Welcome back to your weekly Thursday mailbag. About to hit the biggest dead period of the NFL calendar, the team finishing up their final minicamp practice today. The next time you see this group together will be in Latrobe for the beginning of training camp.
Like always, we’re here for the next hour to discuss whatever is on your mind.
To your questions!
Douglas Prostorog: best bet on what DBs make the 53?
Alex: Let’s go through the list.
Locks (100% chance of making the team)
Virtual Locks (90-95% chance of making the team)
Mike Hilton (could consider him an outright lock)
So that’s eight of the 10/11 they’ll keep.
I still think Jordan Dangerfield is going to make it. Value his toughness, attitude, tackling and hitting power, and he’s the only guy on the roster with NFL experience at free safety. So put him on the board and give us nine.
Leaves one to two spots. Said on the podcast I think Burns has a 33% chance of making it. Outside looking in, he’s your 6th corner (even if they keep one) and will have his hands full. Watch out for Herb Waters and Alexander Myres. And at safety, Kameron Kelly has earned some buzz.
I’ll have a new 53 right before camp starts but throw in at least one of those names and you have your group. Unless the team goes outside the organization to add a safety, which I think is possible.
Is Dupree gone either way? Either he has another so-so year and Steelers move on or he breaks out as a one season, contract year, star and hits the open market. What scenario can you see them retaining Dupree?
Also, thought on Terrell Edmunds season ahead?
Alex: That’s how it feels. I don’t think the Steelers are going to have deep pockets next year even if Dupree puts it together. He’s not going to ask for less than the $9.2 million he made this year if he puts up similar numbers.
Excited about Edmunds. Needs to pick up where he left off in terms of his physicality and confidence in this defense, two things I expect him to do. What I liked about him was his conditoning and mental toughness. Didn’t hit the rookie wall like so many do. Got better as the year went on despite being a should-be-senior in college and playing WAY more snaps than the team ever anticipated. He’s gotta make more splash, more consistency as a tackler, but his comfort in the defense is going to be big for him. Give this defense the flexibility they lacked for most of his rookie year.
falconsaftey43: Outside of no one getting seriously injured, what’s the number one story line you hope to have coming out of training camp?
Alex: That we’re as excited about the WR group then as we are now. Not that it guarantees regular season success, just look at James Washington, but if those guys make plays, the Steelers will have more options and ability to be creative in moving on from Antonio Brown. Johnson, Washington, Moncrief all look good on paper but only the latter has NFL production and he’s on a new team. Them producing and looking as advertised will make us all sleep a little better each night.
Steeley Dan: Hi Alex! There was a little national buzz this week about the Steelers running the ball more this season (in light of losing AB). I really can’t see that happening with Ben around. I actually expect them to get more creative in the passing game, and probably aim for similar numbers to 2018. What say you?
Alex: They may run more but I don’t know if it’s going to be intentional. It’s just math. Hard for a team to throw the ball 675 times in two straight seasons. I don’t think that’s a goal any team sets out for. Sometimes it’s just the situation. Coming back in games, having more two minute opportunities than other teams and being good in those moments (as the Steelers are).
I do agree it’ll be about being more creative in the passing game. And if anything, they’ll rely on more RPOs to help create good matchups in the run and pass game and get the ball to guys in space.
srdan: Aside from Bush, what rookie do you see getting the most snaps this year, including special teams?
Alex: Including special teams makes that one tricky. I’ll lean Diontae Johnson just because they really like this guy and I think he’ll play well. He has a skillset that lends itself to getting on the field right away. Being able to separate, being a heady guy, someone who dealt with and knows how to beat press coverage. I assume he’ll be doing something in the return game, kicks or punts, and that’ll help out the snap count too. But you know Sutton Smith and Ulysees Gilbert III’s ticket to playing time is through special teams and maybe one of those guys become core special teamers out of the gate. That’s 250-300 snaps right there.
PghDSF: If Rudolph isn’t Ben backup this year is he wasted pick?
Alex: No, I wouldn’t go nearly that far. Disappointing? Yeah, a little bit. But it’s not like he’s going against a rookie of journeymen. Dobbs is someone who has shown themselves capable of winning battles, knocking other guys off their spot or off the team, as was the case with Landry Jones. It doesn’t have to be that Rudolph played poorly. He and Dobbs could play well and they simply stick with Dobbs because of his experience and comfort in that role. I’ll wait to judge Rudolph based on his entire rookie contract, not just Year Two.
Ken: Do the Steelers and Pirates work together on scheduling – The Steelers have not had a home opener in quite awhile.. I was told the pirates playing at home prevents it.
Alex: I truly have no idea. I’m pretty sure though there have been instances of the Bucs/Steelers playing on the same day. Maybe different times, afternoon and evening, but I couldn’t tell you for sure how that logistical stuff works out. Not in my wheelhouse.
The Tony: Alex,
Have you listened to Antonio Brown’s new single?
Alex: lol no. And never plan to.
Rob: Is there any position/names you think the team could insulate with a value free agent? Maybe a certain safety who had a pretty good year in Indy..
Alex: Tight end and safety are the two I’ve harped on pretty often since the draft ended. Camp injuries and performance and change things, for those groups and the rest of them, but right now, those are the two I’d target. The tight end pool has dried up though. Names I suggested aren’t options anymore. Jordan Leggett (claimed by Tampa), Michael Roberts (traded to New England today), Jason Croom (hurt & Kroft underwent surgery). Croom may still be on the table if Kroft returns on schedule but the odds took a hit.
I don’t have a name in safety though if you’re suggesting Mike Mitchell, I wouldn’t hold your breath. Like most re-marriages, they don’t end well.
That’s all for this week. But I’ll be hanging around the chat throughout today if you missed it and still want to ask a question. Appreciate you all stopping by.