Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your weekly mailbag. Pushing this up one day because I’m not positive if I’ll be around tomorrow or not for your normal Thursday edition. So apologize this being posted out of schedule. But we’ll be here for the next hour to answer anything and everything on your mind.

To your questions!

Pghomer: Well a kind of big news day. Since I’m first I may try to ask 2 questions.
1-I asked this in the M Jones profile kinda…Why do you think there is such a differing opinion on Joe Burrow (#1pick) and Mac Jones coming out of college? The differences seem minor at best. Is it simply the lack of hype? I’m trying to figure out why I view Jones as a RD #2 type QB and Burrow a #1 pick guy?
2-Would you: A-Roll it back with Ben for another year? B-Save the $$$ and go with Mason R? C-Trade for your franchise QB? and if so who? Would you try to get Wentz if it doesn’t cost you more than a #2 this year and some sweetener?
Thanks for all you do.

Alex: Ha, yeah, turned out to be a very busy day.

1. Jones sounds like he’s going to not only go in the first round but go high. Potential Top Ten, even maybe Top Five I’ve seen in some mocks/projections. So from that standpoint, he’s not too far off from Burrow land. Maybe some of it has to do with it being a weird college season. In a normal year without schedules being disrupted and the whole college football landscape not feeling so weird, Jones would’ve gotten more hype. It’s also a really talented class this year. Granted, last year’s was good too. But I think most people expect Jones to go, at worst, in the top 20. Not as a Day Two guy.

2. I would roll with Ben for 2020 but also begin to aggressively search for his replacement. Basically assume that 2021 will be his final year with the team.

CP72: AK,
You’ve mentioned you like Mac Jones. How far would you be willing to go up and get him? Top 10? Top 15? From the Devin Bush deal we have a pretty good idea of the cost of getting to 10.

Alex: Those questions are always tough to juggle until you’re in the situation. What are you having to give up? We can look at a trade value chart and project but we know the draft is art not science. Teams aren’t beholden to what a chart says.

To try to answer the question, yes, I would look and be willing to move up into the Top 10/15. If you think the guy is the guy, the potential franchise heir, it’s impossible to overpay if you’re right in the end. No one cares about giving up a future 1st and couple of 2nds if you have the next big thing at QB.

I would absolutely trade the haul it took to get Bush (a second and future 3rd) to draft Jones.

Douglas Prostorog: slow day today apparently so I’ll kick things off: To get a potential franchise QB in the first, the Steelers will need to trade up. So a twofold question: (1) Which one of the “within the realm of possibilities”–Jones, Trask–is worth making that trade? and (2) which would you rather have–a potential franchise QB or just a nice solid first round pick at 1:24?

Alex: Jones. Definitely not moving up for Trask and you probably wouldn’t need to anyway. I wouldn’t take him at #24. Not sure where I come in on Trey Lance yet.

For a team whose about to need a franchise QB, I’m rolling the dice and going with him. Go big or go home. It’s not like Colbert’s going to get fired over doing it anyway. He’ll be out the door before the Steelers probably even know for sure if it’s the right pick or not.

Sam S: Hi Alex, big fan. Hypothetical in that jj watt is a member of Steelers along with heyward, tuitt, alualu, tj and highsmith. If you’re Keith butler what do you do to be creative schematically to create headaches for defenses?

Alex: That’s a good question, Sam. I haven’t thought about it too much because I don’t really see it happening. Do you run more 4-3? How does that hurt Watt though? How much does it changer your scheme, your flexibility, ability to blitz. You want to get your best players on the field and a ROI but I’m not really sure how you make it work.

Douglas Prostorog: Ok, another one: what cheap free agent center (current or likely to become) do you expect the team to sign to replace Pouncey for a year? Finney is the obvious one of course but are there others?

Alex: Finney is the obvious name I’ve circled. There are others, guys like Ted Karras, but I haven’t studied the FAs too much yet. Hope to before the league year starts.

Matt Manzo: Happy Thursday Alex!
Have you had the chance to study the 2020 Steelers run game? Anything stand out as to why we were so bad?
And with Pouncey retired, are you prioritizing Center over any other Oline position in the draft?

Alex: When it’s as bad as it was, and it was every bit of that, it’s everything. To me, the run game starts with the offensive line so that’s where I put the bulk of the blame. Guys not winning at the POA, not sustaining their blocks, looking worn down by seasons end. Not communicating well enough up front, blocking breakdowns, too many LBs running free at the 2nd level. But you can blame backs for not creating enough, not always hitting the hole, etc.

In terms of center/tackle, it just comes down to who is the best player for me. If it’s a tackle, it’s a tackle. Center, go center. It sounds like the team is more confident in their OT situation than center so maybe they’ll lean more along the interior.

srdan: If Mason starts 16 games next year, and we have a mediocre(improved) run game, what’s a realistic record?

Alex: In a rising AFC North and a defense that’s likely to be the same/slightly worse? Eh, nothing pretty. 7-9, probably.

Brian Tollini: Does keeping Ben for another year because he gives us our best chance to win now AND drafting a QB round 1 seem to be conflicting directions? Is Colbert in win now mode still or has that ship sailed and we need to draft for the future? If so, bringing 7 back seems conflicting.

Alex: Not really. It’s the natural course teams take. At some point you have to prepare for the future. It’s why the Packers drafted Jordan Love (and Aaron Rodgers way back when), why the Pats took Jimmy G, why the Ravens took Lamar, heck, why Washington took RG3 and Kirk Cousins in the same draft. You don’t want to be in a spot where you feel like you have to take a QB that year and there’s a benefit to not forcing that guy to play right away even if plenty of rookies have shown they don’t need to sit for a season. So at some point, you gotta try to split the difference.

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