Welcome back to what should be a very busy edition of the mailbag. Smack dab in the middle of free agency and the Pittsburgh Steelers made plenty of moves over the last 72 hours. Whatever’s on your mind, drop it in the comments below. We’ll hang out here for a bit, though a heads up, I may pop out off and on with Steven Nelson and Donte Moncrief’s press conferences ongoing.
To your questions!
Dr. Watts: With Fort signing with the Eagles do you see the Steelers trying to sign another backup versatile ILB, or are they just going to fill that need in the later rounds of the draft
Alex: They’re going to need to address it but good luck trying to find a name in free agency. Slim pickings. So you’re likely to look for the draft. But you’re right, while Fort may have never been the guy – though the Steelers undervalued/underutilized him – depth is an issue too. Someone’s going to get hurt, miss some amount of time, and you don’t want to be throwing Dirty Red or Bostic out there in your nickel defense. ILB good candidate to double-dip at.
Ryan Fazi: Now that we added 2 solid FA one at CB one at WR, what would your top 3 needs for the draft be ?
1. Inside linebacker. You’re going to hear a lot more about Devin White and Devin Bush these next six weeks.
2. Wide receiver. Nelson is more of a “cure” at corner than Moncrief is at wideout. Signing wouldn’t stop this team from spending a first round pick on the position, I don’t think.
3. Dime backer. Unless this team is really intending on keeping Morgan Burnett, I mean, he’s still on the team, you’re going to need a replacement there. Not many in-house candidates. Marcus Allen would be the only other name worth throwing out.
And don’t forget about that #2 TE spot too with Jesse gone. Can’t just hand it to Grimble.
Anthony Palmerston: What’s taking so long with this Ben extension? Sheesh!
Alex: I dunno. It’ll still happen though so I wouldn’t worry.
Vance Mac: Know you were against signing Tate since he’s not an X, but with Moncrief on board, does he become more palatable? Both him and JJSS able to play Y and slot. Or do you know want to take opportunities away from Washington?
Alex: Still not crazy about it. Tate still makes for a redundant, crowded room, and at what I assume is at least a halfway decent price, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Canadiana; Hi Alex, let’s just say the top three ilb are gone by the time the steelers pick. Would you be ok drafting a tight end round 1?
Alex: It would really depend on who else is on the board. I’m not opposed to it, I won’t rule out any position outside of quarterback and like, running back, and it’s more palatable with Jesse officially gone. I just know it’ll be difficult to get that guy on the field because rookie tight ends tend to struggle and this is an 11 personnel team. But if you’re looking for someone to help in the red zone, keep those numbers strong (#1 in NFL last year despite most INTs) then I get it.
Weegie: It’s shaping up to look like they’re going to have to go all in on the Devin’s in the draft. What would your contingency plan be if they miss out on those two? I think if they miss on White and Bush, then the Iowa TEs come into play if either is there at 20.
Alex: Eh, that’s tough. Draft a LB when you can. Run the 3-3-5 they showed in Week 17 with just one inside linebacker, in this scenario, Vince, and an extra safety to become your other “linebacker.” Of course, that means you gotta draft a dime guy, too. So maybe that’s what you look at in the first round.
Byron Mobley: Do you think the Steelers sign Tate? And if would they still draft a WR in the upcoming draft?
Alex: I don’t. And yes, WR is very much still in the cards. Tate is 30, Moncrief on just a two-year deal, a high draft pick should outlast both of them.
First off great job by the Depot covering free agency!!
On to my question:
Colbert said they didn’t do enough to replace Shazier last year. Now we’ve lost Fort and seem to have taken another step backwards. Are they putting to many eggs in one basket banking on the draft to upgrade the talent at ILB?
Alex: Hard to argue otherwise. In fairness to them, it wasn’t a great spot to be in. Free agency offered limited options. Jordan Hicks was the top guy and that was about it. Steep dropoff after he went to Arizona. And Fort, sometimes you don’t have any control. They wanted him back but he moved in. Which is the right move if you ask me. If I was Fort, I wouldn’t have stayed in Pittsburgh to be forgotten about again and again.
But from Colbert’s standpoint, there aren’t a lot of great options here.
Bill Sechrengost: So if neither of the Devin’s are available when they draft, who is their next one or two best options in the draft at ILB in your opinion?
Alex: Mack Wilson is the #3 on most boards. There’s also Germaine Pratt, Terrill Hanks, and Druq Tranquill. Gary Johnson and Blake Cashman blew up the Combine too and probably worked themselves into the Day Two conversation.
Sonny Saks: Alex, with the recent rumors swirling who would you be more surprised with that they signed .. Justin Houston or Golden Tate
Alex: Hmmm…probably Houston. More money, they’re committed to Bud (like it or not) and breaks that Cardinal sin of the 30+ defensive player. But either would surprise me.
In case the Steelers draft Devin Bush, is there reason to think that he could suffer from the same problem than LJ Fort (inability to take on blocks due to size and get off of a lineman charging at him)?
Alex: Sure, that’s valid. But Shazier had to deal with the same thing. It’s all about hand use and technique. If you can work off blocks, not get engaged and stuck, you’ll be ok. Technique wins over just pure size. And once Shazier learned how to take on blocks instead of always trying to go around them, which got him out of run fits and generally made it harder for him to make the play, his game took that next level jump. Bush can do it.
Ryan: With the signing on Moncrief and bringing back Eli plus having Washington and Juju on the roster. How early do you think the Steelers go on drafting a WR?
Alex: As early as the board dictates it. Could be first, second, or third. But the guys on the roster won’t prevent the Steelers from taking one early.
Jeremy: What could be the reasoning behind not cutting Burnett yet? Doesn’t seem like he is much of a volunteer at this point.
Alex: They’re following my mock offseason and just forgot he’s still there. Only guess I can come up with.
Matt Meyer: Go with your gut feeling which way are they leaning in the first round now that FA signings are probably over? Also great coverage this week really appreciate you keeping us all updated on the comings and goings.
Alex: Thanks Matt! Gotta be inside linebacker. Devin Bush makes a lot of sense. We know the track record of Tomlin/Colbert at Pro Days and their first round picks. Michigan’s Pro Day is tomorrow. So mark that one on your calendar.
Ak, how you doing bro?
I’m good bro
How you feeling?
I’m good bro
How are things going bro?
OK, Stillers are up, Bush, White and Greedy are there. Who ya got?
I love the double dip setup for this draft with the two New Mexico LBs in our range with two thirds. What do you think?
Alex: I’m good! Either Bush or White. Get me that athletic inside linebacker who can be the guy. Yeah, Hanks would be nice. Problem with him is the testing. Injured his hamstring at the Combine, Pro Day was like, eight days later, and he didn’t run the 40 there. Went through some of the agility drills and tested poorly, probably because that hamstring wasn’t feeling too great. So a “smaller” school guy without the testing numbers that help validate those guys isn’t ideal. We know he’s athletic, know he’s fast, but that hurts him, especially a team like this who doesn’t dip into the non-Power 5 guys too often. Since 2012, of Steelers drafted in the top five rounds, only three were exceptions: Okorafor, Hargrave, and Archer.
That’s 3 out of 39 picks. Less than 8%. So odds aren’t great.
WeWantDaTruth: With all their moves over the past couple of years, should we crown the Browns?
Alex: Ha, no, not yet. But wow, they aren’t a joke. Credit to Dorsey for rebuilding the roster. We’ll see how it all comes together. The Eagles were once considered a “dream team” too. Didn’t work out. There will be growing pains, especially with a new head coach.
steelasfreak: Are we to the point yet where we need to build a roster to beat the up and coming Cleveland offense that surely looks to spread out defenses? If we lose out on Bush, would CGJ be a trade back candidate or is he worth a 1st (20)?
Alex: I think that’s true of most NFL offenses, not just what Cleveland is doing. And yeah, you need athletes, guys who can cover, can match up on anyone and move all around the field. So you don’t run “out of smoke,” to steal the Tomlin term. So you gotta have that dime guy.
JamesInNYC: My question is about ILB. Pre-combine Devin Bush was viewed as late first to early third third round talent. Your guys…JC I think said early day two. At the combine one of the draft guys talking on SNR said 20 was too early, and Mack Wilson was a day one pick(Daniel’s writeup too) and more of a three down linebacker than Bush. Now everyone says to move up for Bush. . You would need to trade the 66 pick to get to 15. Is his tape worthy of a top 15 pick?
Alex: I think it is. Those types of athletes are rare and everyone’s gotta have them. I didn’t do the reports on Wilson, Bush, or White, so I can’t speak to what was going through those guy’s head and what – if anything – has changed for them post Combine.
With Fort now gone… we really need TWO more ILB’s on the roster. Do you think Zach Brown is an option
Alex: Eh, probably not. They’ve had chances to sign him before. Hasn’t happened. And I don’t want to call him a “baggage” guy, because I’m all for players being honest, but I know he did create some waves with the criticism he had of his DC in Washington. That could turn the Steelers off.
falconsaftey43: What do you think about Burnett still being on the team?
Alex: That they’re going to keep him. And that makes me nauseous.
Really though, he could be this year’s JJ Wilcox. Keeping him until they draft a replacement. Since they have cap space to make the moves they need to right now and aren’t paying him any sort of roster bonus that will force their hand to release him as “X” date.
Ian Suttie: It’s hard to see more than 7 – 8 rookies max making the 53, so which strategy would you follow:
– make 10 draft picks in order to increase the odds of finding 7 “keepers”
– spend 3 mid/low picks to move up on day 1/2 to get a chance at 7 higher quality players?
Alex: I think you’ll see them draft 8-9. 10 is pretty rich, though I would need to do the math on how many guys on the roster you have, how many do you think are locks, plan it all out. Depends on whatever other FAs they bring in, too. They’ve only drafted ten once under Colbert, AB’s class in 2010. Most years it’s 7-9. And I’m fine with that. Make a trade somewhere, possibly move up.
MattSteelCurtain91: With the ILB room lacking would you trade for Hassan Reddick?
Alex: Maybe. Would have to see why he’s struggled so much in Arizona. But might throw them a 6th.
Chris: Alex … How do you like Hollywood Brown AB cousin and would you draft him if you were the Steelers or would you have concerns ?
Alex: I’d be more concerned about his size and broken foot than I would be the fact he and AB sit at the Thanksgiving table together.
Brian Tollini: Taking QB’s out of the equation, name the one player that if lost for the season would be the biggest impact on that team’s record.
Alex: JuJu. Lose him and AB? Ben can’t throw it to Eli Rogers 100 times a year…
srdan: Of the deals signed by other teams, which ones would you have signed?
Alex: Without having the time to go back and look at all the contracts, I would’ve done the 4/36 for Hicks. Worth the risk and not *that* much money when you see what guys like Alexander and Mosley received.
Are you tired of the Golden Tate and ILB questions yet?
Alex: Putting on a brave face, PC. Only have about 500 more of those to sift through in my Twitter mentions.
Alexander Heath: Am I the only one or does it feel like Steelers may explore moving Dupree inside? It may be hard finding a value to grab either Devin. Finding a pass rusher would work and for Dupree, I think he does have Timmons ceiling.
Alex: I think you’re the only one. I’m not sure how his skillset translates better to there. They like him and like him at OLB. That’s why they’re paying him as much as they are in 2019.
stan: I’m going to put you on the spot: What will be the contract numbers for Moncrief? I was thinking 2/12 or so, with a $4M bonus but then I saw that he got $9M last year for the Jags and I’m afraid it might be more.
Alex: I’ll say a little higher. 2/15. Backloaded, of course, like Chick/Foster. Agree on the $4 million bonus.
That’s all for right now. I’ll circle back in a little bit to answer the rest and the ones that come in after. Thanks guys! Appreciate the support!