Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to this week’s mailbag. We’re answering whatever is on your mind for the next hour. Let’s get to it.

To your questions!


Hi Alex,

Since he’s the hot topic: What can the Steelers realistically get for Antonio? Do you think a first round pick is in the question?

Alex: I think you could get a first but not a top ten pick. Definitely not the 49ers #2 overall selection. So I would start with a 1st and something else. Or, as someone suggested on the podcast yesterday, and I dig it, an early 2nd round pick. Functions like a 1st rounder (though you lose the 5th year option, that’s important to point out). So maybe an early 2nd and 3rd. Or a 1st and a 3rd/4th.

srdan: AK – in that proposed 335 defense, would you have the dlinemen primarily 1 or 2-gap? I’d prefer to take advantage of their pass rushing skills.

Alex: The same as your 3-4. A lot of one gapping with some two-gapping. Just depends on the call, the down/distance, and your gameplan with the team you’re facing.

I will say this though. The point of two-gapping are to free up your linebackers. In the 3-3-5, you have just one inside linebacker, so there’s one fewer guy to free up. So kinda defeats the purpose of two-gapping. The whole point of it is to keep your nose tackle out there, a playmaking threat like Javon Hargrave. So you do want to let him loose and be aggressive. Shoot gaps, make plays. Lends itself to one-gapping.

Brian Tollini: 

My goodness do I miss talking about football, Alex. Actual
football. 2 questions for ya before the storm of the century hits…

Assuming AB is sent packing this offseason and excluding the positions of ILB,

OLB, and CB, rank our positions of need from most to least. QB, WR, RB,


do you consider the potential trade of AB (and how we potentially
negotiate with other clubs) to be the most crucial decision the
Pittsburgh Steelers front office has ever had to make? The potential
outcomes ranging from debilitating our offense to bringing in multiple
top draft picks to make us a more complete team seems to be the most
critical decision I can remember.

Alex: I guess dimebacker would go to the top of the list. That safety/linebacker hybrid. They’ve basically had a new guy there every year and haven’t found someone who’s fit. From Golden to Gay to Burnett. Nothing’s stuck. They want to play a lot of dime next year, or they’ll need that guy if they’re running that 3-3-5, that position will be even more important.

Obviously, some of the other factors depend on free agency. Does Jesse James walk? What about Ramon Foster? So it’s hard to rank those needs because we don’t know what’s going to happen. At corner, there’s no pending guy who may leave. Even assuming everyone returns, the position needs help. Big time.

I’ve talked about how I can see defensive line be this year’s offensive line. Where they take one in the mid-rounds, people are generally surprised/unhappy about it, but one of those foresight moves. Alualu is a pending free agent I think he returns, but depth is needed. Want to find a better pass rusher. If they can play inside/out, even better.

As to the second part about AB, I’m not going to frame it in terms of “ever had to make.” That’s so broad. Choosing Ben Roethlisberger was a pretty big decision Colbert had to make (and it almost didn’t happen). But beyond just the decision to deal Brown, should it come to that, is what you do with what you get in return. Because you better knock it out of the park with whoever you take.

Bryant Eng: Alex. Realistically, how much cap do you think the Steelers could and plan to create (i.e., with extensions – ben/bud, cuts – gilbert burnett, and other moves), and if you had to guess one free agent on O and D that they might target, who would they be?

Alex: I haven’t put together all the numbers. I leave a lot of that to Dave. The numbers are out there though. You know what Bud, Burnett, Gilbert are owed and the money you can save. You can create $15-20 million in space by doing all that.

As for free agent names, not there yet. Let’s see who gets re-signed. Half the names we can talk about now won’t ultimately hit the market.


In 20 years, which of these Tomlin Era RB/WR combos will be seen as the biggest legends in Steelers loor, the players that we tell our kids and grandkids about like we do Franco and Swann.

Willie Parker/Santonio Holmes
Rashard Mendenhall/Mike Wallace
LeVeon Bell/Antonio Brown
James Conner/Juju Smith-Schuster

If I had to pick one today, Willie and Santonio have the hardware, 3 rings between them. But I think Conner and Juju are shaping up to be finally be some quintessential Steeler legends. I’m waiting for someone to rival the Bettis/Ward combo of yesteryear.

Alex: That’s tough. It’ll still probably be Bell and Brown, even if it isn’t all for the right reasons. They’re the best talents and the guys we’ll be comparing players 10-20 years from now to. That makes them much more memorable. Parker and Holmes will never be in that type of discussion.

Could Conner and JuJu get there? Sure. JuJu definitely. Conner…we’ll see. They’ll be much more of a “feel good” story than Bell and Brown. I’ll give ya that.

Emiliano Castrejón:

Hi Alex! First time writing.
Do you have a wish list of free agents the Steelers could be interested in? And any idea about the amount you would be willing to pay?

Alex: Thanks for writing! I don’t have a wish list. I will but not until we get closer to free agency. For the reasons mentioned above, no use getting too invested/hyped about a guy who may re-sign or get tagged by his current team. Let’s see who is likely to hit the market and choose from that group.

This is the year to be aggressive. With extra cap space, with how important this year is, all the holds you need to fill that simply can’t/won’t be done immediately with a single draft class. If there’s an offseason to sign someone for that 7-10 million per year range, it’s 2019. No doubt.

jger15: Hey AK! Any Senior Bowl players you’ll be paying special attention to going in?

Alex: I’m actually not headed to Mobile this year. We’re sending Daniel Valente who I know is going to do a fantastic job. Very excited for him. He’ll have daily reports on here just like in the past. Keep an eye out for that.

The Tony: Alex, I saw the new Broly movie last night. It was really good! You need to check it out.
So my question for the day. How much impact do you think one player being a distraction in the locker room affects the team on the field? Can a locker room distraction really be a reason why a team loses a game?

Alex: I’m excited to see it. Have to see what theaters it’s playing in near me. The DBZ Super “Tournament of Power” has been going so slow each week. It’s the worst. So I need something exciting Dragon Ball related.

It’s hard to quantify. Especially for someone like me. I think a locker room distraction can impact a team but it’s more rare than the mainstream media makes it out to be. The Bell stuff? I don’t think it ultimately hurt the team from a distraction standpoint. The anthem stuff last year? That did have a real impact. Players admitted it after the fact. So yes, it can, but more often than not, it’s a bigger story outside the locker room than in it.

Dan: Do you see any potential value free agents coming our way next season? I don’t see any expensive FAs coming.

Alex: They’ll probably make one or two “Steeler-like” signings. But I hope to see an expensive one. They have the money. We’ve seen them be aggressive in getting a guy like Joe Haden. Going after Dont’a Hightower. They’ve been more aggressive than I think some like to think.


Did Sean Davis do enough this year that drafting a safety high or spending some money on one in free agency is a lower on the list of priorities?

I’m personally am dying to get a ball hawk on the back end.

Alex: Ideally, I’d like to take a look. I just don’t think it’s in the cards right now. With all the help you need elsewhere, I don’t think you can invest in a position to replace a guy where you have some stability. Davis isn’t ideal at FS because you’re right, his playmaking is terribly limited, but he brings value (good tackler, communicator, athlete, toughness). And when you’re staring at the black hole at corner, the need at ILB, whatever happens at WR, finding that #3 safety, I can’t justify a high pick in free safety. Maybe if the board falls just right and a prospect is just too good to ignore but that’s not on my list of priorities. It’s a luxury. Get a ballhawking corner.

OAM454: Hey alex, if we acquired a stud at one of these positions this off season which position would have the biggest impact on the defense? ILB, OLB, CB

Alex: You can make a case for any of the three. I just look at the struggles of the secondary, all the plays they left on the field this year, and the problems this team has had evaluating talent at corner, that if you could guarantee me a stud there, I’m all over it. So corner. But ILB, OLB? All would help transform this defense, no doubt.

Efren Rodriguez Mora: Hi Alex,

Im here in Mexico, and rumors started to spread today about the steelers will play against the Chagers this year… what are the odds about it? I can assure you that if this is real, Steelers will be 100% in home and the Azteca Stadium will be black and yellow at its fullest capacity

Bonus stupid question:

If the Steelers trade Brown for Corner… (let me dream)
What CB do you prefer??
1 Jalen Ramsey
2 Patrick Peterson
3 Darius Slay

Alex: Couldn’t tell you the odds. Sure seems possible. Art Rooney said yesterday the league hasn’t informed him yet. So we’ll see.

Give me Peterson. Good mix of talent but not a headcase like Ramsey.


Alex, in response to your answer on AB’s worth I got something funny. Let see if Shannahan backs up his words.

“There aren’t many (elite guys),” Shanahan said back in March, via the 49ers’ official website. “If there’s a Julio (Jones) available and you have the opportunity to get him, you go get him. It’s worth it. Whatever the price is, whatever the draft pick is, go get him. There aren’t too many Julio’s on this planet…”

Alex: I saw you share that earlier today. It’s easy to say in the abstract. What coach wouldn’t say “let’s go get an elite player?” But the reality is much more complicated. Trade value, cap ramifications, working with what your GM/owner wants (for a deal like this, they’re just as involved as a coach, probably moreso, especially the GM). So let me know what John Lynch thinks. Wishing to get that guy and actually getting him are different things. And AB is carrying some baggage, obviously. That muddies up what he’s saying there.

Austin Stenger: Where did Alex talk about the 3-3-5? I can’t find an article on it. Interesting idea but they need 2 “dimebacker” style players to pull that off (Mathieu basically) and they do not even have 1. Also the linebackers are basically all inside linebackers in that scheme. That is at the very least how I have seen/ran it myself so I wanna see his whole argument and vision.

Alex: Link to video below. The OLbs alignment aren’t much different. You can call it a “5-2” if you want. I refer to it as “3-3-5” because of the literal interpretation of d-linemen, linebackers, defensive backs.

Maybe some technique stuff but they aren’t off ball. You only need one of those “dimebackers.” He replaces your normal ILB. Used Burnett there against Cincy.

Matt Meyer: Appears as if Fournette and Jacksonville are headed for a divorce. Any interest there or comfortable with Conner/Samuels?

Alex: Haven’t followed the situation super closely but it seems they’re trying to work it out (hint hint AB). Know they had a sitdown the other day to talk through their issues. Even if he is available, I’ll pass. Content enough with what the Steelers have and not going to use the money Fournette wants on a back. Just draft a guy Day Three and I’m happy.

Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt: Hey Alex do you think you guys at the depot can do a wishlist for your final mock draft this year (right before actual draft) so us readers can know who it is from all the other mock drafts that you guys actually liked think it’ll be interesting to see how they pan out in their rookie yr because that was the only way I had any idea who the TE Kittle was

Alex: Maybe. We like to keep it realistic. What’s going to happen as opposed to what we want to see. I think naturally throughout the process, you get a feel for who we do/don’t like.

Byrron Mobley: Does anybody think that Art, Ben, and possibly JuJu should go see AB themselves instead of waiting on him to call? I know they aren’t obligated to do so but I feel like they can get to the end of this quicker by doing so.

Alex: No. AB is a grown man. He can pick up the phone. He knows they want to talk to him. He has no interest in doing so.

hdogg48: Alex….Who do you like this Sunday?

Alex: Saints and Pats.

Ravens Team Gynecologist: I know it has been explained on here, but in simple terms, Steelers are on the hook for roughly $21 mil in cap space if Brown is cut or traded yes? If he were traded is any of that cap hit offset by the salary of the guy he is traded for?

Alex: No. Only money that hasn’t been paid yet. Like his base salary. That’s what the new team would owe.

That’s all for this week. Thanks guys!

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