Welcome back to your weekly mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer anything and everything on your mind.
To your questions!
Hey, Alex! Great work this season as always.
What’s your 30,000-foot view of Dan Moore right now, i.e., how he’s played this season and whether he’s the long-term answer at left tackle? It seems as if he’s done OK if graded on a curve (as a rookie), but I’m unsure if Steelers should feel confident about him locking down that position for the foreseeable future.
Alex: Hey Alex, thank you! Good to hear from you. He’s played well enough to enter 2022 as the team’s starting left tackle. He’s certainly had his bumps this year and needs to get stronger against power/bull rushes and just in general, be more consistent with his punch and his footwork, but I think he’s come on strong in recent weeks. Lot of rookies fade but he’s actually improving. The rematch against Myles Garrett this weekend will be an interesting and tough one, Moore got destroyed in the first matchup (expected so I’m trying to be hypercritical of him) so Round 2 will be a good way to gauge progress.
But yeah, the attention to the line should be elsewhere in the offense. Primarily focusing on right guard, right tackle, and still maybe center, based on what we’ve seen from Kendrick Green this year.
Guy Breton: Hi Alex, if we could make the same exercise with Kendrick Green than Dan Moore, could we go as far as his 2022 status as a starting guard or center is in jeopardy ?
Alex: It’s certainly much more plausible. But our outsider perception is different than theirs. They were the team who thought so much of him to draft him and make Green Maurkice Pouncey’s replacement, basically from Day One. I think they misevaluated him but could the Steelers view this as just a rocky Year One, predictable growing pains getting thrown into the fire? Sure. And if they have to find new talent at RG and RT, they may roll the dice on Green in 2022 and hope for improvement. It’s certainly reasonable to believe he will get better. How much though is the question.
But if it’s me and I see a clear, reasonable path to upgrade, I’m doing it. I’m not banking on Green turning things around.
Billjump: How do you think Alex Highsmith is progressing?
Alex: It wasn’t quite the jump I had hoped for. But there was progression. He got stronger, got better with his hands, and I think has a clearer pass rush plan. TEs can’t block him in the run game either. His impact as a pass rusher wasn’t enough and he will be overaggressive and do too much to try to make the play, he lost contain too often this year, but he’s a good complement to TJ Watt. But I admit he hadn’t been quite as good as I hoped and based off what I saw this summer in camp and preseason action. Some of that could be injury-related, he began the year with a groin injury and had some nagging stuff along the way, but I hope he keeps building for an even better 2022.
I know everyone is jumping on the “Aaron Rodgers, or Russell Wilson train” but I don’t see it. I also do not want a rookie QB Rd1. Give me a rookie OT or the center from Iowa Rd1, sign one more FA lineman, then go after a middle of the pack FA veteran to compete with Rudolph. I’m thinking Mariota as my favorite, with Cousins, Matt Ryan, Jimmy G, possibly Carr, if Raiders go rebuild. Then look for a rookie in 2023. Just don’t think a rookie QB can be successful without an improved line. Fix the line, let Harris run the ball, then address franchise QB situation. Your thoughts?
Alex: It could go a lot of different ways. That being one of them. Nothing seems to indicate the Steelers intend on starting a rookie QB Week One of next year. It still could mean they draft one, just as they did with Ben in 2004. Plan was for him to sit until that plan went out the window.
I would not be against the idea of trading for one of those big-name QBs. Especially Rodgers, who seems much more likely than Wilson (though the odds still are pretty low). But like you said, it’s more likely there’s a more middle of the road option. Not Rodgers, not Wilson, not a rookie. That is the most likely scenario.
Thoughts on Klemm leaving?
Alex: It was surprising. Sounds like there was more money at Oregon and Klemm is a West coast guy who was a great college coach before scandal got him run out of UCLA. So maybe his heart was always in the college game and he jumped at this opportunity.
Obviously, he received a lot of criticism for the job he did this year. I think you can still evaluate the guy, I don’t want to say there’s no analysis to be done, but he was handed…a mess. A serious work in progress and it was unreasonable to expect things to be great out of the gate. Judging him properly would’ve meant how the line and group progressed over time, at least through next season. But we’ll never know with Klemm at the helm. I think a foundational level, the idea of getting more athletic and more physical was a good and needed one.
Like most coaches, it’s hard to view into the window of their job. It’s hard enough to analyze players and we get to watch them work each week. How Klemm coached, how he worked with different guys and how they learned, how he gameplanned, all that critical stuff are things we don’t get to see. And so it makes it tough to judge. I wonder if he stood on the table for Kendrick Green though. At his Pro Day and fit the type of guy he wanted. Ultimately, Tomlin and Colbert are the decision-makers and the buck stops with them. But I can’t help but notice that Klemm went to Green’s Pro Day while Chris Morgan went to Dan Moore’s Pro Day. One of those players looks a lot better than the other right now.
stan: I’m so confused about the punting situation. Obviously Waitman looked great in his first shot at the NFL. Surely he wasn’t this good last year on the practice squad for the Steelers, right? And, since the team signed him off the Patriots’ practice squad and was therefore committed to him for three weeks regardless, what was the point of signing Cameron Nizialek too? Why have two and possibly three punters?
Alex: I couldn’t tell you how Waitman looked last year. Never got to see him punt. I’m sure being in his second year helped to some degree. Waitman punted well but I do want to caution it was just two punts and there was a wind helping him out too.
They signed Nizalek in order to have that pre-game competition. To see which one punted better. He went back to the practice squad after the game so there’s no major cost there. Harvin’s status Sunday is still unclear so it’s good to keep Waitman around.
It was a messy situation but I thought they made the best of it.
What is your favorite John Madden story?
Alex: That’s a great question. I don’t know if I have one memory that stands out. But I was one of the millions who grew up playing Madden. It was one of my first video games and the golden age of Madden was that 05-07 range. So he and his game helped teach me about the game. I think it did a lot of kids. I don’t think anyone has ever done that the way Madden and those games have.
Also, you guys know I’ve seen like three movies but I really like him in The Replacements.