Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to the mailbag. Got a busy week coming up for you. Today’s preseason finale, cutdowns on Saturday, and then getting set for Week One against Cleveland. We’ll be here for the next hour.

To your questions!

Matt Manzo: 

Happy Gameday!!!

What does Marcus Allen have to do today to get on the 53? And can he squeak in on his own or is he battling someone like Behre?
I feel like he’s missed too much time to make a case for himself. But there’s a lot that disagree.

Alex: He’s gotta have a great game. Said it before and I’ll probably tweet it out before kickoff. This game means more to Marcus Allen than arguably anyone else on the Steelers roster. He’s not battling Berhe, I think he’s got his spot locked up, but just battling the rest of the secondary fighting for that final spot. Dangerfield, Malik Golden, Sensabaugh. Fighting to be the 10th DB or make a compelling enough case for them to go heavy and carry 11.

So that means breaking down and making open field tackles, making a splash play on special teams, be a clean communicator, do your job, show the coaches the time missed hasn’t been costly. He’s missed time but not that much. About 10 days and a game. That’s not good, clearly, but it isn’t as insurmountable as some have made it seem to be.

The Tony: Just because it;s all over the interwebs… Would you trade 2 first round picks for Khalil Mack with the caveat that Mack resigns long term?

Alex: Obviously, you’d need to plan it all out financially. Make sure the numbers work, both of whatever mega deal he scores and how that fits into your plan with other players. But short answer, responding in a vacuum, is yes. Odds of either of those eventual 1st round picks being anything close to Mack is low.

And for Pittsburgh specifically, your odds are good of those being late 1st round picks. In the 28-32 range. That makes me think a team like Oakland wouldn’t even do that deal with the Steelers.

steeltown: What’s your personal thoughts/analysis on Ryan Switzer… I know he hasnt played a down with us yet, but do you personally like him as a return specialist? As a slot receiver? As a player? At all?

Alex: I’m going into it with a pretty open mind. He’s only been in the league for a year and his exposure at receiver is practically nothing. As Dave pointed out, less than 100 career offensive snaps. As a returner, I think he can be solid. Definitely an explosive guy. And I like the trade overall. Losing about 20 spots in draft position to address glaring needs in the return game and at backup slot. It’s worth the very minimal risk. Excited to get my first look at him tonight in a Steelers’ uniform.

mem359: How many of the other 31 teams carry 3 QBs like the Steelers do?
(I assume the rest have 2 QBs on their roster.)

Alex: Roughly half the league. PFT has a good breakdown of it last year. Definitely check that out.


Hey alex 2 questions

1. I see everyone predicting this could be Ramon Foster’s last season, what are the chances this is also Marcus Gilbert’s last season as a Steeler?

2. Also if CJ Prosise is cut by Seattle what are the chances we pick him up to be a “scat back”?

Alex: One, I’m certainly not in the camp who strongly believe it’s Foster’s final season. It’s possible but as long as is play is steady, he’s worth keeping around. Confident Gilbert will be back. Under contract, hopefully all the problems from last year have gone away.

Nah, I think the Steelers are good at RB. Especially now that Switzer solves the returner problem.

mrn6: Please explain to me the defense they had when they ran 3 DL’s, and 3 ILb’s at the same time?..They ran it a few times against Green Bay. I know it’s called the Seminole package, but how often do you see the Steelers using this formation?

Alex: That’s a good question. To be honest, I don’t know. Obviously, when you get Watt back, you’re not taking him off the field the way they did Chickillo.

The fact that Vince Williams is apparently going to be the signal caller this year gives you more flexibility to get a guy like Thomas on the field. He’s not going to have to be in charge of that and you’re not removing your leader (Bostic) to get him on the field. Win/win.

It’s clear they want to get Thomas on the field and you’re going to see him this year. Fits well in that 2-2-7 dollar look for obvious pass situation. Give him that package so he doesn’t have to learn quite as much as the entire defense.

NickSteelerFan: Happy Gameday Alex!!! Who is one player on offense and one on defense that you could see playing them selves onto, or off of, the roster this evening. Thanks!

Alex: Offense is harder to peg down than defense because I think it’s more settled in. Obviously, still a good debate to be had with Samuels and Toussaint. Will Ridley get one last chance to show what he offers, even if that’s for another team, after missing the last couple weeks?

Even with a strong game, I don’t see how Damoun Patterson makes the 53 but he’s been a crazy inconsistent player in camp and the preseason. A nice performance here would be an ideal way to close things out. And of course, Josh Dobbs could be playing his final snaps as a Steeler, whether he’s cut or traded. You guys know the deal there.

Like I said earlier, absolutely huge game for Marcus Allen. Heck, I want to see Brian Allen play well too though I don’t see his roster spot in danger. Then there’s Ola Adeniyi and Keion Adams. I’d like to see some positives from Josh Frazier if he wants to sew up a spot on the practice squad.

Umbra Aeternus: Hey Alex, just a pair of questions for you about the site:
1) Did you ever got to talk to Missi mathews? I remember you told me that part of the first training camp blog got cancelled because it got creepy, but you’ve come a long way since.
2) Also related to that last thing, have you guys ever thought of trying to turn the blagh into an online newspaper or something like that for you to get access to practices like the media guys?
3) Do you think the “training camp stock report” could come back? I loved those notes and I’ve dying to ask you but I never got to catch the Steelers mailbag during training camp lol


1. Ha, no, I never did. It was a throw-away joke that really got taken too far by some fans. Like, some people were actively mad and borderline harassing Missi about it. Totally not my intention at all. Got to the point where I didn’t even want to talk about/reference it again because of the misplaced fervor it kicked up, like you mentioned in your question.

Nah, we’ve never had that specific thought. I mean, this is our “newspaper.” A newspaper is just an object with a bunch of articles to read. I know what you mean by defining it as something more than a “blog” but I don’t like at the word with a negative connotation.

2. We probably could get some level of practice access if we really went for it. Maybe that’s something to consider down the road. But those guys are so limited in what they can say. Certainly nothing football-related I can talk about. I can’t write about what guy is looking good this week or a new wrinkle in the offense. Against the rules. So all you’re getting are quotes. Which hey, that’s nice, but there’s 15 other guys there hearing the same thing. So I’m not bringing anything extra to the table. We have our niche, we have what we’re good at, analysis and breakdowns you don’t find anywhere else.

3. Maybe! I wasn’t writing them back then. And adding a daily article like that would be that much more on my plate. Camp is already a 12 hour day without that. That’s why I try to add the “final thoughts” at the end of each practice, for people who just want to know the most important observations from that day. And sprinkle in a “good/bad” on off days.

renoir: Whatever happened to Markus Wheaton and why would a team starved for QB pressure even consider putting Ola or Thomas or Adams on the practice squad???

Alex: Man I lost track of where Wheaton went. He’s in Philly. But, and I know this is a shock to you, is injured. Missed time with a hamstring. He’s not making their 53. Career could be close to over.

I hear you about Adeniyi and Adams but two thoughts here.

1. You have 31 other teams saying the same thing about their guys. “We have to keep this guy! Everyone else will want him!” Usually just not the case. Very few players, especially super young/inexperienced guys like those two, wind up getting claimed.

2. There are scheme considerations too. Those two only appeal to 3-4 teams. So that eliminates about half the league right there.

It’s possible that one of them would get claimed, and hey, I have both being kept on my last 53 prediction (have the final one coming out tomorrow), but the odds are low.

Raymond Istenes: I keep Dobbs on the roster to start since we can have 54 (with Bell getting an exemption). Hold out and maybe someone will get desperate. Or they make other moves and there is chance he can slide to the PS. Your thoughts?

Alex: Told another reader similar. I don’t know what the extra week does. By then, the teams who need a QB have already gotten one and you’re left holding the bag. I guess the most compelling argument there is that you have better odds of getting him to the practice squad if you wait for everyone else to scoop another player up. But as far as trade value? I don’t see how it helps.

If I had to guess, that’s one guy who won’t make it through waivers. And if he does, he definitely won’t last the whole season there. Someone will poach him by mid-season.

jger15: Noticed the PPG beat writers continue to sound the alarm about OT depth. How concerned are you? Does it supersede your OLB, ILB worries?

Alex: I’m not nearly as alarmed. I think Okorafor has played well. He’s gotta play at some point, you know? Rookie tackles have started before, let alone been the backup. But it wouldn’t floor me if they added someone else either.

It doesn’t outrank my OLB/ILB worries. They’re not even in the same universe.


Hey Alex,

greetings from Germany!

I know you’ve probably been asked this a lot but do you think Ryan Shazier will ever play another snap for Pittsburgh? Whenever I see some footage of him I feel happy for him that he is able to walk but man he doesn’t look like he will ever be able to run on an NFL level, does he?

Alex: Hi Mc_muffin! Greetings from the USA.

I don’t know. Maybe he will. I don’t discount it the way others do. And I certainly root for it because him getting back to the NFL means he’s had a miraculous recovery.

Obviously, he’s not at that point right now. His progress, even from my outside view, has been nothing short of remarkable and we’re what, only 9 months removed from his injury. Think about where he’ll be at this time next year. But there’s still a long ways to go. If we’re speaking honestly, his left side seems to be taking more time than the right. You can see it when he walks.

But I support his goal of playing in the NFL again. That’s his dream and I won’t tell him he’s wrong.

Sam Clonch: Eli Rogers is going to start the season on the PUP. And also is supposed to face a suspension. Will he serve his suspension AFTER he gets taken off the PUP and activated?

Alex: No, he will serve the suspension while on PUP Week One against Cleveland.

Really fun chat with you guys today. Thanks for stopping by. Remember, Matthew Marczi will have the game chat thread up in a little while. So hopefully you all can stay with us throughout the evening.

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