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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to the mailbag and good Thursday afternoon to you all, Steelers Nation. Like always, ask whatever’s on your mind and we’ll answer for the next hour.

To your questions!

Nicholas Arnhold: Hello Alex, can you give me a rundown of who was on the practice squad last year, who has a shot at making the 53 this year from those players, and an early prediction for practice squad candidates this year? Thank you.

Alex: Are you talking about the end of the year or beginning? I’ll just run through a couple names.

Farrington Huguenin/OLB: Had a good camp last year. Like his size, decent athlete, didn’t disappear at the end of camp like a lot of young players do, worn down by the Latrobe grind. With the Steelers not adding much to the group, he’ll have a chance to make the 53, though obviously needs to have a really strong preseason and show up on special teams.

Jake McGee/TE: A blocker first, second, and third, but earned plenty of praise from Mike Tomlin last year. And that was with a late start, only brought on after Scott Orndoff was released. He’s niche but very good at that niche.

Dashaun Phillips/CB: The guy Pittsburgh and Washington swapped during camp (Washington got C Lucas Crowley, who didn’t make the practice squad). I don’t remember much about his game but he’ll try to make the practice squad again.

Matt Galambos & Keith Kelsey/ILB: Two inside linebackers who are pretty similar dudes. Good tackles, limited athletes. Galambos got hurt and wound up on IR. Kelsey was signed back when Galambos went down. Odds of them making the 53 are slim but if there’s a year to do it, looking at the current depth at the position, this is it.

Marcus Tucker/WR: Guy who has gotten plenty of buzz. No longer a rookie, Tucker wears a lot of hats. Outside receiver, some in the slot, gunner, return man. Some of the better odds to make the 53 though if Eli Rogers is brought back as expected, that’ll make it a tougher climb.

Micah Walker: Curious if you have any insight in to K.Adams and how he looks, how they feel about him, etc?

Alex: Not from this year, I’m not at OTAs. But through 7-8 practices last year, he showed a quick first step. I think they’re high enough on him not to take an OLB in the draft, though a lot of that was simply not liking anyone enough to select. We’ll find out soon enough what he’s made of. A good camp would make me feel more comfortable about the seemingly lack of depth.

CP72: Alex,
Do you think Tom Brady and Bill Belichek looked at secondary breakdowns and just started laughing (and maybe salivating)?

Alex: In the regular season matchup? Ha yeah, I bet they did. The Steelers problems were painfully obvious last year. To everyone except the Steelers, evidently.

falconsaftey43: Hey Alex,
Last 3 seasons, Steelers scored on 52.3% (3rd) of plays from the 5 yard line and in and allowed a score on 28.3% (1st) on such plays.
Why hasn’t their high level of success in “close goalline” situations translated to overall Redzone success on offense or defense?

Alex: That’s a really good question and a great stat. I don’t have a strong answer for it. Coordinators usually break up red zone offense into more than just inside the 20. There’s the red zone fringe (just outside of the 20) and then it can be broken down into the close/goal-to-go situations like what you’re describing. So maybe they had a really successful group of plays for those situations.

Or maybe there was some luck? Or a small-ish sample size that creates some noise. I don’t have a good explanation.

Matt Manzo: Hey Alex!
How soon will we know if Conner has improved his pass blocking? Is Backs Vs Backers the first test that we’ll see?

Alex: That will be a good test but it’s an evolving thing. It doesn’t happen in a moment, a practice, one play or even one game. Hopefully we have some idea of where he’s at the first month of the season but it depends on how many opportunities he gets. It’s not like he’s going to be the 3rd down back. It’s just looking at a group of plays and judging the whole to see how much better he’s gotten.

NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex! Curious if you had to bring one of the following to camp who it would be: Lawrence Timmons, Arthur Moats, or Eli Rogers (health pending)? Also, if you were in charge would you consider Mychal Kendricks or roll with who you have? Thanks brother, looking forward to your Training Camp reports!

Alex: Probably Rogers, assuming, like you said, he’ll be in good health. He’ll offer the most as a backup slot option (who is that guy right now, DHB?) and as a punt returner, which the team still doesn’t seem to have much of an answer for unless Quadree Henderson is able to make the team.

I’d consider Kendricks but what’s the price? Steelers only have so much wiggle room and if his market is even lukewarm, that price is going to be driven up and probably out of their range. I wouldn’t expect Kendricks to become a Steeler. They found Bostic, he’s going to be their guy, and they’re high on Matakevich. I think they roll with what they have at least, until camp is done and there’s an actual evaluation on these guys.

Steelers12: Hey Alex in your opinion who is the most overrated and underrated player in the entire history of the NFL since you been watching and then answer the same question but this time only name Steelers players

Alex: Oh man, that is a heavy question. I don’t even know where to begin, even if we’re just talking Steelers. I think Don Huston is underrated nation-wide because of the era he played in. I think you can make a case that he’s the greatest receiver of all-time, even above Jerry Rice. The dominance and numbers he put up in an era where none of that was supposed to happen is something you’ll never, ever see again. Even though that doesn’t fit the “since you’ve been watching” part of the question.

Vince Williams and Mewelde Moore are two underrated guys who come to mind. Niche but awfully effective role players. I would have to think about it more to give you a better answer.

Spencer Krick: Do you think the team takes a step forward this year, stays the same or takes a step back? Oh, and if Eli Rogers isn’t on the team does that make Samuel the backup slot WR?

Alex: Remains to be seen. They can take a step forward if they iron out the inconsistencies and miscommunication on defense. But hard to know if that’s going to happen. I like to think it will be fixed. They definitely are capable of going farther than a 2nd round exit like last year, I’ll say that much. If they can’t get back to at least the AFC Title game, it’s another big disappointment.

To your other question, I’m not sure. It will sorta be up for grabs. DHB could do it. Samuels, like you said, but he’s not a real slot. You don’t want him on a nickel corner, you want him on a LB removed from the box. And I hope Marcus Tucker can get some work there too. James Washington may line up there a few reps as well.

Jeremy: Hi Alex. There was an article by Mike Prisuta that was highlighted here on the Depot title “Defense Exploring Options”. Within that article it says, “the 4-3 look in the base alignment Dupree detailed following OTA No. 1…” Do you have any more information on this? Is this really nothing new or is it a major change that is in the works?

Alex: We wrote about it yesterday. I had a hard time figuring out what he meant. Best I could come up with was the 3-4 over front they’ve run the last three years. But I guess I’ll have to wait for camp and the preseason to see if that’s what they ran or if it was something new.

Ken: Do the Steelers need their D-line to me more disciplined in order stop the run?, maybe worry a little less about rushing the QB and a little more on stopping the run?

Alex: Run defense is an 11 man job. Sure, the D-line needs to get better (remember, they’ve moved from old-school two-gapping to one-gapping so that can hurt run defense) but everyone else does too. If one guy fails at his job, a poor run fit, a missed tackle, not staying on his feet, the whole thing can fall apart. That’s true of the linebackers and secondary. So I don’t put that on the two/three guys up front. It’s a lot more layered than that.

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

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