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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

As always, welcome back to the mailbag. Final couple editions of these for the regular season though, of course, these will continue throughout the offseason. And hopefully a lengthy playoff run.

We’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind. To your questions!

Andrew Black: 

Hi Alex!

Who do you think is the likeliest player to be cut this offseason?

Alex: That’s getting to be a more interesting question. Mark Barron is still probably the easiest and most likely answer, though his play has steadied the last few weeks and I know they value their ILB depth/flexibility. Barron’s contract isn’t crazy either. Tyson Alualu is playing too well to be dumped, and again, very little in the way of savings after displacement. Dumping Ramon Foster doesn’t make a lot of sense and generally not how they do business either. So Barron is the most likely name though I wouldn’t guarantee they’ll drop him.

MP: 

Hi Alex,

I really liked your comparison of Fitzpatrick and Edmunds. A lot of it seems to boil down to instinct where Fitz senses the corners are more important than the middle, and Edmunds senses the opposite. What can be down to teach someone like Edmunds? Should he turn and open his hips most of the time if he sees a particular formation?

Great work this season. It’s been a fantastic year for the Depot and the podcast.

Alex: Thanks! I could’ve lived with him not opening his hips the way Fitzpatrick did. Normally, when you’re defending the hash, you’re in your pedal, getting depth, eyes on the QB. The issue was two-fold. One, he probably should’ve known the concept because that was the third time Arizona had run it. How Haden got his INT, knew what route combo was coming. Two, once Murray loaded up, Edmunds still never took an upfield angle and that’s what caused him to be too shallow and miss the ball.

You just hope he can learn from those mistakes. Not having the same issue twice. Just keep drilling the coaching points and cross your fingers it gets through. He is only 22 and in his second year. If Bud Dupree showed us anything, the light can take a little while to come on.

WeWantDaTruth: Is Finney a FA at end of this year? If so, how much will he command on the open market? With all the tough decisions this team has for 2020, it seems like a no brainer to go with Finney at LG if he is less expensive. Plus, he is younger and thete is little to no drop off from Foster.

Alex: Yes he is. Not 100% sure what his market will be. Has the talent to be a starting guard somewhere. Probably in that Isaac Semualo/Nick Easton type range? $5-6 million per year if I had to throw a number out at you. Market can always drive those costs up and a quick glance at things doesn’t show a lot of “names’ set to be free agents. Brandon Scherff will get paid. After him, you have Richie Incgonito, Mike Iupati, Ronald Leary.

But like I said above, I don’t think that’s how the Steelers will do business. Usually pretty good about fulfilling their commitments. Cutting a veteran leader the whole locker room loves to keep Finney? Know it’s still an in-house move but don’t think that would sit well with the room. Especially because Foster is still playing at a quality level.

The Tony: Alex,
What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Christmas Vacation is my one seed.

Alex: Oh for sure, Die Hard. And yes it is a Christmas movie and no, you can’t change my mind.

J Jones: Considering how bad Josh Allen has been vs the blitz, do you think that the Steelers blitz him like crazy on Sunday?

Alex: It’ll be interesting. Discussed it briefly at the end of yesterday’s podcast. Probably won’t do it like Baltimore. Steelers front four has been awesome, getting home while still dropping seven into coverage. That’s ideal. And it’s been working so why radically change it up?

May see more creative ways to send “safe” pressure. Different DB blitzes, certainly some pressure from the ILBs, twists and stunts to try to get home. So Butler/Tomlin will have some tricks up his sleeve but you won’t see the Cover 0, ultra-aggressive gameplan the Ravens employed a week ago.

Chris Carey: I know this isn’t Patriots Depot – but how many more rules can that franchise break before they really get the hammer? Otherwise – why wouldn’t all teams not start ‘accidentally’ filming things they shouldn’t be – it destroys the integrity of the game if they are not punished severely finally this time – does it not?

Alex: What do you think the hammer should be? Kicked out of the league? They’ve been penalized pretty harshly before. QB getting suspended. Losing first round draft picks. Those are about as harsh as punishments as the league can hand down. Not that I’m trying to defend Roger Goodell over here but I don’t know what the next step the league has to take here. New England’s been punished pretty severely, even though it hasn’t slowed down their winning ways one bit.

turtle: Do you think the Steelers should have looked for a QB coach once Ben went down with injury, just to give more attention to Rudolph’s and Hodge’s development?

Alex: Nah. That’s not how it works. You can’t just add someone in that big of a role mid-season. You’ve already gone through OTAs, minicamp, training camp, preseason, the start of the year. Your coach would be getting up to speed and just trying to catch up. That’s why to replace Darryl Drake, they stayed in-house with Blaine Stewart, who had been on-staff, and Ray Sherman, who was with the team for at least training camp, if not the entire offseason.

Plus, Fichtner is still there obviously. I get he has his hand in a lot of jars but the OC/QB relationship is crucial and they’re pretty much joined at the hip, regardless of how the QB coach is. And there’s Matt Symmes, often forgotten about, who is basically a dedicated QB assistant. Just in the way Shaun Sarrett was Munchak’s right-hand man for years.

Ryan Fazi: 

Hi Alex

Which receiver do you think has the most yards vs the bills ? Do you see us using any tricky plays/formations this week.

Alex: Who knows. It’s been popcorn. Does JuJu play? Limited status today isn’t a good sign. So probably Washington or Johnson. In this offense, it’s been hard to predict.

I don’t see trick plays. I’d rather them not use it. Last time it happened, Jaylen Samuels threw a pass and…it didn’t end well. Offense is supposed to just be smart with the ball. Gradually growing. I don’t need to risk another turnover or terrible outcome with the defense the Steelers have. And a trick play just creates an unnecessary risk. Doesn’t mean you have to go into a shell with the playcalling but let the QB throw the ball, RBs run the ball. Don’t overthink the blueprint to success.

RedzC: 

Hello Alex.

Crazy as it may be, the Steelers are still technically in the running for the number 1 overall seed in the AFC playoffs. If such a preposterous thing were to happen what corresponding insane thing would you do (or currently unliket article, would you write) as a tribute to the football gods?

Alex: Oh I don’t think that’s on the table. Maybe technically, if the Ravens lost out and the Steelers won out, they’d each be 11-5. And the Patriots would have to lose out too since even if they won just one of their final three and were also 11-5, they’d have tiebreaker over Pittsburgh for their head-to-head matchup.

But if that .01% scenario plays out, you guys can suggest what animal I sacrifice to the football gods. I’m thinking goat.

MoreRingsThanYourTeam: 

I was actually going to tweet you you, but I wasn’t sure if you responded to tweets as habitually as you do this mailbag. What makes Duck Hodges the better quarterback option than Rudolph based on your observations? Outside of the obvious fact that he can push the ball down the field? Is it scheme? Footwork? Poise?

Alex: I do my best to respond to as many tweets as possible but for these mailbags, you’re guaranteed to have a response in that hour window. A lot of the things you said. Mobility helps. You look around the league and see most of the rising QBs with mobility. Jackson. Allen. Baker. Murray. Vets like Wilson and Rodgers can still move around when they have to. Even some of the others who aren’t on that level aren’t statues like Jimmy G in San Francisco. There are very few pure “pocket passers” today. At least, good ones. Drew Brees is a dying breed.But mobility is only part of that. Hodges’ poise, like you mentioned. His confidence. His attitude. Feels more sure of himself and just more willing to rip it, something that was evident back in camp. Hodges is more willing to throw into a tight window or throw someone open than Rudolph, who won’t hit it unless it’s there. And that goes a long ways.


That’s all for this week. Thanks guys!

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