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Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Welcome back to our weekly Pittsburgh Steelers’ mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind. Hope you’re all staying safe and doing well.

To your questions!

falconsaftey43: Hi Alex, thanks for doing this. Now that Colbert is making some of the media rounds, what’s a question you wish you could ask him right now?

Alex: Who are your options at nose tackle? I know people probably think I’m stuck in 1995 with all the talk but there’s been an overcorrection, a dismissal about the position. Is it less important than it was 20 years ago? Absolutely. But it’s still nearly 1/3 of your snaps, over 300 a season, and you’re in an AFC North that’s run and tight end heavy.

He’s dismissed Wormley as an option, even kinda did for Carlos Davis (though I expect him to ultimately see work there) and I’d love to know if he considers McCullers the front runner or Alualu – the most logical other option on the roster – to be his competition. Because I have no idea where their head is at.

ifihadatail007: Alex, how much does it scare you that our backup ILB are UG3 and Spillane, and that at S we have Dangerfield/Allen? I see quality depth problems in almost all positions, but those two just scare the bejesus out of me.

Alex: Linebacker less so than safety. You do have to stick your neck out for some guys and to me, UG3 is one of those dudes. I was very excited by what he did a year ago until his season was cut short by a back injury. There’s a projection there, dude has never played a snap on defense in a meaningful game, but he’s someone I want to see more. Someone who deserves the chance.

Little different at safety. Much more unknown, guys I don’t have that same optimism for. Dangerfield has played 81 snaps the last two years, started one game, and has really only been used in safety-heavy packages. Marcus Allen couldn’t even make the team last year. He went backwards. So I have big concerns there if something to happens to Minkah/Edmunds.

Chuck Anderson: Alex, can you remind us where the team is cap-wise? Your thoughts about potential veteran pick-ups between now and opening day – who might/should be targeted? I’d rest earlier if they had a safety with any potential whatsoever to back up Minkah in an emergency.

Alex: They are right around $5.8 million in space. Definitely interested in a veteran option at safety or nose tackle but I doubt the team does much into well into the summer. They prefer to go into camp, evaluate their roster, and then make a trade or two that last week of the preseason. So things will probably be quiet for a few months.

Andrew Black: 

Hey Alex,

I like the Brooks Jr. pick, but what’s the difference between him vs Marcus Allen? Who would you consider to be a more of an athlete in terms of the position they’re going to be asked to compete for during camp?

Alex: There’s definitely similarities there. Big hitters, not massive playmakers in coverage, guys who work best closer to the line of scrimmage with some grumblings about a conversion when they got drafted. Brooks is a little squatter, more filled out frame because he’s about four inches short than Allen but in overall skillset, they aren’t radically different. Including athleticism, they seem pretty similar. Brooks might take better angles to the football though. But it feels like they’re competing for the same spot on the roster.

steeltown: Favorite day 3 draft selection not named Dotson… and favorite udfa signing?

Alex: It would definitely be Dotson but if you’re making me go elsewhere, I’ll lean Brooks Jr. just because I think he can be a rock solid special teams player capable of contributing right away. McFarland is the most talented with the most upside though. I don’t think there’s any arguing that.

Favorite UDFA signing? Still need to watch a good chunk of the class but probably Trajan Bandy, the corner from the U. Feisty slot dude. Shades of Hilton. Coatney the DL and Taylor the DE are interesting too. Taylor may wind up converting to OT.

srdan: AK, I think we have a really good and unique receiving corps. You could argue that any of them could lead the team in receiving TDs. Who you got?

Alex: You’re right, you could srdan. I’m sticking with JuJu though. He’ll bounce back in a big way. Playing in the slot helps with some of the red zone looks, Ben obviously trusts him, and despite all the junk he dealt with last season, dude still was tied for second on the team with three scores. But like you said, if it’s Diontae Johnson or someone else, I wouldn’t be shocked by it.

Mr. Goodkat: Is it Snack time yet??? When he inevitably signs a 1-year deal elsewhere, how much do you think he goes for? At his age would you (personally) still be interested in a 2-year deal?

Alex: I really don’t have a pulse on what his market value is. I doubt Pittsburgh would be open to it given his 30+ age. Would I be interested? Maybe. Depends how much of a fall off there was last season. I didn’t pay close enough attention, to be honest.

Andrew Kotlar: 

Good Afternoon Alex,

What’s up with the local medias thought process that there’s no way the Steelers bring Juju back after 2020? I don’t think selecting Claypool affects those odds whatsoever, assuming Juju has a bounce back year this year of course.

Alex: I couldn’t tell you. Not really paying attention to what they say. I obviously don’t agree with that confident of an assessment. Sure there’s a recency bias to it based on how bad last year went for him/the offense but things can change in the other direction just as quickly. I’m confident JuJu will bounce back. Having him and Ben healthy are the keys. Them drafting Claypool doesn’t have a major effect. They don’t even play the same position.

Deonte Manning: 

Alex Kozora,

How do you like our match up with Ravens (and the rest of the division for that matter) now that Big Ben is back, we have an improved defense, and we almost beat them (the Ravens) twice last year? Steelers back to being Kings of the AFC North?

Second Question if you have time:
How productive do you think our offense will be now that Big Ben is back but the offensive line plays like they did last year and Randy Fichtner play calls (not very effective) like he did last year ?

Regards,

Deonte

Alex: The Steelers can compete. Their goal remains unchanged. Win the North. Baltimore will be the favorites, deservedly so and they had an awesome draft but sure, I’m not counting Pittsburgh out in any matchup. Few teams could slow Lamar Jackson down the way the Steelers did.

Well if we assume those things, the line/Fichtner doesn’t improve, then you won’t see the offense’s ceiling (obviously). But having a Hall of Fame QB sure seems to mask a lot of ills your time might have. If the Steelers have a similar defensive output and get the Ben of old back, they’re making the playoffs. Regardless of what Fichtner’s playcalls are.

Christopher Poknis: 90% sure Andy Dalton ends up in New England. If not, think the Steelers will have any interest? Seems like if we are all in with Ben this year we mY need to upgrade with a quality veteran. Your thoughts?

Alex: Nope, don’t think they will. Only time/way they’ll explore a veteran backup QB is if Rudolph looks terrible in preseason and they lost confidence/trust in him. But they believe he’s the guy. So they’re not signing anyone and they’re going to let him play this year to prove if that confidence is earned or not. Won’t find that out if he’s glued to the bench this summer.

Paul Barracliffe: Hi Alex
What do you think of signing Andy Dalton if we could get him on a relatively cheap contract? I have loved Ben for years but he’s 38 and coming off of a injury to his throwing arm. Why is everyone on this site so dismissive of other options? I think that Dalton could be a solid backup and bridge to our next franchise QB.
Thanks

Alex: As I told Christopher above, I’m dismissive of it in the sense that I’m not expecting it to happen unless Rudolph falls flat on his face. I don’t share the same confidence the team has in their QB situation, plan on writing about it in the near future, but I understand the perspective of “we gotta find out who this guy is.” So Rudolph will be given that chance.

On a personal level, I’m more open to Dalton than I am Winston. Winston, even if we was signed, is plagued by the one issue the offense must avoid if Ben were to go down again. Turnovers. All the Steelers had to do was not turn the ball over and let the defense win. And they couldn’t do that. Winston would make more plays but the turnovers are the killer. You need a Batch type who won’t cost you games.

ike evans: 

Yo alex whats up man,

How do you feel about james washington? I feel like his name is being left out, especially now with claypool on board. Even though last year i really felt he stepped up and proved himself as a weapon for this team with…..lets say limited qb play. And also do you see devin bush making the jump this year?

Alex: Hey Ike. Good to hear from you. Doing well, hope the same to you and yours. I agree. Washington took a much-needed step forward last year. Still played well despite the ugly QB situation and the fact the offense really struggled to get the deep ball going. His role should be about the same in 2020, just with much better QB play.

Oh yeah, Bush should and needs to make a 2nd year jump. Going to be the every down ILB. Including dime packages. So he’s the dude, ready or not. But I think he is/will be.


That’s all for this week. Thanks to everyone who stopped by. Stay safe!

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