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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to the weekly mailbag. No shortage of drama and storylines from the Pittsburgh Steelers so far. Drop a question below; we’ll be here for the next hour to answer.

To your questions!

The Pittsburgh Steelers: Fun hypothetical! Pick any Steeler from any past squad to assist 2019 Steelers. Who you bringing!

Alex: Any Steeler ever? No wrong answers but give me Troy. Give me a dude who can actually make plays on this defense.

Joe Jackson: Draft Question that I know always gets asked but I’m going to ask anyway- what positions are you prioritizing for this draft and in what order? LB, WR, EDGE, OG? Thanks!

Alex: Not as worried about prioritizing as I am just finding the right talent. Evaluation is more crticial. Cornerback is at the top of my list but from there…

1. Linebacker. And I imagine it’s right up there for the Steelers too. They wanted to make a splash last year. Didn’t happen. Nothing with this group went so well that would make them change their minds.

2. Edge. Even assuming Dupree plays on his option year (bad idea), you have to plan for him not being here in 2020. And immediately, you get much-needed depth.

3. Wide receiver. A lot hinges on AB, of course.

4. Guard. Hopefully Foster will be back. And if not, there’s still Finney.

renoir: Any thoughts on signee Diontae Spencer from the CFL, set the record for a game all purpose yards, a massive 496 yards in a game…Can return and play WR…Munchak 2020…

Alex: I wrote about Spencer here, Shooting for the next Stefan Logan. But you have to be a great returner to stick in that spot, not just a good one, and you have to be it with kicks and punts in this day and age. Don’t get too crazy about him. We were all excited about Shawn Lemon, too.

falconsaftey43: Ok Alex, you can either replace Butler as DC with anyone you want who is not currently a head coach in the NFL, or you can sign whatever FA CB/ILB you want and are guaranteed to have the first pick from the other position in the 1st round. Which do you do?

Alex: That’s a tough one. Good question. I think it’s easier for top talent to make up for coaching than it is great coaches to make up for talent. A great call still requires execution. So give me the latter. Give me the players, the talent.

And then I can just fire Butler next year, right?

Nick Sabatella: Do you think this team plays any differently/gets to more superbowls if Cowher never stepped away?
Bonus question: What is your thoughts/opinion when you hear those who say Tomlin inherited Cowher’s squad and has underachieved since Cowher stepped away?

Alex: I know why you asked the question but I don’t know and I don’t care. I mean, sure, they’d play differently. You have a different coach, a different background, a different philosophy. Would they be better or worse? Who’s to say.

The “Tomlin won with Cowher’s players” is a dumb argument. Have they underachieved? To a degree, yes. Less so if you look at Tomlin’s entire tenure and not just recent years.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Should the Steelers pursue Robert Alford?

Alex: Probably not. Wrong side of 30, play declined last year, one INT the last two years, still probably going to be overpaid. I’ll pass.

Elyas Correa Nogueira: Alex, if you were the one to make the call, would you choose a CB or a ILB with the 1st round pick? Do you think that Mack Wilson will fall to 20? He seems a natural fit to me.

And another question because of the whole Hall of Fame thing: How ironic it is that the 70’s Steelers offense has more Hall of Famers (5) than the defense (4)?

Alex: I have corner ahead of ILB, though they are both obviously big needs. But you need playmakers on this defense. That’s the #1 issue. Guys who can take advantage of all the pressure this defense has gotten. 108 sacks the last two years, 1st in football. 37 takeaways, 26th in football. How is that even possible? Whole season changes if you can produce a couple splash plays, make a couple more stops on third down.

That is a crazy stat about the Hall of Famers. Dave Bryan is working on Donnie Shell to be the 5th for the D.

The Tony: Alec what is your favorite part of working for Steelers Depot and what is the less desirable parts of working for Depot?

Alex: I think the freedom the site provides is the best part. That I can write about whatever I want, whenever I want, however i want. And that’s something you obviously wouldn’t get pretty much anywhere else with red tape and the bureaucracy that comes with most job and the oversight it has. So that’s pretty special. And I also get to write about the Steelers! Pretty cool.

The worst parts? I don’t think there’s many. The summer months are a slog though. Late June to July before camp kicks up. It’s just tough to find things to write about, let alone something I hope the readers will be interested in. But I have some stuff planned this year.

Jeremy: 

Any word at all on Lavon Hooks? He looked good against poor competition in preseason, seemed on verge of 53, made the practice squad, and then not a whisper. Is he still with the team?

Among the many problems with the 2018 Steelers, one that seems to have been lost in the shuffle is the disappearing act of Mike Hilton. What happened? Has an injury surfaced now that the season is over?

Alex: Lavon Hooks is going to be my annual summer “Look everyone! Lavon Hooks is still here!” articles. I hope he is still eligible for rookie minicamp this spring. I think it’ll be his fifth one. But no, don’t expect much of anything, even knowing the DL depth could see plenty of turnover with Alualu, McCullers, and Walton set to be free agents. At this point, Hooks is a practice squad lifer. This era’s Walter Young. But yes, still with the team. Spent all of last year on the practice squad and received a futures contract after the season ended.

Hilton is a tough nugget to figure out. He did have a bad stretch right around the time he got demoted but I didn’t think he was that bad or the root cause of the team’s issues. Maybe it was to get a look at Cam Sutton. Third round pick after all who has struggled to find consistent playing time. There’s also the idea of them playing a “big nickel” in the future, the 3-3-5 they showed against the Bengals, that brought in a third safety instead of a corner. With more teams having bigger slot receivers, maybe that’s the direction they’re headed. And that’s bad news for a guy like Hilton.

Anthony Palmerston: Random question: We always here that when the defense is on the field for a long time that it’s a benefit to the opposing offense because the defense is tired. But how come the same isn’t true for the opposing offensive players since they are also on the field for just as long?

Alex: That’s fair. I think it’s a mentality thing. If you’re kicking someone’s butt, you just feel less tired. You’re motivated by the success, not drained by this death of a thousand paper cuts. Offenses can probably rotate a little more too than defenses can or at least, more deliberately so. They can manage reps more effectively while the defense has to respond to everything the offense is doing. They’re on the offense’s terms. I hope that makes enough sense.

Since you brought it up, one element I think that gets forgotten about a lot is noise. At home, the opposing offense has to deal with crowd noise. But so does your defense. That’s a factor that gets overlooked a lot, especially for a unit that’s had communication problems for several years. Not an excuse but something to think about.

CP72: Alex,
You’re an NFL GM for another team. What’s the maximum draft pick or picks you feel comfortable with giving up in a trade for Antonio Brown?

Alex: I’ll put it this way. I think the best the Steelers will do in a trade is the 49ers 34th overall pick. Maybe they get something else but that’s the highest pick they’ll get. If you made me guess, and I definitely am here.


That’s all for this week. Thank you to everyone who stopped by.

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