Welcome back to your Thursday edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer anything and everything on your mind.
To your questions!
Standings and records aside, what is your take on the actual performance of our AFCN rivals? How would you rank the teams based on their performance thus far?
Alex: I obviously don’t study them the way I study the Steelers but it’s a strong AFC North. I think the Bengals, Browns, and Ravens are all at the least good teams. Run-heavy and effective teams who play good run defense with big bodies up front and fronts/schemes that are capable of creating pressure. I don’t know exactly how I’d rank it. Probably something like.
1. Browns (I know they haven’t played a complete game yet but I still think they’re the most talented team on paper)
Maybe a little homerish putting Pittsburgh ahead of Cincinnati. But I think the Steelers would/will win the rematch.
Anthony Palmerston: Hey Alex, which one of the seven dwarfs would make the worst stripper?
Alex: Depot after dark. Haha, I probably need to be careful of my answer here. Probably Sneezey? I don’t think you want to be around a stripper who needs an Allegra.
Andy N: Hi Alex, how do you think Canada will cover JuJu’s absence? Keep the balance with WR’s, or more TE, more RB? Personally I’d like to see more TE giving extra blocking options too
Alex: Probably all of the above. I think the team is being truthful when they say it’ll take a lot of hats to replace JuJu’s role. You saw how they broke things up when Sutton went down for just one week against the Broncos. Three guys, Maulet, Norwood, Karl Joseph, picking up the slack (though Maulet probably is your NCB even if Sutton is healthy playing, so maybe it’s more Pierre than Maulet). JuJu is the Sutton of the offense when it comes to versatility.
So you’ll see Washington obviously play more snaps. I think Claypool will work in the slot more. Because if you want to be in 11, who is your best trio. Johnson/Claypool/Washington or Johnson/Claypool/McCloud? Put your best guys out there. But this team can and probably will play more 12 personnel. They could split Ebron or Freiermuth in the slot, isolate backside (ran a lot of 3×1 “nub” formations) last week. I don’t think you’ll see more RBs, maybe if/when McFarland comes back because they ran Pony with him in camp (and have yet to do it since) but yeah, it’ll be a combination of things.
Jerry Reid: Hello Alex! Since the signing of Miller, I’ve been wondering just how many 1st and 2nd round picks the Steelers currently have signed?
Alex: Good question, Jerry. Let’s look. I assume you want to include 1st and 2nd round picks drafted by other teams too.
Steelers’ 1st and 2nd Round Picks
Dwayne Haskins (1st)
Ben Roethlisberger (1st)
Melvin Ingram (1st)
James Washington (2nd)
Chase Claypool (2nd)
JuJu Smith-Schuster (2nd)
Najee Harris (1st)
Joe Haden (1st)
Terrell Edmunds (1st)
Minkah Fitzpatrick (1st)
Devin Bush (1st)
Eric Ebron (1st)
Pat Freiermuth (2nd)
TJ Watt (1st)
Cameron Heyward (1st)
Tyson Alualu (1st)
Stephon Tuitt (2nd)
Taco Charlton (1st)
Karl Joseph (1st)
Anthony Miller (2nd)
Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone. So that’s 14 first round picks and 6 second round picks. 20 total. Makes up a pretty decent chunk of the team. Steelers love their pedigree.
zbluez1: Alex, much is being made of the loss of Juju, and possibly rightly so, however to my eye test it appears the RPO game currently being run functions better with 2TE’s in balancing run/pass ratio, could the loss of Juju actually lead to an improvement in game planning and overall offensive performance in your opinion, in other words, do you believe the adjustments the staff will have to make might lead them to actually change their overall thinking?
Alex: I’m not picking on you zbluez, thanks for the question, but I think we as fans try to rationalize injuries to good players so they hurt a little less. Maybe losing JuJu is a good thing! It’s not. You want talent, you want good players, you want veteran guys who know their role and do their job well. And JuJu was that guy.
I understand the framework and angle of your question but there was nothing preventing them from doing that before. Their run/pass ratio was poor because they just couldn’t run the football well. And that wasn’t just because they weren’t in 12 personnel. I get the idea of being creative and getting some new ideas when you’re forced to but this offense was trending in the right direction with JuJu on the team. He wasn’t preventing that progress.