Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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

To your questions!

Ryan Norton: With the injury to Washington, who do you see getting more snaps on offense: Holton or Moncrief?

Alex: Holton, though both should dress and play. Since Holton is more of a Z type receiver, the same spot Washington plays. Of course, neither have been playing well, they have three receptions between them, so it’s an obvious negative for the offense. At least Hodges, should he start, threw a lot to Holton in camp. Maybe there’s a connection there and Hodges does have a better arm than Rudolph in terms of pure arm strength so maybe they can connect on a deep ball this week.


Hey Alex

First off thanks to doing another Q&A, always looking forward to these.
That being said, do you think the Steelers roll with Duck going forward if he plays well on sunday and maybe pulls out a win? It’s not like Mason has played like Big Ben 2.0 (despite his high passer rating).

Alex: No. I like Hodges as much as the next guy. I’ve talked him up for a long time now. But Rudolph is the hopeful heir to Ben’s throne. Not Hodges. Just in the way Rudolph wasn’t going to take Ben’s job before we knew Ben was lost for the season, Hodges won’t steal away Rudolph’s. Rudolph has played well too. Put his team in position to win in every game he’s appeared in. The guy is doing fine. If he finishes out against the Ravens, and even if the Steelers still would’ve lost, no one would be asking to put Hodges in except for like, two crazed fans, a vocal minority that exists over everything. Rudolph is the starter when he’s cleared and ready to come back.

srdan: AK, when you watched teh game again, what did you think of our TE duo? How did the new acquisition look in the second game? Thanks!

Alex: Similar to the first, especially when you’re talking Vannett. I just like his toughness and willingness to do the dirty work. Pass protection, run blocking, he’s doing a ton of grunt working but that’s how TEs in the Steelers’ system work. How they need to play. Don’t get a lot of those in college with how spread and wide open things are so it’s nice to have vets who have done it at the NFL level.

The Tony: Alex, how would you evaluate this draft class for the Steelers so far? Have they played up to your expectations or has any disappointed?

Alex: I usually spend time thinking about that stuff at the end of the year. Because so much can change during it, I don’t like to “set in” my thoughts because then you’re prone to bias and the difficulty of changing thoughts and opinions.

I will say, for better or worse, they are contributing more sooner than I thought/would’ve liked. Aside from Bush – we knew he was going to play a lot. But Diontae Johnson, Benny Snell, I didn’t think they were going to play as much as they have/will. But that’s how the season goes. So it gives a chance to evaluate them I didn’t think was going to happen but obviously, has you counting on new faces you didn’t plan for.

Short answer though, I think they’ve done well all things considered. Bush and Johnson especially and I admire how Snell has embraces special teams. UG3 has been up and down but shows effort and his tackling is solid, a concern I had of his coming out of Akron.

AZSteeler: If Mason is able to suit up, do you still start Duck and have mason as backup to try to give him an additional week off, or do you play Mason?

Alex: If it were me, either he’s starting or he’s not dressing. No middle ground like they did with Ben against Cleveland a few years ago. Either because he isn’t cleared (which means he obviously isn’t playing) or because he doesn’t have enough reps during the week to be in a position to succeed for the game.

So either he’s cleared and gotten the reps he’s needed, which means he starts, or he’s not dressing and he comes back after the bye. Those are the only two choices I see. Anything else is a mistake.

The Pittsburgh Steelers: Is it just me or does Devlin seem more accurate & willing to sling it than Mason? And what are your expectations for Benny’s amount of snaps?

Alex: I don’t know about accuracy, we are also looking at just nine passes from Sunday, but he is more fearless. Little different mentality. But hey, he’s a UDFA with all the odds against him. Might as well go out and rip it. Go big or go home, ya know? That mentality, while I appreciate, has its drawbacks though. Hopefully we don’t see that against the Chargers, if he starts.

Amount of snaps for Benny? More, obviously, but Conner has been the workhorse before. So it doesn’t have to be the Snell/Conner split. So Snell may see 15-ish snaps if I had to throw a number out at you. Six or seven carries.

58Steel: Can you remember another team sustaining so many injuries to their skilled position players as the 2019 Steelers? Top 2 QB, top 2 RB, top 3 WR, top 2 TE all out or playing through injury in only 5 weeks has to be some sort of record… and yet the rest of the roster seems healthy.

Alex: I try to intentionally block out the Steelers’ injury history because those are just depressing thoughts but yeah, this year feels especially tough. All the major Pittsburgh sports racking up the medical bills. Pirates, Pens, and Steelers.

It’s even crazier for the Steelers because they were uncommonly healthy last year and throughout the summer/training camp this year. Then it all fell apart once the games started counting.

Willie John: What did you think about the Steelers using the 3 inside linebacker lineup against the Ravens. Seems like that worked quite well, but you guys haven’t said much about it on the podcast.

Alex: You’re right, Willie, I kept forgetting to mention it on the podcast. Our charting says the Steelers used their 3-5-3 eleven times against the Ravens. Baltimore averaged just 3.6 YPC on those plays so you’re right, it worked well. I think they stopped it later in the game after Barron went down and after Matakevich got some work in there, using their over front in stead to keep Edmunds in over Dirty Red. But you’re right, it was effective.

Steeley Dan: Hi Alex! With the injury to Samuels, do you see this opening a door for Switzer to play a similar role? I feel like without Ben playing, this guy isn’t contributing much.

Alex: Yeah, that makes sense. But man, I don’t see it being as effective. Samuels can win in space. Switzer can’t. So I hope they just go with a new approach than trying to run the same scheme with lesser talent. It’s just a mess. That’s really how you can sum up this offense. Same scheme, less talent, less productivity. Bleck.

Andrew Black: 


With the way the defense has been playing, is it possible *gulp* Keith Butler keeps his job at the end of the season?

Alex: Hey, they kept him after last year’s disaster so anything is possible. That will require a new contract though and a commitment so it is a little different than just keeping him like after last year. The Steelers have produced *the* easy strategy to build a good defense. All you have to do is….

– Use a first round pick on a defender for seven straight seasons
– Offer the two biggest contracts to outside free agents in franchise history (Haden & Nelson)
– Trade multiple draft capital to move up in the draft (Devin Bush)
– Trade your future first round pick for the first time in 50 yars (Fitzpatrick)

It’s that simple!

The Pittsburgh Steelers: My question sucked I want a different one.
It’s an Alex/Depot question! How’d you get started writing for Depot & do you remember what your first article was (link?)

Alex: I liked your first question very much.

Long story short. I was writing for another Pittsburgh sports website, doing the game recaps I used to do on here, the odds and ends musings from each game, and Dave found and DM’d me. Asked if I wanted a job, a paid one at that, and I basically immediately said yes and started here. We had a short phone conversation too to make sure it was the right fit.

First article. It’s a doozy. Jarvis Jones’ preseason NFL debut against the New York Giants. Long time ago.

That’s all for this week. Thanks guys!

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