

Nick Schuessler, QB 6-3 196, Clemson

Rushel Shell, RB 5-9 227, West Virginia

Terrish Webb, DB 5-10 190, Pittsburgh


Only one of those names is still a Steeler (Kelsey). Only one of those names have appeared in a regular season game (Maxey). Half those guys didn’t even make it to practice squad or heck, even to/through camp. I know these classes are going to have way more misses than hits but these aren’t even close. They’re swinging strikeouts. Steelers need to do a better job.

Phil Brenneman II: Alex has your outlook changed at all on Micah Kiser? I know early on in the process I told you I really liked him as a football player but we agreed his athleticism was pretty limited. He kind of outperformed expectations at the combine so has that raised him on your list at all? Even more specifically if he was drafted late as a potential 2019 replacement for VW if he wasn’t back.

Alex: Yeah, it has a little. Certainly tested like a better athlete than I expected him to test and he checked those boxes in mu draft study. I still worry about how it translates on tape but sure, I’m not going to be stubborn and say I’ve been proven right. Because I definitely wasn’t. As a late round pick, I wouldn’t hate it like I would before the Combine. He’s got that Matakevich-productivity, no doubt.

Doogie: follow up on one of your articles where you say, saying “cleveland” isnt a tactic at neg table. If them just sucking for 20 years has no bearing on players wanting to play for them, them the Steelers being one of the most successful teams has no bearing? I think its part of it, whats your thoughts?

Alex: That’s not what I’m talking about. It’s disingenuous to suddenly play the “forget about the other teams” card. Because we all know it matters. 75% of the argument against Bell getting 15-17 million per year is “look at what the other RBs make!” And I’m sure in some form or fashion, the Steelers have used that claim to their advantage. You know that in the past, with other players, they negotiate based on what other players get. AB’s contract is influenced by the market. A Roethlisberger extension is influenced by the market. The market is king. So to suddenly so “who cares what someone else got” is a slap in the face.

Now, of course, you can make the point that Landry is a WR, Bell isn’t, I mean, that’s super obvious. Bell would counter, fairly, I think, that you need to strip away the labels of RB/WR (it’s all blurred anyway in today’s NFL), and look at the production. And yeah, they’re pretty similar in usage and in production.

Does that mean Bell gets $15 million solely because Landry did? Nope. But does that strengthen his “pay me like a WR too” case? I think it does. Pay him $12 million like a RB. Then another $3 million for a WR. If you frame it that way, it sounds downright reasonable. Bell’s production as a WR is worth $3 million.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Alex, if the Steelers would somehow have the same grade on 3 players (a safety, an inside backer and an outside backer) when they are on the clock at #28, which do you believe they woukd go with? I lean towards OLB just given their history.

Alex: I’ll answer the question but it’s unlikely all three players would have the same grade (I know you’re just asking the hypothetical to get to the root of the question but I want to make this part clear). Even if it’s slight, someone is ahead of someone else.

But to the question, I would say either OLB or safety. I think those are the two positions that you can guarantee Day One/Year One playing time. Inside linebacker is trickier. If that pick beats out Bostic/VW, then they have their role. If not? Then I’m not quite sure what the role is. Do you rotate each series? Do you play him only on third down? Who is the leader? Who is the communicator? Do you want that in the hands of a rookie or from two different people? Logistically, how does it work? Can two guys have the green dot/helmet? I honestly don’t know how that works.

falconsaftey43: Going back 3 years, I can’t find any examples of a team franchising a player, and then drafting someone at the same position in the 1st round. Can you really see them going RB? (closes was ARZ last year tagging OLB Jones and drafting Reddick, but Reddick was used more off-ball than as a true edge like Jones.)

Alex: Well every situation is unique and obviously, the Steelers are in a unique place with Bell. It’s not often those players get franchised twice either, I’m betting.

Really, it’s just a question of if they will take Derrius Guice. Which yeah, I think is an option solely that he may be the best player on their board. And that could be too tough to ignore. And you can argue the need, especially 2019 and beyond. They clearly like him and I’m not going to discount those things just because I don’t want to see it happen.

MP34: Alex, does Mike Hilton have a chance to compete to play outside? Or, is he strictly a nickel CB, as that’s pretty much a starting position now.

Alex: No, he’s staying inside. He’s done well there. No need to rock the boat. Especially for what he brings as a blitzer. Butler sends the nickel much more than the outside.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for stopping by everyone.

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