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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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

To your questions!

J Alexander Wright: Who would you say has been the most pleasant surprise so far this season (excluding Bud, that’s too easy)?

Alex: Oh, taking away Dupree as an option does make things more difficult. In terms of players on the team last year and not newecomers, I think I’d go with Matt Feiler. Check out the video breakdown we did on him vs Indy if you haven’t gotten the chance yet.

I’m not shocked by it because he played well last year but to see how consistent and steady he’s been in that first full year as a starter when opponents know who he is and have tape to study on him. Just remarkably consistent every single week.

Tyson Alualu has seemed to dip into the fountain of youth this year too. Much better year than last. Good for him.

steeltown: 

Hello Kozora

Whats your thoughts on upcoming contract negotiations? You thinking Dupree gets done or franchised? Finney? Obviously Watt has a 5th year option in 2021 but JuJu is due probably this offseason. Then you have Conner…

Alex: I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Dupree. Obviously it’s going to be very, very expensive. I don’t think you have to franchise tag him though. You can just sit down and negotiate. You aren’t going to low-ball him with a $13 million a year offer anyway. You know that going in and if you’re serious about getting a deal done before free agency, you’re not going to waste time. And if you can’t get the deal done, then he hits free agency and cashes in. I wouldn’t put the tag on him unless you intended on actually carrying that through all of 2020, something the Steelers simply won’t have the financial flexibility to do.

JuJu’s gotta get done this offseason. Watt too? I dunno, now is starts adding up. I think Conner’s going to have to wait though. He’s last in line.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: 

Hey there Alex.

I don’t think anyone has done a worse job for the Steelers this season than OC Randy Fichtner. Having said that, is there any reason you can think of to believe that Coach Randy can or will help this offense improve? Or is it simply up to Mason Rudolph to improve as a QB and become more capable of carrying the ‘O’ like Ben did?

Alex: Well they are joined at the hip. If Rudolph plays well, the OC looks pretty good. If Rudolph struggles, the OC looks pretty bad.

Things have been better the last two weeks. Offense has opened up more, which I expected with Rudolph healthy and the team coming off the bye. Lots of things Fichtner has done wrong this year but it’s been an awfully difficult situation and tough spot to be in for any OC.

CP72: 

Alex,
Baker Mayfield
Sam Darnold
Josh Allen
Mason Rudolph

Rank them top to bottom on who you’d take to start your franchise with.

Alex: I really don’t watch those guys enough, aside from Rudolph obviously, to have a highly educated answer. I don’t have a strong feeling really for any of these guys, especially who to put at the top.

Baker Mayfield
Josh Allen
Mason Rudolph
Sam Darnold

If Mayfield could be in a less chaotic situation, he could thrive. Though he’s obviously taken a step back, he’s still thie guy who has shown the most potential of those names. Allen flies under the radar and I have Rudolph over Darnold for his mental toughness.

sdale: It seems like most of the TE routes are shallow crossers and they’re not being used on seam routes down the middle of the field. With JJ being doubled most of the time, shouldn’t that area be open for the TE?

Alex: That makes sense. But the team’s been able to use them as security blankets underneath. They’ve also still done plenty of chipping of DEs and OLBs, which limits their route tree a bit. I just hope McDonald gets more involved in the red zone, like the TD catch he had against the Colts.

pittfan: Alex, I would love to hear your comments on Mason’s passing mechanics, specifically his throwing motion. No top notch QB I can think of shares a similar throwing motion.

Alex: I don’t have enough knowledge about throwing motions nor have I studied Rudolph’s enough to offer a lot of information. I don’t see any obvious flaws with the motion though. I think it’s relatively compact and quick. Hodges actually has more of a windup than Rudolph.

I think he needs to work on his lower half. Being able to drive through the football with better weight transfer, not locking up his front knee, getting his front toe pointed to where he wants the ball to go, not where his target is at on the release. Some of that is related to pocket presence issues that’s creating poor mechanics too.

Ryan Fazi: 

Hi Alex,

First half of the season is complete, who is your team MVP right now.

Alex: I liked ESPN’s angle of Kevin Colbert. Tomlin could get it too for keeping the team together after staring a season-ending loss in the face for basically the last month. But I’ll go with Fitzpatrick, edging out Watt. Having that true center fielder to patrol and make plays is something this team has simply missed since Troy in 2010 (Troy obviously a SS who didn’t play CF as much, but a playmaker nonetheless). That’s the missing piece and link the defense needed. But kudos for Colbert for making that deal. I’m sure that wasn’t an easy decision, parting with the first 1st round pick of his tenure. But he knew he needed to be aggressive and maximize this Super Bowl window.

Yeshaya: *IF* we could afford to keep one of them, who are you keeping, Bud or J-Wobble?

Alex: Tough one. Hargrave is someone I trust more to have long-term success but Dupree has more positional value. It would depend a lot on the exact cost but I know that’s me hedging my bets. Losing both players would really suck though and that’s still a possibility.

hdogg48: 

Alex….

I see the only chance for the Steelers to keep the
Rams off balance is to hit an early big play
….hopefully with Washington.

They gotta be working on that, and Rudolph
needs to prove he has the big arm accuracy to air it out
and finally connect on one…early

What say you?

Alex: Yeah, I think that’s fair. Gotta be able to create explosive plays to beat an opposing offense that’s bound to hit on a couple of them. Accurate assessment.

stan: 

I was at the game Sunday and kept getting frustrated because they didn’t play Renegade until right before the last kick….. I think it may have had something to do with the miss. Either the snapper, holder or kicker might have been effected. What do you think?

Also, do you think the laces being out was all THAT big a deal? I can’t put a shank that bad all on the holder.

Alex: Nah, the song choice has nothing to do with it. Vinateri has kicked game winners in Super Bowls before. Pat McAfee has talked about how locked in he gets in those moments where he tunes out everything else. Styx isn’t disrupting his process.

I dunno, everyone who has kicked has talked about how difficult laces out are. McAfee broke it down on his show. Combine that with the weather, Heinz Field being a tough place to kick, it can make things go south pretty quickly. Margin for error on a kick is razor thin.

The Tony: Alex,
How do the Steelers stop Donald?

Alex: First, know where he’s at. Because they’ll align him all over the front. And just play with good technique. Stay square, keep your feet moving, communicate well. I wish there was a magic wand to wave and slow him down. No one’s found it.


That’s all for this week. Thanks guys!

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