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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to our weekly Thursday mailbag. Bulk of free agency over as we return our eye towards the NFL Draft. Assuming the schedule doesn’t change, and the league is adamant about keeping things the same, we’re less than a month away.

We’re also here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind. Hope you’re all staying safe.

To your questions!

Spencer Krick: 

Hey Alex,

Are you surprised they haven’t brought in a veteran WR? That room is looking pretty darn young.

Stay safe man.

Alex: No, I’m not shocked by it. Kinda would’ve been nice, maybe something happens after the draft, but there were bigger needs. TE, iOL, much higher up on the list. I think they recognize the talent in the draft class, I think the whole league has and that’s why the WR market has been depressed, so teams feel comfortable waiting. Doesn’t address the “vet” point you’re making but that’s their mindset. JuJu is really a vet on this team anyways.

J Jones: Alex, what are your thoughts on SS Grant Delpit? What ILBs in this draft do you like?

Alex: He’s a pretty polarizing player. High highs, low lows. Lot of debate about him. Safety at #49 shouldn’t be discounted and if he slips, who knows.

ILB class is pretty good. Much better than last year. Day Three guys like Akeem Davis-Gaither (who may go Top 100), Evan Weaver, Joe Bachie who I mocked to Pittsburgh in my latest version, all fit. But guys like Patrick Queen, Davion Taylor, Logan Wilson, Malik Harrison are all guys I’m high on. Harrison especially feels like a Steeler. Being a Buckeye doesn’t hurt my perception, I’m sure.

George Hareras: Hey Alex! Assign a Steelers player to these members of DBZ based of their styles of play or intangibles: Goku, Vegeta, Krillin, Piccolo, Gohan

Alex: Ha, I’m a sucker for a good DBZ question.

Goku – Ben Roethlisberger: You could go Cam Heyward here too. But Goku is the man. The winner, like Ben. And just like Goku, Roethlisberger “died” (missed one season) but he’ll come back better than ever. And just when you count him out, he goes Ultra Instinct and saves the day.

Alejandro Villanueva is also a solid option here.

Vegeta – Bud Dupree: This was a tough one. Trying to think of ex-villain turned (sort of) good. I wanted to go Joe Haden for the former Browns connection, someone who used to be the enemy, but Haden doesn’t have Vegeta’s personality. So I’ll go Dupree. Kinda cocky, comes up short every now and then, but a dude you want on your side. And in Steelers’ fans eyes, has gone from someone you love to hate to someone you love to love (and sometimes hate to love, too).

Benny Snell was under consideration here as well.

Krillin –  Daniel McCullers: Wrestled with this one, too. Someone lovable but kinda meek. That’s Big Dan. A teddy bear. He also has a reverse Solar Flare because he’s so big he could block out the sun. That might be his best attack move.

Piccolo – Cam Heyward: This would’ve been perfect for Ramon Foster but alas. Heyward, the wise one. He also injured his arm a few years ago and I like to imagine him mutating a new one like Piccolo does.

Gohan – TJ Watt: Younger, more energetic with that youthful bliss. But still in awe of his power.

JuJu is Trunks.

Michael James: 

Just doing a walkthemock mock draft and we’re at the Steelers second round pick. You’re Clbert and the following (often mentioned players) are available, who do you take?

D’Andre Swift, RB
J.K.Dobbins, RB
Lloyd Cushenberry III, OG
Jonah Jackson, OG
Shane Lemieux, OG
Solomon Kindley, OG
Cesar Ruiz, C/OG
Lucas Niang, OT
Ross Blacklock, DL
Raekwon Davis, DL
Tee Higgins, WR
KJ Hamler, WR
Michael Pittman, WR
Jeremy Chinn, S
Ashtyn Davis, S
Zack Baun, LB
Jon Greenard, EDGE
Jabari Zuniga, EDGE
Josh Uche, EDGE
Adam Trautman, TE
Cole Kmet, TE

Alex: Lot of options here. I think my top three are…

Lloyd Cushenberry III
Ashtyn Davis
Adam Trautman

Cushenberry would probably be my pick but you could make an argument at any spot, truthfully. Davis is a super interesting player whose sorta slipped through the cracks because he’s been injured in this pre-draft process.

steeltown: 

Hey Kozora, thoughts on the recent XFL signings?

I know they’re generally at best just competition in camp, but are there profiles coming on these players?

Do you know anything about S Tyree Kinnel?

Thanks!

Alex: Not a lot currently. I’ll dig into them in the next couple weeks. Kinnel is actually the one I know the most about. Michigan Man. Tomlin loves those dudes. Box player, big hitter, with very limited ball skills. Marcus Allen-esque.

Walker led the XFL in sacks, though it was just 4.5, not 15, and Jones is a conversion type, former DT at Notre Dame, with great size and length (35 inch arms) to play tackle. Interesting project there.

srdan: Is this the strongest roster we have had since the last superbowl trip?

Alex: Honestly, I’m pretty bad at answering these type of questions. Trying to think back, especially a decade, of rosters. I think we tell ourselves that most years. That *this* could be the year. And it’s reasonable when you have Ben Roethlisberger as your QB.

I’ll just say that it’s a talented roster that has the ability to make a Super Bowl run. Ben Roethlisberger with this defense will be fun to watch.

falconsaftey43: I know you’re against drafting a RB pretty much at all this year. Assuming Conner is not re-signed, are you on board with potentially drafting a RB in round 1-2 in 2021?

Alex: Absolutely. I mean,it would depend on what Snell did, how the depth chart looks, but yes, much more likely to be on-board with RB next year. I draft a RB when I need one. When there’s an obvious hole there. Because they’re the most plug ‘n play types of any position.

Ditto with QB. If Rudolph flops, I’m not opposed to looking at QB again next year. Just not this year.

Jeff Papiernik: Now that ST darling Johnny Holton has been cut, I’m curious as to what you see the WR group looking like on the final 53. Predict if they’ll carry 5 or 6 and who they are. You can use “draft pick,” “undrafted free agent,” and “vet free agent” in place of actual people.

Alex: That’s a really tough call, Jeff, even with you giving me some rope with the “ghost” placeholders. Your locks are:

JuJu Smith-Schuster
Diontae Johnson
James Washington

From there, it’s really up in the air. Total battle for at least two, maybe three spots. But since you’re putting me on the spot…

JuJu
Johnson
Washington
Cain
Draft Pick

WeWantDaTruth: Hey Alex. Where do you see Mark Barron landing? Any chance he reverts back to the Steelers on a lesser deal?

Alex: No, I’m not expecting it unless his market is barren (ba dum tiss) and he wants to re-sign super cheap right before camp or something. Not sure where he’ll end up. May not sign until after the draft. Dude is in his 30s, didn’t have great tape, and the ILB draft class is pretty strong this year, unlike 2019.

Brian Tollini: Much like your Benny Snell premonition last year, if you had to pick 1 player on both offense and defense that “fits the mold”, who are you going with?

Alex: My crystal ball is much cloudier this year with this draft process totally uprooted. I will have a better answer closer to the draft. I didn’t write that Snell article until a week prior, I think. But I am thinking hard about Texas safety Brandon Jones.

JamesinNYC: Antonio Gibson looks like an interesting chess piece, sometimes he is listed as a RB others WR. Thoughts? A bigger version of Chris Rainey or faster version of Samuals?

Alex: I’ve actually talked about Gibson quite a bit. You know I’m not high on the take a RB idea but if you did, a hybrid mix like him (or Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden) is interesting. You keep the size they value at the position with the big-play ability and versatility. Samuels is versatile but not explosive and doesn’t do anything well. So you could get me onboard for that idea, though you’re spending a fairly high draft pick on it. Maybe even #102 in the third round.

Doogie: Could we see something odd like games without fans this year? Its easier to isolate 90 men in a training camp like setting, no outside contact etc.. I suspect we will see attendance fall off no matter what happens.. Long term effects of crisis any speculation?

Alex: Maybe. No one knows. I suppose all options are on the table. But even if you eliminate fans out of concern of large groups, a Latrobe football field has 150+ people on it. And it isn’t exactly the most sanitary or hygienic place in the world.

The long term effects will likely exist. How bad will they be? I couldn’t tell you. Personally, I am just thinking short-term, trying to get through the worst of this, and hope things begin to turn around two months from now.

Douglas Prostrog: current draft needs?

Alex: Not too terribly unchanged from before free agency. TE lowers a bit. That’s about it. Safety, iOL, EDGE, WR, NT, all up there for me.

Douglas Prostrog: another question about the draft. As you know the pandemic has pretty much shut down all of the pre-draft stuff–no visits, no pro days, little scouting other than what has already happened etc. Given this, what if any small school studs that weren’t invited to the combine do you think get drafted?

Alex: Some will still get drafted but you’re right, they’re impacted. Any small schooler, anyone who didn’t get to work out at the Combine, anyone whose injured (no Combine medical rechecks this year), anyone with off the field concerns, all going to be negatively hindered by the lack of action.

Guys like Dugger and Chinn and Bartch will still be drafted and drafted pretty high. But those on the fringe. That guy who may have squeaked into the 6th/7th round, gotten on someone’s draftable board? Now, he may be off it.


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

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