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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to the mailbag. A happy new year to you all. We’re here for one final time in 2020 to answer anything and everything on your mind.

To your questions!

Stone Age Tone: 

Hey Alex, Happy New Year from England!

Please give me your best guess at any coaching changes after the season? No more Randy World surely?

Alex: Happy New Year!

I haven’t thought a lot about coaching changes. Pittsburgh generally doesn’t fire coaches. They just let their contracts expire. Know it won’t make many happy but I believe Fichtner is coming back. Only way he doesn’t is if they promote Canada to OC. They’re not bringing in an outsider with a new system/scheme for Roethlisberger to learn in the final year or two of his career. But my stance has been, as long as Ben’s here, Fichtner’s here.

JohnB: Do you think theyll try to work on keeping Sutton being as hes the best homegrown corner theyve had in a while or is he as good as gone?

Alex: I hope so. Losing Hilton and Sutton would be a massive blow without any obvious in-house options. Sutton will be cheaper than Sutton but his value has gone up significantly the last two years. And I’m sure you’re clued into the cap issues this team is going to have come the offseason, especially if the cap comes in closer to the floor of $175 million. But I’m sure they want to keep him.

GrumpyHighlander: Alex, WTH is up with the other AFCN teams getting COVID issues before they play us.
Cleveland is getting beat up right now.
What are they going to do? Can’t postpone this game!!

Alex: I dunno man, it’s pretty crazy. To be fair, this stuff has popped up all over the league. But I get your point – Steelers always seem to be the team most impacted through no fault of their own. I have hope this Browns’ situation isn’t like Tennessee or Baltimore. More of a contained outbreak. One of their new positive COVID cases was TE Harrison Bryant, who was already on the COVID list. So that’s not a “new” name in that sense.

Expectation is the league will do everything they can to play it Sunday. I haven’t seen anything that says the game is in serious jeopardy of being moved. Of course, we’ve said that before and things can change quickly in 24 hours. So stay tuned.

GrumpyHighlander: Got another one for you! Sitting Watt against Cleveland has some major implications.
He has a solid chance of losing the sack lead impacting his DPOY prospects. He doesn’t get a shot at the Steelers all time sack record.
I think it’s smart but I wouldn’t like it as Watt.
Do you think this decision will lose him DPOY?

Alex: Still viewing him as the favorite. One game isn’t going to change that too much unless Donald blows up and has a four sack game which hey, is possible. It is Aaron Donald, after all.

In a selfish sense, I was rooting for Watt to play to tie/break Harrison’s record. And to also hit 50 sacks in his career. Would’ve been just one of six players to do that in his first four years. But sitting him, assuming that happens (Watt said he hasn’t been told anything yet) is the smart decision. Especially if Adeniyi can play. If Watt goes out there and gets hurt, Tomlin gets (rightly) killed for playing him. And Watt has played a ton this year. He could use the rest.

srdan: So did you have more fun covering the 19 or 20 stillers?

Alex: It was more fun covering teams when there wasn’t a global pandemic. Getting to do things like go to training camp. That’s fun. Sitting at home in July and August was a lot less exciting.

But the 2020 team has been more entertaining. As soon as Ben went down, you knew the season was over. They weren’t winning the Super Bowl. Even at 8-5, you knew they weren’t going to go on a run even if they made the playoffs. And then the way everything came crashing down…not fun. Give me a Ben-led team to give me as much hope for as long as possible.

Steel Paul: 

Alex.. how is it possible for this Seekers team to look so good for 10 games and then like a bottom five team for four and a half games, and somehow come out after halftime and play very good again.

I’ve never seen anything like that in over 40 years of watching sports. What do YOU think?

Alex: Ha, that’s a million dollar question. I’m sure the Steelers wonder themselves sometimes, too. Very Jekyll and Hyde type of team. Really can’t explain it other than “that’s life of being a Steelers’ fan.”

The best answer I can give you is simply sports are weird. It’s hard to win in the NFL, much less be a dominant team. I think if you look at the rest of the league, you see examples of that. Upsets every single week. So some fanbase is scratching their head wondering the same thing you’re asking. We’re just not as invested or focused on what’s going on in another city. The Steelers arguably take this to an extreme level sometimes, there’s always something that’s giving you a heart attack, but that’s what we’ve signed up for.

WeWantDaTruth: Hi Alex. A few weeks back, I asked that assuming Feiler is healthy, should we keep him at LG. Would you still keep him there today, or go with Dotson at LG and kick Feiler to RT? Chuks has underwhelmed, IMO.

Alex: That’s a good question. I’m really not sure. Okorafor has been serviceable, nothing more, nothing less, but I don’t love the idea of postseason shakeups without an obvious reason. When was the last time Feiler even practiced at RT? I get he played there last year and he’s been great at moving around on a whim but there are potential consequences to that.

To me, the question is if Dotson just stays at LG and Feiler’s on the bench as a swing man for the playoffs. That has a good chance of occurring. Dotson has looked better in pass pro than Feiler has this season.

PaeperCup: 

Happy New Years Alex!

Is there any rule or penalty in the game that you find annoying and/or pointless and wish they would just do away with it?

For me its illegal formation on offense. You can some weird argument as to why the tight end can’t be covered up, but what I hate about it is that they let the play run, and don’t assess the penalty pre snap. It’s a free play for thee defense, which I think is pointless.

Alex: Happy New Years!

I guess they let it run because it happens on the snap. You can’t call it pre-snap since the TE could shift. But I hear you.

Less of a rule but I’m annoyed at how few free plays QBs get these days when defenses jump offsides. Get they’re trying to protect the QB but they’ll blow the play dead on a completely clean pocket. Those moments are the best because you know the QB is going to ramp up and chuck it deep on a free play. It’s a fun moment where everyone knows exactly what’s about to happen.

Leveraging the long snapper has gotten kinda silly. I’m all for it. If you can leap onto and over a dude, you deserve to block that field goal.

zbluez1: Alex, using history as a guide in the Colbert era, I just don’t see a Darnold trade, Haskins signing, drafting a RB in the first round, cutting half the defense as cap casualties, etc as possible realities next off season. What for you would be the wow surprise , they got something with that move move, signing both slot corners and TJs extension, 1 of the slot corners, TJ and Bud ? Play the longshot here !

Alex: I think you’re on the money for most of that. Definitely to the Darnold trade. Highly unlikely for Haskins. RB in the first round probably won’t happen but I think they’ll take on in the top four rounds. As early as the 2nd round. Don’t think you’ll see a mass wave of cap casualties on defense either but there are likely to be some on the roster. Even if it’s not on defense. I can’t see someone like Vance McDonald stick around for his price tag.

I’m not sure what the “wow” move would be. We’ll first have to see how much cap space they will/won’t have to work with. That’s going to dictate a lot. Being able to re-sign someone like Villanueva or Hilton would be a “wow” signing I’m not anticipating right now.

MoreRingsThanYourTeam: I know we didn’t see much of him this season, but was Devin Bush making the second year jump? I know we miss that sideline to sideline speed. Something that jumped out on me was during the colts game when Avery Williamson couldn’t get to the sideline during a crucial juncture in the game. Luckily, we still called game.

Alex: I thought so. He did play more than enough to get a good evaluation of him. Especially in coverage, you saw a big jump. For as impressive an athlete as he was coming out of Michigan, he struggled in coverage as a rookie. Saw big strides with him in man and zone coverage before he tore his ACL. That coupled with his knowledge/understanding of the defense, wearing the green dot, were the two biggest areas of growth I saw.

MoreRingsThanYourTeam: Are you scared of meeting the Ravens in the wild card round? There is all this talk about momentum and Lamar heating up.

Alex: I don’t use “scared” for really any team (except for the Chiefs) but the Ravens’ run game certainly worries me more than what most other teams would concern me with. Pittsburgh hasn’t shown they can stop a Lamar Jackson-led attack, even when they take Jackson out of the equation. And this run defense is worse than it was at the start of the year when they had Bush/Dupree.


That’s all for 2020. Thanks everyone! Happy New Year.

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