Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your regularly scheduled mailbag. Missed this after covering the Senior Bowl a week ago. As usual, we’re here for the next hour to answer anything on your mind.

To your questions!

Yeshaya: Anybody at the Senior Bowl that you’ve really fallen in love with for the Steelers to take with their 2nd rounder, or are you being objective and dispassionate (boring) about prospects?

Alex: I don’t think I’m head over heels for any one player at the Senior Bowl. Definitely some guys I like and think fit. Whether we’re talking Brycen Hopkins, who I ultimately mocked in my first crack at it, Adam Trautman is an easy guy to love. Everyone who watched him came away impressed. DT Neville Gallimore has been on my radar for awhile too. But I’ll have to comb through the 100 underclassmen too and see if there’s anyone I might like more. So a little boring (sorry!) but I think all three guys I just named fit.

Think it’s important not to get too attached to one name, especially so early in the process. Can’t get fixated in one guy in large draft classes with so many options on the table. Then you get tunnel vision and it generally doesn’t make you look good.

Anthony Palmerston: Wow, slow day. What’s your favorite alcoholic drink?

Alex: Yup, slow day. No AB news to go around like this time last year. But I welcome these quiet waters. Answer would be none of them. I am, as David O taught me the term, a teetotaler.

falconsaftey43: What are your thoughts on what Zach Gentry can do in 2020? Best and worse case scenarios for him

Alex: It’s hard to say. Not like there’s a lot of info from his rookie year to go off of. Just 50 snaps in the regular season. So I fall back to where I was at when they drafted him. Not sure how he wins, other than just being a big guy, who is limited athletically and hopefully will make strides as a blocker, he has the frame that’ll help him simply get in the way, but will probably never be elite there.

Does anyone want him to even be their #2 next year? I’d rather draft a better athlete who can win the middle of the field because that TE is probably going to be about as good (which is to say, not very) a blocker as Gentry year two. So if Gentry is 3rd string again, then you’re looking at a pretty quiet year, even if he moves up the depth chart for a game or two when McDonald – if he’s back – inevitably misses at least a game or two.

So my optimism isn’t high, as you can tell. But we’ll see how he looks after a year in the system. Team knew he was raw and he declared a year early. Possible he shows accelerated growth and development.

srdan: Who do you think will see the top corner from other teams that follow WR1s next year? In other words, who is getting hump, and who is getting peters in the first meeting next year?

Alex: Probably still JuJu. But I’m not really in the head of the Ravens right now. When you have a couple good corners like they do, you don’t feel as compelled to travel because you trust either guy to get the job done. If you have one corner significantly better than the other, then you gotta travel because you can’t risk being exploited by the mismatch.

So we’ll see. Diontae Johnson obviously had a great rookie year and will get increased attention.

Bill Wood: Hola Alex! I liked the Porche selection in your latest mock draft because, like you, I believe we needed a slot threat badly last year. Do you think that a solid slot receiver could mask our deficiencies at TE, especially if we fail to land a good prospect in the draft? Or do you think the front office strategy is to add another receiver in the hopper to compensate for when Ju Ju and Washington’s contracts come due?

Alex: Hey Bill! Much more the former than latter. Just looking for ways to attack an area of the field they struggled to find success in last year. And even with drafting Hopkins in the 2nd, knowing TEs typically struggle their rookie year, adding Proche gives that extra layer of someone who can win between the numbers. Still expecting JuJu to get a long-term deal and Washington is still two years out. Focus is on improving this offense, giving Ben another weapon, and stylistically, a different type of WR that doesn’t really exist on the depth chart sans Johnson, who has his home as the X WR.

@Why_Cliff: hey AK for the mailbag. What did Eddie Faulkner do differently from James Saxon this year? And with Matt Canada in tow, do you see Rudolph’s trajectory changing? And the million dollar question are steelers black and yellow or black and gold?

Alex: Thanks for sending in a question. You’re asking some important ones Cliff but they are difficult for me to answer. Position coaches are difficult to evaluate, even moreso than coordinators and players (who are already difficult to judge). So I don’t have a great answer for what Faulkner did differently though for the record, my understanding is that Saxon wasn’t retained for reasons beyond the production of the running backs. More of a philosophical difference.

I thought Faulkner did a nice job juggling the crazy rotation in the backfield. In a year where six different RBs had at least one carry, the first time that’s happened in Pittsburgh since like, the late 80s. Benny Snell was ready, even off his injury, Kerrith Whyte Jr. made an impact off a practice squad. Those are usually testaments to good coaching and having those guys prepared in difficult circumstances. So I was happy with that. Beyond that, it’s hard for me to say. Even trying to think about different drills they did in camp…I’d have to comb through my notes and see if I wrote anything. Nothing drastically different comes to mind. Maybe a little more emphasis on ball security?

I think having a dedicated QB coach is important to the investment and hope you’ve put into Rudolph. Will it change his trajectory? Maybe. I mean, if he’s just a bad QB, a QB coach won’t change that. But if Rudolph is on the borderline, and that’s the impression I got from his rookie year, hopefully a good QB coach like Canada can give me an edge. We’ll see. Excited to see him, and Duck, in camp and how they’ve grown from obviously very difficult seasons.

Oh and black and gold. All day.

Chad Weiss: 

Alex if a guard slides over to double with the tackle ,and a defender comes through the guards gap on delayed blitz and gets a sack ,would that sack go against the guard ?

Also if the defense brings more than the an offense can block and all lineman are occupied, an extra defender goes through the guards gap, would that be considered the guards fault for the sack or no??

I’m seeing alot of this exspecially the first scenario.

Alex: That’s usually a case-by-case question. Depending on the protection, how the whole line slid/operated, what the back did, what the QB did, etc. Hard to answer those things broadly. That’s why we do our weekly sack breakdown review to show and explain each sack.

To the second one, if the defense brings more than the offense is blocking, the ball is “hot” which means the QB has to get rid of it. If he doesn’t and there was a hot route/option, then the sack is on him. If there simply wasn’t a hot, I may still put it on the QB, or a receiver, or the OC, just depending on how the exact play looked. But normally, no, it wouldn’t go on one of the linemen.

I think our sack breakdown illustrated that this year. Of the 25 sacks allowed, I only charged 12 of them (48%) to an offensive linemen. Hodges and Rudolph combined to give up 7.5 of them. And the rest went elsewhere. So sacks are often not on one of the big five up front.

Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt: Ok Alex here we go your kevin colbert who at position are you picking at #49
And the 2nd question do Steelers have any tradable pieces instead of cuts

Alex: I don’t have a specific player or even position in mind. It’s January. The team doesn’t even have an answer to that. There’s still free agency, roster cuts, franchise tags, the Combine, workouts, pre-draft visits, Tomlin and the coaches getting more involved in the scouting process, a lot of variables here.

I outlined the top four positions of need. In no order: TE, iOL, NT, safety. So when you’re sitting at #49 (and I would consider trading back, by the way) you find the best talent at one of those positions. It’s not BPA. It’s not top position of need. It’s where value and need intersect at its highest point. That’s the dude you take.

To the second question, nah, not really. Tuitt isn’t getting traded, for anyone about to ask. That’s silly.

Dennis Nevinsky: Alex:
I have another question for you. We received a 4th round pick from Miami in 2020. Some mocks have the Steelers picking early, Miami’s own pick. Other mock drafts have us picking later, the draft choice that Miami received from Tennessee. Do you know the answer to which pick the Steelers actually own, in the 4th round, from Miami.

Alex: I believe Bob Labriola said it is Miami’s pick. But someone can check me on that.

Steeley Dan: Hi Alex, regarding the TE position, do you expect to see the same, inflated TE market as last season in free agency? I’m not sure any of them met expectations, and even depth players became expensive

Alex: I’m not the say-all when it comes to market forces but yeah, feels that way. No one wants to get paid less than the past year when the salary cap jumps up. So should be expensive, even for borderline starters like Jesse James or Nick Boyle, who each got $6 million per. Same with Uzomah in Cincy. Crazy high. That should splash cold water on anyone who thinks the Steelers could target Henry or Hooper. They can’t. Much as I would love them to be able to.

Ryan Fazi: 


Which player are you most excited to see at the combine after you got a “steelers” feel for at senior bowl.

Alex: That’s a good question. Not sure if I have a “guy” right now. The whole TE class is really on my radar. Obviously very interested in Thadd Moss’ weight-in and workout numbers. Neville Gallimore should run really fast. Hargrave-esque, maybe even into the 4.8’s. That’ll be a treat.


When the curtains close, will Troy Polamalu be a first ballot hall of fame Safety? If not, what is your riot weapon of choice? I think I’ll go with the spiked bat a la Neegan from the Walking Dead.

On a serious note, what could be the deciding factor as to why Troy doesn’t get in this time? The too many Steelers already elected bias?

Alex: He better be. No fair you get dibs on Lucille. I’ll just stick with standard pitchfork. That’s a good outrage item.

I really couldn’t even fathom a reason why Troy isn’t first ballot. This class isn’t even that strong. He is the #1 resume to get in. Not like he’s competing with an obvious QB choice. I guess it would just be Steelers fatigue, as you mention, or just the Steelers’ rep not making a strong enough case but really, if you need to be explained as to why Troy deserves to be in the Hall, you shouldn’t be voting in the first place.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy the Super Bowl.

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