Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to the mailbag, a rare gameday edition of it (sorry it’s a little late). Hope you’re all ready for tonight’s game against the Carolina Panthers. As always, we’re here for the next hour talking about whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

Jon: Can you point to any one thing, player, etc for the reasons we aren’t getting any take aways on defense? Been a while since we had a corner or safety taking the ball away regularly.

Alex: That’s a really good question. It stings more given the high amount of pressure/sacks the Steelers have gotten relative to the league (even if you’d like to see a little more consistency). It feels like more of a personnel issue. Just don’t have the guys with top level ball skills. Haden and Hilton are the only proven players with good ball skills in the secondary and even then, I don’t consider those guys ballhawks. They can play the catch point well, break up throws, but they’re not going to pick off five passes in a season. Haden’s done that only once in his career, his rookie year, and then teams – sorta like how it is now – have just stopped throwing his way.

Some blame could fall on scheme too. The Steelers have run more man coverage this year. So players don’t have vision on the football as often. Hard to pick it off if you don’t see it.

Spencer Krick: 

Hey Alex!

Who is your Steelers rookie of the year right now? Who do you think it will be by the end of the season?

Alex: I mean, is there even a debate right now? Edmunds is the only one seeing consistent playing time. So it’s gotta be him. Who else are you even choosing from? Washington? Matthew Thomas? So Edmunds now and Edmunds by season’s end.

Andy N: Hi Alex,
Simple question, Artie Burns, 5th yr option or not?

Alex: Simple answer. No.

BurghBoy412: Do you support the notion of Burnett and Edmunds sharing reps? Do you think the team would be best served leaving Edmunds as the starter?

Alex: I don’t want a committee. A Burns/Sensabaugh “rotate them every two series” thing, no. I don’t think that helps either guy or anyone else on this defense. I’m open to the idea of Burnett taking back the starting SS job. I’m pretty much with Tomlin’s answer. Roll them out in practice, let them compete. I would not be shocked if Burnett started tonight.


You MUST integrate one of these players into the game plan going forward this season (offense or defense, not ST only), who do you pick?

Ola Adeniyi
Eli Rogers
Matthew Thomas

Alex: Then give me Adeniyi. Rogers is just Switzer but worse and more limited. Thomas…yeah, I don’t have a role for him right now. So give me Adeniyi rotating as the #3 behind Watt and Dupree if you made me choose. I don’t think it actually happens this year and I can live with that. But that’s the easiest and best option of the three, by far.

hdogg48: Alex who do you see on the Steelers Defense having
the biggest game tonight?

Alex: There’s no one I am predicting but there are a lot of guys who need to. Bostic/Williams dealing with McCaffrey and all the window dressing of this offense. Davis and Edmunds/Burnett being reliable in space.

Cam Heyward should play well. He has a pretty good matchup. Tuitt has his hands full with Trai Turner so Heyward’s gotta eat. I bet the Panthers slide a lot of protection to Cam and let Turner deal with Tuitt one v one.

The Black Heath Miller: If Goku was a football player, what position would he play?

Alex: Running back. Good luck tackling someone who can kamehameha his way through linebackers.

Umbra Aeternus: I’m just finding out CJ Mosley is on the last year of his contract. Do you think there’s any chance the Ravens let him get to free agency? It would shock me if they put the franchise tag, but it’s also shocking me they haven’t been able to extend him

Alex: I obviously haven’t followed the situation very closely but I don’t expect him to go anyway. He’s the anchor of that defense. Steelers fans know better than anyone how these contracts go. Baltimore wanted to extend him…just didn’t happen. I’d put money on it getting done before free agency this March.

Lukesaenz: Alex – Halfway through the season and the defense is (hopefully) rounding into form. Do you see any big differences in the secondary now that Bradley is the guy there instead of Lake? How much credit do we give him for Sean Davis’ turnaround this year, particularly with regard to open field tackling. Do you anticipate any additional changes as we head into the second half of the season?

Alex: Unfortunately, that’s really hard for any of us to say. It’s still really hard to even properly evaluate a player, or a head coach, or a coordinator. Once you get into the position coaches…man it’s tough. What do you go off of? Are the successes a direct correlation to the coach? Are the failures? That stuff can really only be learned internally, unless a coach has a great track record at one place (like Richard Mann did).

And at least with a guy like Karl Dunbar, we could find some old clinic tape and see his coaching philosophy and how that translated to the Steelers. Couldn’t find any of that on Bradley and obviously, this is his first time coaching in the NFL. So for us, the info is very limited.

I’m sure he’s had a role in the things you mentioned. I’d like to think he’s making the group better. But can I prove that? Not really.

Jesse Hernandez: Hey Alex,
Let’s just say the Steelers make it to the championship game win or loss and the offense stays 2nd in red zone pct and top 3 in overall offense. Do you think somebody tries making Randy their Head coach?

Alex: Who’s to say? I guess it’s possible. But I feel like teams will look at the talent around Fichtner – rightly or wrongly – and think he’s more of a product of that than he is making the offense great. He’s not exactly Sean McVay. So I don’t expect him to become a “hot” name even if the Steelers win it all. In the same way I’m sure you’d laugh at the idea of Keith Butler becoming a head coach if Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl.

Jeff Najjar: Is AB getting enough touches so far this season? Should the targets increase or stay about where they are at?

Alex: I mean, he’s tied 3rd in targets and the two guys ahead of him have played an extra game. So it’s hard to say he’s not being targeted enough. Teams are just doing everything they can to limit him and the lack of a #3 has hurt, no doubt about it. But I’m patient enough. He’ll break out soon.

The good thing is the Steelers are feeding him the ball in the red zone. And he’s making those catches count. Should easily set a career high in scores this year. So it’s not all bad.

RedzC: Alex, If Bell shows up by Tuesday, and the Steelers negotiate his pay for his fist two weeks back, can you tell me what Leveon’s cap hit will be for this season?

Alex: Well, I guess it depends on where that negotiation lands. Is he making his full weekly salary while exempted? Or not. That’ll change the cap hit, obviously.

But at 855K per week, over the final seven weeks of the season, comes out to a little under $6 million. So that would be his regular season cap hit.

Ravens Team Gynecologist: Alex, if you got to be Equipment Coordinator for a day, would you stitch Bell’s name on upside down?

Alex: Ha, that’s an amazing idea.

renoir: 5th year option on Bud, yeah or no thanks..

Alex: Yeah, leaning pretty heavily towards no. Bud has made strides but it hasn’t been that good. I’m open to bringing him back for much cheaper. If that means him testing the market and seeing what else he can get, I’m good with that too. But I’m not paying him $9.2 million next year to get me five sacks.


Hey Alex,

Njoku was a non-factor last week for the Browns. From your film review, was this something the Steelers did differently to cover the tight end position? Olsen is a major threat for tonight.


Alex: Burnett is a nice addition. I know he struggled some against the Ravens but those were difficult spots to be in. Some good throws and concepts by Flacco and Baltimore. You saw Sutton struggle against TEs, especially on in/out breaking routes because of his lack of size. Burnett helps even the scale. So that’s one reason.

Relatively speaking, given some of the mess the Steelers have trotted out in the past (Golden, Gay, Nat freakin’ Berhe), the Fort/Burnett dime personnel is strong. Sutton offers good depth and the ability to go dollar (7 DBs) if you want to.

Brian Miller: Alex, if indeed Bell sits out the entire year, do you think this would affect his future either positively, negatively, or not at all?

Alex: I’m going to go all Mike Tomlin on you, Brian. You tell me. Has anything Bell done been working out positively for him? At this point, he’s in a bad spot no matter what he does, but I don’t know if sitting out the rest of the year really helps him.

I guess coming back helps more because he can make some plays, put on good tape, and remind teams why he was commanding so much money in the first place. But pretty much all of his decisions up to this point have been….terrible. Not just in the decision itself but the way he’s gone about it.

stan: I’m having a hard time staying optimistic about Washington. He’s not only been underwhelming in terms of production and hands, he also appears a step slow and rather small. What do you think?

Alex: Eh, too strong for me, stan. His career is just getting started. Yes, lots to improve on. Yes, underwhelming start. But I haven’t forgotten the “wow” plays he made in camp and preseason. A totally different ballgame but I trust that will begin to translate. Just gotta be patient.

That’s all for this week. I might try to do another on Monday and then of course, next Thursday. Thanks for stopping by!

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