Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your Thursday edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer anything and everything on your mind.

To your questions!

Banastre Tarleton: With the cap relief difference negligible, why do you believe the Steelers picked Haden over Nelson? Nelson is better at this point of their careers, and younger. Could it be they felt priced out of the market for Nelson when a FA after next season?

Alex: Two reasons, in my mind.

1. Nelson did save more money. Not a lot. But a little more. And this is an offseason where every dollar counts. Freeing up a million from Ben, voidable years, etc. All counts.

2. Leadership. Haden is the leader in the secondary. In an offseason where you’ve lost key leaders like Maurkice Pouncey and Vince Williams, I don’t think they wanted to dump Haden too. Lot of core locker room guys who are moving on.

And maybe they did think Haden was the better player. Or at least on the same level. I think Nelson was better and projected him as such for 2021 with Haden turning 32 but if they thought Nelson was that much better than Haden, they wouldn’t have cut him.

Jacob Herbst: One question I have is what do you think the ultimate deciosn on saying goodbye to nelson was? It makes no sense to make he CB room so thin. I would figure we are going O-line with the first round and more than likely either RB or LB with the second round. I know now with your breakdown (thanks btw) of the cap without any restructures we have about 4 mil left. Will they sign a CB off the market or what? Just confused by the move of juju over a solid and consistent corner. For the record I love juju and am a big fan but I guess we had 4 solid receiver already I felt like.

Alex: For the cap space. Dave and I laid out on the podcast yesterday how much money they needed to clear up, basically $12 million, in order to have room for all the procedural cap moves (draft class, practice squad, in-season money, 52/53rd players on the roster, etc). So you needed to clear up a lot of space. Not going to accomplish that by nickel and diming your way.

But you guys know my thoughts. Don’t like the move. No one should. If it were me, I would’ve done a voidable year extension with Haden, as they did with Ebron (doubt Haden’s saying no, why would he?) and not signing Joe Haeg/Chris Wormley. That saves you nearly as much money as Nelson’s release. And yes, you’re without Haeg and Wormley and that presents its own problems. But do you want your problem to be a backup linemen or your starting corner? Not even a debate IMO.

They may sign a cornerback. But he’ll have to be cheap and the market is pretty thin.

CP72: AK,
Free agency has pretty much ran it’s course. How do you rank the biggest needs on the roster as of right now? There’s just so many spots you can make a legit argument for.

Alex: I don’t think it’s changed too much. Not like they really added anybody and they lost most of their expected guys. They ended up creating new holes at NT/CB, if anything. I don’t know if I have a perfect, clear-cut ranking. I just lump a lot of things into “needs” vs “wants” and then you draft with that as a guide.


Running Back (starter)
Center (starter)
OLB (depth)
TE (depth)
Punter (starter)


ILB (starter/depth)
CB (slot depth, potential starter)
OT (depth)
S (depth)

draframe1: Given the number of holes to fill isn’t this the year among all recent years to trade back?!

Alex: I’ve been barking up that tree for awhile now. I would. Of course, you never know if you can trade back until you’re basically on the clock. So you don’t know what’s going to happen. You have to plan like you’re picking at #24. Teams need to want to trade with you, too. But yeah, moving down and acquiring an extra pick to fill the many, many needs would be pragmatic. For dart throws in a difficult draft process helps, too.

stan: Do you think we’ll ever get the real story behind Steven Nelson’s release? While the Steelers needed to get some space to sign JuJu and also have enough room to sign draft picks, it was shocking that they cut a valuable player to do it, especially since they had other options such as restructures.
And how is it that they couldn’t find any takers for his contract? He’s one of the top-rated corners in football.
This smells like there’s an off the field reason that Nelson is no longer wanted, and the rest of the league knows about it too.

Alex: Always two sides so it’s hard to get the real story unless both sides say the same thing. I doubt the Steelers are going to provide too many details. Maybe a vague reason for it. But I’m pretty sure it was for cap. Based on all the reporting and the math of it all.

When teams know you’re about to cut a guy, they’re a lot less likely to trade an asset. Sometimes it happens, including this year (Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson) but look at Adoree Jackson and Kyle Fuller. Both shopped, both cut, both quickly signed. There was a market for them. Just not a trade market.

Douglas Prostorog: so, odds that we take Freiermuth at 1:24 and if so just how happy will you be?

Alex: It’s hard to put odds on any one player. Especially with the Pro Day circuit not even complete yet. But I think those odds shot up quite a bit after today. Dude is checking most boxes. And they need to draft a TE. So I can see it. Happiness is partially dependent on the rest of their draft, who else was on the board, etc, but I wouldn’t be upset about the idea. You guys know I’ve been screaming about taking a TE early for years now. Would he be my pick though at #24? I’m not so sure.

Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt: Hey Alex do you think the steelers will host Friday night lights this year and if so what date if you know also out of all our departures whose absence will be felt the most and what position do you see them going in the 1st rd and bringing on board through free agency thanks

Alex: No training camp plans have been announced right now. Art Rooney II seemed optimistic they’d head back to Latrobe. But we don’t know what’s going to happen. And even if they do, I doubt there will be any fan interaction allowed. Not even guaranteed fans themselves will be allowed. So Friday Night Lights feels like such an unimportant question right now, no offense. My guess would be no b/c at the high school stadium, you’re packed in tighter than you are at the more sprawling St. Vincent. But one step at a time.

Good question on the departures. Can make a case for a lot of these guys. Could go with Nelson, Dupree, or Hilton. I’ll lean Hilton just in the sense his skillset is so unique, so hard to replace. But all those are big body blows.

Jimbo: It was refreshing to have a top defense for almost a full season, How many years do you think this offseason set them back to be as good.

Alex: We can take a step back and evaluate before the start of the season. But you’re right, this offseason has been a doozy.

Petherson Silveira: In a hypotetical world where Mac Jones, Travis Etienne, Najee Harris, Samuel Cosmi, Teven Jenkins, Jalen Mayfield, Jaycee Horn and Zaven Collins are on the board at #24, Who would you select?

Alex: I called Mac Jones a potential franchise QB so I gotta stay consistent. I’d take Mac.

Ichabod: Greetings Alex, How much dead money is already on the table for next year?

Alex: Dave tweeted out the numbers yesterday. Total? Over $23 million.

Doogie: So what weird new thing never done before is next?

Alex: Wouldn’t be brand new for Colbert but he’s only traded down in the first round just once in his tenure. I could see 2021 being his second time.

That’s all for this week. Thanks everyone!

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