Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Hey everyone. Welcome back to the mailbag. Thrilled you could make it. As always, we’re here for the next hour to talk about whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

Greasy Wings: 

Assuming Bud is retained and Chick is a cap casualty, rank the depth charts for these positions on a scale from “totally terrifying” to “I can barely sleep at night”: OLB, S, TE

With limited draft capital and no cap space, what would GM Alex do?

Alex: I guess I would rank them as:

1. TE
2. S
3. OLB

Tight end and safety are close and in my “big four” of top needs. But Vance’s future is still uncertain, as is everything behind him, and at least you know you have Minkah/Edmunds as your returning starters for 2020. And have some more emergency options in Sutton and Hilton if there was an injury.

Outside linebacker depth is a concern after Adeniyi’s pretty quiet first two years but it’s easier to manufacture production/pressure and you have two studs in Watt and Dupree who are going to play a ton of snaps. But I don’t discount them addressing EDGE on day three or some really low-level free agent.

wefjr: How deep is the defensive line class this spring? Will the Steelers be able to find a someone who can contribute right away in the 3rd or 4th round? Thanks.

Alex: Depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re trying to find the next Hargrave, you probably want to make that move at #49. Someone like Gallimore from OU, Blacklock from TCU, if they even fall that far. If you’re looking for a more traditional plugger, then yeah, I think you can wait a bit. You’ve seen Ohio State’s Davon Hamilton in a lot of mocks, including my own. So there will be some options for that type of run stuffer.


Alex: Not as a #2. Mason Rudolph is the guy and will be in that position next year unless he falls flat on his face in the preseason.

Could Lynch make the team as the #3? Sure. It’s really going to come down to him vs Duck. Not expecting them to really add much in the way of competition to the depth chart. So flip a coin for that last spot. But we’re talking third string, not immediate backup.

David Shoff: Alex, I just read the article speculating Vince Williams being cut instead of Barron. I would really disagree with this move and think Williams is much better than Barron. One more question, I would consider signing Dupree to a long term deal at 16mill or under a win. Would you consider that good?

Alex: I would too. In a word, it’d be dumb to do. In play and in cap savings, which cutting Williams nets you basically nothing.

Of course the goal is to get Dupree on a long-term deal. No one likes the tag. Player nor team. It’s there as a last ditch effort to make sure the player can’t hit the market. I look at 16 million per year as about the floor. A little above what Za’Darius Smith got with the Packers last year, adjusted for the cap rising and everyone trying to one-up whoever last got paid. So yes, that’d be a win if you can be under that figure.

Yeshaya: Don’t answer this unless you’re desperate for a Q, because even I’m getting sick of it. But…
How much do you think AB’s latest interview helped or hurt his chances of catching on with some naive team? I figure criticizing an older WR for not mentoring him, criticizing a younger WR for not appreciating his mentoring, and referring to himself in third person aren’t great for rehabbing his image but what do I know.

Alex: I dunno. Maybe a little? I was just surprised he showed up to a commitment on time. I don’t see the Steelers ever bringing him back so a Pittsburgh apology tour probably doesn’t really move that needle much at all.

It’s really about him calming down, not making any sort of social media/media waves, getting cleared by the NFL, and earning tryouts with teams. Put the cameras down, leave the entourage behind, and focus entirely on football. That’s how he gets back into the league and starts turning his career – not to mention his life – around.

Douglas Prostorog: no doubt you have heard Gerry saying that Williams is the better cut than Barron. thoughts?

Alex: I guess he was saying it was more likely. Vague enough for us to struggle to interpret it. Fun. But it would be reckless to cut Vince. I don’t anticipate it happening.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Alex, last season O.J. Howard was rumored to be available at the trade deadline. TE is arguably the biggest team need. He probably wouldn’t come cheap. Would you consider trading #49 overall to acquire him from the Bucs?

Alex: I wouldn’t. I want to build from within. Team hasn’t done that in so long. Literally, more than a decade. Howard struggled last year, has only two years left on his deal (including an expensive 5th year option for 2021). Build from the draft like this team always has. That’s the goal.

Matt Manzo: Hey Alex!
My scouting took a nose dive last year when draft breakdown changed their format. It used to be easy to look at players measurables and then pick videos to watch. The new format isn’t as inviting or easy to scroll through players.
Do you have another site that’s your go to for looking at players that you don’t know anything about?

Alex: You’re right, the well has dried up quite a bit. There really isn’t a “go to” anymore. You just have to hunt around Youtube for cutups and full-games. Fewer of those these days too but that’s your best bet. Just type in a player’s name and “vs” or a particular game like “Iowa vs Ohio State” and hope for the best. Wish I could be more helpful.

David Shoff: Alex, I’m very worried about Ben next year with that elbow. After his surgery and rehab, is it a “you can’t really hurt it again unless you REALLY do something bad, you just have to play through the pain until it gets better” or is it “you are going to have to always take it easy because you could re injure it again” type of thing?

Alex: I wish I knew. You’d have to know the exact nature of the injury, how his rehab is going, the case studies for similar players and how they’ve bounced back. I don’t know what approach they’re going to take. I’m sure they’ll be cautious and conservative but I can’t tell you their specific approach.

Bill Sechrengost: Hi Alex. Out of Conner, Feiler, Heyward, Hilton, Smith-Schuster, Sutton, and Villanueva, who do you think is most likely to sign an extension this off season and who is the least likely?

Alex: Here’s how I’d rank them, Bill.

1. Heyward – They pretty much have to. Sooner than later, even. For one, he obviously deserves it. Two, it will clear up a little bit of cap space they so desperately need.

From here, there’s actually a big dropoff into who is most likely. The rest of the names here may not receive an extension.

2. Villanueva – Slight edge here over Hilton. Played well last year, better than fans remember him for, and obviously has a great case to cash in. Been underpaid for two years now. But it won’t clear cap space so we’ll have to see what flexibility they may have.

3. Hilton – Bounced back last year. But won’t be cheap. Looking at Kenny Moore money (4 years, $33 million). Maybe a little under that but not by much.

4. Feiler – Maybe they can pull a Villanueva and get a below market deal with him.

5. JuJu – On the off chance he wants to do a deal with his value at its lowest point. Really smarter for him to bet on himself with a healthy knee and a healthy Ben. There’s no way he puts up worse numbers than 2019 so why do the deal now?

6. Sutton – I don’t see Sutton’s incentive to do the deal. Log more snaps, hopefully drive up your value.

7. Conner – Just because you can’t make that financial commitment to him given his injury history.

Lukesaenz: What’s your sense of where Gilbert might be at? Any expectation that he’ll see the field on defense at all? What does he need to do to make that happen?

Alex: Obviously wish he didn’t miss the back half of last year with his back injury. But I was impressed and encouraged by everything leading up to then. Had a strong camp and preseason, made the team, impacted special teams and was actually the STs snap leader before winding up on IR.

I don’t know if there’s a plan to see him defensive snaps out of the gate, let’s assume Barron has been cut, but if there’s an injury, and there probably will be, he’ll be next man up. And I think he has the talent to succeed as an off-ball LB.

Anthony Palmerston: Were you hoping for AB to sound extremely remorseful and ask of the team to bring him back? LOL. I was, though I know it’s unlikely 🙁

Alex: I didn’t have any hope or expectation. Nor do I have a desire for a reunion. Talking about AB is just plain exhausting. Honestly.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for stopping by!

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