Welcome back to the mailbag. Hopefully you all had a very restful bye week. As usual, we’re here for the next hour answering whatever is on your mind.
To your questions!
John Gutilla: Your current level of confidence in the team compared to at the beginning of the season?
Alex: I guess it’s about the same. I don’t evaluate my confidence too often because I know it doesn’t really matter. I’m glad to see the defense at least get settled down but their biggest tests don’t come until late in the season. Was really nervous, and had confidence at a season low, a couple games in when this defense couldn’t even get lined up right, let alone make a stop.
But the general idea of this team is unchanged. An offense that will carry you, special teams who can play well enough, and a defense that’ll scare you.
Is Ola now eligible to be reactivated, and if so, who’s spot does he take on the 53?
Also, where is Eli Rogers? I feel like I’ve heard NOTHING about him since the last week of camp.
Alex: I forget the timetables for both the PUP and IR lists but neither guy has officially begun to practice yet. And the Steelers are going to use all the time they can before having to make a decision. Let these guys practice, get back into football shape, and see if any injuries occur that could change the landscape.
At this point, it’s hard to see either getting sent to the 53. Like it or not, the Steelers are content with their three OLBs so it’s not like Adeniyi is going to play there. And Rogers doesn’t have a role either with Switzer playing well and the team still giving Justin Hunter chances.
If it were me, I’d leave both guys on their list the rest of the year. Keep Adeniyi on IR, move Rogers to IR. Rogers might be a little trickier because he’s healthy now so I’m ok with just releasing him, too.
SteelDodo: Hey Alex,
What likelihood/odds would you give each of our ILBs (not counting injury) to be on the team 2 years from now?
Alex: Vince will still be here. He just got his extension, after all. Bostic? Eh, probably not. They’re going to draft someone high probably in the 2019 draft and that’ll push Bostic out. The others are a crap shoot. Impossible to say though you would obviously like Matthew Thomas to be able to stick around. But who knows.
Raymond Isteness: Should we expect James Washington to be more involved in the offense during the second half of the season. I don’t expect 2017 Ju-Ju numbers but hope he is on the field for ~ 1/3 of the snaps. Is 30 catches and 350 yds with a few TD’s a reasonable expectation?
Alex: It’ll be better. I’m interested to see in the rotation between he and Justin Hunter against the Browns. But most rookie receivers, even productive ones like JuJu, are much better the back half of the year than the front half. Which is to be expected. Through JuJu’s first six weeks, he had like 15 catches for 192 yards and two TDs. Not great numbers.
All it’s going to take is Washington to make one or two big plays to earn some trust, confidence, and playing time. He’s the #5 option in this offense behind AB, JuJu, Vance, Conner, and you could even argue Jesse/Switzer if you really wanted to. Just not going to get the ball a lot because of it.
Aj Gentile: Good afternoon Alex. How are you doing? If Burnett is dresses who doesn’t get an helmet?
Alex: I’m good, thanks for asking Aj. I haven’t combed through the inactives. Could depend on other injury situations. Grimble’s concussion was a new development. So he could be down and Burnett could dress in his place. Or Brian Allen could be down, especially if DHB returns. I haven’t put much thought into it. More interested in how guys are used if/when Burnett. Who is the starting SS? What happens to Cam Sutton? Can he play RCB now? That’s a lot more interesting and impactful than who is/isn’t active.
DRED1224 (Steelers 12):
what statement do you see people on here make that irks you the most?
for example mine is the constant calling for everyone’s job, whats yours?
Alex: Eh, I try to let most of it roll off my shoulders. Read enough at this point that I don’t carry it with me.
But my answers are probably the same as most of yours. Fire all the coaches, Tomlin has lost the locker room, everything you get after any loss ever.
Calling a coach “too predictable” is one of my pet peeves. That’s what people say when they don’t have a specific complaint. If you’re going to say that, you gotta back that up with more evidence than “run, run, pass!” It’s lame.
You guys all know I detest the word “camp body.” Worst words in the game as far as I’m concerned.
Also, as I’ve said so many times before, a lack of appreciation and understanding of special teams. I’m not saying I know it all, I’m an idiot, but the way it gets judged on this pass/fail basis only is dumb. There’s so much nuance to that unit.
(Also Also: the next person who suggests trading Artie Burns for Patrick Peterson is getting tossed out a window with the rest of AB’s furniture).
The Steelers are spending more time in 12 personnel. I personally like it .With all the RPO stuff I think it’s a great way to keep the defense guessing.. You could also argue that our best receiving personnel is in the 12 grouping. Your thoughts?
Alex: Are they? I haven’t looked at the data. I know they were heavy last week but I think that’s more of a gameplan thing than a philosophy change. If Washington develops, it’ll probably swing back. Haley did the same. He’d start games heavy or have games where that was the style throughout.
But sure, there are advantages to it. Keep teams in base, get LBs on TEs like Vance, see more single high looks, opening things up on the outside. And we saw Fichtner spread things out in empty, though I don’t like the look out of 21/22 with Nix out wide. That’s not helping you.
Jon: I know it is early but halfway through the season does Edmunds still (if he ever was) look worthy of a first round selection?
Alex: I’m not going to make any sweeping thoughts but Edmunds is doing well. Remember, the guy is supposed to be playing his senior year at VT right now. He should be seeing Duke and North Carolina, not professional athletes. He’s still only 21. He’s not beating himself, he’s not blowing coverages, and he’s been available. Playing a lot of snaps and you’re not seeing him slow down as the game goes on. Seems to be taking care of his body and a highly conditioned player who is doing all the right things a lot of rookies slip up on (eating right, getting treatment, getting enough sleep, head in the playbook).
Steelers are helping by keeping him closer to the LOS and restricting the amount of space he has to play. Process less information, let him play a little bit faster. We saw what happened vs Baltimore when he was asked to play FS. It didn’t end well.
You’re looking for him to start creating big plays now that the game is slowing down. That’s gotta happen. Secondary needs a playmaker. And he’s been a really ineffective blitzer, which is a problem for a DC who likes to get his secondary involved. Has to be more physical.
Kyle Chrise: Are are woes at CB any reflection of what Tom Bradley has brought to the team? Are we able to evaluate his performance at this point? or still incomplete?
Alex: Hard to say. How do you judge a positional coach? You look at the output of that unit but how much of that is on the players, the coordinator, or the positional coach? Especially for a guy like Bradley with no NFL resume and from my research, no clinic tape publicly available. At least with Karl Dunbar, who have an idea of his principles and what he teaches.
So for me, it’s definitely an incomplete and it’s very hard to give him a grade. What’s the criteria?
Jedi Master Fred Biletnikoff: Alex,
What do you think Eli Rogers would demand on the open market?
Thanks! ps GO STEELERS!
Alex: Absolutely nothing. No market for an uninspiring slot receiver 10 months removed from a torn ACL.
I asked you on twitter a few days ago, but there was somebody citing this particular CBA rule in their argument that Bell can’t become a free agent if he doesn’t report by Week 10.
Signing Period for Franchise Players:
(a) In the event that a player who is designated and tendered as a Franchise
Player has not signed a Player Contract with a Club by the Tuesday following the tenth
week of the regular season, at 4:00pm New York time, the player shall be prohibited
from playing football in the NFL for the remainder of that League Year, absent a showing
to the Impartial Arbitrator of extreme Club or extreme personal hardship. The
determination of the Impartial Arbitrator shall be made within five days of the application,
and shall consider all information relating to such hardship submitted by such date.
The determination of the Impartial Arbitrator shall be final and binding upon all parties.
My question is, what in this rule says that would be the case?
Thanks for your time, Alex.
Alex: I think I answered this, didn’t I? Or was that the guy you were arguing with?
Bell will be a free agent at the end of this season. No matter what. Even if he doesn’t show up at all. However, if he doesn’t show up by Week 10, the Steelers could again place the franchise tag for the 2018 value ($14.55 million) as they did before because Bell didn’t get an accrued season. That’s the only consequence to him sitting out.
But he’ll still be a free agent. He has been the last two years. Pending free agents are the only players who get slapped with the franchise tag.
OK Alex, you’re giving up the 2019 4th round pick. Do you want Conley or Barrett?
Could we see a trade for a receiver that could take teh top off a defense? Seems unlikely, but that dimension has been missing.
Alex: Barrett for sure. Give me the more proven player, even if OLB is slightly less a need than corner. I want to know what I’m getting with my draft pick.
Yeah, I kicked around the idea of a receiver in my head. Might as well just load up the offense as much as possible. But it’s unlikely and not something I’m in favor of. Let Washington develop. Gotta give him some time.
Phil Brenneman II:
This is kind of a 2 parter.
If this were Conners rookie season is he in the conversation for Rookie of the Year? Will he “win” it by the end of the season in our hypothetical?
Alex: You’re all about the James Conner hypotheticals, aren’t ya Phil? I think I get one a week from you.
Would he be in the conversation? Definitely.
Which year are we comparing him to? 2017 with Alvin Kamara or 2018 versus Barkley? If it’s 2017, he beats out Kamara. This year? Nah, he’d lose to Barkley.
Jeremy: Howdy Alex. Let’s say the Steelers end up putting everything together and win the Super Bowl this season. What was the story of the second half of the season? How did they do it?
Alex: Hmm, good question. That the defense made plays. The four man pressure became more consistent, Heyward and Tuitt started playing like they need to, and the defense started forcing a lot more turnovers.
Mentioned the stat yesterday on Twitter. Defense has only eight takeaways in six games. That’s 20th in the league. Four of those came in one quarter vs Tampa. That’s not Super Bowl caliber. You either have to be a dominant group that doesn’t allow a lot of points, like a Baltimore or failing that, be one that creates a lot of turnovers and chaos. Sacks are nice but they aren’t translating into turnovers or heck, even really good third down play (Steelers are 17th).
Stephen: Hey Alex, did the Steelers let Mixon score in order to have more time in the clock?
Alex: Nah. There was no good reason to let the Bengals score. They needed a touchdown. It’s not a situation where they could try to burn clock, kick the FG, take the lead. Defense still wanted to get a stop.
They were just in dime personnel against 11, which makes the defense light compared to the offense. So it’s not a surprise the Bengals were able to run the ball in.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for stopping by everyone.