Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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

To your questions!

Billjump: Would you like to see buddy Johnson dress and get some defence snaps this week?

Alex: He’s likely to dress because Robert Spillane is not going to play. And I’m good with Johnson dressing and getting to play on gameday. Mental reps are well and good but nothing replaces physical snaps. Do I want to see him on defense? Not really. I’d play UG3 or Marcus Allen before I played Johnson. Especially against the Ravens. All the motion, misdirection, a very different style of offense than Johnson defended at A&M, this isn’t the week for him. Get Allen or UG3 in there, guys with more NFL experience and time spent playing against/preparing for the Ravens.

Johnson is the shiny rookie but he wouldn’t be my guy this week.


Tuitt is apparently out for the year, and based on the fact that he’s been able to run around on the practice field his absence doesn’t appear to be related to his health but instead on the death of his brother, which is understandable. What does this mean for the Steelers’ future though? Do they get his salary cap money back? Does he retire if he’s still unable to go next year?

Also, is something different about the Steelers’ testing or Covid protocols this year? Last year they were nearly untouched by Covid yet this year they have Covid all over the place.

Alex: In terms of Tuitt’s future, I do not know. It’s pretty obvious we don’t know what exactly is happening with him. If he retires, the Steelers are still on the hook for the guaranteed money but obviously wouldn’t have to pay his base 2022 salary.

I don’t think the protocols are any different. That’s sort of how COVID works. One guy gets it, it can spread pretty quickly. They had guys with COVID last season too.

srdan: Is it time we start thinking of Claypool in the mold of Cordarelle Patterson? I don’t see Mapletron type skills, but still a useful piece.

Alex: As a runner? Claypool is pretty tall to be a running back. Patterson is 6’1, Claypool is 6’4. He’s not as compact or strong overall. I think it is fair to question exactly what Claypool’s role in this offense is going to wind up being. He needs to be this team’s Z receiver but obviously has struggled there. Hopefully he doesn’t turn out to be one of those guys who have all the physical tools but never fully puts it together. Unfortunately, those stories are pretty common.


Hey Alex,

Did Joe Haden’s injury make a strong statement for a new contract next year? Secondary has been rough without him.

Also, do you or Dave believe an ounce of the rumor Aditi stated that Tomlin calls all of the defensive plays on Sunday? (I don’t for the record).

Alex: No, I wouldn’t say that. The secondary is certainly better with Haden but you don’t pay future money for past production or because of the ills of a young secondary. Haden will be 33 next April and his legs are close to being gone. He’s still a smart guy, a leader, a good tackler, a technical player, but he can’t run much. And I’m not paying much money for that this offseason.

To your second question, short answer, no I don’t.

Stone Age Tone: Hey Alex, any idea why Ben never throws down the field between the numbers? Andrews, Kelce, Waller and Kittle to name four make the game look easy, we have two big, young tight ends who only seem to get little dump offs to the outside occasionally. Just baffles me totally. You?

Alex: It’s a good question. One I don’t have a good answer too. Obviously, they don’t have a TE of that caliber and Freiermuth just got on scene. Some of that is dictated by coverage but that doesn’t explain all of it away. They used JuJu on really short routes the last two years for reasons I sorta understood – he was very good in that role – but it was frustrating to see him not get to expand his tree vertically.

This is just an outside-the-numbers offense. One that prefers to take its shots on the outside because it’s invested heavily in those outside WRs. And that’s what Ben is more comfortable doing.

Dan Blocker: Alex, the Buggs behncing is really perplexing. Even if he’s playing poorly, not starting him, but having him available was better than deactivating him. Do you feel this was only performance based, or could some other incident be the case? I don’t think he did himself any favors being plain-clothed and wearing an enormous, gold “96” on his chest last week.

Alex: It’s possible. That’s stuff we really couldn’t answer. But coaches hate the mental mistakes. And Buggs makes a lot of them. You tell a guy to do one thing over and over and he doesn’t and it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating to me…I can only imagine how frustrating it is for the coaching staff. Still, I don’t think it was the right decision. To put Heyward at nose (which made Mondeaux the RDE, so they just shifted guys around) and worse yet, to basically only play four defensive linemen: Heyward, Mondeaux, Loudermilk, Wormley, and Archibong. Archibong played just five snaps, three of those coming on the Bengals’ last possession, so he functionally played only two that mattered anything. That does your guys no favors in a game where the Bengals had a lot of snaps.

So yeah, all around bad.

CJT: Alex, why are the Steelers so bad?

Alex: Ha, I feel your pain man. Lots of reasons. But overall, trench play. Bad run defense, largely poor run offense. Lose in the trenches without a superstar QB to compensate and you won’t win a lot of games. That’s the broad answer I can give you.

The Pittsburgh Steelers: Remember in the spring when Kevin Colbert said that it’d take some time to get players that fit Canada’s scheme? After seeing him as OC for several weeks, what could that possibly mean. What skill set is he missing on the field at any position that will guarantee success of his scheme specifically. Doesn’t seem to make sense to me

Alex: Remember in the spring when Kevin Colbert said that it’d take some time to get players that fit Canada’s scheme? After seeing him as OC for several weeks, what could that possibly mean. What skill set is he missing on the field at any position that will guarantee success of his scheme specifically. Doesn’t seem to make sense to me

Alex: The whole offseason mantra was to improve this run game. And to be fair, in some ways, it has. There has been growth. But in games where it does not, like the last two, this offense is going to struggle. They need an effective, efficient running game. And when that doesn’t happen, things get ugly in a hurry. That’s not a specific skillset or player question but an overall gameplan thing. And to me, the biggest issue.

Idiot Above: Ben, Mason/Haskins, assets for a great vet (Rodgers/Wilson), cheap vet (Mariota/Taylor/Trubisky), or rookie (Corral/Willis). Which of these or combination of these possibilities would you like to see for next season?

Alex: There’s still lots of time and I haven’t given it a lot of thought, especially when it comes to the rookies. Obviously, when you list out names like these, how can you not choose Rodgers/Wilson? That comes at a high cost but keeps that Super Bowl window going. So it’s hard to say no to those guys. They’re just less likely because a) they have to want to be traded, b) you have to be able to win the trade battle. And it’d be fierce, of course.

I’m not expecting Pittsburgh to get one of those guys. I’m expecting the cheap vet route with Mason as the backup and Haskins/UDFA as the #3.

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