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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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

Quick note: there won’t be a mailbag next week. I’ll be out of town and won’t be available for next Thursday. We’ll return two weeks from now.

To your questions!

Yough 61: Alex, where do you see Devin Bush in year 3 which is really year 2? Should he be healthy and by not playing for a year, should he at least in theory be more fresh?

Alex: To a degree, I guess that’ll help. But he’s also spent a chunk of the offseason rehabbing and getting his knee and body ready for this season and wasn’t a full participant in OTAs and minicamp. So he couldn’t dedicate this offseason to actual football things to improve and get ready for 2021. Maybe that all washes out. But I saw him make progress before his injury last season so I’m optimistic about him this fall.

draframe1: Hi Alex!
Any more legs to the speculation of bringing back Nelson? Would really lock down the secondary

Alex: Nothing of substance. Just offseason fodder. Could it happen? I guess. Would I endorse it? 1 million percent. But would Nelson want to come back to Pittsburgh? With the way things unfolded, I doubt it. And it’s not like the Steelers are likely going to be offering a lot more money than other teams out there.

Matt Smith: 

If we give Ben one quarter in the fourth game, what would be your best guess at the split of the other 15 preseason quarters between Rudolph, Dobbs and Haskins?

Alex: That’s a really good question, Matt. You could argue that any one of those three guys deserve the bulk of the time. Rudolph because he could be your starter in 2022 and you want to see what strides he’s making. Dobbs so you can evaluate his development and give him a fair shot to win the job and to see if Haskins can be rebuilt. Rudolph will be the #2 but you may end up seeing a pretty even split. In that scenario, five quarters for each guy. But there is ebb and flow to it that can change in-game based on possessions, opportunity, game circumstance, etc. So even the Steelers plan can change mid-game. But I think something fairly equal is the rough way to go about it.

draframe1: Hi Alex,
Please rank the biggest postional concerns heading into camp: OL, S, CB, OLB, TE
Alex: Here’s where I sit.
1. OL – Question marks with starters and backups. Lot of unknowns across the board and they’re the X Factor not just of the offense but of the team. And I don’t know which way it’s going to go.
2. CB – Still uncertain who will be the RCB or NCB will be in sub-package. And I don’t know who the dimebacker is (he may not be a corner though, to be fair).3. OLB – Now these are more depth concerns than starters. Not comfortable one bit about what’s behind Watt and Highsmith. And if this defense can’t rush the passer, this unit won’t succeed.

4. S – Because depth here is still pretty thin. Lose Edmunds and you’ll survive. Lose Minkah and you’re in big trouble.

5. TE – Still wouldn’t mind another vet in the mix but you have Ebron, you have Freiermuth. And it’s not as integral as the other positions. So it’s the lowest concern on the list.

WeWantDaTruth: Hi Alex…Happy 4th! I saw a comment in which the poster said Vince Williams may be able to play some OLB, in order to address the depth concerns there. How feasible is this, in your opinion?

Alex: Only in extreme emergencies. He could play the run but he can’t rush the passer. He does it well up the B gap against RBs (or unblocked) but not versus offensive tackles. He’s not going to be the answer to the team’s depth concerns there.

WeWantDaTruth: Hey Alex. Do you prefer the Steelers to sign one of the currently available Olinemen? Or wait until camp cuts to see who might be available?

Alex: I don’t have a real desire to to sign anyone. I’m not sure who is out there that’s going to change the dynamic or outlook on the team. There’s enough “maybes” and “kindas” on the roster already. I’d rather just let all those guys compete and battle it out and see who rises to the top. There’s enough of that on this 90 already. Then like you said, evaluate at the end of the preseason, see how your guys did, what injuries there are, and who gets cut. But I think the roster is pretty much set heading into camp unless they do something like sign Malik Hooker.

Craig M: Any scuttlebutt on Winovich from NE, or JJ to solidify the TE position?

Alex: No substantive updates there. We’ll see when James signs. You’d think it’d be over the next four months. Winovich, give it until August. If Colbert is going to make a trade, that’s when it’ll be. But like I said above, I think you go into camp and just see what your group looks like. Evaluate your guys and if you don’t like what you see, then you make a move. That’s normally the team’s MO.

falconsaftey43: How do you think analytics have most impacted the game?

Alex: In Pittsburgh? Probably not at all, lol

But for real, that’s a really good question. But it’s also a broad one. Obviously it’s impacted the game in a lot of ways. In-game calls, scouting, etc.

Maybe practice information? Because every team, even the Steelers, have those guys hooked up to chart speed and steps and all that information during practice. And that’s something that never existed before. You couldn’t really quantify how much a guy was working and definitely not how he moved. Those are benefits every team is reaping and you’re always looking at that info to adjust a guys reps and to tell when he’s getting worn down or how he looks coming off an injury and things like that.

Perhaps that’s more data and science than actual analytics but that’s what’s coming to mind. That’d be a really good question for someone in the business though.

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