Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Hey everyone, and welcome back to the mailbag. Like always, we’re here for the next hour talking about whatever you want to talk about. Let’s jump in.

To your questions!

Bob Francis: 

Do you think the team should add a player before the trade deadline? If so, at what position? And any names in mind? If the window is NOW with Ben, I see the sense of using a future pick for a proven player at a position of need, especially with how long it usually takes to develop drafted players pan out (especially on defense). There’s also the hope the team will recoup a high pick when losing Bell, which lessens the cost of using a future high pick in a trade. And the Steelers are also suddenly in cap position to add someone who’s not from the bargain bin.

PFF mentioned Patrick Peterson as potentially moveable by the Cardinals. With the trouble finding a solution opposite Haden, would you give up a high pick for him? I know some are still high on Burns.

Alex: I mean, I’m generally not opposed to it. I don’t think any playoff hopeful team would be. But I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about who or where. Deone Bucannon is semi-interesting but he’s going to be a free agent after this year and apparently struggled a ton this year. Interesting piece as a sub-package/dime player, but even then, it’s hard to find the fit. I know many have mentioned the other Cardinal reportedly being shopped around, Hassan Reddick, but I don’t believe the Steelers are going to have interest.

Kyle Chrise: Will Morgan Burnett return to the starting lineup when he is healthy again or has Terrell Edmunds earned the starting role?

Alex: Good question. I think Edmunds stays in his spot. He’s going to be stating full-time by next year, right? You have to imagine that was the Steelers plan when they drafted him. So might as well keep it going. Hard to say if Burnett is really even in-shape after missing so much time with a soft tissue injury, which I assume hasn’t let him be able to run and stay conditioned.

So yeah, if Edmunds plays like he did vs Atlanta, Burnett should be the dime player only. And even then, I’m not opposed to having the conversation of him vs Sutton.

pittfan: Alex, great video on Edmunds. I like his game last week.
Do you see us playing more single high and 3rds and moving away from the cover 2 we’ve been getting burned on?
PS, LJ Fort….strong showing….comments??

Alex: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. I know it wasn’t super exciting in any singular play he made but it was steady all around.

Butler has gotten back to playing a lot of Cover 3 and I think they’re sticking with that for at least awhile. He’s trying to simplify things. Worked last week.

Yup, Fort was really good. We’ve talked about him for a long time. What’s his role going forward? I’m not sure.

Kevin Reich: Have the TEs play erased any need for an early draft pick at the position next year?

Alex: Yeah, if Vance McDonald can stay upright, then I think the position will be pretty low down on the list of needs. Get ready for another defensive geared draft.

srdan: AK, I think people on our defense like Haden and Hilton get a lot of love…rightfully so, they are consistent. But my man Davis has been quietly been balling. Nothing spectacular yet, but he is holding the fort down. I know you spend time watching the 22 tape, do you see him now as the long term answer there at FS? Seems natural for him.

Alex: His transition has seemed to go smoother than I expected. Kudos to him for handling being moved around like that. Davis was always the only true option to play FS, I didn’t disagree with that, but I was worried about him playing a third position in three years.

But yeah, he’s been steady. Not perfect but given the other issues in the secondary, his problems are lower on my list.

Grant Humphrey: Hey Alex,
I asked you on twitter a few weeks ago and your reply was, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there” well that bridge is getting closer and closer by the week. So my question is, who is the receiver who is out the door when Eli Rogers is ready to return from IR?

Alex: Still not sure, ha. Maybe it’s Eli. I don’t see the role for him. Switzer is the backup slot WR and the return man. What is Eli offering this team? At least in theory, Justin Hunter is giving you something different. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Rogers was released when he’s eligible to come off. They’ll hold him as long as they can, though, of course.

Ichabod: Alex if we sign free agents next year, couldn’t that affect the assumed 3rd round comp. for bell?

Alex: Yes, it could. That’s the risk you take. But good luck figuring out the comp formula. It’s totally obscure in its rules.

Ian Suttie:

How can a team be so good drafting one position vs another? I’m thinking Steelers record of poor CB’s vs solid WR’s compared to Baltimore’s ability to hit midround defense picks vs absolute whiffs on WR? Is that on the scouts, GM, position coaches or some combo?

And should a team that can’t seem to draft a position just give up and sign FA’s like Baltimore did this year at receiver?

Alex: I guess if we all had the answers to those questions, every draft pick would be amazing. So I don’t have much of an answer for you.

Scouting is playing a big role in things but positional coaches (and then eventually, coordinators and the head coach) file their own reports too based on the guys they’re told to check out. So for Pittsburgh, you have really good positional coaches like Richard Mann, the former WRs coach, and you know he knew what to look for. Carnell Lake? Maybe doesn’t have as good of an eye.

But I know that answer feels insufficient, mostly because it is. I don’t think anyone really knows the answer.

Free agency is another route to go but it’s obviously harder. More expensive, no guarantees of getting the guy you want, in some cases, you don’t know the guy as well if you didn’t look at him in the pre-draft process. So downsides there, obviously.

Brian Miller: Hey there Alex…I know this is a hypothetical in some ways, but do you think the FO views Rudolph as the bonafude heir apparent to BB, OR do you think the Steelers are unsure and would give serious consideration next year if one of the top QBs coming out fell in their lap ala Lock, Peterson, Stinton, or Grier?

Alex: Nah, Rudolph is the guy. They said they viewed him as the heir and had a first round grade on him. They aren’t drafting a QB high for a long time. Or else I’m pretty sure Ben Roethlisberger will retire simply out of spite.

steeltown: Your thoughts on LJ Fort… untrained eyes he looked damn good. Would you like to see more of him? Less of him?

Alex: We’ve said the same thing most of Steelers’ Nation have said. That Fort should have the opportunity to play. The really crazy part is that Fort’s game, six tackles, 3 QB hits, a sack, fumble recovery/TD is that he did all that on just 27 defensive snaps. And he hurt his ankle somewhere along the way. It was either on literally his first defensive snap or covering a punt later in the first half, you could see him get up slow.

I guess the only problem is swapping out helmets if he came onto the field on 3rd down to replace Vince Williams. But they did it last week so they’ve shown it’s possible.

Brian Tollini: Thoughts on Javon Hargrave’s development? Big fan of his still, but I thought this could be a pro bowl year for him and he has seemed average so far.

Alex: Yeah, you can lump him in with Heyward and Tuitt. His snap count is down because of the nature of his position and now, they’re using Daniel McCullers and that’s taking away even more snaps. So it’s probably hard for him to get into a “rhythm” like a running back. He’s doing more running on and off the field than he is going forward and making plays behind the LOS.

Bill Sechrengost: Hi Alex. I know it is looking less and less like Le’veon Bell will get traded. I’ve been trying to think of a way to get around the fact that no team can sign him to an extension this year. Could there be a stipulation in the trade deal that the Steelers get a 3rd-round pick and another pick if the team they trade him to signs him to a contract next year? Would that make it attractive enough for the Steelers to take a chance on it? I know there are a lot of ifs there. Thanks.

Alex: I don’t know for sure because maybe there’s some language in the CBA I’m simply missing but yes, I believe you could add those conditionals to a trade. A trade condition is fairly common. The Patriots have them in the deal for Josh Gordon.

Of course, that makes an already complicated situation more complicated. You know have to agree on framework of the deal if the condition is met and if it isn’t. You’re doubling the terms each side has to agree, essentially meaning there are four elements that have to be given the green light (receiving team compensation if/if not the condition is met, the trading team compensation if/if not the condition is met).

So while it’s possible and in that way, could make things easier, it can also make it just as chaotic.

renoir: Does Brian Allen have the right tools to replace DHB on special teams at some point other then being fast or are we doomed to see him ping pong the rest of this year and perhaps beyond…

Alex: Yeah, I think he has all the tools. He’s shown it already as a gunner. Size, speed, physicality, the “want to” that you gotta have to make a true impact there.

He’s back up because of injury, obviously, but the goal here is for him to turn into a starting corner, or at least have that potential. That’s what will cement his spot on the roster moving forward into camp next year and (hopefully) beyond. He got cut this year not for STs but he simply wasn’t a good enough corner.

stan: Follow-up on Burnett. If he can’t get in the starting line-up, do you think they’ll bring him back next year? It looks like it would cost $2.8M to cut him but that it would also save the team that much. The team is swimming with cap money though after the Bell fiasco and cutting Landry Jones (who’s still out there in case anyone is wondering). The extra cap space both makes it easier to cut and keep him, if that makes any sense.

Alex: Yup, he could be on the chopping block. If for nothing else, can you trust him to stay healthy? He hasn’t shown it over his career and he’ll be another year older coming off an injury-marred 2018. It’s sort of like LaDarius Green, even though we’re not talking concussions here. I can see Burnett on the chopping block, absolutely.

Efren Rodriguez Mora: 

Hi Alex, greetings from Mexico!

How many years more do you think Joe Haden will play in this level?

Another one…
Who’s the best CB in the NFL for you, right now? Jalen Ramsey maybe?

Alex: Greetings from the USA!

I dunno how long Haden will play at this level. Haven’t really thought about it that much. Hopefully for at least another year. Him being healthy, entering this past offseason healthy, was really big for him. Hit the ground running.

The best CB? Yeah, hard to argue with Ramsey. Denzel Ward is making a major name for himself. Marcus Lattimore had a heck of a rookie season for the Saints last year though I haven’t paid much attention to how he’s doing in 2018.


Alex. With all the backlash over excessive and incorrectly called penalties, I’m curious as to which of these you’d rather have. Would you rather watch an NFL game with no replay or one that can have every play reviewed, and confirmed/overturned in real time?

I understand why either of these extremes would be difficult to have right now but, personally, if given the choice, I’d rather watch a game with no replay. Just Curious on your thoughts. Thanks.

Alex: Yeah, both those options are terrible. But there’s a reason why we went to replay in the first place. Because of how frustrating it was for clearly blown calls to stand. And I don’t want to go back.

The issue with the confirm/overturned and all that confusion isn’t inherent to replay. That’s not a “replay” issue. That’s a rules issue, where everything is varying shades of grey, overcomplicated by a bloated rules book and a system that can barely function with part-time refs and a rules committee that does a 180 every year. That’s the issue.

So fix the system, keep replay, and you’ll be much happier with the product of the game. I definitely don’t want to go back to the 1980s. I promise you don’t either.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Alex, if it were up you would Haden travel with the opposition’s #1 receiver more often? Personally, I like the play if a team has a legit guy (like Cinci does with Green). Not sure if I’d go that route against a team like Baltimore though. Tomlin’s comments seem to suggest is has more to do with how offenses scheme a player. I think it should be dictated by the players themselves. The Julio’s and Green’s of the world should face our best corner as much as possible. What are your thoughts?

Alex: Short answer, yes, but like Tomlin said, it’s more complicated than that. How does the opponent use their #1? Do you trust your other players to travel? Are there physical/schematic problems that exist for those guys? Can you slot corner play on the outside if that’s how the offense aligns? Mike Hilton actually played a snap on the outside last week with Sensabaugh in the slot.

So there’s a lot that has to be considered. It’s not as simple as just your top guy traveling. Everything else has to make sense. I’m certainly not mad if Haden does shadow Green this week but they limited him last year without doing it. It can be done.

Ok, thanks for being patient everyone. Computer fixed now! Appreciate you stopping by. We’ll talk to you all next Thursday.

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