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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to your Thursday mailbag. Hard to believe the draft is only a couple weeks away. If you missed my mock draft yesterday, you can check it out here. I plan to write two more before the draft begins. One in the middle of April and a final one right before the 24th.

As always, we’re here to answer whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

Steely McBeam: What are your thoughts on Washington working with Rudolph during the offseason and not Ben? Do you think it’s another example of Ben being a bad leader or are people over blowing the whole thing?

Alex: Total non-story. Washington and Rudolph working together when they played for so long is no surprise. And I don’t know that Washington isn’t going to work with Ben at some point. If I remember right, he was just asked about Rudolph and playing with him for his rookie year. As long as Ben wouldn’t get guys together and not include Washington, can’t see any reason why that happens unless some weird scheduling conflict, there’s nothing there. Just happy those two are putting in work to make the jump to year two.

falconsaftey43: I think M. Barron is a LB, not a safety or Dime player. That said, what do you think happens if they draft a ILB in 1st. What about if they draft one in say the 3rd instead?

Alex: I agree. And it’s a good question. I classify that, first of all, as a good problem to have. Let’s have too much talent at ILB instead of last year, where you didn’t have enough. From there, you see how guys progress and develop. How comfortable does Bush become in the defense? Can anyone else call the defense other than Vince? If Barron can, then hey, maybe Vince would start losing snaps.

You could also play the 3-3-5 they showed against non 11 personnel groupings. They were playing dime on early downs last year. So you could have Barron, Vince, and let’s just say Devin Bush, on the field at once, and none of them are ever getting matched up on a slot receiver. They’re on tight ends. Better match up.

So cross those bridges when we get to it. But it’s a good issue to have.

And if it’s a 3rd rounder? Pretty much same thing. See how they develop. Less compelled to play them right away so if they start out as a backup or special teamer, that’s fine. Now you have quality depth. First and second round picks are the only spots where you’re really banging the gavel to get that guy playing right away. Okorafor/Rudolph didn’t play much last year. Nor did Sutton/Conner their rookie year.

Matt: 

If you had to rank the following as needs for the Steelers heading into the draft, how would you rank them:

TE, ILB, Dime/Safety, OLB, WR, RB, CB

Alex: 

1. Inside Linebacker. Still #1, even post Barron.

2. Wide Receiver. Because of how much this team is going to miss AB. Even more than most realize.

3. Dime/Safety. Because of how many snaps that position is going to play and how they’ve failed to find a guy who can play there for four years now. Close to leap frogging WR.

4. Tight End. Get that #2 behind Vance. Rookie TEs do generally have a limited impact though.

5. Outside linebacker. Because edge is a mess behind the starters. Chick (no) and Adeniyi (nine career snaps).

6. Corner. Cam Sutton should be the top backup everywhere. Nelson signing really took it down.

7. Running back. Not to discount it entirely, there’s no reason to be “sold” on Jaylen Samuels, but it is lower on the list.

Keep in mind the rankings don’t have to reflect the same way as I draft.

Jarod Wells: Alex, enjoy your work and insight. Other than the devins, who’s tape at MLB intrigues you the most?

Alex: Thanks Jarod! I don’t want to spoil it but I just watched an ILB last night. And he’s definitely no worse than #4 on my list, maybe even higher than Mack Wilson. You’ll see his profile Friday morning.

The Fighting Ingies: Hi Alex – I saw you mock Mack Wilson at ILB for round 1. Who do you like best if both Devin’s are gone and the Steelers choose to wait until round 2 or later? Is David Long on your list?

Alex: Like I said, don’t want to spoil it but report dropping tomorrow on a guy I really like. There are good options though. David Long at 66/84 would be cool with me.

mem359: I don’t suppose you’ve looked at Tampa Bay’s situation? In the mock drafts I’ve seen, if TB takes White at 5, the Steelers don’t get the other Devin. If TB goes with a DL or OLB, then the Steelers end up with Bush at 20 (or trade up slightly to get him). I’m curious if you think TB will select White or not.

Alex: I’ve looked at it enough to know they are very interested in Devin White. You should root for Kentucky’s Josh Allen to fall to 5. That might be a name enough to get them to pass on White. And that’ll help the Steelers out if White falls a couple spots.

I do think they’ll take White but my guess on anything outside of Pittsburgh (and really, even with the Steelers) should be taken with a big ‘ol grain of salt.

Ryan Fazi: Alex I really enjoy the predraft studies done on each positional group, are you guys going to be doing that again this year ?

Alex: You mean the “what they look for” studies right? Funny you mention that, Ryan. Just tweeted about it before the chat started. First one coming Monday. Let me know what position you’d like us to look at first. I think I have enough of a sample size to look at safety too after drafting Edmunds/Allen last year.

Dan/Matt Manzo: What are the odds of the Steelers trading up? It’s not traditionally their style, but they usually don’t have this much ammo to move, either.

Alex: Lumping the two together since you asked the same question. It’s hard to put odds onto it, ya know? What’s my guide here? What’s the difference between 20 and 40%? I do think they will make a strong push and target Devin Bush. They’re not going to sit there and be idle. Will they pull it off? Who knows? How far will Bush fall? What are they willing to give up? How many teams are looking to trade up? More teams drives up the price.

BurghBoy412: Do you think we are all over looking the possibility of the Steelers drafting Christian Wilkins with their first pick? He’s a high character guy, incredibly versatile, they were at the pro day as well. Seems like he could be the biggest sleeper at 1:20. What are your thoughts?

Alex: Ehhh, I’m not going to say no because at that baseline level, he fits. And anyone like that has a chance. But a true defensive linemen? Is he getting enough snaps this year? Next year? I’ve talked about defensive line being that sneaky need, potentially as early as the third round, but #20 is too loud for me. If they want to take a Clemson guy, give me Clelin Ferrell all day over Wilkins.

Aj Gentile: If Steelers miss out on the Devins and they don’t like Mack in the first how do you feel about Blake Cashman in the 2nd? I like him a good bit.

Alex: Sure, Cashman is fine to throw in there. They don’t seem super interested in him though. I’m not sure they even sent anyone to Minnesota’s Pro Day and he hasn’t been brought in for a pre-draft visit. He might be off their radar for some reason or another.

The Tony: 

Do you think the early struggles for the Pirates bullpen will continue as the season progresses?

Detroit is willing to move from 8. What would it cost the Steelers to move up all the way to 8? Would you make this move if White is available at 8?

Alex: Man, I sure hope not. Pitching was supposed to be this team’s calling card. Starters have been solid. Bullpen has been trash. Kela, Rodriguez, killing me over here. Even the management has been weird. I don’t know why Vaquez pitched in that second Reds game in a non-save situation. Ends up not able to be used last night.

To go to 8? Man that’s hard. That means probably giving up 52 and 83. I don’t think I could convince myself to do that.

SteelDodo: If the Steelers draft a Mack in the first round, what do you think Barron’s playing time will look like this year? It seems like he has too big a contract to become a backup.

Alex: I sorta answered that earlier in the chat. I think you have options and that’s a very good thing. That’s something you didn’t have last year. Last year, you were throwing everything at the wall and hoping something stuck (it was Fort and now he’s gone). I can see that 3-3-5 working as a much bigger package, as they teased last year in the regular season finale.

Efren Rodriguez Mora: Who is the best Dime/Safety player in the league for you? or what kinda player (in the league) do u like to have to cover this position?

Alex: That’s a hard question to answer. I’d have to go through a list to make sure I don’t miss anyone. In terms of that “true” dime guy, not someone who just slides down, I really love Adrian Phillips. Can’t believe how cheap he signed for in LA. That dude is a monster and perfect embodiment of the position. So I might lean him.

SteelDodo: If the Steelers draft an X reciever in the first round, how do you think playing time would get split between Moncrief, Washington, and the first rounder?

Alex: Depends on how they progress. Receiver can be a tough position to transition too as Washington showed last year. But you’d think further into the season, Moncrief will begin to lose reps. Take Washington out of the equation. He’s the Z, not the X.

But I can’t give you a crystal clear answer. Neither could the team. But you have options, you’re not forcing the rookie to play, and that’s a good thing. That’s why you sign Moncrief.

Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt: Being that Colbert and tomlin was only seen at a couple of pro days including bushes whats your thoughts on them thinking that its bush 85% (willing to give up multiple picks)or bust because it seems like they are scouting later picks more seriously meaning looking at where the rest of their picks may actually start

Alex: To be fair, Colbert was at a lot of Pro Days this year. Ten in total, possibly 11 (I thought he was at MSU, never able to confirm). He was only at nine last year. It was just some of the choices he made that turned out to be a little surprising. But yes, they clearly, definitely want to draft Devin Bush. Doesn’t mean it will happen but that seems to be the goal.

And that’s how they recently have split up their Pro Day and pre-draft visit circuit. Tomlin and Colbert go to see the top picks. They bring in everyone else to the facility, including a lot of Day Three candidates/UDFAs. Seems like a smart way to divide it up.

ImMikeD: Hey Alex. Any insight, idea or guess what seems to have stalled Ben’s extension? It seemed all signs were pointing to it being done a month ago. Is it Ben, length, Steelers, money, etc.?

Alex: I couldn’t tell you. Some language, money, who knows. Still confident it’s going to get done before the start of the season.

srdan: 

Ak, I think I have a fun question.

Out of this whole draft class, who would positively affect the steelers win/loss record this year. Meaning if GM AK had the #1 pick and we only wanted to win more games in 2019, who would you draft?

Now, same question but at pick 20. hehehehe

Alex: Oh man, hard question to end the chat. Maybe Nick Bosa if I could pick anyone? Josh Allen? I think I’d lean Bosa though. And at 20? I guess a receiver because there is an obvious path to playtime and you’re going to get the most “splash” out of that spot. So a Metcalf/Butler/Brown.


That’s all for this week. Thanks everyone!

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