Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to the mailbag. We’re going through the last week of spring workouts before the loooooong lull leading up to training camp. From there, it’ll be full speed ahead. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

Aj Gentile: Are there any concepts you want to see either side of the ball incorporate this season?

Alex: I’ve mentioned it a couple times already but it’ll be interesting to see how creative Randy Fichtner gets in a post-AB world. Certainly needs to take a different approach. How he’ll work to get JuJu open. Bunch, motion, picks, doing things he didn’t do with him last year (though similar stuff to AB) knowing all the attention he’s going to command now that Brown is a Raider.

Defensively, nothing immediately comes to mind. Always interested in their sub-packages. How much 3-3-5, if any, they’ll run. If their frequency of dime changes, decreases a bit from last year. And any new blitz schemes that get sprinkled in, too.


I’ve always missed these sessions, so it’s nice to finally make it.

With changings amongst the coaching staff Butler running defense and OLB group. OLB group working with coach Dunbars DL group. Is there a reason you could think of why the Steelers didn’t hire a new OLB? Also do you think this is a sign that the Steelers are changing up there defensive philosophies?

Alex: Glad we caught you this time! I think you answered part of the question. Because ultimately, they’re working with Dunbar so much. The positions have become blurred and intertwined. So they probably didn’t see the need. And obviously Butler has had a ton of success with the OLBs so he can run that group in practice (I assume that’s how it’ll go).

And if Tomlin is going to fully take the reigns of the defense, including the playcalling, then this was a way to nudge Butler into that demoted role while still retaining the title as DC without being a complete lame duck.

disqus_PRLSFrvO2J: Projected 53 this season. Among them, who would you:

1. Have plan a wedding/ event?
2. Create a mixtape for you?
3. Get to help you move?
4. Babysit your kids or pets?
5. Take a road trip across the country with?

Alex: lol wow, that’s a new one. But I dig it.

1. JuJu Smith-Schuster & Vince Williams. They’d make it a lot more fun than I ever could, that’s for sure.

2. Benny Snell? He actually raps a little bit. I think he has some sort of demo he made in college.

3. Cam Heyward and Matt Feiler. Any of the linemen, really. Because me lifting my couch is just the worst idea.

4. Josh Dobbs. He would help my (hypothetical) kids at math a whole lot better than I ever could. Once they started putting letters in it, I checked out and knew I was going to be a communications major.

5. That’s a good question. I think I’d want someone who seems sorta chill and a little reserved like I am. Maybe TJ Watt? Roosevelt Nix? Or maybe Ryan Switzer. Anyone cool with all types of music. That’s who I am. I have some favorite bands but I’ll listen to pretty much anything. I can flip from Rage Against the Machine to Keith Urban to (usually) whatever is Top 40.

steellife007: Assuming Rudolph wins the backup job, do you think it would be in their best interest to get rid of Dobbs and use that extra roster spot on another player? Besides that one pass in the Ravens game, he really didn’t look that great last year. Would like to see Rudolph get all the reps behind Ben and maybe just keep a QB on the PS to be Rudolph’s backup if something happens to Ben. The reality is if we get down to Dobbs at that point the season is probably over anyways. Your thoughts?

Alex: I’d have to see exactly who is being cut to keep Dobbs, hard to give a concrete answer to that type of hypothetical, but probably not. I’ll keep 3 QBs. You invested enough in the position that I want to hold onto him as long as I can (he’ll probably go elsewhere after his rookie contract expires). QBs are just too valuable. What if Ben retires after this year? Unlikely but you can never rule it out as a team. One injury could change everything.

I get your point about how the season will be done if he’s gotta play but I don’t think that means you go and cut the guy. Maybe Rudolph gets hurt or struggles really mightily in action. There’s a QB shortage in the league and when you find some talent and invest in it, you gotta grow it. Dobbs had a poor Raiders game but I’m not going to write him off. There’s progression, there’s improvement. I’m not looking to run him out the door for a 10th linebacker.

Matt Manzo: Hey Alex!
What do you think of the depth at Safety? Specifically FS? Are you fine with Locke, Askew-Henry, Dangerfield and Kelley? Or do you see this similar to TE and see a FA being added later?

Alex: I think it’s like TE. Adding another guy would be wise. Some more options at safety than tight end, and if Kameron Kelly proves himself, awesome, but is that because they’re playing so well or because the team is sorta desperate? If a name pops up on the waiver wire or you can trade a 6th/7th round pick for a better backup FS, or maybe even a dime player – we’ll see how well Marcus Allen plays this summer – then you have to take a serious look.

srdan: We know the people that left the organization this year but we have also invested in some of those rooms. What position group do you think will be worse off this year, and what group will be improved…and ya can’t say ILB!

Alex: Worst off? It’s hard not to say receiver. I’m all for optimism on the players brought in and James Washington’s progression. I think he’ll be a key part of the offense. But none of these guys are Antonio Brown or come remotely close. I know we all know that’s a big hit to the offense but as I said on Tuesday’s podcast, I think it’ll take seeing it in action, the problems it’s going to create for this offense, to really understand how much of an impact he really carried. He made life so much easier for the rest of this offense and a nightmare for every DC.

Most improved and I can’t say ILB? You’re cheating, srdan. No fair. Give me corner then. A healthy Hilton, adding Nelson, drafting Layne, I like the look of the room on paper. And this defense has to pick off more passes than last year, right? Right? No way does this cornerback group grab only six like they did. No way do they drop as many picks as they did. Just seems statistically impossible. But yeah, going from an 80% Hilton to 100% Hilton and definitely Sensabaugh/Burns to Nelson is a big change.


Do you think Sutton Smith’s switch to FB is semi-permanent? It seems to me that it was more of a ‘see if he can do this” sort of a move.

As for one of his fellow 6th rounders- is Buggs working at NT or DE so far?

Alex: I’m not sure what you mean by semi-permanent. I think it’s just trying to expand his portfolio. Maximize his value to himself and to the team. Increases your odds of sticking and making the 53. He’s getting a lot of reps at FB over the last couple days but since this is a new position, he definitely needs them. Can’t give him just 1-2 and call it a day.

I think he’ll end up playing a bit of both in the preseason. Be that honest to goodness, three way player. Offense, defense, special teams. But knowing his most crucial value comes at the latter, special teams, you can call him whatever position you want. Linebacker, fullback, doesn’t matter. His ticket is being great at running down kicks and punts. If he does that, he’ll stick, regardless of what the depth chart lists him at.

Not sure on Buggs. Haven’t heard much. I’ll let you know at camp. Dunbar said they would play him at DE though.

Going to duck out of this thread now but I’ll be around throughout the evening to answer any questions from yinz who weren’t around this afternoon. Thanks to everyone who stopped by.

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