Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your Thursday mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

David Rudin: Hey Alex, Love following your Twitter feed during the games! If you had to pick one player on offense and one on defense who have been the biggest pleasant surprises to you thus far this season, who would they be and why!

Alex: Hey David! Thanks so much. On offense, I think it has to be Zach Gentry. To go from guy I wasn’t sure would make the roster to being a solid contributor on this team is pretty cool. He figured things out just in time. Defensively, it’s a little less obvious to me. It’d be one of the sub-package DBs. Either Maulet or Norwood. I’ll lean Norwood. I knew the team liked him, I knew he had talent, but I wasn’t sure if was ready to carve out a role on defense right away. But he has. They’ve smartly scaled back his workload (it increased a bit out of the bye) but he’s done a nice, though not perfect, job.

ÄB: Hey Alex,

Want to get your opinion on life after Ben. I don’t remember exactly what Tomlin said about not wanting to start over with a rookie, but if he sees himself as the long-term coach, wouldn’t he eventually have to do that? Whether its a Rodgers, or some of the mobile qbs you named last week, none are long term solutions, so what’s the thought process here?

Do you see them signing a veteran like a Rodgers, Tyrod, Mariota and also drafting a first round QB by any chance?

Alex: Ha, yes, I’ve had the same thought as well. Eventually, you gotta bite the bullet. I think what he was, in part, saying (or telling his good buddy Jay Glazer) is that he doesn’t want to start a rookie. Ideally, you draft one, he sits (as was the plan for Ben, though Tomlin obviously not there for that) and then be works his way into the lineup.

You have to understand Tomlin’s history. The dude has always gotten to work with vet QBs. He’s never been part of a team that had the growing pains of starting one right away. Here are the starting QBs he’s had in his career, Tampa in 2002 to today.

Brad Johnson
Brian Griese
Chris Simms
Brad Johnson (in Minnesota)
Ben Roethlisberger

Those are the starters he’s had in terms of guys who started the most games. Aside from 2019 with Mason and Duck (a mess) and the odds and ends games over the years. The few rookies he’s had start are guys like Hodges and the late Tavaris Jackson, who struggled mightily in his two starts with Minnesota in 2006. Point is, Tomlin has basically always had a vet running the show. So that’s what he is used to and wants to keep doing.

Long story to your answer. We’ll see. It could go a lot of ways with a million variables. I think they bring in a vet – a Mariota, a Brissett, etc – and maybe draft a QB. But you can’t just wish that draft pick into your lap. It’s dependent on a lot, like the class and where you are picking.

stan: I’m curious about the pick up of Khalil Davis. Two weeks ago the team thought enough of him to make a waiver claim, which they lost to the Colts. So, at that time they thought he was worthy of a roster spot. However, when the Colts waived him the Steelers only put him on the practice squad. Henry Mondeaux is not providing anything and the team apparently though Khalil was better than him last week, so why not put him on the 53 man now? Also, I’m curious to see how his presence affects Carlos Davis’ future. Khalil played a little better than Carlos at Nebraska and was drafted before Carlos. Since there isn’t much chance they could play together, it seems like they block each other (though indications are that they are very close friends and obviously Khalil chose to come here).

Alex: Sometimes it’s just the mechanism of trying to get a guy there. If they thought that was the best possible path, through waivers, then you got to put in the claim. Clearly, the guy had interest and would’ve had options had no team claimed him. Sometimes it’s based on the health of the team. I don’t remember specifics but this team seems healthier than they were back then. So there are fewer roster spots that might be available. Sometimes it’s about tthe group of your guys and this d-line is playing better. So lot of variables to consider here. I don’t lose much sleep over it. Obviously, Davis could come in and replace Mondeaux at some point and him being on the PS allows them that option with more flexibility (he still has to go through some level of COVID protocol too so he might not be immediately available).

As to the future of his twin brother, again, we’ll see. More competition, the better. Obviously Carlos isn’t even healthy or practicing right now.

CP72: AK,
Got to say I’m a little disappointed in Danny Snith and Mike Tomlin on the fake field. Not because they called it, but because they really didn’t have a plan of something would happen to Boz. Mike said they have an emergency plan in place, but it sure didn’t appear so.

Alex: They had a plan. Just not a good one. There is a difference. Most teams who lose their kicker don’t have a great Plan B waltzing through. Unless your punter can kick too (and vice versa). If Harvin got hurt, the Steelers don’t have a great plan. It’s just rare that it happens that your kicker is completely unavailable. Sometimes they pull a hammy so they can’t do much but they can try XPs and squib kickoffs and stuff like that. So this was a pretty extreme situation to be in.

But sure, they get blame for it. The fake FG, even in principle, is such a bad idea. I’ll have a post about that later this week. They deserve every ounce of criticism.

Jerry Reid: Another qb question. As we see the run game really starting to develop, do you consider Rudolph as a decent stop gap for a season or two? Also how likely do you think it is that Ben will stick around the organization in a coaching role when he retires?

Alex: No. Mason Rudolph puts the “stop” in “stop gap.” They may attempt it but the team won’t go much of anywhere. A decent team at the best.

Nah, Ben is gone. He’s going to golf, hunt, hang with the fam, and not much else. For a couple years anyway. Football has been such a big part of his life for basically 40 years. He probably wants to dedicate time to something else. Maybe someday he’ll coach. But he’s more “coach his kids high school team” than “coach in the NFL.” I don’t see that as a path for him. His method of “run around, shrug off 300 pound DTs punching you in your nose, and fire the ball 50 yards downfield” is only going to work for him.

The Toney: 

Hey Alex!

Will the Steelers score 30 points offensively this season?

Alex: They better if they want this season to end well. Golden chance to do it these next two weeks, either against Chicago or Detroit.

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