Welcome back to another week of the mailbag. As always, drop us a line with whatever is on your mind. We’ll be here for the next hour.
To your questions!
What are your thoughts on NaVarro Bowman as a FA option for the team?
I haven’t gotten around to watching his tape from last year, but thought if “the guys haven’t been consistently varsity” enough for Coach down the road, we might start sniffing around.
Alex: I’m not interested in really bringing in any outside free agent until we get well into camp and there’s time to evaluate the position. They have two guys who they think could start in Bostic and Matakevich. I don’t know what value Bowman is bringing to the team at this point. So I’d pass without much of a second thought.
ilamarca: What would Chidi Iwuoma’s Madden rating be if he were playing today?
Alex: A 99. DUH.
Pick which one you think has the best chance of happening by this time next year
Le’Veon is signed to a long term deal.
Keith Butler is fired and replaced by a different D-coordinator.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is coming off of his first pro bowl season.
Alex: I’ll do ya one better and put them in order from most to least likely.
1. JuJu to the Pro Bowl. Even with AB hogging the ball most of the time, there’s enough for JuJu to have a Pro Bowl type year. And let’s be honest – with his name value now, that’s going to help.
2. Butler is fired. Steelers are slow to these changes but with how much Tomlin has seemingly taken over the defense, another rough year makes Butler feel like just a figure head. Tomlin has never truly been able to pick his DC either.
3. Bell to a long-term deal. Still don’t think it’s happening.
Ace: Can you give us your thoughts on the Steelers WR room? Will JuJu up his snap count closer to 80%? Will he play in the slot more and take Eli’s job completely? How are the snap counts going to look? Could this be a position that gets a FA guy added later in the fall?
Alex: I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of outside movement here, assuming Rogers is re-signed. Yes, I think JuJu becomes an every-down player. Z receiver in 2 WR sets, slot in 11 personnel. You don’t want Washington carrying that load out of the gate. Most slot snaps will go to him but if Fichtner is similar to Haley, guys will move around. AB will definitely get work there, I imagine Washington will too.
So those are your top three. Behind that is murky. DHB can play any spot. Tucker is working more inside than he has before, he’ll be able to play all three spots by the end of the preseason (if he makes the team). There’s Hunter and the futures guys (Thomas, Jones, Griffey).
If Rogers comes back and makes the team, which I assume he will, there’s 5 WRs. Someone, Tucker/Hunter, will have to prove they’re worthy of being carried as the #6.
Nothing really happening this time of year, so let’s do some stats over/under and leaders predictions.
AB 1700 yards.
JuJu 1000 yards.
Bell 1800 yards from scrimmage
McDonald 600 yards
Washington 40+ yard gains, 5
Snaps on offense and defense and ST
AB 1700 yards – UNDER. As great as he is, only happened once in his career. Took 136 catches to do it.
JuJu 1000 yards – OVER. Dude had 917 last year. He’ll play even more this season. Easily 1000.
Bell 1800 yards – OVER. Done it every year he’s been healthy and even did it two years ago when he was limited to just 12 games. That’s 112.5 per game. He can definitely do that.
McDonald 600 yards – OVER. Think it’ll be a real big year for him. Higher emphasis on him getting involved in the offense, an offseason to actually learn the playbook and feel comfortable.
Washington 5 40+ yard gains – UNDER. But it’ll be close. AB and JuJu only had six each last year. Not quite enough snaps and there’s some chemistry needed for those plays to work. That will take some time with Ben. I say he gets 4.
INT leader – Sean Davis. I think we’ve had the discussion before. Not a lot of great options. Davis finishes with three.
Sacks – Heyward. I’ll be giddy if he hits 10.
Tackles – Bostic. 101. Every-down player. Naturally going to get those chances.
Offensive snaps – DeCastro. Durable as they come.
Defensive snaps – Bostic. Again, every-down dude.
Special teams snaps – Berhe. He was brought in as a four-phase core special teamer.
NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex! Can I get your thoughts on the DL room? I’m intrigued by the group and am curious who you see sticking around, and how many you think they may keep this year and in what roles. Thanks man!
Alex: Sure. I think there’s really only one spot up for grabs, that #6 spot. We know how the rest will go. Tuitt, Hargrave, Heyward up front. Alualu and Walton at end and Walton probably the backup NT too. So you’re left with Frazier, Gilmore, and McCullers (or someone outside the organization) for that 6th spot. We keep knocking down McCullers but he’s still sticking around. With a new DL coach, who knows.
My feeling is Gilmore will make it because he has more versatility and athleticism. But it truly depends on what happens in the preseason.
Jedi Master Fred Biletnikoff:
Rank your favorite Heinz Field food and drink. Also, if you had a choice to add a menu item what would you type of special food or drink would you add?
Alex: Honestly, I don’t have a good answer for you. I don’t go to Heinz very often. Was there for last year’s camp practice but I don’t think I got anything besides a bottle of water. PNC Park though, I could give ya a better answer.
jger15: Hey AK! Curious if you have any “calling your shot now” takes ala last year with Dupree’s development you’re considering this year (even if they’re just half-baked before training camp)?
Alex: Ha, no, not like last year. I still have optimism and hope but not nearly the confidence. We’ll see what happens. Huge year for him, that goes pretty much without saying.
SkoolHouseRoxx: What up, Young Alex K Suave! Do you think we will keep 5 ILBs or 5 OLBs?
Alex: In my offseason roster prediction, I had 5 and 5. But that also included Arthur Moats and I don’t think that will happen now. It’s hard to get a read on it. It’s less about keeping a certain number of guys and more about keeping talent and guys who can help out on special teams. 6 and 4 either way, it wouldn’t matter very much.