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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to the weekly mailbag. Minicamp breaks today, meaning six weeks is all that stands between us and training camp. Let’s hope that time flies by. We’ll be here the next hour.

To your questions!

Andrew Black: Since the job is seemingly up in the air, which of the 2 is the better athlete?: Bostic or Matakevich

Alex: Bostic. He was drafted and profiled as a Cover 2 LB, someone who could get depth and play the deep middle. It’s definitely him. I think Bostic has been running with the 2’s just like any rookie or most new guys do. They gotta learn the system, be comfortable in the defense and earn the trust of the coaching staff. Especially at a position where you are THE key communicator. If you don’t know the defense well enough yet, you can’t man that role. And Bostic is playing in a different scheme that he’s been used to. I still expect him to be the starter Week One.

Jeff McNeil: What is the most interesting stories coming out of minicamp?

Alex Kozora: Outside of some of the health concerns, I think Dupree and Watt flipping is the biggest piece of news that we got. One tangible change we can confirm for the season.

Lot of excitement on Vance McDonald from everything we’ve heard from Jesse James, Randy Fichtner, and McDonald himself. Obviously, gotta stay healthy, and it seems like he’s already banged up to some degree, but if his health is good, we’re looking at a career year for him.

Spencer Krick: 

Hey Alex,

Which player do you think will surprise the most this preseason?

Alex: That’s a good question, Spencer. I am hoping Grimble really has a breakout couple of weeks. He’s always looked the part, always seemed to be a guy on the edge of getting some serious run in the offense but hasn’t gotten over that hump.

I’m not sure it should be considered a surprise but I think Marcus Tucker will live up to the hype that’s now surrounding him. Greg Gilmore is a camp sleeper to make the team as the 6th DL. And I’ve been high on Malik Golden, though I don’t think he’ll make the 53 without there being an injury. Don’t forget about Brian Allen too. That year under his belt is crucial for anyone exiting their rookie year but especially a guy like him, who was really raw coming out but you saw get better throughout the preseason. Getting back to fundamentals with Bradley should help him too. He’s a guy you were basically building from scratch.

Raymond Istenes: Are you concerned about reported injuries for Dupree and McDonald since they have an injury history.

Alex: Concerned might be too strong of a word but something worth monitoring. Especially Dupree since it’s apparently a shoulder injury. I’m not sure if it’s the same thing he dealt with last year but if it is, uh oh, that’s a bad sign. But there’s six weeks off from now until training camp. So hopefully all things that can heal. Teams are going to be cautious in how they handle their guys, especially more veteran players. Better to miss a day or two in the spring than risk really hurting it and being out for camp.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Alex, we still have no idea who will be playing FS this year. I know all about everyone’s versatility, variability and interchangeability blah blah blah… As you may have guessed I’m over the rhetoric. Who is the best candidate to play the deep middle and who would you prefer to see back there? Also, do you think it’s wise to go to training camp as of yet undecided on such an important thing?

Alex: Sean Davis would be the ideal player there based on the current roster construction. BUT…as I have said before, I hate the idea of moving him to a new spot. Again. It stunts his development, doesn’t let him get comfortable, and he even sounds frustrated by it, telling reporters yesterday he just wants to know where he’s at and play there. It seems like Morgan Burnett (and then Dangerfield with Burnett out) have been running FS so if you move Davis there now, he’s already missed out on the spring work. It’s a dicey situation.

falconsaftey43: You think they’ll actually rotate the DL more this year? Or at least get Hargrave more snaps with increased base or 3DL sub packages?

Alex: No, I don’t see much of a change in the rotation. You’re paying Heyward and Tuitt all that money to be on the field 80% of the time and make plays. Maybe Butler gets Hargrave more in the sub-package rotation when those guys are off the field and maybe, like you suggest, making an effort to keep 3 DL on the field (staying in base vs sub, a 3-3-5 look they ran a little last year), but I don’t think any increase in Hargrave snaps will come at the expense of 91/97.

NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex! Personally, what are you looking forward to most for Training Camp?

Alex: Everything, as bland of an answer as it is. I love it all and go in with an open-mind. Want to see everything.

Matt Manzo: Hey Alex!
Should we be worried about what Butler said about the 4-3? Is it weird that our DC couldn’t adjust to the adjustments?
I was super excited about Butler taking over, thinking that all his experience would create something fresh and awesome. But I’m starting to get worried.

Alex: Eh I dunno, I appreciate the honesty and transparency. But it’s a big year for Butler and he’ll definitely be under the spotlights. If things don’t go well this year…look out.

Steelers12: 

Hey alex i miss last week so 2 questions if u don’t mind

1. If u are GM and the owner demanded u trade for a player and sign a player what trade would u consteuct and who would u sign?

2. Also do u think kobe Bryant belongs in GOAT conversation over lebron (I do)

Alex: So I am trading for anyone I want? Do I have to think about this in terms of the salary cap? Am I giving up a player too? I don’t totally understand the parameters of the question. I mean, I would trade for a LB, outside or inside. Why not go get C.J. Mosley from Baltimore? Or Shaq Barrett in Denver? Those would be great additions. But I don’t know if I totally get the question.

Sure, Kobe can be in the conversation. But he’s third. Jordan is still king, LeBron is second. Kobe can take the bronze.

Chad Weiss: Hey. Alex,
How would you rank steelers starting o lineman from best to worse

Alex: 

1. Maurkice Pouncey. Maybe it’s grading on the curve a bit in the sense of the position he plays and how far and above he is than the rest. The way he gets out into space, the way he opens up the blocking scheme, how clean of a player he is (five penalties over the last two years), puts him into a truly Hall of Fame-conversation, though he may not have the longest career and that’s going to hurt him.

2. David DeCastro. Who really bounced back after a tough-ish 2016. Really no weaknesses in his game. Tough, humble, violent on the field. Never hear a bad thing about him. Throwback to a different era. Super quick feet too.

3. Marcus Gilbert. When healthy and available, a top five right tackle for sure. Kudos to him for the way he’s transformed his body and shed pretty much all of his bad weight. Steelers lucky to have him and he’s underrated league-wide. Pouncey and DeCastro get recognized; Gilbert rarely does.

4. Ramon Foster. I chose him over Villanueva for sheer consistency. Foster is as steady as they come, even if it isn’t flashy. But he’s more than that too, a really good guard who is tough to get around in pass protection and a guy who throws his weight in the run game.

5. Alejandro Villanueva. Last for the lack of consistency. He can lose his base in pass pro, isn’t as successful when he can’t short set and be the aggressor in pass protection, and his run blocking is not terrible but about average. He has to get off to better starts in the year too. Notoriously slow starter.

SkoolHouseRoxx: You did it, Young Alex! Your debut single, “Bloggin’ from the Basement,” hit number one on the charts. You need an entourage, but you have to pick current Steelers. You need a yes man, a manager, a bodyguard, and a stylist! Have fun! ????????

Alex: Haha wow, there’s a question I didn’t expect.

Yes Man: Darrius Heyward-Bey: I mean, does anyone really want a yes man? They exist but I don’t think anyone idealizes it. But DHB is a guy who falls in line, does what’s asked of him. How he reinvented his career.

Manager: Vince Williams: I dunno why exactly, I just think he fits the job well. I think you gotta have a manager with some swagger, some confidence, and a guy who probably gets a good read on people.

Bodyguard: Alejandro Villanueva Roosevelt Nix. Let me have two (I’m that famous). Two dudes you don’t want to mess with.

Stylist: You know it’s gotta be JuJu. There’s a dude who knows what’s cool (and I definitely do not).

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Actually gotta wrap things up a little early today. But I’ll circle back and answer some more in the comments throughout the afternoon/evening. Thanks for stopping by.

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