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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to the mailbag. Hope you all had a great and safe Christmas. Sure doesn’t feel like winter if you’re living in Western PA. 64 degrees in December is my kind of weather.

Anyway, we’re here for the next hour for whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

Chad Weiss: Everyone wants to fire Fichtner but is there any coordinator that would really get that much more out of this personel?

Alex: Sure, a better OC would get better results. Fichtner isn’t top ten, he’s probably not top 15, and I’m sure most fans (right now) would put him somewhere in bottom five in the league when it comes to coordinators. But I understand your point and it’s one I’ve made a couple times this year, including on this past week’s podcast. The offense can’t even execute the basics. Can’t snap the ball, can’t take care of the ball, can’t get exchanges correct or get away from center without your QB separating his shoulder. It’s just a mess. It’s been a revolving door of injuries, new faces, below-the-line play that it’s hard to even know who you’re rolling with in a given week, let alone coming up with a gameplan to play to the offense’s, uh, strengths.

So it’s been about as bad as a situation as it could be for a OC and I think that perspective, while not absolving Fichtner (there’s plenty here to criticize), is worth mentioning.

pittfan: 

2 Questions: pick 1 or both please.

1. DO you see the heir apparent to BB on this roster? Ie, #2 or #6? I don’t.

2. How big of a factors would you say Fitchner has been in the success or failure of this years offense? Seems to me there are so many factors it would be hard to make an OBJECTIVE eval…JMHO.

Alex: Right now, no. But I’m not here to make any final conclusions because the team doesn’t really need to have a final answer on that yet. I doubt they’re going after a top QB in this year’s draft. So you have another year to really force that discussion. But no, it doesn’t look like it, and right now, there’s little debate about it.

Well he’s the coach so the buck is going to stop with him. Like I said above to Chad, he’s done a lot wrong this year. But he’s always in one of the most difficult situations an OC can be apart of and that idea isn’t lost on me. Things will look a whole lot better when #7 returns, Fichtner included. Your QB is more important than your OC.

Lambert58: Hola Alex – What will be the Steelers most important offseason move coming in 2020 in your opinion?

Alex: Oh wow, that’s a really good question. I try not to rank these in a vacuum because you can walk and chew gum at the same time. Can look at the draft, look at free agency all under the same scope.

But I think the spotlight will be on how they handle Bud Dupree. How they can make the cap work, so what happens to players around him (Barron, Foster are two guys in that “grey area,” will they stay or will they go?) and if they lose him, how he gets replaced. Won’t be in-house, won’t be in free agency. So the draft is your most obvious bet. But that’ll be the #1 storyline that drives the offseason, at least from a roster construction standpoint.

stan: The NFL really screwed the Steelers with the game time shift. Since the Chiefs are playing at noon and the Texans only have something to play for if the Chiefs lose, the Texans will sit their starters if the Chiefs win the noon game. I thought situations like this were the reason the NFL started shifting game times in the final week. Any ideas about how this happened?

Alex: I don’t know the league’s thought process. I would’ve kept them all at 1 PM, like originally scheduled. Maybe there was some other conflict/issue that didn’t let the Chiefs game get pushed back. I have no idea. Not something I think about and definitely don’t get mad about. Steelers put themselves in this situation. Their fault for not controlling their own destiny despite being in great position to do so just three weeks ago.

SteelPierogi: Hello Alex, what’s the number one draft need for the Steelers next year? Also, why doesn’t McDonald’s sell hotdogs?

Alex: Depends on what happens in FA. Hard to project right now. But OLB, DT, safety depth, TE are probably the top ones. If Dupree comes back, then the equation changes dramatically. Better question to ask after March.

I’m so glad McDonalds doesn’t sell hotdogs. Who knows what “meat” would actually be in there.

RedzC: Alex. Do you think the Steelers will be content going into next season with the same three QBs or will they actively look to add another via draft or FA signing?

Alex: Maybe you look for a low-level, veteran backup. But decent, vet QBs aren’t cheap. QBs in general aren’t cheap because the demand is so high and the supply is so low. So whoever they could look for won’t be inspiring nor will they save the season. I’d probably prefer just hoping and believing Rudolph/Duck take steps, make that “leap” the team normally expects than a backup who has reached his ceiling and eating up already limited cap space. Is Blaine Gabbert going to be that much better?

Root for the XFL to fold and then get Landry Jones back to have through camp. Best case scenario.

Andy N: Hi, if Josh Rosen gets cut in the offseason, would you pick him up?

Alex: What’s the cost? He’s not taking the minimum. First round pick two drafts ago, traded for a decent pick to Miami this year. I know his career has been bad but he’s not going to sign for peanuts. I just don’t know how realistic that is and obviously, he’s still on a roster right now and I don’t know what incentive Miami has to dump him this quickly.

hdogg48: 

Alex,

Who would be your choice today for our first
selection in the Second Round in the 2020 Draft?

Alex: I couldn’t throw a name at you if I tried right now, to be honest. All questions better to think about much closer to the draft and after free agency.

Zach6432: Is Shawn Sarrett (Sp?) safe next year? OL really has no excuse to be bad this year.

Alex: Hard to say. Positional coaches are difficult to evaluate from the outside view. I mean, everything we analyze is hard to evaluate and those coaches are even tougher. Not privy to what happens behind the scenes, what someone’s prep is like, if a unit’s shortcomings are more player failure or bad coaching. The last two weeks have been miserable from a coaching/preparation standpoint though. I don’t know what’s shifted so dramatically. But it was. So it’s fair to ask the question.

But I don’t know. No one saw Keith Butler returning last year. He did. No one saw James Saxon getting fired last year. He was. We’ll see.

steeltown: 

Hey Kozora-

What’s your thoughts about the QB position moving into the offseason and the uncertainty surrounding Ben? Would you bring in a mid tier vet to compete with Rudolph and Hodges? Are you bringing back Hodges?

Alex: Kinda mentioned it above. Probably not going to see a lot of action with how precious little cap space there is. And QBs aren’t cheap, even backups (decent ones, anyway). Maybe a really low level guy, maybe Landry Jones circles back. There’s no reason to have another young “arm” as the #4. I hope that spot goes to someone with some experience, not a true and blue rookie. But don’t expect them to go after Mariota, or Teddy, or whoever else the media wants to speculate about. I’m talking like Trevor Siemian or Gabbert.

Michael James: Let’s turn the clock back to the 2018 draft: If you were the GM and knew how Lamar Jackson develops, would you have taken him with the first-round pick despite Ben being adamant that he’ll play a few more years?

Alex: Yes, of course. If I had such a crystal ball. You’re asking me if I would take the best player in the draft at the sport’s most important position. Who is turning that down? Understand your point about development but obviously, the team didn’t have an issue going after a QB later in that same draft. Except in this rewrite, you’re getting the MVP instead of a borderline starter in a best case scenario (based on how things look right now).

Findley Boyd: Hi Alex, is the state of the left side of the oline a matter of Foster and AV both regressing, or just Foster regressing and that having an impact on AV? Hard to believe it gets so bad so fast. Did the league figure out something this year?

Alex: Eh, I dunno. I wouldn’t paint things as broadly as that. Villanueva has actually been playing well. He got off to a slow start, he always does, has had some tough matchups (Bosa, Garrett) but I haven’t had an issue with him. The last two weeks, he’s arguably been the second best linemen only behind DeCastro. And Foster was playing fine until this recent stretch (granted, he was hurt a few games earlier). I think the league is figuring out how to overwhelm the Steelers’ protections with a young QB who has less freedom and a line that probably isn’t as good as it once was. Though again, can’t stress this enough, there have been long stretches this season where the line performed well, especially in pass pro.


That’s all for this week. Thanks everyone!

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