Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Know we couldn’t have a mailbag session yesterday with the team at practice. So wanted to get one done this week and with the team not working until 5 PM today, this was as good a time as any to do it.

We’re here for the next hour (roughly) to answer whatever is on your mind. About camp, about the season, anything you want to discuss.

To your questions!

draframe: Hi Alex! Every year I greatly look forward to your excellent dissections of camp. You are one of a kind! From your observations it seems that JuJu is getting peppered with targets compared with Dionte. Is this just an early camp aberration or will this be an ongoing effort to feature JuJu this year?

Alex: Thanks for your very kind words!

Definitely has been targeted and caught more but I don’t have the numbers on it yet. I’ll collect them for Sunday’s off day. Part of that is JuJu playing in the slot and being a good security blanket. Guy you look to against zone when he’s settling down underneath. It’s not much worth reading into though. They’ll both catch 90+ balls this year.

srdan: If you are Tomlin, how do you get the most growth and cohesion out of the OLine during TC? Particularly, how do you tell Watt, Cam Hayward and Tuitt to behave vs a novice offensive line?

Alex: How do you tell them to behave? You don’t. You tell them to turn it up. This line is only going to get better if they get hard reps. If they look bad at times, make mistakes. Learn and grow. When Coward is getting beat up at the POA against Heyward, that’s a good thing. He’ll learn and improve. And when he goes into a game, it’ll be easier because you’re facing a stud in Heyward every single day.

And right now, Tuitt and Watt aren’t even in team. Of course, neither is 60% of the Steelers’ projected starting offensive line. I’m not looking to coddle those guys. I’m trying to kick their butt. That’s what will get them prepared for the start of the season more than anything else.

draframe1: Just a few days into camp are you more or less concerned about depth areas for OL and Safety? Any other positions that are becoming a concern for you such as maybe ILB?

Alex: Don’t like the fact the majority of my offensive line hasn’t taken a rep in team drills yet. Long ways to go, they’ll get thrown in there eventually but the more reps, the better. And they’re missing some early time to work as a group or as a pair. But still would like to see this team add a safety, though Norwood is off to a good start.

No other position that has alarm bells going off. But injuries and preseason play can and will change that.

UK/Steeler Fan Since 1969: Hey Alex!
Of the new guys who has caught your eye thus far? In a good way.

Alex: Lot of the guys I mentioned yesterday. Bussey, Denmark, Norwood, and Aviante Collins has had some good reps at left tackle. Cassius Marsh also seems to be holding the #4 OLB spot right now too. Seeing a jump from Zach Gentry too. Last time we basically saw him was a rookie so it shouldn’t be a surprise but he’s using that height as an above-the-rim mismatch.

Jeremy: Hey Alex. Who has surprised you in a good way these first couple days? Specifically maybe someone who isn’t getting the ink that Rico or Norwood has gotten. Thanks.

Alex: Similar answer to the one above. Gentry, Collins, seeing a little bit from a guy like Abdullah Anderson who is buried along a deep and competitive defensive line. Isaiah Buggs playing well and running ahead of Carlos Davis is important too.

falconsaftey43: Think I found a common phrase that I hate as much as you hate “camp body.” “He’s not an NFL player.” If a guy has spent time on a 53 man roster, played in games, he is most definitely an NFL player. Especially annoys me with guys like Chaz Green, 4 years 37 games, 8 starts. Yeah, he’s not very good, but he’s an NFL player.

Alex: That’s a good one. By definition, he is. One I am guilty of a bit I need to try to cut out is “just a guy.” I use that in the sense of “he’s not doing anything real noticeable though probably not anything terrible either” but that’s a pretty negative phrase to use for someone who has made it to the NFL.

But yeah, Green has not been great and his chances of making the 53 are very small.

Pghomer: Hope I can squeeze this in. Please know we appreciate your efforts to keep at things (like this chat) despite how busy things get.
Just curious if Denmark looks stiff or fluid as a move?

Alex: I haven’t been able to focus in on that too much/well yet and that could be a concern because he is a tall, long guy. Layne has this issue. But Denmark is a really good athlete and with the way he’s breaking on the ball, though his length and profile helps, he’s fluid. He turn and ran step for step with Sexton, who is a speedy WR, in 7v7 yesterday.

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