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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to your Thursday mailbag. And I promise I won’t forget to start this one on time like I did last week. Just one more mailbag before the regular season begins. We’re here for the next hour answering anything and everything on your mind.

To your questions!

Michael James: 

Hey Alex, hope you’re doing well.

Which FAs will be retained after the season and which will go elsewehere?

Alex: Many more lost than retained. Here’s my ideal scenario. If the team can retain JuJu Smith-Schuster, Matt Feiler, and Cam Sutton, I consider that a win (plus extending Heyward before this year). That still means losing…

Alejandro Villanueva
James Conner
Mike Hilton
Bud Dupree
Zach Banner

And you can probably keep someone like Alualu or Wormley on a cheap one or two-year deal.

Doing that still seems/feels like a best case type of deal. And it’s still gonna suck. But the NFL will be lucky for the cap to ultimately be flat at $198 million knowing that most teams won’t have fans for the first month of the season and it’s almost certain teams won’t be at full or anywhere close to full capacity by the end of the year. Massive revenue loss.

So the cap stands to be reduced from where it is this year. And that’s going to be extremely limiting. So that’s my ideal scenario. Do that and it’s a win in my book. But this roster will look a lot different – and a lot worse – this time next season.

hdogg48: 

Alex the Steelers have 3 really good players..

One that is always hurt….James Connor
One that gets hurt a lot…..Steven Tuitt
One that is coming of serious season ending surgery….Ben Rotheosberger

If you were a betting man, which one would you put money
on to make it through 2020/21 unscathed?

Alex: I’d order it from most likely to least likely: Roethlisberger, Tuitt, then Conner. Obviously hard to predict for any of these guys, but I can’t see Conner going through this season playing all 16 games. His history and the nature of the position just isn’t a good combination. Tuitt’s had some bad injury luck too but they seem to be a little more acute, a little freakier stuff. And until last year, Ben’s been pretty healthy/available in recent years (45 of possible 48 games played from 2016-2018).

PghDSF: Jerry O been a good coach for awhile. Does he ever get to be a DC in the NFL?

Alex: Maybe. Steelers’ defensive coaching staff has a couple candidates. Dunbar, Austin, Olsavsky. Steelers defense keeps playing like an elite unit, teams will come calling. Something this group hasn’t hard to worry about much over the last five years save for Munchak.

WeWantDaTruth: Hey Alex! Less than 2 weeks before the opener in NY, what is the biggest weakness/hole in this team? For me, our backup QBs don’t inspire much confidence. Will a vet QB be brought in after cuts?

Alex: Backup QB is a fair place to look. No real glaring holes in the roster. Just seeing how Ben looks, how the offense bounces back as a whole, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism.

To answer your question, no, I don’t expect a vet QB to be brought in. They expressed no interest doing so throughout the entire offseason. Not going to change after you just went through camp and you’re a week away from your first game. They’re rolling with Rudolph as the backup, for better or worse. Hope we don’t have to see him at all. Means Ben played well/stayed healthy.

srdan: 

I have three:
In my ppr league I can keep Ekler or Conner. Any insight?

I felt like if this team had a weakness it was teams lining up hat on hat and getting after the defense. Did you see any of that last year, and do you think we could expect improvement in that area?

Is bush wearing the green dot?

Alex: I’d lean Ekeler, especially in a full point PPR.

Yeah, this group was built to throw the ball. To pass protect. But they can run the ball well enough if everyone stays healthy. There needs to be some schematic adjustments, getting players in better positions to win at the 2nd level. Issue with combo and reach blocks last season. Also like moving Feiler inside. That’s gonna help the run game get a push.

Green dot hasn’t been confirmed but my expectation is that Bush will wear it Week 1. No crowd noise is honestly going to help with his communication and leaning on guys like Vince. Bush is the three-down guy so he should get it.

Rick Rineer: Hey Alex!!
I saw that Miami is shopping Rosen. Any thoughts on trading a 4th or 5th round pick to have him compete with Mason for #2?

Alex: None at all. Especially at that hypothetical price tag. I wouldn’t trade anything for Rosen. This QB room doesn’t need more, struggling QBs. It’s not like Rosen has any time to come in and compete right now anyway. Season starts in a week. Best-case, Rosen could really compete in camp next year and by then, he’s on the last year of his rookie deal.

If you’re going to add any type of QB, you add a vet with a semi-successful NFL track record. Not that I expect that to happen.

Andy N: Hi Alex. How would you approach getting a decent kick /punt return game? Is it the returner or the blocking that is holding it back?

Alex: I feel like this team has explored all options at this point. Different returners, different schemes, different personnel as blockers. Nothing has worked. This has been a three-year issue. In the breakdowns I’ve done, the issue has more often been on the blocking than the returner but blame goes to everyone – yes, even to Danny Smith – when you’ve had a bottom five unit three years running.

At this point though, I’d honestly just try to have an electric return man who can make lemonade out of a bunch of lemons. And hope on one or two returns a year, he can make something happen. That’s what it’s come down to for me. I’d love to see McFarland get a look. He could be that type of guy or at least, the best option on the roster.

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