Welcome back to another edition of the mailbag. As usual, I’ll be around for the next hour, answering whatever is on your mind.
To your questions!
Grant Humphrey: Hey Alex,
Which undrafted free agent besides Quadree Henderson and Matthew Thomas, do you think has the best chance of making the final 53 man roster?
Alex: I put Greg Gilmore on my 53 (Thomas was the only other UDFA). He can play end or nose tackle. And judging by the signing bonus they gave him, the highest one we know so far, they liked him. 6th DL is wide open. Frazier and McCullers sure aren’t assured of anything.
Are there any remaining free agents outside of re-signs (Eli, Moats) that you can see the Steelers signing at the minimum?
Alex: Not really. Maybe a WR. But you pretty much roll with what you have at this point. See what happens in camp, make a trade, get someone off waivers, shuffle your roster at final cutdowns. At this point, most moves aren’t going to make or break your team. I don’t see why the Steelers would consider someone like Bowman (name that’s been thrown around a lot by Steelers Nation) an upgrade over one of the rookies they could’ve had. I think Eli comes back right before camp.
jger15: Hey AK! Give us hope. What do you tell the Ledyard’s of the world who may be ready to jump re: the linebacking core and the perceived instability surrounding the two positions (ILB + OLB)?
Alex: I mean, I don’t think I’m that far off from the people who are concerned about the starters and depth of the linebackers. It’s not a great situation to be in. I understand why they didn’t take either position in the draft but that doesn’t mean I think they’re in great shape. Bud has to play up to his potential, Watt has to keep progressing, Bostic has to be at least average or yeah, the Steelers will be in some serious trouble. We’re talking about the OLBs and the Mack linebacker, three of the most critical spots along the defense.
falconsaftey43: What’ll be the most used personnel grouping over the course of the year? Assuming OLBs are LBs and S are DBs even if playing “LB” My guess is 2-3-6, but it’s really wide open.
Alex: I bet a lot of people would get it wrong if you asked what personnel grouping the Steelers were in last year. It was their base 3-4. Here’s the numbers from last year.
3-4: 372 (38%)
Nickel: 318 (32.5%)
Dime: 222 (22.7%)
Big Nickel: 34 (3.5%)
Big Dime: 13 (1.3%)
Goal Line: 7 (.7%)
Amoeba: 4 (.4%)
Big 3-4: 3 (.3%)
2-2-7: 3 (.3%)
Big 4-3: 2 (.2%)
3-5: 1 (.1%)
Now, the elephant in the room is that they were in sub-package much more often than they were base. But if you’re asking about a particular package, a grouping, it might still be their base 3-4. Because Butler is throwing in extra wrinkles, isn’t as static and predictable with his groupings, and that kinda waters everything else down. Think of big nickle, big dime, 2-2-7 as the Ross Perot of football.
Although Butler is more creative and has opened up the playbook after a vanilla K.I.S.S. approach his first two years, it’s still often going to be about how the offense comes out and Pittsburgh will respond to that. Offense with 2 TEs on the field on 1st and 10? You’ll see base. 11 personnel? It’ll be nickel (unless third and long).
NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex!
I know there is a strong argument for keeping pure WR’s and pure RB’s. However, could you see a benefit from the versatility in having Jaylen Samuels as your #3 RB/#5or6 WR/#2 KR and Quandree Henderson being your #4 RB/#5or6 WR/#1 PR and KR and having them both on the roster? Thanks man!
Alex: Oh sure, I don’t think one excludes the other. The more hats you can wear at the bottom of the roster, the more STs value you can bring, the more value you offer. And the better your chances of making the roster are. We’ll have to see how it shakes out in camp. Winners get a rose, losers go home empty-handed.
Jedi Master Fred Biletnikoff: Alex,
Danny Smith and Clint Hurdle are brought together for a heavyweight title for the ages. The terms? Who can chew 5 pieces of double bubble the longest without stopping. Who do you have your money on?
Alex: Hahaha wow, that’s World War III. Some say they’re still chewing gum today….
I gotta go with my boy Danny. Think he’s gotta better endurance than Clint. Bob Nutting would probably trade that double bubble for a candy to be named later, anyway.
D.j. Reynolds: Alex, who is your guess for the best player from this rookie class in 4 years?
Alex: That’s a really good question. It would not shock me if Chukwuma Okorafor became a stud tackle. Obviously that’s a high bar and I’m far from guaranteeing success but as Kevin Colbert said, and I agree, he might have the highest upside of anyone in this class. It’s all about if he can play with more intensity and carve out a starting role. But the ceiling is massive.
Darth Blount 47: Hey, Alex! Since that 7th round draft pick is basically you getting a real shot at ALL of the players who are left in the draft at that point (and essentially a whole host of guys about to go UDFA), who is the one guy on Offense and the one guy on Defense, that you would have rather seen the Steelers take that sort of flier on — instead of Josh Frazier? Some of the UDFA classes that I saw signed by teams, were chock-full of guys that I thought should have certainly been drafted. Thanks!
Alex: I didn’t really have a name I was hoping they’d target. Honestly, I was suggesting Quadree Henderson at that point, who obviously wound up signing here as a UDFA. I probably would’ve taken him. But if you’re the Steelers, and you know he’s committed to coming here as a UDFA (teams call these guys before the draft is over), then you know you can go in another direction. And Frazier was a logical leap.
PghDSF: Do you think Vince Williams or Foster get a contract extension this year?
Alex: I don’t think either gets an extension before the year begins, though I like Williams’ odds better than Foster. I think they’ll bring Vince back after this year ends. Foster could too, though we’ll see if his play drops off (so far, it hasn’t), and if we get to see more out of Finney in 2018, spot starting if/when injury happens.
2lovehim: Hi from the Czech republic. Hey Alex, when will you be on the podcast?
Alex: Good to hear from you! I’ll be on the podcast more during the offseason. And then almost every day during training camp. Right now, it’s just whenever DT isn’t available and I fill in. We’ll keep up on my Youtube channel too and do some fun videos to pass the time during the offseason, too.
* * * *
Chat usually ends around this time but since it’s a slower day, I’ll keep checking back throughout the afternoon/evening if anyone has more questions.