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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to your weekly Thursday edition of the mailbag. Been a busy week wrapping up Pro Days. Apologies in advance if I’m a little laggy in responding to you guys today. May been in some Pro Day Zoom conferences during the next hour. But I’ll be sure to answer everything and anything on your mind.

To your questions!

PaeperCup: Hellllo Alex! In your honest opinion, would you consider it a mistake not to take Mac Jones if available at 25?

Alex: Hello! You guys know my thoughts and feelings on Jones. I think he’s a franchise-caliber type of player. So it’s hard to answer those questions in a vacuum because you don’t know what the rest of the board will look like but if you have that kind of guy on the board, it’s hard not to take him. So I won’t kill the Steelers if they pass (though I don’t think he’ll be there at 24) because I don’t know how they feel about him but yes, I’d take him.

Dan Blocker: Hi Alex! Based on the Steelers creed of building through the draft, would you ever expect to see a scenario with mega-deal, multiple-picks/years from the Steelers in order to land a future QB, or, do you think they’ll more or less let how the cards fall, as to when and how they fill that position?

Alex: Anything is possible. Rules go out the window when it comes to trying to find a future QB. Pulling off those deals are difficult but I’m not going to say it’s impossible if there’s a guy they like enough and believe can transform the team. Because if you trade up for that guy and you’re right and he’s the next Big Ben, nothing you gave up will ever be considered too much. No one cares what the Chiefs gave up to get Patrick Mahomes or the Ravens moving up to take Lamar Jackson. Which reminds me of my favorite Ravens’ draft fact. Baltimore took TE Hayden Hurst before trading up to get Jackson. Pretty funny.

ThisWildcat: Good afternoon Alex,
What are the total number of players under contract as of now? Also, how many players are usually under contract under Colbert as we enter the draft? Does that correlate at all with the number of picks that the Steelers have? This could give us an idea of how many more signings there may be.
Thank you

Alex: Dave tweeted out yesterday they were at 70. I don’t know what number they’re normally at this time of year. Usually they sign between 10-15 UDFAs so it tracks with how they currently stand. Eight draft picks leaves for 12 UDFAs.

A-Roc: Alex who are some of your favorite sleepers in the draft at RB?

Alex: I don’t know if I have any super sleepers right now. Some guys who I think are a little underrated. Trey Sermon and Kenneth Gainwell are two who come to mind. Oklahoma’s Rhamondre Stevenson has great feet for his frame. Chris Evans out of Michigan could become a third down back in the league.

Maryland’s Jake Funk might be my biggest sleeper. Good size, heck of an athlete (comes from a family of athletes) with big-play ability and tested well at his Pro Day workout.

stan: What do you think is going on with Villanueva? He’s only a year off the pro bowl and a first class guy off the field, yet he isn’t getting much attention? You can make a good case that he’s on the downside of his career, but quality left tackles are hard to find and generally well-paid even when they’re old. Andrew Whitworth kept getting huge deals at the end of his career for pete’s sake.

Alex: Yeah, I’ve been surprised by it. Tackle market hasn’t been great for whatever reason. Maybe because this draft class is so good. Trent Williams got paid but that’s about it. Age does hurt him even though tackles can last longer like with Whitworth, as you mentioned. But age is a big factor when it comes to free agents and their price tag. That’s why you see the guys the Steelers have signed all basically be in their mid-20s. So that’s probably working against Villanueva too. His age and the strength of this draft class. Why pay money for someone who is 32 when you can just draft someone ten years younger and pay them about the same/less money on a longer deal.

MoreRingsThanYourTeam: I am an avid fan of Juju Smith Schuster. I think he plays the game the right way and doesn’t do much complaining when all he is asked to do is the dirty work. That being said, do you think the Steelers will reward him next year for staying the course and remaining loyal to the only team he’s ever known? I’m glad he’s a Steeler.

Alex: I don’t. That’s just not how it works. End of the day, it’s a business. He’ll be paid what he’s worth based on his performance and what the market has to say. That’s really what it boils down to.

D.j. Reynolds: Alex, hope you are well. If you had to pick 1 position, what do believe is the Steelers’ single biggest position need?

Alex: Regardless of player? I’d say center. You build these run games inside out. Steelers have almost never been successful without a good to great center. Webby. Dawson. Hartings. Pouncey. This team knows the value of having that guy in the middle. Tone-setter, leader, doing a lot of the calls, especially if there’s a young/rookie QB in Pittsburgh next season. And B.J. Finney obviously isn’t that guy.

Rick Williams: Hi Alex,
I have two questions, one when do you think the Etienne writeup will be put up? I and I am sure others value yours and the rest of the staff’s opinions on the potential draft picks. 2) I have noticed the staff signing several players from school pro days. Is this a trend you see continuing and who do you like best of the players they have gotten this way?

Alex: We have a profile on Etienne. You can click here to see it. I…didn’t love him.

Yeah, three guys from Pro Days the Steelers have signed. Simmons, Sexton, and Miller. I don’t know how many more guys they’ll add, Pro Days are almost over, and obviously it probably won’t be as much of a thing in future years.

Brian Tollini: Removing Landon Dickerson’s medical history and he becomes the easiest selection @24. How do you feel about that selection knowing what we know with his history?

Alex: On tape, I have no problem taking him at #24. It’s all about the medical. So it puts us in a bind because that’s critical information we simply don’t have and won’t ever have. That’s for teams to decide. If he’s there at #55 though, I take him.

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