Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to the Thursday mailbag. Here to answer your questions for the next hour. Whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

WeWantDaTruth: Hey Alex! I’m hoping we can fill Bush’s ILB soot with players already on the roster. But if we had to swing a trade, who would you target and why?

Alex: I haven’t studied really any name in-depth but the most logical option on paper is Detroit’s Jarrad Davis. He checks all the boxes the team looks for.

High pedigree? Check. Former 1st round pick out of Florida. The Steelers were at his 2017 Gators’ Pro Day and brought him in for a visit that year. They tend to circle back to guys they did extensive, pre-draft homework on.

Athleticism? Check. Respectable 4.62 40 with a 38 inch vert, 10’9″ broad. Good enough size at 6’1, 238. Similar frame to Vince Williams.

And he’s probably available. He has struggled in Detroit, there’s no getting around that (if he was playing well, he wouldn’t even be an option). Davis’ snap count has been cut from around 55%-65% the first two weeks to around 20% the last three. He’s in the last year of his rookie deal and had his 5th year option declined so the Steelers wouldn’t have to worry about that. Cheap rental that can be had for probably a 6th round pick. Maybe a 6th the Lions throw in their 7th too.

I think the team will evaluate what they have for at least a week, that’s the prudent thing to do, but if you want an outsider name, Davis is the guy.

CP72: AK,
What’s your take on JuJu? Know he has a pretty big first week, but hasn’t lit up the stat sheet since. I’ll concede he does other things well and is a good teammate, but is it time to quit pretending he’s a bona fide #1 receiver?

Alex: I never got too caught up in the label of #1 vs #2, etc, unless you had a super obvious guy like AB. It’s fair to say the offense doesn’t have to run through JuJu but it’s fair to say this offense doesn’t *have* to run through anybody. The pendulum in this offense will swing from guy to guy, week to week. He’ll have games like Week One where he’s the star and games like last week where he is an afterthought. That’s true of all these guys.

Brian Tollini: Obviously losing Bush is a blow to this defense, my question is, how does this effect us strategically when we play Lamar and The Ratbirds?

Alex: It’s another challenge, for sure. Not that Devin Bush alone could stop Lamar’s running abilities. The idea of “just spy him” doesn’t work when Jackson can make anyone miss 1v1. Even a guy like Bush. But yeah, how much you crash an OLB and expect Bush to scrape over the top to replace, some of that could change. You’re facing all these mobile QBs. The AFC North alone has three of them – Jackson, Burrow, Mayfield. That’s just another problem you have to deal with now. I don’t have a great answer for how you solve some of that stuff. Not with just one guy or one idea, I can tell you that.

Chris: Hi Alex, why do you and others think that’s it’s a forgone conclusion that Bud won’t be back? Don’t they have another Franchise tag and also. Simple moves like letting AV and Vince walk this year and moving on from Haden next year to sign Watt. What you say? I think Bud will be here next year at least.

Alex: Because of the price tag. He’s even more expensive than JuJu. A lot more. The tag is going to be what, $18 million plus and I don’t see them doing it again. I think Dupree gets $20 million+ on the market. And that’s just going to be too rich knowing you’re paying Watt MEGA money later in the summer. He’ll get around $30 million per year. And letting your guys walk and even some of those cuts you mentioned may not to the trick. Unless you gutted your roster, let everyone walk, and hope the cap comes in higher than the floor, I just don’t see it happening. As much as that sucks.

Alex Kuhn: Saw Justin Layne get some playing time! Was there anything to glean from it about his future?

Alex: Good eye, fellow Alex. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot to learn from. Only three defensive snaps, all three in dime packages. But if Mike Hilton misses this week, that could open the door for a couple more snaps, though this defense will be in base and nickel a lot more against the run-focused Titans.



How many touches do you envision Derek Hunter
getting on Sunday?

Alex: Assume you mean Derrick Henry? He’s their workhorse. So I know some of that is determined by game flow and circumstance and the Steelers’ ball control offense has been excellent but Henry is going to get his touches. He’s averaging over 26 touches per game. I’ll put him slightly below that and say 24. 21 carries, three receptions.

JamesinNYC: Any chance UGIII jumps ahead of Spillane in a week or two if Spillane proves to be too slow?

Alex: Anything is possible. We’re in a lot of unknowns right now. Marcus Allen could also get that look. But I think Spillane will have a role the rest of the season. Playing on run downs. Maybe they mix things up in sub-package, and they still could and probably will do some of that this week. But sure, everything is subject to change. You’re trying to replace a great talent and a whole lot of snaps. Hard to do with one guy.

The Tony: 

Are the Ravens able to use the franchise tag on Ngakoue after the season or is there anything that prevents a team from using the tag on a player that was brought in during the season?

Also is Judon and Ngakoue the second best tandem of edge rushers in the league behind Watt and Dupree or is there another team that ranks ahead of them? I can’t currently think of any

Alex: To my knowledge, they can tag him. We’ll see if they do. And if they don’t, then they’re going to get a comp pick for him. Good move by the Ravens for the present and future.

Are they the second best tandem? I’d have to rack my brain. Lot of injuries in football that are impacting that ranking right now. Bosa/Ingram in LA, Nick Bosa out in SF. Garrett/Vernon is a pretty good pairing in Cleveland, too. But Judon/Ngakoue is pretty good.

Vance Mac: Is there any contributing factors to how well someone recovers from a torn ACL? Jaylon Smith tears his, he’s now pro-bowl player. Eli Rogers tears his, and pretty much ended his career.

Alex: That’s a question better suited for Dr. Mel, I’m sure. Some of it has to do with how you were viewed prior to your injury. Smith was a sure-fire first round pick. Still ended up getting drafted high. Those guys get a lot more chances than an Eli Rogers/fringe player who gets tossed out when there’s an injury because they’re deemed replaceable or the team moves on from having them in their plans.

Smith, from what I’ve gathered following Cowboys’ fans, hasn’t played very well this year. For whatever that’s worth.

falconsaftey43: Anyone on the team really surprise you so far this season? For any reason, just not what you thought they were going to be/do.

Alex: I know we discussed Alualu in the offseason and how he could replace Hargrave at NT. I warmed up to the idea after rewatching his 2019 run snaps but I didn’t see him playing *this* well either. The rookies as a whole have been impressive given the circumstances. Claypool, Dotson, even a bit of Highsmith. Dotson’s probably the biggest surprise out of that group. And Chuks has really filled in at RT well. Went from him losing the battle to open the year and wondering if this was it for him to Okorafor now being a candidate to flip to LT next season if Villanueva walks.

stan: I’ve been checking the site all week for news of how we’ll fill the roster spot once Bush goes on the IR, but it hasn’t happened yet. Why do you think that is? Even if they’re holding out some hope that Bush can return, he’s going to be out 3 games at a minimum right?

Alex: Good question. Wondered myself why it hasn’t happened yet. But I assume it is. I can’t see a scenario where he’s returning this year. Even for a Super Bowl. This isn’t Rod Woodson 2.0. I imagine the move will happen by Saturday.

srdan: We always talk about Ben as a sure hall of famer. I think he is. How do you explain him only winning the team MVP once?

Alex: Because he’d win it every single year otherwise. Including – and especially – last season. I think everyone recognizes the value of a Hall of Fame, franchise QB. So you spread the love around to someone else. So Roethlisberger doesn’t have his 16th trophy to add to the case.

MoreRingsThanYourTeam: I keep telling my friends who also happen to be Steelers fans that they haven’t really opened up the offense and I feel like they’re treating Big Ben like a second year player. What’s with all the short routes and rpo slants in this playbook right now?

Alex: Sometimes that’s based on what a defense is doing. If they’re playing two high, taking away things vertically, it’s hard to throw the deep ball. Take what they give you is the old saying. And until the Browns game, the deep ball wasn’t working well. But you saw against Cleveland, who played things aggressively, the Steelers aired it out deep. So hopefully that continues.

That’s all for this week. Thanks guys!

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