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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your weekly edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers mailbag. The first one post-Super Bowl. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer anything on your mind.

To your questions!

ÄB: Hey Alex,

Here’s a QB question for you. Not sure how much QB scouting you did that year, but if Haskins was in this year’s draft, where would you rank him in the group of Pickett, Willis, Howell, Corral?

Alex: Hey man! I’m always bad at these questions, especially since I/we didn’t have a draft grading scale the way we do for this season and I don’t have numbers on the other guys yet. Generally speaking, this is a weaker collective QB class. If they were part of last year’s class, most of these guys aren’t going on Day One. Maybe Willis but that’s it and he’d be behind the top names of last year.

How that compares to Haskins, that’s hard for me to say. He might be compared to Carson Strong in terms of style. Live arm, not a lot of mobility but minus Strong’s medical concerns. That’s what is pushing Strong down or else he might’ve been the top QB off the board or at least seriously in that conversation.

But short answer is I don’t really have a ranking. Haskins would be on the higher end of this year’s class though, if you made me answer. One of the top 2-3 QBs off the board, worst case.

Daniel Moon: Hi Alex, with too many holes and lack of team speed, I don’t think the Steelers can use draft picks to move up and grab a QB like Willis. I am also not impressed with this year’s QB prospects. Instead, I would use 1~4 rounds to pick best available players in OL, DL, WR, ILB, DB. As for QB position, would you take your chance with MR or sign someone like Winston or Trubisky? I for one think Trubisky can do well under Canada’s scheme. Your comments are always appreciated.

Alex: You’re right there’s a lot of holes but I’d say two things to that.

1. You have free agency. And unlike most other years in part due to that heavy QB contract on the books, the Steelers will have money. Less than some in the national media will lead you to believe but they’ll have a healthy amount of money and there’s all the tricks the team can use to minimize 2022 cap hits. They still signed players for several million back when their cap space was tight, they can find workarounds when they have potentially $30-ish million to work with come free agency.

2. Quarterback trumps all. You have a franchise quarterback, you have a chance. And that makes it all worth it. Even knowing other needs and areas to upgrade, the QB is what matters most and I can’t let the need for a safety or ILB or wherever prevent me from getting that guy if I have a chance.

I wouldn’t be high on either of the two vet QB names you’re mentioning here but also I recognize any vet type if a bridge QB who won’t transcend this team to Super Bowl contenders. They’re all varying shades of grey. But I would turn to the Mariota/Brissett/Taylor types instead.

Cody: 

Hey Alex,

Can you give your best guess at just how much salary cap the steelers will have? Also have you taken a look at Malcom Rodriguez yet (LB Okstate)

Alex: I’d point you in the direction of Dave’s salary cap articles. Here’s one that outlines potential space they can have/create.

Steelers 2022 Salary Cap Primer Series: Part 2 – Realistic Offseason Space Creating Options

And sorry, I haven’t watched Rodriguez yet.

UK Wildcat/ Steeler Fan/ 1969: Alex: Now my question.
Pick a likely cb that we draft this year & which rd.?

Alex: Oh man, I’m not sure who that is. I don’t have a name the way I do with LB and LSU’s Damone Clark. It depends on: if Haden/Witherspoon re-sign, if they sign someone in free agency, and any other outstanding question we’re not sure of yet. So it’s hard for me to pin down a name right now.

It’ll probably be a Power 5 guy. Typical approach for most positions but especially in the secondary. Want guys who are battle-tested. DBs they’ve recently drafted have come from: Oklahoma, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Michigan State, Penn State, Tennessee, Miami (FL). So big-school guys. Don’t go G5 or FCS.

Yiddishe Chus: It seems like after the senior bowl that I am the only person not so excited about the QB’s in this years draft. I would be perfectly fine signing a QB like Mariota, Winston, or even Mitchell Trubisky for a year while building up other positions in this draft. (That’s in the case where we don’t trade for a QB). Of course if the Steelers see a QB that they think is the future then go for it, but I just don’t see one in this draft. Wanted to know your feeling.

Also do you think they will double dip in FA and the draft in any positions as they have done in the past? And if so which ones?

Alex: I think many people recognize this QB class as weaker. That’s why most of these names are even in play and in the conversation for the Steelers. If there was a Trevor Lawrence, he’d go #1 and Pittsburgh wouldn’t have a chance sitting at #20.

Double-dip is hard to say and usually based on the talent out there. If there’s a group with good depth that is high on your board come Day Two. May see two offensive linemen get added, if that counts. But the Steelers also don’t have a lot of picks and those double-dips tend to come when there’s more draft capital (8+) to play with.

knoxly: Hey Alex, using only these traits rank the 2022 QB class from what you know right now about the prospects. Accuracy, decision-making, ball placement.

Alex: I still don’t think I’m equipped to best answer that right now on those things. I’m still a little behind on QBs and I don’t want to let a couple days at the Senior Bowl dictate too much of my answer. So sorry man, I can’t answer that yet.

Sdale: Alex, loved the article about the new Oline coach. Thanks. How do you think that might affect the type of interior Oline guys we would be looking for in the draft. My impression is Linderbaum is still not a fit scheme/size wise. Would you agree? Also, do you think we need Interior OL or OT more this year?

Alex: Thanks man!

My sense was that Meyer likes bigger, stronger guys with good length. Which you’re right, may hurt Linderbaum is a pretty small offensive line prospect, at least in terms of weight. I’m not sure of his length, I’ll find that out at Combine weigh-ins.

Daniel Moon: Hi Alex, I saw Jacksonville Jaguars’ coaching staff table. The Jaguars under their new HC have assistant coaches in every position (ass’t QB, WR, OL, DL, ST) not to mention passing game coordinator in offense and defense. I do know the Steelers have one of smaller coaching staff and analytics department. Is this due to MT’s preference or budget allocation issue?

Alex: I’m guessing the Steelers don’t have a huge coaching staff but do we know it’s one of the smaller ones? Has anyone gone through the team sites to determine that?

But even assuming that, I don’t know why that is. I don’t think it’s a “cheap” thing. Tomlin is one of the highest-paid head coaches in football. I doubt it’s a budget concern. There is a risk of having too many voices and too many cooks in the kitchen. So a bigger coaching staff has upsides but there are potential downsides, too. And Pittsburgh does have assistants, multiple of them, just not at every single position. It’s usually for the bigger groups, like o-line.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: With holes at RG, RT, CB, ILB, QB, SS, WR3, it seems as though the Steelers are in need of one or two significant (starter quality, but not necessarily top names) free agent signings. What position(s) would you look to address in FA? Have you considered any names you think the team might target?

Alex: It’s hard to talk about those things in a vacuum because it’s so variable. On what free agents are out there, what their ask price is, what the market is like, how much money you have to spend. But I would say a center and a cornerback. A center, a veteran, a guy who has been there, done that, and proven. Anchor in the middle of a young offensive line. I’m all about that.

And corner because of the team’s track record drafting CBs (it’s bad) and it’s nice to have proven guys in the league who have shown they can cover. Not some college kid and you hope the traits can translate.

I have some names in my head but I’ll put out a list closer to the start of free agency in addition to my annual mock offseason.

falconsaftey43: True or false: whoever, and whenever the Steelers obtain their next Franchise QB, they’ll trade up in the draft to select him.

Alex: Who the heck knows but I will say true. For a team unlikely to be picking in the Top 5 or even Top 10 anytime soon, they probably will need to make a move up for a guy. So yes, I think it’s true.

DoomZone FF: 

Hey Alex,

I’ve done more Steelers mock draft simulations than I would care to admit😐. When it comes to round 2 even though I may want them to take speedster WR Jalen Tolbert from South Alabama. I know that’s against their history, and they’d be more likely to take a LB there, and go for Romeo Doubbs. Dave’s bromance aside, am I wrong in assuming that’s a more likely scenario?

Alex: Well from the conference scenario, they largely stay in the Power 5. So a “smaller school” guy like Tolbert is a tougher fit because of the school he’s coming from. It does help he attended and played well at the Senior Bowl. That’s what I think really got Javon Hargrave from SC State who balled out during his Senior Bowl call-up.

But hey, they took Diontae Johnson in the second round so it’s possible. They need speed and Tolbert will supply it.

Jerry Reid: Hey Alex! What advice would you give an amateur film watcher when it comes to evaluating draft prospects? Specifically, where to start? All highlight reels show first round prospects lol so where you recommend starting to look?

Alex: Hey man! I would just say to watch a lot. The more you watch, the more you learn, the more you’re comfortable in your understanding of these prospects. I would advise to watch different points of the season if you can, early, middle, late/bowl game, and watch them against the best competition you can. Compare a lesser team vs a better team and see how the prospect fares. Also take notes. Write stuff down. You won’t remember it all just watching and not writing it down. Don’t type it either. Pen and paper. You’ll remember better that way.

Yeah, don’t look up highlight reels. They’re just that…highlights. YouTube has a lot of full games you can get through pretty quickly. You can also just type in “Name vs” and cutups will come up. So for example, if you wanted to watch Tennessee OL Cade Mays, you can just type in “Cade Mays vs” and you’ll get cutups of their offense.

Hope that helps.

Daniel Moon: Hey Alex, Would you trade Claypool and keep JuJu or keep Claypool and let JuJu walk? Thanks.

Alex: Always depends on circumstance. What I could get for Claypool, what type of deal/money JuJu is looking for. But generally speaking, I’d rather have JuJu than Claypool.

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