Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your weekly Thursday edition of the Steelers’ Mailbag. We’re here for the next hour to answer anything and everything on your mind.

Quick survey for those who have listened to the first few episodes of our Terrible Take. Do you like the format? Anything we could improve on? Let me know your feedback in the comments below, too.

To your questions!

Jake Sas: With Ben freeing up the space, where would you like to see them use that space: oline, Hilton, Dupree, JuJu or other?

Alex: Not to be a downer but it’s not like Ben’s new deal is going to open up all these new doors for the team. Ben’s new deal basically gets them cap compliant. They still won’t have a ton of space. They can’t sign Dupree to a mega contract because of what Ben did. So I’m really in the same camp before. Hilton and Dupree are likely gone. JuJu could return, Ben’s deal increases those chances, but his odds are still higher he hits free agency. My goal is to bring back Sutton/Feiler/Alualu/Banner/Berry/Wormley. Something like that.

Butoful30: Any new on where Steelers rank now in cap space available in regards to the rest of the league?

Alex: Saw this graphic this morning.

So this basically puts the Steelers at zero cap space. Which is still bottom third in the league.

Brian Tollini: 

Hey Alex, hope all is well. Let the Big Ben Farewell Tour begin.

Removing the salary cap and draft position from the equation, which of our RFA’s and which player from this draft class would give us the best chance to win a SB in 2021?

Alex: They only have two RFAs: Adeniyi and McCloud. Both could come back but probably not under the original round tender. $2.6 million to pay that and that’s too much for those guys given the Steelers’ cap situation.

Your second question is pretty broad. But upgrading the run game will make this offense more efficient. So a starting center and running back, two areas I think they’ll address early this April.

stan: I was very interested to see that Ben only restructured this year’s deal instead of signing an extension. What do you make of that? Do you think that either the Steelers or Ben wanted the chance to start fresh elsewhere next season? I expected some voidable years rather than a pure reduction and deferment of pay. Have you ever heard of a player simply dropping his salary and deferring it like this? I thought this was a pretty big gift from Ben. Lastly, if you could sign Mason Rudolph to a low based/ incentive-laden deal right now with the promise that he’s the first choice to take over in 2022, would you do it? I’m talking like 2 years, $2M base per year and $10M per year if he’s the primary starter.

Alex: The deal does have voidable years. Four of them through 2025 that will void after this season. Click that link for details. I know the first initial details made it sound like just a deferment but there’s more to it than that. They basically explored every avenue of getting Ben’s cap number down. Pay cut, deferment, and voidable year extension.

I wouldn’t sign Rudolph because I don’t think he’s the guy. But the Steelers probably feel differently. They may do that type of deal assuming 2021 is Ben’s final season. Which based on this contract, it sure looks like it.



Hope you’re doing well. Pouncey’s snaps were an on-and-off topic of discussion for a good while. The issue became most apparent (to me) in ’19 with Rudolph and Hodges in. Same year, Ben suggested Pouncey had been dealing with this for a while, but that he (Ben) could sort of cover for it, presumably because of their rapport. Two questions:

1) Any idea how far back Pouncey’s snap issues were present on a recurring basis? Ben’s comment suggested a lengthier history than I think I realized, but maybe I read into it too much.

2) Any theory how/why the issue first evolved and then persisted? Ingrained technical flaw that was hard to fix? Something addressable via practice that just wasn’t? OL coaching — Sarrett or Munch — not working with the player to address it? Something else? Not trying to slam Pouncey now that he’s retired. Just an issue I’ve been curious about for a while.

Alex: All good questions, Matt. I probably don’t have sufficient enough answers. It really didn’t feel like it was a serious issue though until 2019. Maybe Roethlisberger could sense something before then.

I couldn’t tell you the why. Maybe it was a Yips thing like Steve Blass. So much of that is mental. Sometimes I felt like Pouncey’s snaps were be more erratic when he was either covered head up by a nose tackle or he had to pull or reach block. That’s what happened in the Wild Card game against the Browns. He was trying to get the ball away so quickly so he could reach the 3T that his snap went wild. Of course, that was happening throughout his entire career. That wouldn’t be new to him.

Or maybe there was an injury. Something with his hand/wrist/elbow that was causing a problem with control just as it would with a pitcher in baseball.

Finally, there’s a numbers game to it, too. The Steelers are throwing more than ever and are in shotgun more than ever. More snaps like those = more chances to screw up.

PainisOrange: Are there any players that have been cut/ you believe will be cut that may be solid pickups for the Steelers in this ensuing cap massacre?

Alex: Mentioned a couple names already. WR Golden Tate, C Nick Martin, TE Josh Hill from the Saints would be a fine #2/blocking option. And I still expect Finney and Jesse James to get cut by the Bengals and Lions before the new league year begins, too. Sure more cuts will be coming – flood of them expected because of the cap situation.

SteelDodo: Hi Alex,
How comfortable would you be with Spillane starting as buck next year? If Vince is cut, it seems like everyone in the ILB room is a small, Mack type backer.
With the way offenses are getting smaller and faster, does our defense still need a big, buck?

Alex: That’s sorta the way the league is going. Guys getting smaller, needing to cover. As you’re saying. But I still love guys who play the game the way Vince does, there’s obvious value in that, so it would suck to see him get the ax. But that’s looking like a real possibility to free up a couple extra million.

Brian Tollini: If cutting Haden equated to retaining Sutton and Hilton, should they do it?

Alex: Yes. That’s about the only way/reason I would cut Haden.


Even with the Ben restructure it’s an ugly cap situation. I’m giving 6 million in free agency to spend (and that might be close to the real number), what option do you pick

1. Sutton and Banner
2. Feiler, Alualu, and Banner

Gotta figure both of these come near a 6 million 2021 cap hit.

Alex: I can’t lose Sutton and Hilton so I guess I would take Door #1. I think you can still squeeze Alualu in there. I don’t think he’ll cost much and if you have to do a two-year deal, that’s fine. In your outline, re-signing: Sutton, Banner, Alualu, Wormley, and Berry is a pretty realistic way of looking at this thing.

Anthony Palmerston: Javonte Williams or Najee Harris? Who do you like?

Alex: Putting aside where you could get them, player for player, give me Harris. He’s my #1 back. Not much he can’t do.

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