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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to the mailbag. Two weeks away from camp! Almost here. Definitely starting to gear up for Latrobe.

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

To your questions!

srdan: Do you think Nix will have more offensive snaps this year than last?

Alex: Maybe a little but I think it’s negligible either way. It’s gameplan specific, situation specific. How many games are the Steelers leading? How many short-yardage situations do they have? Steelers were tied for 17th place in 3rd/4th and 1 situations last year,

But I think it’s true Todd Haley was a little more FB friendly than Randy Fichtner. So I don’t expect Nix to have 150 snaps this year. Maybe 100, tops. But it all depends on the moment.

Dan: Alex, what is your week 1 WR depth chart? After Juju, it could potentially go any number of ways.

Alex: I think there’s clarity on where everyone is playing. How well players perform is a different story but it’s set up like this.

11 personnel (3 WRs)

X – Moncrief
Z – Washington
Slot – JuJu

12/21 personnel (2 WRs)

X – Moncrief
Z – JuJu

22 personnel (1 WR)

X/Z – JuJu

Diontae Johnson will battle Moncrief for the X but I expect the vet to win that job out of the gate with Johnson getting more playing time as the season progresses. And there will clearly be mixing and matching to take advantage of all the talent at WR. So Switzer, Eli can get involved too, assuming they make the roster and are acive on gameday.

But ideally, this is how it’s going to go. For starters, at least.

WeWantDaTruth: Hey Alex! Do we have any players capable of throwing the ball off a reverse, etc? It seems like we have no trick play threat. Last year, the Browns Baker Mayfield was on the receiving end of a pass from their TE Nojuku. It gives opposing defenses something else to prep for.

Alex: That’s a good question. I’d have to go back through some of the backgrounds and bios. Diontae Johnson could be interesting. He played some QB in high school and there was at least one play at Toledo where they attempted a WR pass. It sorta fell apart and Johnson ended up taking off and running, never actually throwing the ball, but he could be a gadget piece.

I’m not too worried about it though. When you have the talent the Steelers do, you don’t need gimmicks. I want #7 throwing the ball every chance I get. That’s what he gets paid for.

The Tony: Alex,
What would you say were the most memorable plays both positive and negative from the 2018 season?

Alex: Just the first couple that come to mind. Three positive, two negative.

1. JuJu’s touchdown against the Broncos, the 97 yarder. Where you’re just like, did that really happen…again?

2. Joe Haden’s INT against Brady. What a play.

3. Vance’s stiff-arm against Tampa.

4. Sean Davis smacking into Haden allowing Keenan Allen to come down with the TD. Still makes me sick.

5. Ben’s INT for AB in the end zone to lose against Denver. Beginning of the end in so many ways.

Lambert58: Alex, I’ve been wondering how you nailed the Benny Snell fit for Pittsburgh? How did you determine that?

Alex: It’s a lot of dumb luck, to tell you the truth. Stars have to align. He’s gotta be there, not taken by another team already, they have to feel he’s best on the board in that moment, not someone else with a similar grade that’s a bigger need or a position that might have less depth.

But the Steelers are pretty clear about their draft tendencies. When you have a GM and a head coach who have been doing this for so long, Colbert since 2000, Tomlin since ’07, there’s a lot more data to sift through and history to go off of. Doesn’t guarantee anything but helps build a picture of the guys they like. Even the scouting staff is largely the same. Whenever there’s a new GM/coach, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to predict.

But they don’t hide their interest well. We know the history of the first round requirements and Devin Bush checked all those boxes (Power 5, underclassmen, SPARQY, Tomlin/Colbert at Pro Day, high character, etc). And Snell hit the boxes of the position. His size, they like backs big, his production, his character, sending Faulkner to Kentucky’s Pro Day. Just made a lot of sense. So when you see a player like that, you feel pretty good about the odds. And then, like I said, you just get lucky. I’ve gotten some of these predictions wrong, too. Nature of the draft.

Steeley Dan: Alex, regarding the Steelers safety position. Are both positions really as similar or interchangeable as it is believed, or is it just not as clearly defined as “FS / SS “, as with other NFL teams? It always seems our depth at safety is “next man up”, and hearing Jordan Dangerfield as the backup at free safety seems to be a stretch.

Alex: I’m not sure how it goes for other teams but in Pittsburgh, they feel pretty different. I know coaches have said and will say they’re interchangable but…eh, not totally buying it. Not how the Steelers scheme it. The FS is almost always single high in C1 looks and the SS lives in the box a lot more. To put the numbers to it, here are the box snaps for Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds last year.

Sean Davis: 38
Terrell Edmunds: 274

Sean Davis had 240 box snaps in 2017 before switching to FS. And last summer, in making that transition, he admitted there would be a learning curve because it wasn’t a spot he played before. It’s by no means impossible, and he’s a smart guy who seemed to pick it up pretty quickly, but I wouldn’t call it interchangable. You can’t just flip Edmunds over there and that’s why Dangerfield is the backup at FS.

Steelers Depot: Alex, have you watched Bull Durham yet?

Alex: Sill haven’t. Someone yelled at me for never seeing Rounders yesterday so I will add that to the list of moves I will probably still never end up watching.

Steelers Depot: Do you have a favorite parking spot at training camp if you arrive early enough?

Alex: If I had to camp without the McLumina exploding, it’s a good day. So any spot is a good one.

But most times, you just follow the other cars. If you’re in the field next to campus, they just direct you where to go. Getting a spot near the top of the hill is kinda nice though. Good view.

Steelers Depot: Is Browns QB Baker Mayfield currently being overrated or underrated by the mainstream media?

Alex: I think they’re generally on the money. I’m sold on him, even after one season. Steelers fans are going to be seeing this guy 7-8 years from now. Cleveland got their guy.

Steelers Depot: Alex, do you vary up your lunches every day while blahging or do you tend to eat the same things over and over again?

Alex: There are very few lunches eaten during training camp. Try to keep it pretty light. Granola bar or something. Dinner is usually the first meal I end up having.

Vance Mac: What are some potential moves to free up cap space for possible extensions for Hargrave, Davis Haden (assuming an extension for him doesn’t create cap space itself)?

Alex: Dave would know better than I. You can restructure contracts of Tuitt or DeCastro I suppose. But the cap is so flexible, and like you said, you could even try to do an extension without impacting the current cap number, that I’m not too worried about it. Omar Khan knows what’s up.

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