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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Surprise mailbag today to help spruce up this Monday afternoon and offer some merciful, non-Antonio Brown stories to click on. We’ll have our regularly scheduled mailbag on Thursday but for now, feel free to ask whatever is on your mind in the comments below. Since this was unannounced, I’ll answer questions throughout the day if you’re popping in late.

To your questions!

CP72: 

Alex,
Who are your top five guys you’d are looking forward to seeing at the combine?

Here’s mine::

Jachi Polite, Bryron Murphy, Devin White, Greedy Williams, and Joejuan Williams ( a personal favorite).

Alex: Hm, that’s a really good question. I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it. Murphy would be on my list. See what he runs, see what he weighs. How about another guy I had in my mock, ILB Terrill Hanks. With the way he might run, could be one of those “risers” who pop up every year.

Two of the big interior linemen are interesting, just to see how well they test. Daylon Mack and Khalen Saunders, two beefy d-tackles who played running back in high school. Saunders might run sub 5.00. That’ll be fun, if nothing else, when they pit them against Rich Eisien’s 40.

Jalen Brown: I know you haven’t gotten all the way into the truest prospects the Steelers should look for, but is there a better 1st round pick that could be there for us than Devin White? I hardly see any major flaws in his game that can’t be corrected through exposure to better competition and natural maturation

Alex: I hear you, Jalen. Sure would check a lot of boxes. And you don’t have the strength of the ILB group you had last year, which was absurdly heavy. So if White is gone, you have some difficult decisions to make. I like Devin Bush but obviously, at 5’11 (listed, we’ll see what the Combine says), that’s going to be a talking point. Pittsburgh did take Sean Spence years ago but that was with a 3rd round pick, not a first. I admit the Steelers have definitely been size-friendly with their first rounders in most years.

Really, who was the last “small” 1st rounder they took? This is me going down the rabbit hole in real time.

Edmunds – 6’1 217
Watt – 6’4 252
Burns – 6’0 193
Dupree – 6’4 269
Shazier – 6’1 237
Jarvis – 6’2 245
DeCastro – 6’5 316
Heyward – 6’5 294

Not only big guys but big for their position. Shazier (who really wasn’t that small) and Jarvis I guess the only two exceptions this decade. Just food for thought.

The Pittsburgh Steelers: Lj look like starting material at ILB next season? If not, what’s he lacking?

Alex: They’ll look for another option. Fort will always be their fallback plan, and that’s assuming he even re-signs. Like I wrote yesterday, maybe he wants to go somewhere where he’ll be valued more.

Also, as I wrote in my One Step To Take series, the biggest thing he needs to do is take on base blocks in the run game. His run defense isn’t bad. He takes good angles to the ball, beats pullers, has vision and tackles well. Anyone who says he’s terrible vs the run is just wrong. But on combo blocks or when guards/centers work free to him, he can get swallowed up.

J Alexander Wright: What do you think the plan is with Sutton? It kinda feels like the organization doesn’t know where to stick him

Alex: Tend to agree with you. Is he slot? Is he outside? Is he a starter? He’s all of those things and none of those things, it feels like. Year Three for him, a big one. Gotta be sink or swim, you’d think. I still don’t get why he didn’t see more time at RCB this year.

Elyas Correa Nogueira: Alex, who’d be your favorite name to fill the dimebacker role next season?

Alex: To be determined, Elyas. Not sure that guy is on the roster right now. Marcus Allen will be in the mix but I don’t want to hand the keys over to him. Think that’s something you look for in free agency.

jger15: Hey AK! Can you help us break down the logic behind transition tagging Bell from the team’s perspective? Also, are they telegraphing that they are likely going to be more active in free agency seeking value this year as they’re not going to get a 3rd rounder for him via the comp formula in 2020?

Alex: 

Yeah….I dunno man. I guess their hope is to deal him and get a concrete pick rather than comp pick, which has two problems.

1. You have to wait until 2020 to get it.

2. If the Steelers plan to be aggressive in free agency, and let’s pray they are, then their moves there will cancel out Bell’s comp value. And you’re lucky to get anything for him in the end.

But that’s gotta be their thinking. And also to follow through on their apparent promise (as Bell said) of placing the tag on him if a deal didn’t get done.

ImMikeD: Hey Alex. Do you anticipate seeing anyone (That we in Steelers Nation may be interested in) that may really help their status at the combine with a good showing? Vice Versus as well with a bad showing?

Alex: That’s tough. I’d have to look at the whole list. Interested in what Notre Dame ILB Druq Tranquill runs. I didn’t love his tape but he is a former safety turned LB so I am interested to see how he runs. Maybe it’ll be better than I think.

falconsaftey43: Will JuJu ever exceed his stat line from last year in any of the categories?
111 rec, 1426 yards, 7 TDs. I could see TD, but not the rest.

Alex: Man, wow were his numbers good. I know it’s dumb for me, since this is ya know, my job, to act so incredulous to his stats but seeing it in a vacuum like that, just stupid good production.

I could see him surpass those numbers. Not by a large margin but if he’s going to be the guy in this offense, even knowing the extra attention that comes with it, I think he could do better. Just as a matter of volume. Quick math time (don’t worry, I hate it as much as the rest of us).

AB and JuJu combined for 334 targets last year. JuJu had 166. Let’s assume Brown is gone and JuJu has a 25% increase in targets. That puts him at 207 for the year. Even if his catch percentage drops to 60% ( was (67% last year) because of extra attention, he still comes away with 124 receptions. And if we use Brown’s yards per catch of 12.5 from a year ago, JuJu winds up with 1550 yards. And touchdowns, well, that’s obvious, and like you, I would agree.

Long story short. With Ben as his QB, I can see JuJu having a 125/1600/10 touchdown campaign. Easily.

Doogie: Looking at draft value chart I see 1st #20 = 850; 2nd #52 = 380; A guess here approx AB trade gets you Ill use same value as #52 = 380. So 380 x 2 = 760 which is same as 1st #23. So you could trade 2 #2s to get back in first. What would you do with the #23? or would you like to try to move up #12 in the first (1 2nd + #20 1rst = 1230 value approx #12)

Alex: I did more than enough math in my last response and now my brain hurts, Doogie. I blame you for it.

You’re probably looking at WR at 23. To trade AB, not have a 2nd rounder, and not take one wideout with one of your two firsts? Then you’re looking at 3rd round, at best, to grab one. Assuming they aren’t big players in free agency, I’m not sure how you justify it. So top defensive player + wide receiver in that scenario.

But with all the holes you need to fill, I don’t know if I’m crazy about the idea of trading up.

Grant Humphrey: Hey Alex,
Who’s your favorite “under the radar” prospect in the draft this year?

Alex: I don’t know if I’m there yet. Haven’t gone through enough names yet. Do have a report coming out tomorrow on USC corner Iman Marshall and I really like him as a mid-round sleeper. So be sure to check that one out.

falconsaftey43: When can we expect to see your FA targets article? One of my favorites each year.

Alex: Hopefully very early in March. I still need to go through the list of names, watch a bunch of tape (I don’t get to watch as much around the league as I’d like with the Steelers keeping me busy) and all that stuff.

SteelDodo: If/when we trade Brown, the expectation from most mocks I see is that we’ll draft a WR somewhere in the first two rounds. If Jesse James leaves, what would you think about drafting TJ Hockenson in the first instead and then drafting a WR in the fourth or so. Then our base would be with 2 TEs instead of 3 WRs.

Alex: Get where you’re coming from but I’m not crazy about it. 12 personnel is like your name. Gone way of the Dodo. This is an 11 personnel team until Ben Roethlisberger retires. Hockenson is a great prospect – and not to be that guy but he is probably gone well before 20 – but you’re not going to be as flexible or dynamic with that 2nd TE as you are a WR. And waiting until the 4th to draft one? Yikes.

Wreckless: Since you’ve been writing for SD, who is one draft prospect that you think was your biggest mis-evaluation? Also, name a time you were dead-on with your evaluation despite popular opinion.

Alex: Biggest miss? I was pretty high on Dupree coming out. I missed really bad on Bell but that was before my Depot time (thankfully).

Biggest hit? I don’t keep track like some people do. I was a big Chris Borland fan coming out of Wisconsin. He played well before retiring. I think most who watched him agreed and I know it was a 7th rounder but the second they took Gerod Holliman, you knew it wasn’t going to work.

Not in terms of the evaluation, but I did say if Dupree was on the board, the Steelers were going to take him. I had T.J. Watt in my mock two years ago and last year, had Rashaan Evans in the first (reported to be the guy until Tennessee snatched him) with Terrell Edmunds over Bates as my 2nd rounder.

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