Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your weekly mailbag. Unfortunately, the first one of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason. But like always, we’re here for the next hour to answer anything on your mind.

To your questions!

James Cowan: 

Hi Alex,

Do you read anything into Omar Khan being interviewed for other teams and Brandon Hunt not. Steelers have a consistently highly rated scouting operation but Hunt never gets a look in. Do you think the league knows he is next in line for Steelers GM.

Alex: It’s hard to know those things happening behind closed doors. Khan was a hot name in the early 2010s then fell off for years and over the last two, his name has picked back up. Hunt did get a look from the Eagles a few years back, not as a GM but some other promotional role that didn’t happen. What you’re saying is certainly possible. Also worth noting I don’t believe Khan’s interview has happened yet. You would think that would take place over the next couple of days unless Khan turned it down…keeping an eye on that (though I just read the Bears’ GM search is stretching into next week. So it probably happens then).

Billjump: If the steelers do sign a veteran qb (not including the likes of Rodgers), what sort of money would you like to see him get paid? I’m thinking if they got someone they could pay similar to Rudolph it would mean an open competition to be the starter and also free up money for FA signings on other parts of the team, Does this sound realistic?

Alex: Partially depends on who that guy is. Mitch Trubisky vs Teddy Bridgewater is a different equation. Quarterbacks don’t come cheap. Even backups can make good money, let alone guys who could compete for a starting job. So it really just depends on a lot of variables but you’ll probably see it in that 5-7 million range. You’re right that paying a lot more than that kinda makes that guy the de facto starter though if it’s just a one-year deal, then it doesn’t hurt quite as much if that guy is on the bench.

We’ll see. Like I wrote this morning, there’s a lot of options on the table.

Anthony Palmerston: Hey Alex, when is Colbert scheduled to speak with the media? If there is not any scheduled session, when does that usually occur after the season?

Alex: Nothing scheduled yet. Looks like he met with the media February 17th last year. So about two weeks after the Super Bowl. Probably a similar schedule this year. Next couple weeks are busy with Senior Bowl prep and coaching staff changes.

ifihadatail007: Outside of the obvious QB questions, and figuring out what needs to happen at ILB, what area is most critical during this offseason that we can actually accomplish?

Alex: Offensive line. Trench play. Improving run offense, rush defense. The latter touches more on ILB than d-line at this point with Alualu’s return but yeah, the o-line is far from being a finished product. It was a hurried, mashed together unit last season. Turner is probably gone and we’ll see about Okorafor. I’d move on, personally. Hard to have a good run game with an average/below average run-blocking RT. And we’ll see what happens at center. But overall, this was a bottom ranked run offense and historically bad run defense. That’s gotta get fixed, especially when you play in the AFC North.

Anthony Palmerston: 

There were reports out that Colbert would retire after the draft and then there were reports refuting the TIMING of that retirement. To me, it sounds like this is Colbert’s last draft and that he retires at some point prior to the next draft. I understand this is all speculation right now and that we’ll get a more solid answer in the future.

However, assuming that this is his last draft….do the Steelers really draft a QB in rounds 1-3? Wouldn’t it be better to have the new internally promoted GM draft a QB next year and just have Colbert fill other holes this year? That way the new GM starts with the new QB and can build a team around him. Or is that just stupid?

Alex: Sure, they could draft a QB. If you find a franchise guy, you don’t pass on him. It is likely the next GM is internal so that helps the concern over a new GM taking over, though your point is taken. I don’t like the idea of Colbert retiring after the offseason. Do it now or do it after the 2022 season. You rarely see GM changes after the draft. So I think it’s strange and the wrong decision. Colbert wants to try to help build the post-Ben era, I get it, but that’s unfair to his replacement.

But will it stop them from taking a QB? No it won’t. It’s hard to tell the current GM “don’t draft this guy because of future considerations.”

Daniel Moon: Hi Alex, Is Jameis Winston better than MR and Haskins? MT obviously wants a mobile QB and I don’t think MR and Haskins fit that mode. Or do you go with MR or Haskins and then draft someone like Aqeel Glass?

Alex: Winston is probably another one my short list of guys I wouldn’t go after. I know he had a decent year this season before getting hurt and cut down on the turnovers, all the talk about his contacts and vision and stuff, but I don’t trust him enough to take care of the football based on his track record. If you’re going with that bridge option, your team is built around good defense and taking care of the ball offensively…sorta like it was in 2019 with Rudolph/Duck. Don’t need a QB throwing INTs that are going to kill your team, stress your defense, and then ask your offense to put a lot of points on the board. So I’m not high on the idea of Winston.

Ryan Barton: I always look forward to reading your mock offseason articles each year. With both Ben retiring and the cap going back up I imagine this years mock offseason will be very interesting. When do you plan on doing this exercise? Closer to free agency starting in March?

Alex: Thanks Ryan! It’s one of my favorite articles to get to write. Yeah, it’ll be closer to the start of free agency which is Mid-March. So early to mid-March is usually my target date.

PaeperCup: Hey Alex, do you think Ben will be involved with the NFL after he retires, and in what capacity?

Alex: Not very. He’s gonna hunt, golf, and hang out with his family. His whole adult life has been spent in the spotlight. I think he wants to just be Ben for a bit…not Big Ben. I’m sure we’ll see him occasionally, at a Steelers game, Pens game, he’s involved in charity work and maybe he’ll be even more involved with churches – his Sundays are free now – but aside from coaching his kids Pop Warner team, I don’t think he’s too involved with football for the time being.

Daniel Moon: Hi Alex, same old question, but I don’t know the reason for being loyal to Matt Canada. Some say he was limited by a 39 year old immobile QB who could not make all the throws. The problem I had with Canada is that his situational play calling was sucked even if we give him the Big Ben and terrible OL excuse. This family atmosphere Steeler way is behind time and the Steelers need to change. Fire Canada!!!

Alex: I get your point but Canada has been OC for one season. Not even a full year. So I don’t think this is about being “loyal” to him the way it was LeBeau, Butler, Fichtner, guys on the coaching staff for a long time.

I pointed out the criticisms I have of Canada on yesterday’s podcast. But it’s fair to say that wasn’t fully the offense he wanted to run for lots of reasons, not just the mobility aspect everyone is focused on. So I understand giving him at least a second year. Coordinators in Pittsburgh, even across the NFL, are rarely one-and-done unless there’s a head coaching change.

CP72: AK,
You cutting Schobert and Banner and saving the 13 million? That number is enticing to move on from both guys.

Alex: Yes and yes. Their play isn’t worth the money. I get Schobert was thrown into the fire right as the season started and that’s hard to adjust to professionally and personally. But nearly $9 million for his level of play? I can find a better use for that money. And Banner, unless he is this team’s starting RT heading into the season, you’re not paying $5 million for a backup RT and RT only. It just isn’t worth it. Haeg has more value to this team right now than Banner.

Mr. Goodkat: Is ILB on your “Best Available at These Positions of Need” for Rd1? What about S?

Alex: ILB certainly is. Safety depends on what happens with Edmunds. If they don’t bring him back, it jumps up there. No in-house replacement.

Ian Suttie: At what price would you be happy to have JuJu back? Realistically, how hot do you expect his market to be?

Alex: I don’t have an exact number. His market is weird. The injury hurts him but the cap is going up, which should help him and all players a bit. I think he comes in a little under where he was at last year. Hard to make more money in a year where you played five games and didn’t even light it up then (not that it was really his fault). So I dunno, he’s probably in that 6-7 mil range. Question is if he wants a long-term deal. He says he wants one but this isn’t the time to handcuff yourself to a four-year deal. He should take another one-year contract and build his value but I understand the lack of security there going in on another 1-year deal again.

Bill Sechrengost: Hi Alex. Cam Sutton signed a 2-year, $9,000,000 contract last year, so he one year left on it, 2022. That is cheap for a starting CB in the NFL. Has he earned an extension in the off season? or wait until next year when he will be an UFA?

Alex: We’ll see. Anything is possible. But I get the feeling he’s not someone who will get an extension this summer. That doesn’t tend to happen on those shorter deals like he got. Focus will be on Fitzpatrick and potentially Johnson. Not that you can’t focus on Sutton too but I don’t see it happening. It’s not like his play this year was super stellar or anything either.


Assume the Steelers want to find a Jeff Hartings to gain breathing space at Center. Who are the options? Are there any good looking Guard conversion types, such as Hartings?

Refusing to give up on KG doesn’t mean it’s safe to blindly rely on that big a jump

Alex: Agree big-time on Green. I haven’t looked at a free agent list too closely yet with the season just wrapping up. More names could come on or off the list as we get close to the new league year. So I don’t have any good conversion names or hardly even center names, though Ryan Jensen would look pretty good in Pittsburgh if he somehow leaves Tampa Bay (a tough ask, I bet). A veteran conversion guy could work, as it did with Hartings, but the team might prefer a “true” center to avoid that adjustment and those growing pains again, even if it is with a better and more veteran guy. But we’ll see. I’ll have a list of names later in the offseason.

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