Welcome back to your weekly Thursday mailbag. Good to be back after being off last week. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer anything and everything on your mind.
To your questions!
WeWantDaTruth: Hey Alex. If you were the Steelers GM, how would you utilize their current cap money?
Alex: I don’t think there’s a lot left to do. Keep my eyes peeled on an outside linebacker. Possibly via a trade but more likely through cutdowns. Maybe sign Malik Hooker for about the minimum, a hair above. Or some other safety. But there’s no move I’m dying to make even if the team has a little more space now. Would probably call Jesse James, see if he wants to spend his summer in Pittsburgh or have to live in a hotel somewhere if he wants to wait and sign with someone else.
Anthony Palmerston: Hey Alex! If Cowher and LeBeau did actually call one defensive play at the end of the Hall of Fame game, what is your prediction for what that play would be?
Alex: Oh man, that’s a great question. Gotta be some sort of zone blitz. Maybe Fire X. Have Vince Williams and Devin Bush loop over each other into the A gaps. They don’t run that much anymore. But that was a staple back in the day.
falconsaftey43: I recently saw an article about the Browns where their last FO’s philosophy was leaked from like a board in the background of a documentary. Stuff on the board was interesting: key positions, pay players early, don’t pay for depth, etc. Do you think the Steelers have anything like that, spelled out? What do you think would be on theirs if they did?
Alex: Oh I’m sure. Not every team is going to be 100% alike. But yeah, they have stuff on the wall. Just watch any of the documentaries the team does. Especially come draft time. Lot of stuff on the background they blur out. They used to slip and forget sometimes but people like us — who look for that stuff — have kept them on their toes.
I imagine a lot of the teams say the same things. No one is saying opposite of the Browns board. There is no “secondary positions, pay players late, overpay in free agency, make a mad scramble when your Plan A goes out the window.”
It’s the old Tyson saying — everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth. All the teams talk the talk. Most of them don’t walk the walk. And that’s how you separate the good teams from the bad teams. Pittsburgh, by and large, walks the walk.
Pius Street Uke: Hey Alex- Do you have any pleasant “grocery store” player interaction stories to share?
Alex: The quotation marks around grocery store is making me nervous here. Are you just asking if I have interactions with players out and about? Just by happenstance? I don’t. I wish I was that interesting. But I’m just a blogger from Mom’s basement. No fun gossip to really share with you guys. It’s good to separate the two anyway. You don’t want to be too close to what you’re reporting on. There’s a delicate balance but get too close and it’ll influence what/how you write.
Let’s talk about the biggest training camp battle… PH3 vs Berry.
What’s something each player has that the other doesn’t that could make a difference in who is the starter come Week 1.
Harvin III – Leg strength. Dude can bomb the heck out of a punt. Berry’s leg is at best average and probably below. Harvin III is above average to great.
Berry – Consistency, Experience, Holding. Berry has cut down the JV punts over the years. And Harvin III had a big issue with being a consistent punter in college. Berry knows what the NFL is like, what these battles are all about. He’s won some, lost some. And while PH3 was a holder in college (part-time at least) Berry has done it in the NFL and has been part of the team’s operation (Canaday, Berry, Boswell) for several seasons. All those vet things that naturally give him a leg up.
WeWantDaTruth: Alex, give me your week one starting OLine:one with the players currently on the roster and one with possible FA signings (including camp cuts).
Alex: I think the answer looks the same for both questions.
LT – Chukwuma Okorafor
LG – Kevin Dotson
C – Kendrick Green
RG – Trai Turner
RT – Zach Banner
Green’s spot is the only one that feels uncertain. Finney or even Hassenuaer could grab it. But Green is the draft pick, by far the most talented player, and fits the scheme the best. He’s a good athlete. Finney is average/below average and Hassenauer is in a similar boat.
hdogg48: Alex who do you see as our most improved player on Offense?
Alex: Good question. I think Claypool and Johnson can keep taking steps forward. Claypool being in his sophomore year, having an offseason program, a preseason, that all is really going to help and get him ready for Year 2. Johnson just has to look the ball in and he’ll have a really strong year. Obviously Dotson as a full-time starter should be promising as well.
Defensively, man, it’s an open-ended question. What young guy will step up. Pierre, Brooks, someone else? Devin Bush was making strides last season. If he’s healthy, I think we’ll get to see that fully in 2021.
Rob: We often talk about players the team can add after cutdowns. With our most insulated position being the D line, most likely, who there (or from other position groups) would make the most sense in a end of roster swap or trade for a late round draft pick, if any?
Alex: Yeah, I had mentioned the d-line depth in the Monday YouTube live stream. It really just depends on how that battle looks. Whoever doesn’t make the cut. Maybe that’s Isaiah Buggs or heck, even Chris Wormley, though that’d be unexpected. I don’t know how much value those guys will have. Maybe Wormley can fetch a 6th or 7th. Buggs maybe a conditional 7th or something. But that is a position with depth and some talented guys who won’t make the 53.
Dan: With the NFL slowly loosening it’s uniform guidelines (bringing back different helmets is a nice start) what uniform sets would you like the Steelers to bring out? Any changes?
Alex: I’m probably not the best man to answer that, Dan. I just don’t pay attention or remember half the time the uniform combinations these team wears/has worn. Show me some photos and I can talk about it better but there’s nothing I’m dying to see them bring back. I’m for anything old-school and vintage. Even the ugly looking get-ups like the Bumblebees. Anything that pays homage to the 30s and 40s is cool in my book.