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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to the mailbag. Getting ready for the third preseason game where, as Mike Tomlin declared, all healthy players will play. Who are you most looking forward to watching? Let me know in the comments below.

While you wait, here’s Chris Boswell being a boss.

To to your questions.

Aeronius D. McCoy: 

With your GM Cap on: Bell signs his tender and Oakland wants to trade Mack for Bell straight-up. Pull the trigger?

Thanks for all your hard work and excellent coverage.

Alex: Man, I have been asked this a toooooon already. If Mack came here on a long-term deal, I’d do it. If he didn’t, I wouldn’t. Simple as that.

Andrew Black: Obviously, Bell is the guy whenever he comes back. But by the way Conner has impressed this off season, do you think he gets more snaps this upcoming season?

Alex: Yes, I think there’s a bigger role he’ll carve out this year. Talked about it before. It won’t come at the expense of Bell’s snaps, except for Week One and perhaps Week Two, but in finding ways to get them both on the field. Conner in the backfield, Bell split out wide. Helps manage Bell’s workload a little bit too. Yes, you know he’s gone after the year so there’s this “run him into the ground” mentality, but you want the guy feeling as good as possible for the playoffs. So you don’t want to kill the dude in the regular season.

Bryant Eng: I feel like Steelers Nation is down on Sean Davis. He sneakily had a productive year on paper: 3 INT, 8 PD, 1 FF, 1 SACK. In his third season, despite a position switch, is it possible he could be a diamond in the rough?

Alex: I mean, you can’t call a second pick and nearly Day One starter a diamond in the rough. The issue with Davis has been tackling, which won’t show up in your average box score.

Can Davis play well at FS? Yes. The tools are there, I think everyone is aware of that. And watching him closer last year, his processing and ball skills were better than I thought. You guys know my worry. Moving him again. And he’s missed a decent chunk of time this year with that groin injury. That’s a dude who needs reps. Thank goodness I think he’s playing against Tennessee. If he wasn’t, I’d have some serious concerns.

One other point though bouncing off of that. How many practices has the projected starting 12 (Hargrave/Hilton) had together this year? One? Burnett went down early. Watt on Day Three. Those guys start to come back and then Hilton/Davis are back down. That’s not a great foundation with so many new faces to this defense.

NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex! With the changes that are being talked about on the defense this year, could you see there be roster spot balanced in a different way this year than before? For example – more D-lineman and less OLB? More safeties and less ILB? Thanks man!

Alex: I don’t see any of the changes having a direct impact. Obviously, there’s an influx of talent in the secondary and the game is naturally moving to having as many cover guys as possible so yeah, they might be heavy there. I have them keeping 11 (6 CBs, 5 S) which yeah, is a lot. I guess what you mean exactly by “changes.” Playing more man defense doesn’t have an impact on roster construction. But the way they’ve drafted will.

Defensive Linemen: You’re keeping six. That’s the standard, don’t think that’s changing.

Outside Linebackers: 4-5

Inside Linebackers: 4-5 (they’ll keep 9 LBs total, minimum)

Cornerbacks: 5-6

Safety: 4-5 (they’ll keep 10 DBs total, minimum)

That’s how I expect things to look.

Matt Manzo: Hey Alex!
How do you feel about the new roster cutdown rules so far? Do you wish it was like before or do you see a benefit in only one cutdown?

Alex: This is MUCH better. Thank God the NFL finally wised up. Cutdown to 75 never had a point. Why cut the 15 guys you want to play most in the 4th preseason game, the one where none of your starters/important players see action? It actually forced some positions, like the starting OL, to see a little bit of time in the finale because your depth started to be tested.

75-90 get such a raw deal. Few reps, hardly any money, any injury slightly worse than minor can get you cut. There’s no glitz and glamor, just chasing your dream and hoping you catch a break. Then you finally have a chance to play and put on some good tape and you get screwed, cut before you have that chance. Now, they get to see some playing time and state a final case, even if that means ending up on a practice squad or putting together enough of a reel to stay on the tryout circuit and get picked up during the year. It all matters.

Next step? Expand gameday inactives. Maybe you don’t open up all 53 spots on Sunday, there are some arguments about accrued seasons/practice squad eligibility and all that, but make it 50 of 53 active. Let these guys have a chance to get on the field.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Hey Alex, are you planning on having the depot fantasy football league again this year?

Alex: Yes! Plan to. No idea what the best way is to invite people though. Anyone have any ideas?

FrankBlacknGold: Putting injuries aside, and assuming Edmonds & Bostic start in week 1, what player(s) do you see starting in week 8 that that didn’t start in Week 1, if any? Guess what I’m asking is which of the young guys do you see as starter material?

Alex: I really don’t know. And I know my answer means nothing right now. I do’t assume Edmunds will start Week One. It’ll still be Burnett. So that could change is Burnett struggles or Davis doesn’t play well at FS (less likely to be the case). Cam Sutton could be in the mix if Burns falls on his face.

SteelersSuperDad: Do you go to any/many games? Want to go to the last preseason game? I have an extra ticket. It would be great to get professional insight in stadium.

Alex: I haven’t been to a game in a long time. Work keeps me pretty busy here. Once the game ends, we start writing. Thanks for the offer though! And I promise I’m no professional, lol.

TroyManianDevil: I think both Jon Bostic and Tyler Matakevich have both been underwhelming so far.. It doesn’t seem like there are any FA signings that can help, although feel free to suggest one. If you were going to try and acquire one via trade, who would you target?
( I don’t really see any that would make sense but I wanted to see your opinions on the matter )

Alex: It’s slim pickings. Believed me, I looked. It’s not like most other positions they could make a move where you’re ok with getting a backup. Some depth. You have five of those guys at ILB. You need a clear-cut starter. Not many of those out there and they sure ain’t cheap.

I’ve found five ILBs who kinda-sorta make sense but trust me, none of them are very good options. I’ll have a whole list shortly. Give you one name for now. The Eagles Kamu Grugier-Hill. Would have to trade, definitely won’t be cut, but he’s an athlete and having a good preseason. I’d deal a 5th for him.

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