Welcome back to your regularly scheduled portion of the Steelers’ mailbag. We did one on Monday as a post-Senior Bowl makeup for me not being around last week. But we’re back like usual this Thursday for the next hour to answer anything on your mind.
To your questions!
Mackintosh: I know the next couple of months is just going to be about the draft and whether we should go QB or line, what about running back? Do you think we go back into the draft to get a good #2 or do we sign a vet? Hopefully we get someone to help give Najee a break here and there next season.
Alex: I actually did a Terrible Take on the topic last week. It’s a tough spot to be in because you have a bellcow, workhorse back but if you lose him, you have no replacement behind him. And we’ve seen what happens when they lose that guy, all the issues they had without James Conner. So you’d like a decent backup that doesn’t blow up your run game approach revolving around one guy. But it’s hard to sign a free agent because you can’t pay that guy much money with Harris being the guy and it’s hard to convince a vet to come here if he’s not going to play unless there’s an injury. So I think you go through the draft. Can’t be too early of a pick but you may take a Day Three shot on one of those guys as some insurance. But it’s a tricky line to walk.
Poundsand: Hey Alex, Appreciate you guys and your insights. Who do you think will be taking the first snap under center come week 1? I am hoping for a Mariota, Trubisky and not a draft pick. We need OL for Najee.
Alex: Thanks man! I really don’t know. My guess is a veteran bridge type of guy. But it’s hard to dial down to one name. I don’t even rule out a rookie. I trust Jay Glazer’s report that Tomlin doesn’t want one but that’s all theory. You draft a guy, he comes in and plays well in the summer, then your mindset changes once you see your first round pick outplaying everyone else. It’s all case by case basis.
Stephen: Hey Alex, how come when the kicker kicks off and the ball stays in bounds and dies near the sideline but inbounds, the receiving team can have a player put one foot out of bounds and one in and touch the ball and it’s ruled an out of bounds kick and the receiving team gets the ball at the 40 yard line.
Alex: Answered this in last week’s mailbag. I’ll just paste my answer here.
Because the players is considered out of bounds. He can’t advance the ball, he has a foot on the sideline, so that makes him out of bounds and means the ball has been fielded out of bounds. It’s just one of the weird quirks of the rules. I’m not sure of its origins and intent when it was written but that is the rule and you occasionally see players take advantage of it from time to time. The Packers have had several such plays over the years.
Jon: Have you heard anything about who the oline coach could be? Do you have any preferences?
Alex: I haven’t. I don’t think anyone has. Kind of a weird situation. Sounds like maybe they could make a play for Munchak given how long they’re waiting and the fact there’s been no reported interviews, though the Steelers do a great job of keeping things under wraps. I’d be all-for Munchak returning to develop a young offensive line that’s probably going to add more pieces this offseason. But I am hesitant to get too focused in one on name. Could be a name we’re not talking about. I think we’ll get our answer soon.
Personally, I hope the Steelers stay as far away from Mitch Trubisky as possible. In fact if he shows up call security. Anyway, if an outside GM candidate gets the job. That would probably mean that Brandon Hunt moves on right?
(C’mon Ed Dodds)
My wife enjoyed the end of the podcast where you were uncomfortable in answering which dating apps you use by the way.
Alex: Yeah, Trubisky is one of the guys I’d stay away from. Don’t need to convince myself I can fix him the way they thought all the other first round QBs just because he’s a backup for a year and his warts aren’t as forgotten about.
We’ll see what the domino effect could be. Surely if Hunt or Khan can get a promotion somewhere, be a GM or something else, they’d probably leave. But they may stay until the 2023 offseason because most of those front office staffs in high-level positions are hired by the time the draft is over. It’s more of the area scouts and lower-level positions where you see turnover post-draft.
Ha, I’m glad she enjoyed my discomfort.
Anthony Palmerston: Is there a situation that the Steelers don’t hire a GM prior to free agency?
Alex: That’s the expectation. It won’t come until after the draft. That’s what the team has said. So don’t expect an announcement until May.
Vance Mac: How important was Omar Kahn as far as cap structuring? If he would get the GM job, does he retain that aspect?
Alex: Very important. I can’t speak 100% to what his role is but he is the cap/salary guy. He’s the one guiding the team and building their financial plan and outlook, short and long-term. Everything runs through him to inform Colbert/Tomlin what they can/can’t do and I assume he’s a big player in contract negotiations, breaking down how contracts impact the team’s current and future cap. Not an irreplaceable role but an important one.
If he becomes GM, I’m sure he’ll lean on that knowledge and expertise just in the way a scout who becomes GM is able to do. But I’d guess there would be another hire because there will be a lot more responsibility on Khan’s plate. Being able to hire good people and properly delegate is an important role of the job. So short answer, they would hire a “cap guy” and probably a good one because Khan knows what it takes to do the job well and he probably has connections around the league. Who has a good reputation and things like that.
Hey Alex. I was a little taken aback when I looked this up, right now the Steelers’ highest paid offensive players are:
Mason Rudolph $4.98M/y
Zach Banner $4.75M/y
Najee Harris $3.26M/y
Derek Watt $3.26M/y
I knew it was a changing of the guard kind of time, but that really puts it into perspective how much work needs to be done to invest in the offense.
Alex: Good to hear from you, Falcon! Good info. I think it also speaks to the youth of this offense too (and of course, Roethlisberger’s retirement). It’s a young, rebuilding group with the new/young o-line, receivers, draft picks. Having their first four picks in 2021 be on offense for the first time in nearly 30 years. So I think that’s what it speaks to. Some of that investment has taken place. Harris, Freiermuth, Johnson, Moore (hopefully). They just haven’t had to pay those investments yet to retain them. But sure, there is work to do, no doubt about it.
Dan Blocker: Hi Alex! Amongst our offseason needs is ILB. I haven’t gotten a good read yet on the FA crop, but a few years back, CJ Mosley and others were pulling down 16+ mil per year contracts. Do you think that market has cooled down, and what would a good ILB cost in this year’s market? I guess I’m trying to judge where they may spend their cap dollars? Thanks!
Alex: It partially depends on who is out there. Better, younger talent like Mosely when his contract was up in Baltimore got him paid. A lot of it has to do with age. Young players in their mid-20s don’t come on the market often. Good ones, anyway. And that drives their price up. Older guys generally get paid a little less.
I haven’t looked at the free agency market overall or at that position much. My general feel is that this year’s group of FAs isn’t as strong as years past but we’ll have to see who gets re-signed, who gets released, so that pool of FAs can and will change over the next six weeks. I’ll look and comment on it more as we get closer to the new league year in March.
Jerry Reid: If a first round draft prospect is injured late in the season, a wide receiver with a torn acl in December for example, do you know how far they drop? Is it one of those things that depend on player/team/position?
Alex: No hard and fast rule. They get dinged some but broadly speaking, I don’t think it hurts their stock too much if they’re a talented player. Teams know they’re making a long-term investment, not just for their rookie season. I don’t have specific case examples but yeah, if they getting vetted and medically cleared, they’re going to be ok. Jeffrey Simmons tore his ACL in 2019 and still went 19th overall. Brandon Thomas was a third round prospect who tore his ACL in a pre-draft workout and still went in the third round.
Late round prospects who get hurt can really have their stock impacted though. But generally speaking, it doesn’t hurt them much because the recovery rate for say, ACLs is much higher and much quicker. Amari Rodgers tore his ACL at Clemson and missed only six months. Happened in the offseason and he didn’t miss a game.