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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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

To your questions!

falconsaftey43: I was a bit surprised that Coatney was the DL to get cut early, I thought that he looked to have some good run stuffing ability. Any idea why it might have been him over some of the other new DL?

Alex: Couldn’t tell you. There’s obviously very little info to go off of. Only thing the team can learn about is how the player learns. If he’s on time, shows up to the Zoom meetings every day, how well he seems to be picking up the playbook. A general attitude that you could reasonably expect to carry over when he shows up in-person. Maybe a weight thing too. Quarantine isn’t always ideal for the big boys up front. But total speculation from me.

Bummer to see him go because he did have talent. I liked Coatney more than I did his teammate Benito Jones. But that is one reason why the Steelers don’t offer base salary guarantees to their UDFAs. You get better talent but also more dead money for players who still don’t have great odds of making your roster.

Bryant Eng: Any info on who is getting what reps and where on the OL?

Alex: Practice is still informal right now. A minicamp/OTA setting. So I’m not sure how much they’re even lining up, I’m sure they’re working as a group in drills, but it’s hard to put much stock into things. Matt Feiler should be starting off at LG like Tomlin said weeks ago. I don’t know who is getting the initial nod at RT. My guess is Okorafor but I really don’t know. Information will be scarce this summer, as I’m sure you well know.

falconsaftey43: Alex, being that you can’t go to camp this year (major bummer for all of us!) and the team site is going to have a little bit of video content of camp, what would you most like for that little bit of video to be of? (even if it’s not likely in reality).

Alex: Major bummer for me, too. I know the team site they will have cameras when the pads come on the 17th but I doubt they’re going to show anything interesting. I would love just to see the 11v11 sessions. That’s where you learn the most, get the closest to a football environment. And you get a feel for who is lining up where, who is running with what group.

But I’ll take anything. Even if it’s just 1v1, WR/DB, OL/DL, some level of info to go off of. Not holding my breath given their tight restrictions during normal camps at SVC.

srdan: AK, how many snaps are you expecting for Buggs. He doesn’t get much love around here, but showed good potential as a rook.

Alex: It’s hard to say. 75 snaps as a rookie and you’d think there would be a natural progression, especially with Hargrave gone. But with Tuitt returning and Wormley in the fold, I’m not sure where the snaps are coming from. Will he even be active to start the year? Leaning towards McCullers getting the 5th and final hat so Buggs may have to wait until there’s an injury. He may come in around the 75-100 snap count again. You’re right; he looked good in limited action as a rookie.

CP72: Alex,
The recent statement that Conner was the worst starting running back in the obviously ridiculous. It did make me wonder if he might be the worst in the division. Chubb, Ingram, and Mixon…. would you take a totally healthy Conner over one of those guys? Not sure I would.

Alex: Right, a silly statement to call him worst in the league. Division though…Chubb is 100% ahead of him. Just a freakier athlete. I’d lean Mixon ahead of Conner too though it’s close. Mixon is just a really good runner behind an ugly offensive line. I would take Conner over Ingram though, if we assume good health. So my order.

1. Chubb
2. Mixon
3. Conner
4. Ingram

To round it out, starting RBs who are worse than Conner…

Devin Singletary
Jordan Howard
Sony Michel
Mark Ingram
David Johnson
Leonard Fournette
Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Austin Ekeler
Miles Sanders
Adrian Peterson
David Montgomery
Kerryon Johnson
Todd Gurley
Ronald Jones
Kenyan Drake
Malcolm Brown/Darrell Henderson
Raheem Mostert/Tevin Coleman

So that’s 17 teams. And that’s looking at them as complete players. Runners, receivers, blockers.

Rick Williams: Hey Alex, hope you are staying safe. How do you see the remaining 4 slots for getting the team to 80 being alotted?

Alex: Hey Rick. Doing well, hope you are too. It’s only three slots now. Arrion Springs was activated from the COVID list and then released. So now it’s just Layne, Washington, and Samuels. Haven’t thought a whole lot about who will draw short straws when they’re cleared. Usually a numbers game in camp. Positions where they have the most amount of depth. Probably a WR once Washington is cleared – Blacknall, Darboh, or Johnson (my guess is Johnson). Maybe a safety like John Battle or ILB like Leo Lewis/John Houston. FB Spencer Nigh’s stuck around past the first wave, not sure if he’ll last through the next set of cuts. Or a CB like Breon Borders. All names that fit.

Douglas Prostorog: Hoping I get this in on time–given that you have 16 PS this year but you have a looming cap problem come next year, do you think they try to stash some guys to develop in the areas they might see losses (OL, CB, DL), or will they just go with the straight approach and keep the vets around as much as possible?

Alex: You tend to naturally get both, even under the old ten man squad, but especially when you have 16 spots to work with. The guys you keep are usually the most talented ones and guys who can help you in the future. Potentially more vets this year with the loosened restrictions but it’s still a max of six of those guys. So you have 10 spots for more traditional young guys. You’re likely to keep one or two of every position on the practice squad to protect themselves if there’s injury or illness. So I think you end up doing both putting your roster together without having to think consciously about the approach you’re taking.

steelers58: Hey Alex,
If a player rests positive for the virus, they have to quarantine for a number of days.
Also have to have negative tests in order to come back.
Do you know if they are given a treatment for covid? Any medications given

Alex: That’s a good question. I’m really not sure. My guess for most players is no. They’re just monitored, in constant communication with doctors/medical staff to see if they start feeling sicker. A lot of these guys are asymptomatic so I imagine there isn’t much of a treatment needed for someone who has the most mild case. The main focus is to quarantine and isolate to prevent the spread.

But obviously, not a doctor, don’t have any inside information over here.

Douglas Prostorog: follow up: how do you see the PS playing out this year?

Alex: Lot of moving and shaking. Players getting called up, shuttled down (sometimes through waivers, sometimes not). The floating 55 man roster that expands during the week. Guys getting cut when there’s depth issue because of injury/illness. It’ll be an eventful year for those guys.

Christopher Pokins: Alex, Everything I read fron national writers is disrespecting the Steelers. From ratings on Madden, to James, JuJu, Cam, and our corners being under rated, it just doesn’t seem to stop. But in the big picture, I’m liking it. Fly under the radar, put a chip on the team’s shoulder. If health holds up, I seen them as this years Titans. Your thoughts?

Alex: I pay as little mind to that stuff as possible. As you said, creates that chip-on-shoulder, underdog mindset which can be helpful. If people want to overlook this team, fine by me. This team is a legitimate Super Bowl contender and I think those who follow the team closely recognize that. And I think some nationally are picking up on that now that they’re seeing Ben throwing again.

Jeff P.: Any renewed optimism for the NFL getting a season in after seeing the MLB get through their first major setback and not folding at the first sign of trouble?

Alex: A little more, I guess, but it’s still unpredictable. The MLB can better work around its delays because they’re afforded a long season in terms of games played and can schedule double-headers. NFL can’t really say the same. But football has the advantage of watching the mistakes baseball’s made and players can see how serious this is, how easily a season can be threatened if they’re not responsible. So that’s hopefully a wake-up call.

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