Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Hello everyone and welcome back to our weekly mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind. Feel free to leave a question in the comments below.

To your questions!

@sbeeghley: with the players now voting on the next CBA, do you see any players such as Pouncey who are vocally opposed to it not playing under the new terms and retiring? #askalex

Alex: No, I can’t see anyone being that extreme. Pouncey is glued to the hip with Ben. They’ve always talked about retiring together and that has a decent chance of becoming reality. After 2021, Roethlisberger will be going on 40 and Pouncey 32, which is pretty old for a center (much less one with the injury/knee history he has). So Pouncey isn’t going to leave his QB hanging because of some hangup with the CBA, though I find the difference in opinion between Foster (who is clearly advocating for this proposal) and Pouncey (who clearly hates it) interesting.

@why_Cliff: mailbag question. If the steelers had cap space like the dolphins have, $88M, as GM Kozora how would you spend it? And if Redskins draft Tua and Haskins is available would you consider a trade for him?

Alex: The second question is easier than the first. No, I wouldn’t. Even if I had all the cap space in the world. I’m not trading draft capital in a QB right now. The focus is on winning with Roethlisberger, winning now. So I don’t have any interest.

To the first, I would definitely chase the top TEs. Hunter Henry, if he doesn’t get tagged by the Chargers, and Austin Hooper, who Atlanta will let hit the market. So that’s a no-brainer. From there, I’m not so sure, other than chasing just some of the top targets. Maybe chase Justin Simmons and pair him with Minkah Fitzpatrick, if you’re letting me dream. Maybe Robby Anderson at WR and infuse serious speed there.

But best of all, that cap space would allow me to retain Bud Dupree and Javon Hargrave and say, go get Hooper. That would really transform this team.

Alex Kuhn: I agree, not the year to draft a QB. Is it next year? Is it the year after? If all goes according to plan, Rudolph won’t take a meaningful snap for two years, and I can’t see the Steelers anointing him the starter at that time…plus, he may be at the end of his contract.

Alex: Yes, I think next year is when you can start considering QB and RB, assuming it doesn’t get addressed in this class. QB is based on Roethlisberger’s health, performance, and Rudolph’s progression (or potential lack of). And RB can move up the rungs knowing Conner is likely about to hit free agency.

None of that is guaranteed but I can see those being more realistic options and considerations 12 months from today.

NickSteelerFan: Alex, I love a good 6’1″, 330 lb NT as much as the next guy! With the attack style defense that the Steelers have been playing recently, could you see them going with more of a 3T-5T and rolling with Big Dan as the 3-4 NT instead? Could you see them going for another 275-305 lb pass rusher instead of a run plugging NT?

Alex: It makes me nervous. Real nervous. It’s a sub-package world but over the past five years, the Steelers are still in base 31% of the time. That’s a much lower amount than 20 years ago but that’s still something. And when you’re in a division with the Ravens (Jackson/Ingram), Browns (Chubb) and the Bengals (Mixon) you better play good run defense. Especially when the weather turns nasty in December and you’re fighting for a playoff spot. And Big Dan just isn’t a starter. Even with improvement in the last two years, he’s never done anything to show that.

The way I approach replacing Hargrave is two-fold. There’s what he offers as a base nose tackle and what he offers as a sub-package player.

As a base tackle, you replace with a mid-round draft pick or a cheap free agent. Run defense is a lot cheaper to pay for than pass rush. So you can find that type of player on the market.

As a sub-package player, you replace him with a returning Tuitt and Buggs heading into his second year. So in-house stuff.

Or you could try to draft a player like Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore who is close to a 1:1 comparison to Hargrave. But those types of players are far and few between and may not be there at #49. I like the other path I outlined, draft/sign run defense, use Tuitt/Buggs in sub, as a more likely outcome.

WeWantDaTruth: Hey Alex. How severe was Pouncey’s injury in game 15? Will he be ready to go for training camp?

Alex: The team never declared what the injury was but Tomlin didn’t include him in players who might need surgery, there’s been no indication he went under the knife, and in the videos he’s posted blasting the CBA, there’s no evidence he had serious work done. So I can safely assume he will be long ready for camp when they report to Latrobe.

Spencer Krick: 

Hey Alex!

Do you think this team will try and make a move for more picks?

Alex: I think it makes a lot of sense. Having only six selections, not being able to even put band-aids on areas of need in free agency, having a lot of holes in the roster that need plugged. But it’s so hard to say. The team doesn’t know and won’t know until it’s that Friday, Day Two of the draft. All depends on the board, who is available, what the offers are, etc. But I’m open to going from 49 to say, 63 and picking up a mid-third round pick. Absolutely.


Alex, who is your favorite back in this draft?

Does UGIII get defensive snaps this year?

Alex: Favorite running back? I’m not sure. There’s a lot of smaller, fiesty guys I respect. Hasty from Baylor. Perine from Florida. But they are squarely Day Three talents.

Yeah, UG3 probably gets snaps. If Barron is gone, UG3 is next man up. Probably won’t have snaps assigned to him without an injury but someone will inevitably go down and the door will be open for him.

Matt Manzo: Hey Alex!
How come no one highlights the player on the profile gifs anymore! All of my scouting is done on my phone. And I have to admit that I don’t read the draft profiles anymore cuz it’s too hard to see which player I’m looking at. When it was you, Dave and Matthew, there was always a marker on the player. But the new guys aren’t doing it. Any chance you can tell em to bring it back.

Alex: Hey Matt! Sorry to hear that. When you say marker, was there a physical marker on the GIF? I know Dave did that but I don’t think I did. Or do you just mean a reference to the player in the text (“he’s the left guard here” “he’s at the bottom of the screen”)? I can definitely do the latter for you.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: 

What’s more likely:

1) The Steelers package the comp pick and something else to move up in the third round?
2) The Steelers move down from #49 and pick up an extra 3rd or 4th?

Alex: Moving down. They don’t have enough draft picks. Remember Colbert talking about last year how he wanted a pair of Day Two picks. He’ll have that – technically – but only barely. That 3rd round comp is basically like an early 4th rounder. So moving back from 49 to get a mid-rounder, say you sit at 63 and like, 94 in addition to having whatever the comp pick is (102-104, probably). So that offers flexibility and options and feels more realistic. But as I told Spencer, it’s hard to project those things until you’re sitting there on Draft Day. This team didn’t know it was going to get Devin Bush until Day One of the draft. So hard to really anticipate those things until you’re right there.

NickSteelerFan: Would you welcome a reunion with NT Al Woods?

Alex: Yes. Cheap, known run defense. I’d be open to it.

Jeff Papiernik: I know you guys are more bloggers than anything, but is there a crown jewel for the Depot in terms of breaking news or something where you guys were cited or ahead of everyone else in declaring something?

Alex: For me, there’s a clear #1. Breaking the news of Le’Veon Bell’s season-ending knee surgery after he tore his MCL. Even got the Schefter-shoutout.

And we hope to keep doing stuff like that. We reported at the Senior Bowl the team was likely to hire an outside coach to fill their WR spot and reported on some of Blaine Stewart’s future. So it’s always part of what we do, even if that isn’t what we’re always known for.

That’s all for this week. Thanks guys!

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