Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ weekly mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer anything on your mind. One last time this regular season.

To your questions!


The Defensive Player of the Year Award…what does TJ Watt have
to do Sunday?

A. He’s already won it
B. Tie Strahans record
C. Set the record

Alex: I think he’s already won it unless someone else, Garrett or Donald, goes off with a 3-4 sack performance in the finale. Certainly breaking his record should make it a slam-dunk. I don’t want to minimize Watt’s season just because he might not hit the record. 20+ sacks in a season, especially given the time he’s missed, is an incredible and rare accomplishment.

So I think this is finally going to be his year.

John Gutilla: 

Hey Alex. In your opinion, what pieces of the current offensive line are worth keeping around as starters for next season?

Alex: The left side is more solid than the right. Moore will be your LT and Dotson should be your left guard, even if his season hasn’t been all that great and hindered by the ankle sprain. Unless they end up moving him to RG but he should be starting at one of those spots. Contractually, we’ll have to see what happens with Turner and Okorafor. But both guys are replaceable and probably should be. Green will be back…how they handle that, we’ll see. They could talk themselves into giving him another year considering how young and raw he is/was. But I would be looking for an upgrade if I had the chance.

stan: It seems apparent that the sudden improvement in the run game had a lot to do with Morgan over Klemm. If that’s true, then I have a serious question about why it took this long to make a switch? I know Tomlin doesn’t throw assistant coaches under the bus, but its been very obvious that there’s a problem with the o-line this year. There are rumors that Tomlin has given certain coaches more or less responsibility through the year if there’s a problem, yet it doesn’t look like Tomlin did the most obvious thing available to him given the line’s poor play. He could’ve let Morgan get more involved or even demoted Klemm without saying so yet he apparently didn’t.

Alex: They weren’t firing Klemm mid-season. If Oregon didn’t offer him the job, he’d still be the head o-line coach. It’s hard to evaluate those guys. It sounds like Morgan made an impact but it isn’t like a complete overhaul of how the team approached things. Some tweaks around the edges. And Najee Harris ran hard, a lot of those yards gained were thanks to him. Bottom line, hindsight is 20/20, I guess. Whenever you make a change that works, you can always look back and think “why didn’t that happen earlier?” In football and in life.

stan: Any guesses on who’s going to punt for the Steelers Sunday? Maybe they’ll have a “punt off” like they did before the Chiefs game? At a minimum you can’t just brush Waitman aside and reinstall Harvin.

Alex: We’ll see but with the way Waitman has punted the last two games, I’d stick with him. He’s done well. Harvin hasn’t and this game still could mean a lot. I’m not making changes to guys who are playing well in Week 18.

The Bus Fan 36: Another question on the offensive line… Do you think the Steelers would consider moving Green to guard next year, and going after a new center in the draft. Or are they convinced his best position is center? Do you think he has the size to play guard at the NFL level.

Alex: Been asked this a thousand times, probably will be asked another thousand times this offseason. Is it possible? I don’t know, maybe. But they viewed him as a center for a reason. He’s too small to play guard in this system. All the Steelers’ guards, the good ones anyway, are bigger guys. Green may be more comfortable at guard but that isn’t going to guarantee he’s better. His lack of size and length will show up more. He’ll be covered up more often, especially in pass protection, and have more 1v1 battles. I think moving to guard is worse unless they want him to be a backup, where he’ll have to be able to play all three interior spots and will need work at RG and time back at LG.

Ray Istenes: What coaches (if any) will be let go after this year.

Alex: I don’t think Keith Butler returns next year. Anyone else…we’ll see. Usually there’s a surprise thrown in there. I know people want Matt Canada gone and it’s possible but I think he’s back for at least one more seasons.

LonePine JB: 

What QBs worth trading for? Rodgers doesn’t make sense due to cost and holes along O line and Defense. Carr? Minshew would be my target.

Alex: I’d trade for Rodgers. You can still improve the offensive line and trade for him. Look what he did behind a depleted Packers’ o-line all year. A great QB solves a lot of problems. And if you add to the line and defense, you’ll still be talking about needing to get a QB at the end of the day. Carr…maybe. He’d be the only other I’d consider. But you’re giving up a good bit of draft capital without getting the reward of an elite QB. So I don’t know if that payoff is worth it or if your team will be stuck in that “good but never over the hump” range.

Hey Alex,Happy New Year man. Going to hit you with a GMKC question. Do you think he’s done this year or comes back for another season? Esp with Ben being done, does he leave too? If so, when does his contract expire? I think one Russell Wilson would be a great parting gift don’t ya think?

Alex: My thought has been Ben and Colbert were tied at the hip. But we’ll see. He could stay. I don’t know what’s in his mind or his heart right now. He may want to try building this thing out post-Ben or let a new guy start from scratch. We’ll find out pretty quickly…the Senior Bowl is at the end of the month so he’ll have to make his decision before then.

I very much doubt he’ll go through an offseason, free agency and draft, and then leave in the summer. His contract runs through the draft but that’s standard for front office guys. It’s very rare, and a bad idea, for GMs to leave after they just constructed a roster for three months and ask a new guy to cook his groceries. Colbert has more respect than that.

Jake: Why don’t you think K. Butler returns next year? Retirement?

That’s probably how they’ll label it if he doesn’t return. The guy is 65 and been coaching football for a long time. It’d a retirement from football well-earned. But there were questions over if he’d come back last offseason and he signed only a one-year deal. Steelers normally make moves when guys have their contracts up so they’re not “firings.” Just “retirements” or ‘parting ways.” With Tomlin’s influence on the defense and the struggles this year, a historically bad run defense (which isn’t all on Butler but it’s on his resume) this feels like a good time to make a change.

ifihadatail007: Going back to TJ and DPOY: Wouldn’t Trevon Diggs be the most likely player to get it if TJ doesn’t? My gut tells me that if Diggs gets one more INT, voters will go with him, even if TJ ties/sets the sack record. (Call me cynical about Steelers and voters.)

Alex: It won’t. Diggs has a bunch of INTs but he’s been very up and down this year. Lot of big plays allowed. And I think that’s been recognized enough by the voters that he isn’t a serious candidate. If a Cowboy wins it, it’ll be Micah Parsons, not Diggs.

Sean Sutherland: Hi Alex,big fan I was wondering if you think Terrell Edmunds will return t safety next year.

Alex: Thanks Sean! Hey, I was the guy 99% sure they’d pick up the 5th year option on him so I’m probably not the best guy to talk about his future. But it makes sense to bring him back for a $4-5 million average yearly value deal. He’s a good complement to Minkah. Solid tackling safety who is making less mistakes than he has in the past. I don’t know if you’re going to find a whole lot better for the money/capital you’d invest in it. There’s a lot of other needs on this team. With no in-house option, I don’t want to create another one.

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