Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to another edition of your weekly mailbag. Glad you’re here with us. As always, we’re hanging out with you guys for the next hour to answer anything on your mind.

To your questions!

MattSteelCurtain91: Thanks again for all you guys do!
Ok similar question to last week only im asking for your dream defense can pull from anywhere in steelers history for your DBs LBs DTs DEs and no converting gotta be the primary position the player played.

Alex: Oh wow, so the whole defense? I’ll try my best. First question is if I am running a 3-4 or 4-3. I am going to cheat a bit and include a 4-4 front still with 4 DBs because the scheme is going to make it weird to rank or list the front seven.

DEs: LC Greenwood, Keith Willis
DT: Joe Greene, Ernie Stautner
OLBs: James Harrison, Greg Lloyd
ILB: Jack Lambert, Jack Ham (cheating again a bit by moving Ham off-ball here)
CBs: Mel Blount, Rod Woodson
S: Troy Polamalu, Donnie Shell

So it’s a pretty chalk list, I think. Obviously you could replace half the names here and still come up with an All-timer of a defense. But that’s my best crack at it for you.

ChefBoyerD: Hi Alex! What does Ben’s leash look like this year?

Alex: I can’t imagine he gets pulled unless it’s very late in the year and the team is out of playoff contention or they’ve locked up a spot and having nothing/nothing significant to play for. I can’t see this as an Eli Manning situation of him getting pulled early/mid-way through the year. I know there’s Rudolph but it’s not like they haven’t seen a good bit on the guy and they now have him locked up through next year. So if you really want to see what you have in him, you can just start him in 2022. But Ben is the guy. For better or worse. He can’t stand on the sidelines with a ball cap on. He’ll probably hate doing that more now than he did in 2019.

Rick Williams: Hi Alex,
Hope everything is going well. I was talking with another poster and we got into a comparison between James Washington and Mike Wallace, especially concerning dropped passes. I contend that Washington has better hands than Wallace. What are your thoughts? Btw, I tried to google both’s dropped passes and no one seems to track that.

Alex: I’d say Washington has better hands. The “lobster crackers” Dave always jokes about. I don’t know if he has great hands but probably better than Wallace’s. Unfortunately, dropped passes haven’t been reliably tracked until the very end of Wallace’s career but this search result brings up a lot of headlines about his questionable hands.

For Washington’s career, he was a 6.3% drop rate. I don’t have an easy way to stack that up with the rest of the league but here’s how that compares to his teammates (since 2018):

JuJu: 3.8%
Claypool: 5.5%
Johnson: 8.1%
Ebron: 8.3%
Washington: 6.3%

Not a complete answer to your debate but hope that helps, Rick.

Dave: Hey Alex, do you think it’s fair to keep Washington as our 4th-5th WR in a contract year when it appears from my eyes he’s deserved more touches? What would you do as coach and do you respect him even more for not grumbling as many WR’s do? Certainly he could be a squeaky wheel and push for a trade to a team that needs him more.

Alex: Maybe not fair or ideal for Washington. But it’s good for the Steelers. I’m not trading away quality depth unless I get a really good offer. I certainly respect him for being a team-player and you do want to find ways to get him on the field because he’s a talented player. You don’t want to have typical 4th/5th WR snaps. But the reality is he’s the #4 and he’s not going to play 50-60 snaps a game. But you certainly use the depth you have with him to your advantage. Being able to rotate guys. Defenses don’t generally get to sub out their corners. Bringing someone like Washington in for Claypool to run a couple clear-out routes is a good way to test a tired corner.

Billjump: Hi Alex. If Ben had retired this off season, are there any affordable and available FA qbs you would have preferred to start instead of Mason?

Alex: Probably. I haven’t looked at the list but I don’t think Rudolph is the long-term answer. I would’ve been all for being aggressive about getting one of the QBs in this year’s class. Heck, I still was even with Ben’s return. That’s where you gotta find your answer. You can even do both and have a vet, bridge guy and draft your future (like Jimmy G/Lance, Dalton/Fields, Fitzpatrick/Tua).

PghDSF: If Ben has similar stats this year as in 2020, do they make playoffs?

Alex: Depends on what stats you’re talking about. Baseline yards/touchdowns/interceptions/QB rating, yeah, those are good enough to be top seven. If you’re talking about snap to throw, attempts/volume, deep ball inaccuracy…then no, I don’t think they will. Those areas will need to be improved and if the run game is better, it will decrease some of the attempts and need for Ben to shoulder the entire load as he did for most of last season.

Dan Blocker: Alex, with Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement, do you think his ankle injuries had been hindering him (and the running game) more than he let on? And this was simply his time to be finished? Was there a noticeable decline in his power or mobility?

Alex: I didn’t see anything on tape. But who knows. Pain killers are a hell of a drug. I’m sure his body didn’t feel great. Centers don’t typically play past age 32-33. I think his brother retiring helped him make the decision to walk away. Seems like they have some pretty big business plans together. That may have been one of his driving reasons.



I see the OL as our major cause of concern as we lost
two long term starters and have a new unproven
no name coach charged with improvements.

Who is it you see stepping up on that line to be
our most consistent performer?

Alex: It’s hard for me to give any firm answers on this o-line. I think we all have to watch this group unfold and see how they play. There’s so much “new” there. And that’s uncommon for a group that was as stable as any. Villy, Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro, Gilbert – for years, those were your five.

I think Dotson has the best chance to become their best and most consistent player. But we’ll see.

falconsaftey43: How would you rank the safety tandems in the AFCN?

Alex: That’s a good question. I’m obviously not as knowledgeable about the other safety tandems the way I am about the Steelers. Overall, they’re pretty good safety groups. No one has a bad tandem. I’ll rank them as.

1. Pittsburgh – Little homerish here but two proven guys with their current team. Minkah is the best safety in the division and Edmunds does his role and job just fine.

2. Cincinnati – Really like Jessie Bates. Excellent center fielder, similar to Minkah but not quite on that level. Bell is sorta like Edmunds. Good tackler/alley filler. Not much else.

3. Cleveland – Getting John Johnson was huge. Some projection there just because he’s on a new team and Grant Delpit has yet to take an NFL snap. But this could be the #1 group by year’s end if things go correctly.

4. Baltimore – Chuck Clark’s underrated and they’re high on Elliott. But I don’t think there’s a standout stud here the way the other three teams have. So they’re #4.

Scott Prosser: Alex, a couple weeks ago I had a disagreement with another commenter regarding the Loudermilk pick. In terms of total draft capital spent, they used next year’s 4th round pick to acquire him. He stubbornly claimed the Steelers used two picks (next year’s 4th and a fifth this year) please settle this. At the end of the day, they used one draft pick to acquire Loudermilk correct??

Alex: I had framed it that way too and I don’t want to get too bogged down into the argument but I see what you’re saying. I think the point I was trying to make is they felt comfortable enough giving up that precious future capital and felt like Loudermilk was worth a 5th round pick. I disagree on both counts.

That’s all for this week. Thanks guys!

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