Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your regularly scheduled mailbag. Tons to talk about coming off the Pittsburgh Steelers first game of the season. We’ll be here for the next hour.

To your questions!

Steelers12: Hey Alex how many snaps do you expect to see james Washington get this week?

Alex: Hopefully more, lol. All depends on how he practices, just as it is for pretty much every rookie. But we saw JuJu quickly increase his snap count. Here’s how the first three weeks went.


Justin Hunter is just a speed bump. Played 51 snaps, targeted five times, caught just one pass (granted, Ben did miss him at least once and a TD was called back). But he’s shown he is just the same dude. So Washington should start to take away from him soon, more and more each week.

A direct answer? 25 snaps this week for Washington.

Calan Clark: Did Bud Dupree show improvement over last year, have a good game against a bad player, or both?

Alex: It was both. Some good, some bad. Showed a better job of converting speed to power. Obviously had a sack/forced fumble and nearly another, just jumped a split second too early. Did lead the team in pressures. But he got run up the arc too often and left some plays on the table. Tougher challenge this week facing Eric Fisher compared to Harrison too.

Generic Steelers Fan: Question about Depot! Does Depot see more traffic after a win or after a loss?

Alex: I think most people would guess it’s after a loss because most negative things in the media drive the bus. That’s what gets headlines. And obviously, a loss has anger, and people looking to vent and get mad online.

But, and to be clear, I have never scientifically looked at it, we do better after victories. And it makes sense. I know when the Steelers lose, at least, before I had this job, for the next 24 hours, I tuned out football. I didn’t want to see highlights of the loss. Didn’t want to watch the Sunday Night Game.

So while there’s a vocal subset of fans after losses, most people just want to take a break. So wins are good for business, absolutely.

piftfan: As early as it is, do you think this defense is better than last years? (I do) and why?

Alex: Eh, just too early to judge, especially after the Week 1 slopfest. Tyrod Taylor couldn’t do anything with the football. Let’s see what happens over the first month. KC is going to be a great litmus test. They have a high powered offense. Excited for you guys to read the scouting report on them – it will drop tomorrow afternoon, not in the AM like usual. Just a minor scheduling note there.

Grant Humphrey: Hey Alex!
I read your write up on Matthew Thomas being gunner on the punt team this morning, great read by the way. My question is, Do you think that’s something he can continue to do well and consistently?

Alex: Sure. Why not? He’s a ridiculous athlete. He runs like a safety. And clearly did well last week. If Sutton starts for Haden, then Thomas is probably going to be your left gunner again. It’s pretty crazy he’s doing it but you look at the skillset, not the position. If a linebacker can run like a safety, use him like you would a safety.

Umbra Aeternus: 

Are you guys planning on making a defensive sack breakdown series this year? Id love to see that.

Also, what do you think of Dupree’s game? I think he was ok, but people hate him so much Im not sure. I think he has good snaps and horrendous ones. I think he got 10 sacks in 26 games, which doesnt seem that bad, obviously people expect a lot more from a 1st rounder, but is his status as whipping boy fair?

Alex: Have my Dupree response above.

Don’t think we are going to do a defensive sack breakdown. If we are, I know I’m not the one writing it. But that stuff is easier to see. Obviously, you know who is responsible for the sack. It gets recorded, unlike the offense. And naturally, I think we talk about it more. I wrote up about Butler’s ILBs blitzes earlier this week, showing the one Bostic got. Only so much time we have so that’s something that simply misses the cut.

D-ville Tommy: Pat Kirwan mentioned a couple of times on SiriusXM NFL Radio that the Steelers can put the transition tag on Bell next Spring and have the ability to match whatever offer he comes up with from another team. Do you know if this is possible? BTW, it was great meeting you at camp this year!

Alex: Yup, that’s a possibility. I don’t know why the Steelers would want to go through that mess, to the point where I think Bell and the union would file a grievance against the team, but it’s an option. Right now though, my focus is like the team. Not on Bell but on Conner and the rest of the guys under contract. We’ll deal with that rabbit hole later on.

Great meeting you too!

CP72: Alex,
I don’t think people are giving enough credit to the Browns defense. That’s a talented group. I think they may be the best defense in our division. Do you agree?

Alex: The best? Eh, that’s a stretch. I still give the crown to Baltimore. But you’re right, this is a talented group. A top-notch pass rusher in Garrett. Interior run stuffer in Ogunjobi. Four talented LBs. And added a bunch in the secondary. I’m not a Gregg Williams fan though. Think he holds that unit back. They’re going to be too streaky under him because he’s so aggressive all the time.

kevo: We often hear and discuss how the Steelers have become the premier team at identifying and developing talent at the Wide Receiver position. Credit often goes to the front office and coaching staff, which is deservedly so. My question is, are we shorting Ben on his portion of the credit at the success this team has found in developing Wide Receivers? Over the years, we’ve heard numerous stories about a level of “tough love” he shows to younger WRs new to the team, the work he puts in after practice and the film room, and of course- the occasional WTF look he shoots at the player and then the sideline when the wrong route is run. Should Ben be talked about more when discussing the rare streak of success this team has had with that position? Thanks.

Alex: You can tip your cap to Ben for helping to make guys look good. Your receivers do tend to look better when a Hall of Famer is throwing to them instead of say, Paxton Lynch.

But Ben ain’t going to make me into a wide receiver. If you have talent, it’ll show. If you don’t, that’s not going to change just because Ben yells at you to break down quicker or get your head around sooner.

The hidden credit should go to Richard Mann. One of the best receiver coaches in the game. One of Tomlin’s best moves was to convince him to unretire and come back. Scouts found the talent, Mann helped develop it.

There’s also a continuity factor. When your scouting staff, your GM, your head coach, all stay the same, you know what to look for. Like Mike Mayock says – you know what a Steeler looks like. The evaluation, the process, the way you scout, it’s consistent throughout. That doesn’t guarantee success but it sure helps your chances.


Alex do you see Mahomes having a big game against us Sunday?

I watched some of his plays against that the Chargers. I like
the way he moves his feet, and sets his feet on his throws
and he shows great accuracy.

The Chiefs got some dangerous players like Tyreek Hill
who are tough to bring down with one on one tackles
in the open field.

I see a shoot out brewing…how many TD passes do you
see Ben throwing, and how many points do you think
we need to win?

Alex: Yup, has the potential to be a shootout. I’d love to hit 30 in this one. Chiefs can and will hit you with a lot. Just finished watching the Chiefs offense vs LA and Mahomes played really well. Talent and scheme coming together. It’s a headache to deal with.

Jesse Hernandez: Hey Alex, let’s just say we get another tie and go 13-1-2 and the Jets go 14-2. Who gets first seed ?

Alex: Uhhhh *starts counting fingers and toes*

I think Sam is right. Same winning percentage so it would come down to the tiebreaker system.

jger15: Hey AK! Any further thoughts on what the team is thinking with that extra salary cap cushion beyond “in case of emergency”?

Alex: Nope, no idea. I’m sure they have their reasons. I just couldn’t tell you. Maybe to be in a position to do something crazy at the trade deadline. I dunno.

@Why_Cliff: hey Alex whenever you do your weekly mailbag I got a question. If Big Ben struggles against the Chiefs like he did Cleveland any chance Coach T pulls him and plays Dobbs?

Alex: A very short answer here, my man.


Nolrog: Has there been any injury updates on Ben and DeCastro? Last I saw was Ben had an MRI and DeCastro’s hand is worse than originally expected but nothing in the last day or so.

Alex: Ben did not practice today. Not sure on DeCastro, guessing he didn’t either. Injury report should come out soon. Dave will have it posted shortly.

That’s all for this week. Thanks everyone.

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