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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

As always, welcome back to your Thursday mailbag. We’re here for the next hour to answer whatever’s on your mind.

To your questions!

stan: What do you think the chances are for a no-fan hall of fame game? It sure seems like the NFL is going to push forward with it.

Alex: For no fans? Closing in on 100%. That game is coming up quick, almost a month away, and the league needs to make a decision probably by July 1st. I think there’s a pretty good chance they cancel the game altogether. Put those odds around 75%. They’ve cancelled it before for far less important reasons.

My best guess in this ever-changing landscape is that fans won’t be allowed at preseason games (which will be cut to two games, cutting down on travel as the chief reason why) and 50% capacity to begin the year at regular season games. That’s where I think we stand today. Of course, what the world looks like in a week seems to be a total dart throw at this point.

treeher: Alex, how can the Steelers possibly afford to pay Heyward, Watt, and Roethlisberger? Seems like Heyward is primed for Donald/Lawrence/Buckner territory. Watt will be a huge contract.

Alex: Valid question. As Dave always talks about on the podcast, you can always massage the cap. Can always make the numbers work. We’ve had this discussion many times before about past superstar players. And you keep them by prioritizing them. Not a financial answer, I know. But you re-sign them and let lesser talent go. This roster is full of free agents after this season and they won’t keep everyone so they can do things like re-sign Heyward and Watt.

I’m also not expecting the cap to fall off a cliff like some think it will. Stagnation in the cap still presents a problem but not as severe of one. And it will bounce back in future years, which certainly helps.

Sdale: Alex, how do you see the ILB job shaping up this year? Will Vince only be a 2 down player and Gilbert comes in? I realize that would have a lot do do with how Gilbert plays in pre-season. OR, will Vince be a 3 down guy for the first part of the year and we live with his limitations (I bet he can still get after the QB on passing downs).

Alex: A good question. The easy part to answer is Bush will be the every-down linebacker. Base, nickel, dime, he’s a 100% snap kind of guy.

From there, it’s less obvious. As much as I’m optimistic over UG3, he doesn’t have a role on the defense right away. Vince will definitely play in base, just as he did last year. And you don’t need a second ILB in dime. The question becomes what happens in nickel.

I think Vince will play nickel in more conventional situations, like on 1st and 10, 2nd and 4, but I could see Edmunds sliding down in some more pass-likely moments. Where a team is behind and trying to catch up or against a team with more athletic TEs. So essentially dime defense with someone like Sutton playing the SS role but not coming down into the box much and playing deep center/deep half. I don’t believe Williams will ultimately play 700 snaps like he would as a full-time base/nickel linebacker.

George Hareras: 

Rate them: Hey Arnold, Doug, Rocket Power, Rugrats

When you were a kid lol

Alex: Hey, I’ll watch them now if I come across NickToons, though it’s been awhile since I’ve seen any.

1. Rugrats. Top three are close. But Rugrats has still kept its charm today. Unless you count All Grown Up which was the hot trash we all knew it’d be.

2. Hey Arnold. Is Arnold one of the more underrated lead characters in a TV show? Bold statement, I know. Also I relate to Stoop Kid much more than I should.

3. Rocket Power. Used to be on every morning at Nick as I was getting ready for school. Solid show.

4. Doug. This was a little before my time (born in ’93, show originally ran ’91-94) so I never got into it. Watched a couple episodes and outside of Patti Mayonnaise, I don’t remember many parts of the show.

hdogg48: 

Alex…..

What player do you see LEAST LIKELY to stay healthy
for all 16 games…..Tuitt or Conner?

Alex: Hard to be super confident about either but definitely going Conner. History + nature of the position. Tuitt has tended to have one serious injury. Conner always dealing with something nagging. But I think you have to expect either missing which was one reason they traded for Wormley and have drafted so many RBs since taking Conner.

And if I’m Pittsburgh, I’m not going to be malicious about it (of course) but I’m running Conner until the wheels come off. He gets to play, build up his value, and I’m probably not signing him after the season. Make him the guy, because he’s easily the most talented back on the roster, and roll the dice.

gjinn: Hi Alex, hope you’re keeping well. Quick question – if the Jets were willing to trade Jamal Adams for next year’s 1st, would you do the deal?

Alex: Doing well, hope you are too. From a value standpoint, a 1st for Adams, heck yes. Planning for the Steelers to be picking pretty late in the draft and I’m all for being aggressive in these last few Roethlisberger years.

The concern is the financial side of things. It would take a long talk with Omar Khan. Adams is on the last year of his rookie deal before the hefty 5th year option. With the cap uncertainty, talking about keeping Heyward/Watt, etc, all the other FAs you want to try and retain…it gets complicated. So I’d have to see how that impacts those plans and future. If I could still keep the core intact (say, JuJu, Sutton, and one other FA along with Watt/Heyward) while trading for Adams, yeah, I’d do it.

falconsaftey43: Do you know anything about the Steelers and Eagles swapping franchises in 1941? All I can find is like once sentence on the hall of fame site’s Eagles page. Someone mentioned it in a comment here recently, sounds like it could be a cool story.

Alex: Yes, I’ve read up on it and it is VERY confusing. I still can’t figure out the details of the supposed sale. It was a swap with a man named Alex Thompson. Even Dan Rooney, who talks about it in his book, remained confused by how it was supposed to happen.

Our David O wrote about it awhile back. Worth checking it out – he understands it better than I, to be honest.


That’s all for this week’s mailbag. Thanks for stopping by everyone. I’ll answer any other questions that come in later in the comments below.

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