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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to this week’s mailbag. Like always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

AB: 

Hi Alex,

With the potential (and now likely?) loss of Antonio, who would you like to see as a free agent aquisition to help fill the void? I know Golden Tate, Robby Anderson, and Pierre Garcon have been a few names floated around. Anyone specific you think can really help our offense?

Alex: I’ll have to start compiling my free agent wishlist. Probably will begin that this weekend. Don’t like to start it too early out because you know a lot of those guys will re-sign. As we get closer to the start of the new league year, we hear about guys who should be on the market. Like the news the 49ers will decline Garcon’s option (not a shock though). So I’ll have to get back to you.

I’m really for replacing in the draft though, given the track record of the Steelers evaluating the position. So if they don’t get a WR in free agency, I’ll sleep fine.

Darth Blount 47: Hey, Alex! Do me a favor…
Can you please predict the Steelers Defensive Depth Chart for week 1 of the 2019 season?
Using: LDE, NT, RDE, LOLB, ILB, ILB, ROLB, LCB, RCB, SCB, FS, SS?
And feel free to simply say “draft pick” if need be. Thanks!

Alex: Back with the tough questions, huh? Missed you Darth.

LDE: Tuitt, FA/Draft
NT: Hargrave, FA/Draft
RDE: Heyward, Alualu
LOLB: Watt, Adeniyi, Chickillo
ROLB: Dupree, Adeniyi, Chickillo
Mack: FA/Draft, Fort
Buck: Vince Williams, Fort, Matakevich
LCB: Haden, Sutton, Brian Allen
RCB: FA/Draft, Sensabaugh
NCB: Sutton, Hilton
FS: Davis, FA/Draft, Dangerfield
SS: Edmunds, Marcus Allen
Dime: FA/Draft, Marcus Allen

Sutton/Hilton was the big one to wrestle with. But I can see this team running a ton of “big nickel” instead with a hybrid coverage safety in the nickel.

PghSDF: What’s your prediction of Steelers UFA not resigning…DHB, Aluala, Foster, etc ?

Alex: Not coming back:

Bell
DHB
Hunter
Ridley
Berhe

I wouldn’t bring back Walton but I could see the team do it for the minimum. James, Foster (still could argue the other way though, Denver is an obvious candidate), Chick, Berry (competition will be brought in again), Fort return. Rogers and Shazier’s contracts toll.

draframe1: Hi Alex!
Do you feel the Steelers may be looking into a player swap instead of a draft pick for AB? Maybe AB for Patrick Peterson? Given their inability to draft and develop corners I feel this would make a lot of sense. Thanks!

Alex: Probably not and not for Peterson. His value isn’t high enough anymore. I’m doubtful they can even get a 1st round pick for Brown anymore. So Arizona isn’t going to deal an elite player like Pat Pete.

falconsaftey43: Any positions outside of QB that’d you be mad if the Steelers go in round 1?

Alex: Anything on offense, excluding WR. Even tight end would have me upset and that’s assuming – for this hypothetical – Jesse doesn’t come back. Defensive line would be pretty upsetting, too. Depth should be addressed but not in round one. There’s no path to playtime and your first round guys gotta play right away.

TheOnlyRealLandryJonesFan: Hey Alex,
How big is chance the Steelers keep Bud Dupree with his 9+m salary for 2019 in your opinion? Many thanks in advance!

Alex: I’d like to think it’s low. Reports seemed mix on if it will happen or not. End of the day, you’d think common sense would prevail and they do something with his deal. Most likely a restructure/extension at a reduced rate.

LAD: During some past seasons I have the perception that the Steelers are not very good of evaluating the talent in their on team, examples: signing and playing Sean Spence over LJ Fort, kick return duties to others and not Todman, and I am sure I can think of more… The question is, who is responsible for those decisions? Tomlin? The OC and DC? The position coaches? Thanks

Alex: Blame can go a lot of places but it’ll ultimately fall on Tomlin. The personnel, the roster decisions in-season, that’s on your head coach. Buck stops here and all that. He’s responsible for it all.

To offer a tiny defense, they are on Tomlin, but I think you can look at virtually any team – I’m sure fans in New England even have their gripes – and some of the bad decisions made with the roster over the course of several years. No one is batting 1.000 in the NFL.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Gut instinct: Does Mike Tomlin win another title in Pittsburgh?

Alex: Asked about this in the mailbag a few years ago. I’ll say no. One, it’s the easy answer to give, most coaches won’t, and this team is clearly drifting further from a Super Bowl title than they are getting closer.

CP72: 

Alex,
I’ve seen multiple times where a good portion of the local media in Pittsburgh are taking their shots at Antonio Brown.

I personally believe no media member understands a team better than the local beat guys. Do you think this is further evidence of Antonio being a bit of a cancer in the locker room?

Alex: Eh, I don’t put a ton of stock into that. I don’t think you need to read a local guy’s twitter feed to know there’s an issue with Brown in that locker room. Everyone has them but those local guys have agenda’s too. And considering Brown has had real issues with the media, it’s easy to bash him because he’s not going to do anything for you anyway. Sometimes I see these guys defend Roethlisberger – and sometimes they’re right, let’s be clear – but I also can’t help but wonder if they’re throwing out that good press to try to be the guy who gets the “I’m retiring” story from Ben in a couple years. Playing the long game.

Petherson Silveira: 

a) I your opinion, how many teams will not even attempt to acquire AB via trade? Can you name those teams?

b) If you were a GM from another franchise, trying to aquire AB, what pick would you offer to Steelers, knowing you would need to give AB a new contract?

Alex: Hey Petherson! I couldn’t name those teams. But I think there will still be a market for him. He’s still Antonio Brown, a team who transforms your offense and will by himself, win a game or two. Every organization thinks they can “fix” Brown, absorb him into their culture, and make it work. A lot of times, teams are wrong, but that’s how they think.

I think the best Pittsburgh can get is a second round pick.

Noah Fabian: Hi, Alex, Do you think the Steeler’s could package Antonio Brown, Marcus Gilbert, and possibly the rights to Leveon Bell to a team for a high first round pick, and would any teams be interested in that type of deal?

Alex: Nah, we’re getting too crazy, too complicated here. Bell’s situation is going to be dealt separately. Alone, it’s complicated enough. Now you’re trying to throw in AB drama and Gilbert. I can’t see any team who would want to try and make it work.

Spencer Krick: How outlandish would it be for the Steelers to draft another safety high? Do you think the team is happy with Sean Davis enough to extend him this offseason?

Alex: That’s a really good question, Spencer. I wouldn’t say it’s all that outlandish. At worst, you get your dime guy, either with that selection or possibly by moving Edmunds or Davis done (not my favorite ideas but options).

I think they like Davis’ toughness, intelligence, improvement as a tackler, and versatility. But he’s not a playmaker. Six turnovers created (5 INTs + 1 FF) in 40 career starts. That comes out to a little more than two a season. And ideally, your FS is the ballhawk, the guy who patrols centerfield and makes big plays. One of your safeties have to, at least. And I don’t see that magically changing with him.

Jon: 

Hey Alex,

Do you think we will hear about an Antonio Brown trade “in principal” before the start of the new league year and his 2.5M comes due or will we not hear a peep about it officially if/when it happens at the start of the new league year?

Alex: Yes. I think that’s what the team is shooting for. And with the Combine in two weeks, that’s a good time to talk to teams, begin with the framework of a deal, iron out the details afterwards. Hate to pay the guy a bonus and then trade him away a short time later.

stan: It seems like most fans on this site would rather keep AB than trade him for a 2nd round pick. I tend to agree with that idea given the cap hit we’d have. I’m also thinking that AB is too valuable a player to give up for such a small value. I’m also aware that he could be a tremendous headache over the next year so my question is, if it comes to that, how easy is it for the Steelers to simply pay him, keep him on the inactive list and away from the practice facility, and basically pretend he doesn’t exist. We see it done all the time in the NBA but not so much in the NFL.

Alex: Yes, on paper, Brown is worth more than a 2nd round pick. We all understand that. But from a fan’s perspective, they don’t have to deal with the headache. They just get to see the gameday product. The issues created in that locker room, no doubt even worse in 2019 with Brown openly no longer wanting to play, are real. We just don’t get to see it.

Hiding him is a terrible idea. Who does that help? You get the drama around the team – no doubt Brown won’t keep quiet about it, especially if the team isn’t trying to pay him – without the benefit of Brown’s talent. And you still have to function without him.

Being petty sounds nice but no one in the locker room is going to be happy when you’re 2-5 and your offense is struggling. End of the day, do what’s best for the team. Sitting Brown out like he’s Anthony Davis doesn’t help you win.

Elyas Correa Nogueira:  

Alex, just two Antonio Brown related questions because I don’t think that you’re getting a lot of them.

1) Should the Steelers pursue an X receiver in the FA market/invest high draft capital in one or stick with what they have and call it a day?

2) In this very likely Brown-less future, do you think that Ben will swallow his pride and the Steelers will try to be a ground-and-pound team (they have the best OL in football, after all) or 7 will keep slinging 50 times a game?

Thanks.

Alex: I’d go through the draft. Maybe a veteran depth wide out in free agency (lacking vets without AB and presumably DHB) but the draft has been so fruitful in the past. The people who have done the math have proven no team drafts WRs better than the Steelers. It ain’t broke.

Generally, Ben is still going to sling it. That’s how this offense works, that’s what you do with a franchise quarterback. Maybe a small shift but you’re going to live and die by #7. So he’s going to chuck it around plenty.

srdan: Enough AB bashing! haha AK, what is your favorite AB moment with the Stillers? The reach? That one is too obvious. What else ya got?

Alex: If I can’t choose the reach, then I’ll go really obscure and pick watching Brown work after every practice in training camp. Catching 115, 130, 150 passes on the JUGS machine every single day. Passes high, low, left, right, and then one-handed with each arm. Brown wasn’t born with that skillset. He earned and worked for every bit of it.

And you see how that manifests itself on the rest of the team. Because right behind Brown was 10 players, receivers and tight ends, waiting to get on the JUGS machine next. Eli Rogers’ rookie year, maybe you remember this story, he was walking off the practice field. And Tomlin sorta gave him a look and I think made some comment about Brown being on the JUGS machine. So Eli walked back onto the field and waited his turn. Brown makes guys better because he makes them work harder.

He wasn’t a leader with words, that’s pretty clear, but he was a leader with actions. When you see the best receiver in football work like a rookie, it rubs off on everyone else.

The Tony: Alex,
Have you developed any draft crushes?
What’s your favorite candy for Valentines Day?

Alex: No real draft crushes yet. Deebo Samuel probably comes closest of the guys I watched right now. Great story, easy to root for, tons of talent. I don’t love him as a prospect but Hamp Cheevers is a name I will never stop laughing at.

Favorite candy? Not a big sweets guy. Try to cut back as much as I can. But you can’t beat a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.

NickSteelerFan: Hey Alex,
With Brown and Bell looking like they may not be coming back next year, you need to retool a little bit. In your opinion would you build more through the ground game or through the pass game?

Alex: Well the running game is more stable in the sense of you’re replacing Conner with Bell. It’s not like you need to find your starting RB the way you’ll need to find a starter to replace AB. No in-house option to replace him. So the pass game, where you’re looking for a WR either in the draft or free agency. As I said above, draft is more likely.


That’s all for this week. Thanks for stopping by!

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