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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to your regular, Thursday afternoon Mailbag. Have the Combine coming up, free agency on the horizon, and we now have good ideas of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell’s future in Pittsburgh. Finally gaining some clarity in these chaotic times.

As always, we’ll be here for the next hour to help you with whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

Jeff McNeill: How would you spend the salary cap money?

Alex: That is a very, VERY wide open question. I don’t like to get into free agency with a particular mindset of “we have to spend X money” or “we need to address X position.” That’s where you get into trouble. You start making poor decisions, not evaluating players properly, on field or financially. You have to be flexible.

But like I’ve said, I think you gotta make at least one splash move. In that 7-10 million range. Maybe not *the* guy, no, they’re not signing Landon Collins, but the guy behind *the* guy. The second tier type. Ideally, that’s at the corner or addressing the secondary given how poorly they’ve evaluated that group in recent years (yinz know the names) but again, won’t pigeonhole myself.

Plan on posting my free agency wishlist – might break it up into two days, not sure yet – on Monday, March 4th. In the process of watching a bunch of players to see if I think they’re legit fits. So that takes some time.

renoir: Slim pickings at OLB fa this year outside Ford,Smith,Suggs and Wright….Better to address safety and or CB you think and how bout Golden Tate as a stopgap WR…Lot of Landon Collins talk starting…Munchak 2020…

Alex: I’m going to go all hipster on you renoir but I wrote about Golden Tate before it was cool. Laid out a bunch of reasons why I wanted the Steelers to go after him at the trade deadline until the Eagles (smartly) dealt for him. So you can check all that out in the link.

But! The situation is different now. I had him with the vision of being the slot or Z guy. To phase James Washington out for the rest of the year since he was struggling so much. Now, you’re looking for Washington to be a starter in11 personnel next year. Instead, you’re replacing Tate. He’s not an X receiver. You could argue moving JuJu there but he’s not ideal nor comfortable there. He was just starting to get more time at the Z the back half of 2018. So I don’t see Tate as nearly the attractive player he was to me in October, especially with a depressed WR market that will push prices up.

AB: 

Hi Alex,

Do you think all of this offseason drama pushes the Steelers to the top of the list to play the Patriots opening night next season?

Alex: I’m not sure. I kinda doubt it. But I don’t pay much mind to those things. Whatever the schedule is, is fine by me. Heard the league has been leaning Bears/Packers anyway. Cool with me.

Ian Suttie: et’s assume you’re the GM, and you can make 4 FA signings this offseason:
1 high-end “splash” signing
1 mid-tier starter
2 veteran minimum / depth type deals
…which positions do you target for each?
not asking about salaries / specific players, since it’s too early for that, more about gaps on the current roster…

Alex: Again, want to caution not to box myself into any position. It’s all about the talent being right. What’s available, how much they cost, how you balance that with your internal roster and what you expect out of the draft. But putting that aside…

Like I said, secondary would be my “splash” ideally. To find proven playmakers. Not projections. Guys you have NFL tape of creating chaos. And to go a different course instead of the draft, where these team has flailed for the better part of a decade evaluating the secondary.

Mid-tier starter? Maybe dime linebacker. I guess that sorta fits with secondary. But I do prefer to pull from the NFL because again, it’s a niche/new-ish position and I’d like to see a guy who has some NFL tape there. Putting a rookie safety-type near the LOS? Lot for them to process.

Veteran min/depth. Nose tackle. Tight end. Maybe a vet, niche receiver. Potential ST’er if DHB is gone. That kind of stuff.

PittShawnC:

Hi Alex,
Since our elite defense dissipated, QB playoff wins since 2011

Kaepernick – 4
Foles – 4
Ben – 3

Does Ben get to 5 before he retires?

Alex: Yeah, I think he does. Two is doable. Especially if you’re playing in the Wild Card game/opening weekend, which seems more realistic for the team right now. More games, a little lesser competition, just a better mathematical chance of winning, in a sense.

Kysteeler: Obviously we have some weak links on defense- What do you think are our weakest link is on defense that could be upgraded through the draft and make an impact this year?

Alex: Inside linebacker and corner are the most obvious. And beyond that, I’ve made this point several times before, just a lack of playmaking and splash from this defense. That’s the #1 need this defense needs. Infusion of playmakers. Do that and you’ll be much better off, regardless of what position we’re talking.

Tyler Guilford: Player “X” is available at 15; which players (if any) that you have seen would be worth a trade up to that spot to get? To be clear, I’m not asking who might be available at 15, it’s all about who do you view as being worth a hypothetical 5 spot move.

Alex: Greedy Williams is the first name who jumps to mind. My #1 corner and I doubt that changes as I watch the rest of the group (already seen a solid 10 of them). He’s worth it. Check out my full scouting report on him here. 

Spencer Krick: 

Hey Alex!

Congrats, you’ve been promoted to GM of the Steelers after receiving the 27th overall pick in exchange for AB. What do you do in the first round: fix your hole riddled defense or try and ease the pain from losing AB?

Alex: Ha, thanks for the promotion. I’m trading that 27th pick for an early 2nd rounder and something else, probably pick up a third and maybe a Day Three pick. That way, I still have a first round pick (20th) and more draft capital to fix all the holes I need to. That 3rd will work as my de facto “comp pick” I’m unlikely to wind up getting for losing Le’Veon Bell. And I get it a year earlier.

JT: I agree with those saying the mantra needs to be run the ball better, not just more in 2019. What steps do you think can be taken to make that happen? Will more experience for Conner/Samuels and maybe the transition from Foster/Finney be enough?

Alex: That’s a really good question, JT. I’m not sure of a great answer I can give you right now. Outside of execution. I think obviously the more time the line has to work with Conner and Samuels, really it was Conner’s first year carrying the ball, to gel and get a feel for how they run, it’ll help. A contrasting style to Bell, who was very unique in how he ran the ball. So that practice should help. That’s a start, at least.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Kevin Colbert says the team won’t trade Brown for peanuts. He’s been mostly honest in his responses in the past IMO. He didn’t say they wouldn’t take less than “X” though. I’ve got to believe that the absolute floor is a 2nd round pick. Do you believe the team would actually keep AB? What is your feeling onthe absolute minimum they’d accept?

Alex: It’s hard to see how keeping AB works. I mean, if they are getting 4th round offers for him, maybe things change, but even if they get a half-decent offer, I think you gotta pull the trigger. Colbert saying what he said is much ado about nothing. What was he supposed to say? Give me literally anything for my future Hall of Famer? He said what any mildly competent GM would say publicly, especially after their “stop killing your trade value” lecture to Brown during the meeting.

I think 2nd/3rd + something else is the floor. But I have no idea, obviously.

NickSteelerFan: Hey brother, loving your off season content this year!!
What do you think will be a bigger challenge for the team to overcome? The loss of Brown and Bell to the offense, or the lack of attention and resources they may pay towards the defense because they now have some offensive holes to fill there as well? Thanks!

Alex: Thanks for following along! Really proud of the job everyone has done here. That’s a tough question. They can overcome the loss of Bell. They pretty much showed it last year. Brown is a different animal, clearly. Lot harder to do. But the offense can still function. Defensively, I’m a lot less optimistic without a big move being made. So I guess I’ll lean there. But both will be tough tasks. Some of the toughest of Tomlin’s career. The only thing harder than replacing Brown is replacing Ben when the time comes.

PaeperCup: Out of these 3 positions of need ILB, WR, DB Rank in order the likelihood of addressing those positions in Free Agency and also the likely hood of addressing those positions in the draft.

Alex: 

1. DB
2. ILB
3. WR

DB and ILB is close. Went DB because of how much this team has talked about adding playmakers in the secondary. But, the LBs might have a better class in free agency than corners and a weaker draft class. Which could compel the team to set their sights there.

falconsaftey43: When Burnett did play, what did you think of him this year?

Alex: I saw your comment talking about his play in the other article. He did get a little better late in the year but he still was far from good enough. Didn’t make enough plays in coverage, not enough athleticism, and he’s not going to be better as he gets older. With the injury risks, the money owed, he’s not dynamic enough in that dime spot to make him the guy going forward.

Below average is how I would define his play.

CP72: Alex,
Were a little surprised how much Kevin Colbert went out his way to defend Ben? Colbert usually is a man of few words, but it seemed he wanted to make it clear of where he stands with Ben.

Alex: A little bit actually, yeah. Not that I expected Colbert to be critical of Ben but yeah, he’s talking about him like one of the Dance Mom’s. Unequivocating support for Ben, through and through to the point where he took some subtle shots at those around him for not stepping up to help Ben more. We know who wears the pants in this organization. It’s #7. And in that way, you can sorta understand some of the frustrations AB might have.


That’s all for this week. Thanks for asking your questions, everyone!

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