Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Happy Thursday to you all and welcome back to the mailbag. Combine testing begins tomorrow. Really excited about that. If you haven’t already, bookmark our combine tracker that will update all the testing throughout the next couple days.

As always, we’re here for the next hour.

To your questions!

Spencer Krick: 

Hey Alex!

As of right now, who do you think is the biggest playmaker on the back end that would fit what the Steelers the most at 20?

Alex: That’s a good question, Spencer. For the secondary, I would love to see Greedy Williams fall but I doubt that’ll happen. So Bryon Murphy and Deandre Baker are the next two guys I’m looking at. Two guys who can make that impact, be a starter early in their careers. Pair of prospects who will be in my personal mix for them at pick 20 when the draft comes. I think Baker will test better than some believe.

CP72: Alex,
Went back and looked. The Steelers have drafted 11 defensive backs over the last five years. Depending on how you feel about Sean Davis the only one that looks like a potentially good player is Edmunds. What in your opinion has been the fatal flaw in evaluating DBs for the Steelers?

Alex: That’s the million dollar question. I’m sure if the Steelers had the answer, you would’ve seen them make a change. I think they have taken time to adjust what they value in the secondary. Used to be guys who were strong against the run, excellent tacklers, especially at corner. Like it was back in 2005.

Then maybe they overcorrected. Starting looking at the box score (Golson, injury obviously made carer unknown, Holliman) and measurables (Burns, Brian Allen). Focused too much on potential than where guys are at now. Colbert joked about it on SNR yesterday. That Rooney once said in response to a coach/scout saying “this player just needs time”, “we don’t have time!” And the process to get guys on the field and produce at a high level is quicker now than it ever was.

But the best answer is a very complicated one that is out of my scope. It would take knowing exactly how their scouting process works, looking at their old reports (what players did they get right/wrong they didn’t draft?) and looking to see if it’s an evaluation/valuation problem or some sort of system issue in the scouting process. A lot to sift through when you ask that kind of question, important as it is.

@sbeeghley: Hey what do you see as adequate compensation in a trade for AB?

Alex: One thing to make clear here. Finding 1:1 value for Brown, what he’s truly worth, and what you can actually get for him are two different things.

I’ve set my absolute floor at a 3rd but realistically, I think you can get a second for him. Kevin Colbert is talking a big game, and that’s the right approach (project strength publicly) to get as much for him as possible. I won’t rule out a first but I think it’s going to be very tough to do. If the team could wait until after his roster bonus, because the free agent pool will dry up and it isn’t strong to begin with, maybe you could get more leverage. Can they wait that long? Colbert hinted they wouldn’t.

So long story short. I think it’ll be a second and maybe something else. Like a conditional 5th next year than become a 4th or something big like, a third round pick if the team trading for Brown wins the Super Bowl. Incentive based pick.

Ike Evans: Alex….any chance you think they pull the trigger on a safety to play dimebacker in the first round? If so, who do you like for that role in the draft

Alex: Sure. It’s possible. It’s becoming a bigger and bigger role and you get the feeling the Steelers would prefer to have their 5th DB be more of a safety type than nickel. Watch out for Amani Hooker on Day Two.

Round One? Feels a little rich for guys like Taylor Rapp and Jonathan Abram. Maybe Dave’s guy, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson would fit there. Heard he’ll have a good showing this week at Indy.

NickSteelerFan: Hey brother, cant believe the combine is already here!
Do you think that the Steelers will let a few average starters, like Sensabaugh, J. James, Foster, walk in free agency to cushion their chances of getting a higher comp pick for Leveon Bell leaving? Or do you think they operate totally disconnected from each other and they will try to bring back the people they want?

Alex: If they walk, that won’t be the reason. You don’t make your FA moves based off the comp formula. That’s such an obscure process that even teams can’t figure out. Not something I’d bank on. Players walk because the money or the opportunity isn’t right (or just better somewhere else). A guy like Jesse probably at least wants to see if he can be a #1 somewhere and yeah, maybe he can be for a team that doesn’t ask that position to be dynamic. Foster, the money here might not be good enough. Sensabaugh probably knows his odds of starting Day One in Pittsburgh next year aren’t great. All reasons not tied to the comp.

So yeah, vast majority of the time, it’s disconnected. Goal is to get good players, have a talented roster. Not collect comp picks.

Steeley Dan: Hey Alex… I probably spend more time thinking about the Steelers ILB situation than I should. Two questions: 1) Do you see Jon Bostic playing here in 2019. 2) Would they test Free Agency again, with or without Bostic on the roster? Thanks!

Alex: If Bostic is here, it’s not as a starting ILB. So I can’t see his role because he’s nothing more than an average special teamer. I’d move on and not lose any sleep over it.

Are you asking if they would sign another ILB this offseason? Sure. Bostic isn’t in the plans and they need a three-down caliber player. So regardless if he’s here or not, you’re searching for that guy. And if you can find one in free agency, you do it.

Jedi Master Fred Biletnikoff: Alex,
This draft looks like gold on defense for rounds 2 and 3. With that being said, if T.J. Hockenson is there at 20, could you see the Steelers pulling the trigger? To me he looks like Heather Miller and Gronk had a lovechild.

Alex: You’d have to realllly twist my arm to get me to go Hockenson. I know you’ll need to replace Antonio Brown with more than one guy but this is still a base 11 personnel team and you have Vance McDonald. When you address WR? Corner? Inside linebacker? Dime backer? Depth along the defensive line?

There’s always a chance you could go that route if the value aligns just perfect but the chances are pretty low.

Ryan Fazi: 

Good Afternoon Alex,

As the Steelers have drafted a WR every year since the Heyward draft who are you most excited to see this year at the combine ? Do you thing we go after the Height Weight Speed Bryant, Coates Type or stick with recent years Juju Washington type ?

Alex: Mentioned him a couple times already and he was in my first mock draft but excited to check out Deebo Samuel and what he’ll run. Hopefully he can get into the 4.4’s. Some of the burners like Godwin and McLaurin. Kelvin Harmon is a guy I haven’t studied yet but some people – like our own Tom Mead – think could be a fit in Pittsburgh. The two WVU guys, David Sills and Gary Jennings. How a mountain of a man in DK Metcalf runs or big red zone threats like Whiteside and Hakeem Butler test. And Jazz Ferguson, small school kid out of NW State, is supposed to test off the charts for his size.

Brian Miller: Hey Alex! Just as a hypothetical, say we trade 84 to the Raiders for a draft pick (2nd round?) and Karl Joseph…how do you think getting Joseph might change the defensive lineup and scheming moving forward? Thanks.

Alex: Raiders’ Nation seems to say Joseph really picked up his game the second half of the year. To the point where Oakland said they’re going to pick up his 5th year option. But I would need to watch him closely to tell you how much it would change. I don’t expect Joseph to be on the move. That’s a lot of money the Steelers would take on by dealing AB, absorbing that cap hit, and the roughly $9 million Joseph will make in 2019.

RMSteeler: Hey Alex,
If you were GM, can you think of any defensive player that you would realistically trade AB for straight up? Trying to get out of the box of a draft pick.

Alex: Haven’t thought about it much. Even for me, it’s too much of a hypothetical. Too fruitless. Player-for-player at that level is really uncommon. Throw in AB’s money – the team trading a player absorbs their own dead money plus potentially giving Brown a new contract – and the headache he is and it’s all the more complicated. It’ll be AB for pick(s).


Aloha Alex,

Do you envy teams that have a top 5 pick? Would there be any scenario that you feel it would be worth trying to get a top 5 pick…ever?

Alex: I envy those teams in April. I don’t envy them in November and December. Losing sucks.

Not sure what you mean by “worthy trying.” Trading up? It all depends. Obviously, if you’re trying to go from 20 into the top 5…good luck. Using this trade value chart, the #5 pick is worth 1700 points. 20 is worth 850. So at minimum, it’s costing you two firsts to do it and realistically, a good deal more than that. Two firsts, a second, and probably something else smaller.

Is that worth it? Who are you trying to get? How confident are you they’re the real deal? Hard to say in the abstract. But most cases, no, not worth it.

DG: Hey Alex-
What are the chances that AB is traded for a young NFL player (say, 2nd year guy)? If the Steelers weren’t able to get a 2019 1st rounder – would they be willing to part ways for a high 2nd rounder they liked in last year’s draft class? Is this something that could make sense for both teams?

Alex: Possible but probably pretty low. Teams will covet the players they drafted, the dude’s they’ve invested heavy draft capital in and have relatively cheap. So unless someone was really struggling or you find a team with a new regime that isn’t as attached, you’re rolling that boulder uphill.

Yes, I can see them get a high second. I think that makes the most sense and is the most realistic. But again, trying to determine his value is a tough task. Hope we have something more concrete after the Combine. I think we will.

falconsaftey43: Alex, I really like your “one step to take” series. Last year we saw Feiler, Fort, Sensabaugh, Conner all take big steps in forward in how much they contributed. Do you see anyone currently on the roster who previously only had small roles that may be in-line for a bigger role in 2019? Perhaps a Sutton or Brian Allen?

Alex: Thanks! I like those ones too. Once we hit the dead of offseason, post-draft, I’ll be able to go through more tape and pick out stuff for starters instead of the “easy” ones like a lot of the rookies or guys who didn’t play a lot.

Sutton is a weird one. Team hasn’t really figured out where to play him, how to use him. A little inside, a little outside. I think he’s better on the outside but that’s just me. We’re heading into Year Three. You’d think it’d be a big year, a make-or-break, similar to Burns and Davis. But I can’t get a feel for them having a plan in place.

Aiming for Adeniyi to be the #3 and take those rotational snaps Chick had previously. Even if Chick returns, he should be the #4 and a core special teamer. Nothing more.

Brian Allen? Ehhh, I think you’re pretty much at his ceiling. Special teamer. Not a lot else. He’s just having trouble making the team, getting a helmet in this cornerback group. And that’s telling, even knowing he was pretty raw out of Utah. Maybe Teryl Austin can turn the light on for him.

Aj Gentile:

Hey Alex

Who are your favorite WR who can play X in the draft? I know you like Deebo. I’m a big fan of McLaurin and think he could do it. I also think Stanley Morgan could after some development. Thanks!

Alex: Yeah, Deebo is probably #1 for me right now. McLaurin probably could too. I don’t want to say the real big guys can’t, any elite level player could reasonably do it. You just gotta have the skillset. Guys with short-area quickness, guys who can defeat press (if they’re backside 3×1, the corner is likely rolled up on you) guys who can run the entire route tree. Those big, long-striders just aren’t as effective in that short area. So while a guy like, say, DeAndre Hopkins is fairly big (6’1, 215), he’s also really quick. Check those three cone times. Hopkins reportedly had a 6.83 at his Pro Day.

@Why_Cliff: hey AK 2 questions with you saying we could possibly get a 2nd rd pick for AB, how would you feel if we traded AB and maybe a 3rd or 4th to get that 1st rd pick. We get to have the rookies rights for 5 yrs vs 4. And would you trade AB for a 2nd and DeSean Jackson?

Alex: So trade Brown and a 3rd for a 1st? I’m game. Don’t know if that’ll do it but maybe it could. Get a late first rounder. Grab a pair of first round picks, take one defense, take one wideout. I think you’re moving on pretty well.

A 2nd and D-Jax? Ehhh. Jackson is making 10 million in 2019 and he’s not singing kumbaya around the campfire with his teammates anytime soon. I’d pass. Give me the 2nd and something else, Tampa (who for the record, have said they haven’t shown any interest in AB).

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Who’s gonna surprise us, good or bad, at the combine this weekend?

Alex: I might be just as surprised as you guys. Still learning a lot about these players. Like I referenced earlier, I think Deandre Baker, the corner from UGA, will run well. I think he’s fast. He’s one of those high school track stars. So much of the 40, and this is why it’s a little skewed, is being comfortable in that track stance. For guys who didn’t do that in school, they have to learn it from scratch. And it’s uncomfortable for them. If they’re not as explosive out of it, or any sort of false movement that adds a tenth of a second to their time, it’s not going to go as well. Likewise, a guy who can wake up in his sleep doesn’t have to worry about his stance as much. He can just run fast. And Baker will be one of those guys.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the Combine!

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