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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Wednesday edition again since I – and likely, you – won’t be around during Thanksgiving tomorrow. Hope you all have a wonderful day with your family. So we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

Hamish:

Hi Alex,

It was a great play by Bush but why was he covering Boyd?

I thought we were done with LBs on WRs. Only good tackling by Bush meant it wasn’t a TD!

Alex: I GIF’d it for you guys to take a look. Probably some level of miscommunication. Nelson not passing off the route, Hilton not carrying Boyd across. Wires crossed up. Left Boyd on Bush. So don’t think this is by design the way Jon Bostic matched up on Keenan Allen last year. Far from ideal, of course, but a separate, more forgivable problem.

Hope that helps.

Elyas Correa Nogueira: 

Hey, Alex.

In a scale from 1-10, what do you think are the chances that TJ Watt will command the biggest contract ever for a defensive player next offseason?

Alex: I’m no expert when it comes to cap stuff. I leave that at Dave’s doorstep because he’s spent much more time than I learning about those things.

But I’ll do my best. Khalil Mack is currently the NFL’s highest paid player at an average yearly value of $23.5 million per year. Will Watt top that, assuming no one else jumps him? I’m going to guess he’ll come close but fall just a little short. Something in the $21-22 million range. So close but no cigar.

Alex Kuhn: This team reminds me of the early 90’s teams that had a nasty D and the O did juuuuust enough. With Duck under center…
1) What are his strengths and how do you see the team applying those against Cleveland?
2) Do you see them using more RPO’s because of Duck’s mobility (it’s no Lamar, but still lol) ?

Alex: His strengths are his confidence, fearlessness, and his ball placement outside the numbers is actually pretty good. I don’t think the scheme really changes at all with the exception of getting him in space a little more because he’s a more mobile quarterback. You just expect him to handle things more effectively.

They seemed to use more RPOs when Duck came in. But your QB doesn’t have to be mobile to run those. It can be an element of it, a read/option with a passing component but most times, it’s either a handoff or throw. Don’t need a mobile QB to execute that. But it does look like they’re leaning on it more than they are with Rudolph.

WeWantDaTruth: Hi Alex…Happy Thanksgiving. The Steelers are getting zilch from the TE position this year. Is Vance injured (again)? How big a priority is TE in the 2020 draft?

Alex: The whole offensive situation isn’t helping McDonald but he doesn’t feel like the version we saw last year. He’s struggled even in the reduced chances he’s received and his blocking hasn’t been very good.

Priority for next year depends a lot on Vannett. If he’s gone, then it’s a pretty glaring need. If not, you might live with it just because of all the other areas you want to address (OLB, NT, safety depth, RB? WR? DL?) with limited draft capital. I’m unlikely to expect/want to them to invest a super high pick in the position.

Billy Stalz: Hi Alex,
If you had to go back knowing that Rudolph would struggle with this defense would you have made the call to the Giants for Eli for a late pick?

Alex: I assume you’re saying to do this after Ben went down? No. I never want Eli Manning on my team. For starters, you can’t afford him (making $11.5 million this year) and he wasn’t going to be a savior. He’d be better but the dude’s pretty much done. And you’d be trading for maybe the only QB in the league less athletic than Rudolph. And then you’re trading more draft capital and the well is really dry next year. Had no interest in Manning.

Steelers D: 

Alex, have a great Thanksgiving Day!

Do you think they will use any 2 back sets with Whyte? Does Whyte have any receiving skills?

Alex: You too! We’ll see. He’s still gotta pick up the basics of the playbook. Get comfortable with all that before adding too much extra on his plate (to stick with the Thanksgiving theme). But maybe they do. It’d be interesting. Anything to jump start the offense.

Whyte didn’t catch the ball much at FAU. 22 career catches. But him in space is obviously attractive.

MattSteelCurtain: Happy Thanksgiving Alex! I think Juju plays better has more success out of the slot than on outside. Am i seeing that right? If so why isnt he used there more often?! Seems like no brainer to me! Yes i know hes a number 1 but that cant be only reason.

Alex: Happy Thanksgiving, Matt! You’re right. JuJu is best in the slot.

But the numbers say what you’re asking for is happening. In 11 personnel, he’s lined up in the slot 64.5% of the time. So it’s occurring quite a bit. They do want to make sure they’re moving him around and not having him in any one spot, even in the slot.

falconsaftey43: Seemed to me the TEs got open a few times over the middle, QBs just not going their way. Do you think there is an element of them just not throw to the TE because they’re more “box out” than “wide open” TEs?

Alex: That’s probably an element of it. I don’t think they’ve been sitting there wide open or schemed to get open, so I haven’t seen anything egregious. They’ve become more secondary options than primary reads so they get missed more often since that’s often not the first part of the progression.

Tom White: This is about Ducks play and watching the tape. Did you get a chance to watch the play in the 4th quarter where Tevin Jones was wide open and do you think Duck missed him or made the decision not to throw because Finney was starting to get pushed back into him?

Ales: I did. Actually referenced it during today’s show. One of those things where Hodges was on another part of his read/progression by the time Jones broke open. Was looking right with Jones streaking left. Then left the pocket a bit too early/hurriedly before seeing him again and ultimately throwing the ball away. Just one of those things that happens sometimes. Drop back enough, you’ll miss open WRs. It sucks but I wasn’t too upset about that play.

Petherson Silveria: Will Hodges sling it or will he be held by the Fichtner´s tentacles?

Alex: Let’s hope they let Hodges air it out. Want to play smart, of course, but he’s proven he can move the offense. But I am worried the Steelers will get in this “just can’t turn the ball over” mindset and come out too conservatively. We’ll find out soon.


That’s all for this week. Thanks guys and I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!

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