Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to the mailbag and happy Opening Day to all the Pirates fans out there. Here’s to hoping for a great season. That third outfield spot until Polanco gets back is a little worrisome though.

Anyway, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

Brian Tollini: If the Steelers fail to land one of the Devin’s, what is the backup plan? Should we attempt to trade for Darron Lee? Put our faith in a day 2 guy? I feel like we are in a tough position if we miss a Devin.

Alex: You’re right Brian. It’s not an ideal situation to be in. But not a disaster either. It’s not like ILB is the only position that team has to address. The board is still pretty wide open. Finding that name is a little tough right now, especially looking at the Pro Days this team has attended but positionally, you have options. I would take a hard look at the dimebacker position. Someone like Taylor Rapp from Washington. We’ll see if they attend UW’s Pro Day but they sure as heck should. Lots of talent up there this year. I guess at this point, you shouldn’t rule out someone like Clelin Ferrell from Clemson as a possible edge rusher who could play with his hand up or down. I still see a path for Byron Murphy.

We’ll be able to narrow it down more after the Pro Day circuit ends next week and i can comb through it all.

As for Darron Lee, eh, I would at least wait. You don’t want to trade for him and then get Devin Bush. Then Lee really doesn’t have a home. Plus, you’ve spent draft capital that could’ve gone to getting Bush. I’d rather just draft an athletic rookie on Day 2/3 than get Lee. Cheaper, younger, and you have them for a lot longer. Lee is effectively on a one-year deal because I don’t think you’re picking up that 5th year option (I guess it does help you won’t be picking up Artie’s either but still).

And that’s why the team signed Mark Barron. Because at worst, you have him. If you didn’t then yeah, it was going to look awfully ugly.

Jedi Master Fred Biletnikoff: Alex, after seeing Tomlin’s comments on Teryl Austin having input on challenges, do you think Tomlin saw the change to making DPI and OPI reviewable coming? Do you think this was a reason for this hire? I myself could see Teryl Austin watching every pass play and advising on whether DPI or OPI was plausible in a certain situation. Thoughts?

Alex: It wasn’t done solely with that. I’m sure Tomlin knew that was a good chance a change would be made given he is a member of the competition committee but it was more recognizing how much he’s struggled in that regard. Hasn’t won a challenge since what, the 2016 playoff win over Miami? 0/10 since then I think. So let’s delegate, get some extra help, and have someone up top you can rely on to give you the best information. Smart and right decision.

FrankBlacknGold: As of 3/28/2019 – pre-draft, pre-camp, pre-everything. How many wins do you think the good guys will have next season?

Alex: Eh, I hate answering those questions even right before the regular season. It’s such a dart throw. That 9-10 win range is pretty fair but hey, there’s also a big difference potentially between winning nine or winning ten.

I’ll say what I’ve said before. Team has taken a step back but I still expect them to be very much in the race for the AFC North crown.

Derek Wilson: Listening to your Podcast and the articles about the ILB prospects that I have read makes me feel pretty good about David Long Jr the ILB prospect as our future ILB. So if we don’t go ILB I think CB is probably the most likely at this point based on where they have visited (Pro Days). In regards to Byron Murphy and Greedy Williams. I think Greedy clearly fits our scheme better than Byron at this point in time but his unwillingness to tackle makes me nervous. Can you recall a CB prospect in recent years that scouts had this concern about and they were able to toughen up that aspect of their game in the NFL?

Alex: Yeah, corner is still possible. But I can’t see someone playing on the outside. Not after the Nelson signing. Slot is something you could argue but that eliminates someone like Greedy (Murphy still possible). I think Greedy’s tackling has been overblown. It’s not great, Murphy is definitely better, but I’ve seen him come up and make the play, take on the pulling fullback in space, sacrifice his body. I think he’ll be able to fully buy-in at the NFL level.

As far corners in the past, no one comes to mind, but I’d have to really think about it. What I do know is that Williams will excel in man coverage and right now, I care about that more than I do his run defense.

Reader783 (Good JuJu!): 

Devin White goes 5 to Tampa. Devin Bush goes 11 to Cincy. Steelers on the clock at 20. The board has Murphy, Fant, Baker, Mack Wilson left. Which decision do you like most and which do you think Colbert will actually do?

a) Draft Frant (to spurn NE and stack our TE room) and then trade down into the Top 5 of Rd 2 for Mack Wilson (have to gamble he falls).

b) Draft Mack Wilson straight up

c) Draft one of the CBs (pick your poison) and then trade down in Rd 2 for Mack Wilson the same way

d) Draft a CB and then don’t trade for Mack

e) Wild Card.

Alex: I’m probably taking a receiver like Hakeem Butler or maybe a dime player like Rapp/Abram/Thornhill. As for what Colbert does? Well if you go off the Pro Day history, the only one he’s visited is Mack Wilson and Alabama. Washington’s yet to have their workout yet. So I guess it’d be him.

@Why_Cliff: hey AK I got 2 questions for you for the mailbag. Where would you rank Devin Bush and Devin White in last year’s 4 1st round LB class? And if Pittsburgh had the number 1 pick this year who would you take with the pick?

Alex: Oh wow, that first one is tough for me to answer Cliff. I think Tremaine Edmunds would still be above everyone else. LVE…I’m not sure. I think I’d have Bush and White ahead of Evans. But trying to compare like that, without me having an actual grading system to go back on, is tough.

If that had the #1 pick? I think you gotta go with Nick Bosa. It’d be him, whoever your favorite edge is (Allen/Burns) or Devin White.

CP72: Alex,
Suggs is finally out of the division.. Gronk retires. Two well known Steeler killers. Who do you consider the biggest problem match up for us now?

Alex: Can I say themselves? lol

For real though, on offense, probably Odell. Really just that whole Cleveland scheme. Freddie Kitchens vs Keith Butler? Yeah…not loving that for Pittsburgh. But as an individual, having an aging Haden on OBJ is a tough one. You probably don’t want to single him.

Defensively. Geno Atkins is always a tough task. But I’ll go with Earl Thomas. That centerfielder who is probably going to pick off Ben in the red zone once this year. You just sorta feel it.

Palmer: A couple years ago you were draft crushing pretty hard on a guy named Jonathan Jones. He went undrafted but now gets playing time in the Patriots secondary. Who is this year’s version of Jonathan Jones?

Alex: And playing well too. Pretty proud of myself for that one. I’ve spent so much time focusing on the top end corners, especially before they signed Nelson, that I haven’t dug into the later round guys too much. I do like USC’s Iman Marshall quite a bit though probably not crushing on him as hard as I did Jones.

Aj Gentile: Good afternoon Alex. Who are some of your favorite prospects that you have watched? Doesn’t matter what position or round.

Alex: Just to quickly name a few.

Deebo Samuel
Mike Edwards
Miles Boykin
Iman Marshall
Daylon Mack

And report coming soon on someone i just watched and could be a sleeper, DL Armon Watts from Arkansas.

steeltown: Bucky Hodges… chance of becoming a contributor or no chance… your thoughts on his skillset

Alex: We got a sorta limited look from him last year, coming into camp midway through. There’s a little something there as a receiver. Here’s what I wrote about him after camp.

Hodges was a mid-camp add, just as Jake McGee was in 2017, following Ryan Malleck’s injury that got him waived. Hodges is similar to McKever. Not a blocker, unless he’s using his size to get in the way on a pulling, kickout block, but an athletic player who can pose matchup problems on LBs. He came in and caught nine passes, the same number of Grimble. Still, a raw player trying to get on the moving train after being added well after camp began. Equal odds they keep him, McKever, or neither. I don’t have a good feel for it. That 4th preseason game will be huge.

Camp Grade: C-

But I don’t like his odds. You have Vance, Grimble, they’re going to add at least another tight end. It’s an uphill battle, that’s for sure.

srdan: If Raquon Smith and Vanderesh were in this class. Can you rank them with the devins and mack wilson as prospects?

Alex: I don’t think I even watched a ton of Smith because I knew the Steelers had no chance of getting him. Like I said above, not sure where Vander Esh would fit with this current group. Above Mack Wilson, I think. Not sure on the others.

John Hinton: As we approach the draft, who do you think is this year’s Darius Leonard?

Alex: I don’t really have a good answer yet. Especially if you are literally referring to an inside linebacker, not just a sleeper. But I get why Dave has talked up David Long so much. Good prospect.

DRED1224 (Steelers12): Alex what are the chances of the steelers trading Artie Burns?

Alex: None. He has no value. There’s one year left on his deal. No one is touching him. Nor should they.

Steeley Dan: Hi Alex. So, after his 2018 season, what would tell Jaylen Samuels to improve upon? And secondly, based on Conner & Samuels, what do you look for in your new 3rd RB?

Alex: We actually wrote about where Samuels can improve. You can check out the whole article here. But basically cutting weight, gaining speed, getting in better conditioning. Just as Bell and Conner have done before them. He doesn’t need to play quite as big as he did.

I know the team likes their backs big but I would prefer a speed guy for that #3 spot. Or things get a little too redundant. I know they haven’t had the best success with those players (Rainey/Archer) but a different type of guy would be nice.

That’s all for this week. Thanks everyone!

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