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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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

To your questions!

MAK Lives Free: 

I’ll kick things off! Hope we can all enjoy the fact that the Steelers made the playoffs!

What are the “must happens” for this team to pull off the upset?

Alex: Definitely enjoying that fact. Didn’t think we’d be talking about getting this far.

Couple things. Steelers don’t turn the ball over and create at least one splash on their own. I’m more specific with that because I like the Chiefs chances of making more off turnovers than the Steelers so even if Pittsburgh hypothetically went +1 in the TO battle 2-1, the Chiefs might get more out of that with their potent offense. Three turnovers, which put the Chiefs in strong field position no less, was a killer in that blowout loss. Pittsburgh’s offense doesn’t have margin for error.

Being able to run the ball out of two high. Chiefs play a lot of it. Won’t allow Roethlisberger to take shots deep. So you gotta run the ball. They didn’t do that well enough in the first matchup.

And create an explosive play or two. Chiefs will get theirs. That’s a fact, especially with Kelce back. Defense needs to play good situational football, third down/red zone, but Steelers’ offense needs probably at least 2-3 20+ yard plays in this one.

ÄB:

Hey Alex,

I have a feeling they might give Rudolph one more shot next season as the starter with a full offseason to prepare and build team chemistry. I think they build heavy both sides of the line in the draft and FA and add a veteran QB for insurance and draft a guy next year.

Do you see this as the most likely outcome?

Alex: I’m in the camp that they’ll bring in a veteran with more mobility to start or be the favorite going into the summer. So that’s where I sit right now. But I recognize this thing is pretty wide open. It could go in a lot of directions and I’m not trying to close a lot of doors right now.

Christopher Pokins: Alex, I grew up in Pittsburgh, but now live in Baltimore so I don’t get to hear all the local Steelers buzz. So excuse me if this has been asked by the local fans….any talk, or chance that the Steelers could bring back Mike Munchak with the coaching change in Denver? What about Brian Flores replacing Kevin Butler? I know he will get HC looks but think he would fit in well in Pittsburgh. Thoughts, rumors, buzz?

Alex: The door is open. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. To my knowledge, he’s still under contract, still with the team. Whoever their new head coach is would be wise to keep a guy like Mike Munchak around. And he probably would want to try to remain there to be near family, which was the reason why he left for Denver. So if the new coach kicks him out then hey, anything is possible. But I still think Chris Morgan is the head o-line coach next year.

Probably nothing that radical for DC. A replacement would be internal, Austin or Dunbar. Flores is getting HC looks. I don’t think he’s chasing DC opportunities right now under a defensive-minded coach like Tomlin who has a lot of control and influence.

JB: Do you recall any instances where a team has disrespected the Terrible Towel and it worked out well for them?

Alex: I’m sure there’s an example or two but over the years, most who have done it have paid the price. Would not recommend.

Tangitau Attack: 

First off, this idea is great, similar to the Asked and Answered. But I digress. Do you think the steelers will keep using a mixture of inside LB substitutions? Based on the film and previous games, would you prefer to just keep a certain duo out on the field or take a similar approach that the Steelers have done so far? I personally feel that Spillane should be a 1st/2ed down linebacker and Marcus Allen a third down backer in passing situations. (Not that it matters)

Alex: I do. A rotation of Bush, Schobert, Spillane in base and nickel with Marcus Allen in dime packages. What you’re suggesting is basically what’s happening now that the group is healthy again. It looked different when there were injuries and COVID and the team had fewer options. So I think they’re going to stick with what they’re doing right now.

Scotty P: Offense obviously has lots of issues this year. In your opinion, which is the biggest issue … O-line, an aging Big Ben, or Matt Canada’s dink and dunk play calling?

Alex: I don’t know if I focus on a #1 issue. Not right now anyway still in the middle of the season. A lot of it is intertwined. It’s hard to throw deep if your line doesn’t give time, if your QB doesn’t have the arm, if the playcalls aren’t there, they all work together.

But I think lines and teams are built through the trenches. And if your o-line struggles, it is hard to put together a consistent, coherent plan week after week. So the growing pains of this offensive line are the root of many of the team’s problems. The lack of a run game primarily. Though I wouldn’t put it all on them.

CJT: Hey Alex, how many teams that did not make the playoffs do you think have rosters that are probably better than the Steelers roster?

Alex: Hmm, I’m really not sure. I’m betting someone does. Probably the Chargers. But I hadn’t thought about it very much, to be honest with you.

Korben Tufnel: 

It seems as though a sizeable segment of the national media has taken Ben’s “we don’t stand a chance” quote as an honest assessment instead of his usual pregame snark.

In your opinion, do members of the press not understand sarcasm? Is it the usual Ben-bashing? Or is it an example of not letting truth get in the way of a good headline?

Alex: Probably that last one. On paper, this is a pretty boring matchup to talk about. It has the largest spread of Wild Card weekend and one of the larger Wild Card lines in playoff history. Most people, understandably, expect this game to be a no-contest. There isn’t a ton of intrigue here on the field. So they gotta pivot to something else and Ben provided a nice storyline for them.

It’s like Nick Wright’s comments that the Chiefs should sit Hill and Kelce. He doesn’t actually believe that but he needs some angle to run with here to make this game sound more interesting. For airtime and ratings and headlines even though it’s all just hot air intentionally drummed up for clicks in what the media views to be a boring game without much juice.

stan: I was really surprised to see Harvin out there punting against the Ravens given how well Waitman played the previous two weeks. Was there a “punt off” like there was prior to the Chiefs game? I hope that its a matter of Harvin winning the job back rather than just returning it to him because of the circumstances under which he lost it. I mean, we’re all sympathetic to Harvin, but when your replacement is so much better than you, the needs of the team outweigh sympathy IMO.

Alex: I was surprised too. Don’t know what they did to decide on who the punter should be. Doubt it was a punt-off. We’ll see what happens this weekend. I hope Waitman is the guy. He’s also kicked in KC before this season, and did well, which helps.

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