Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome to another edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ mailbag. Hope you are all staying safe and have a fun, July 4th weekend. Please come back next week with the same number of fingers as you have now.

We’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

MoreRingsThanYourTeam: I KNOW they played in different eras. But Mel Blount or Rod Woodson? Also, I have haunted memories of that time Peyton Manning ALMOST threw a pick in that playoff game a few years back where it all went to hell. Emmanuel Sanders turned into defensive back of the year and batted it down when Willie Gay almost intercepted it. We would have won the game if he intercepted that ball. What play haunts you that some would consider small and insignificant?

Alex: Thanks for the question. It was starting to feel empty in here, ha.

Like you said, it’s tough to compare the eras. But I gotta go with Blount. He literally changed how CBs were allowed to play, the five yard chuck rule because WRs just couldn’t separate against him downfield. He was so good the league had to change its rules for receivers and offenses to be better. That’s nuts. Plus, Blount never wore a Ravens’ helmet. Point to the man in the Cowboy hat.

Good question about those “small” plays. Nothing jumped immediately to mind.

It’s not a small play, but a bit of a forgotten one these days. Fitz Toussaint’s fumble vs Denver in the 2015 AFC Divisional Game (I think the same you’re referencing). Steelers were up 13-12, ten minutes left, fourth quarter, and driving. On the Broncos’ 40 when Toussaint coughed the football up. Denver marches down the field off the turnover to take the lead.

If Pittsburgh gets points there, I think they win that game. And at least play in another AFC Title Game, even if the Patriots (probably) would’ve sent them home again. But who knows.

Christopher Poknis: Hi Alex, I’m a diehard Steelers fan. During this COVID-19 experience I’ve been looking forward to football season. But I’m now starting to think for the reputation of the sport it may almost be time to cancel the season. What is a team to do if many players test positive during the season? Will we see teams forced to forfeit? What it everyone in the QB room gets it? Signing a QB off the street? Best teams may not play in the Super Bowl, just the teams that stayed COVID-19 free. Do we really want an * next to a super bowl victory? Your thoughts?

Alex: All important questions I wish I had the answer too. It’s what I wrote about a few weeks ago. Check out the article that asks those difficult, unprecedented questions.

But these are realities the NFL and sports world are going to have to deal with. We will see a rise in positive cases, if for no other reason than the around-the-clock testing the league’s going to do. How will teams handle that? How will the NFL handle that? Expanded rosters only get you so far.

These are all massive hurdles and I don’t have the correct answer for you right now. No one does. This will change the landscape of the season for the worse.

Short answer. Who knows.

draframe1: Hi Alex,
I know we havent even started the 2020 season but looking ahead name your starting OL for 2021. The potential FAs losses makes things interesting!

Alex: Whew, what a tough question. You’re right, so many potential free agents. Villy, Feiler, Banner, who knows what happens to someone on the roster. Group getting older. Here’s my wild guess. Please be kind and don’t hold me to it.


Dotson’s ready to step in for 2021, kicking Feiler back out to RT (who signs an extension). Banner is playing elsewhere, hopefully on a big-time deal, and it wouldn’t shock me if Villanueva retired earlier than we think. Dude will be 33 in September of 2021. Even if he keeps playing, he knows his worth and won’t take another deep discount as a free agent as opposed to exclusive rights before, which hurt his leverage.

Now, if Okorafor can’t even be the RT this year, then you’re probably looking out-of-house for a LT this upcoming offseason.


Hey Alex, is there somewhere online you can access all/most old NFL media guides that you know of?

I started thinking about NFL coaching trees, and wanted to look into why Tomlin doesn’t have much of one (I have my hypotheses). I’m probably going to compare to Belichick. I started using wikipedia, which seems pretty reliable, but doesn’t have many of the coaching assistants on there.

Basically I think Tomlin has (for the most part) hired a lot of career NFL position coaches, while Belichick has given a lot of guys their first NFL jobs.

Alex: Old ones? I couldn’t tell you. You’d have to hunt for them individually, I imagine and probably wouldn’t find them all. I have a 1984 paper copy Steelers’ media guide if you want that, lol. Here’s a link to all current media guides, though I imagine that’s not what you’re looking for.

It’s a fair question. Tomlin’s tree is pretty limited. Who is the most successful coach he’s brought into the NFL? Harold Goodwin? I know there’s Arians but he wasn’t some young kid Tomlin hired (and then pretty much got pushed out).

Some of what you’re saying is probably true. Especially early Tomlin. Ken Anderson, Larry Zierlein, Kirby Wilson. But it made sense. He was the youngest coach in football with even limited coordinator experienced. Smart to add a lot of NFL vets around him.

These days, you’re seeing him give a lot of first-time NFL jobs. Porter, Bradley, Faulkner, Sarrett, Olsavasky. So as Tomlin’s gotten older and he’s the vet, the roles have reversed. You want some younger, fresher faces from the ever-changing college game to work with these young dudes. That’s my theory anyway, even if it doesn’t fully answer the question of why his tree doesn’t have much fruit.

JamesInNYC: Alex, Christian Scotland-Williamson has been on the taxi squad for couple years now so there must be something worth watching any chance he actually makes the real practice squad or even the team?

Alex: He improved from his first year in 2018, which was expected, but remember he was exempted a spot through the NFL’s International Pathway Program. So he wasn’t taking anyone’s spot by being here during the regular season. Now, I believe he’s no longer eligible.

We wrote about him not too long ago. 53 seems tough to crack. Practice squads being expanded help his odds but Kevin Rader, the dude he’s competing with, is a better blocker. CSW needs to make some catches inside stadiums. Has one for five yards in his two years as a Steeler. He’s hurt even more by the preseason getting cut in half. Those young/new/fringe guys really get the squeeze with everything going on.

The Tony: 


What’s your ” Go To” at a 4th of July BBQ?

Alex: Nothing fancy. Burgers, hot dogs, and you can’t go wrong with corn on the cob. ‘Merica.

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