Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your weekly mailbag, 2022 Combine edition. We’re here for the next hour and just about when we wrap up, prospects will take the field at Indy to go through their on-field testing and workouts.

To your questions!

Brian Tollini: Consensus seems to be offense for our 1st round pick, but which names on defense that could reasonably be there at @20 would be almost too hard to pass up? Lloyd? Stingley? I am personally infatuated with CB Trent McDuffie from Washington.

Alex: Yeah that’s a good question. It’s a harder list to come up with because it’s more likely to be an offensive guy. I think it would come at either ILB or in the secondary. Lloyd, maybe Nakobe Dean from Georgia at off-ball linebacker. In the secondary, McDuffie is a good name to mention at corner. Maybe Sauce Gardner from Cincy if he’s on the board. And at safety, Jaquan Brisker from Penn State is regarded as the second best safety in the class behind Kyle Hamilton. So those are a short-list of names.

Dan: Kenny Pickett officially has 8.5 inch hands. How much does hand size matter, and does it have a significant impact on ball security or anything regarding passing?

Alex: I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter. It does, everything does, especially historically low numbers like that, which is where Pickett’s at. I know 8.5 vs 9 doesn’t sound like much but relatively, when we’re on a scale of basically two inches (8.5 to 10.5 inches) it is a lot.

But is it going to hurt his draft stock? I doubt it. I know Kevin Colbert downplayed it last week. They know what he did at Pitt in some bad weather climates. Like the UNC game.

Now, Pickett does have a history of fumbling and that in itself is a concern no matter how big or small his hands were. But is hand size the sole reason for that? Probably not. It’s something worth studying.

In all, I think it’ll be a minimal impact. The guy is still going to be a first-round pick.


Hey Alex! How would you rate Mason in the following areas on a scale from 1-5 (with 5 being very good):
1. Arm strength
2. Accuracy
3. Mobility
4. Pocket awareness
5. Reading defenses
5. Intangibles (leadership, toughness, etc)

Thank you.

Alex: Unfortunately we haven’t seem him that much since that tough 2019 season where I know he has grown and gotten better. But I’ve of course seen him in camp this past summer and in the Lions game. So here is (roughly) where I am at.

Arm Strength: 3. A little above average but it’s not a rocket.

Accuracy: 3. His downfield accuracy is very good in terms of his placement. The shorter stuff is just about average.
Mobility: 1.5-ish. Better than Ben and he’s made a couple surprising plays with his legs this year. But he’s not fluid and he runs awkwardly. It’s a baseline level of functional mobility and nothing more.

Pocket awareness: 2. It’s gotten better from where it started when he was genuinely a 1. But he still struggles with moving within the pocket and navigating pressure.

Reading Defenses: 2. He’s still made far too many mistakes and forced throws even at this point in his career.

Intangibles: 3.5. This one is tougher to judge. But the dude is tough. He’s been through a lot of crap in not a lot of games. And Steelers’ fans kinda hate him when they normally love the backup QB, the Leftwich’s the Batch’s of the world. Rudolph plays with a chip on his shoulder.

Bryant Eng: Would you be willing to give up a first round pick to move up to take Malik Willis? If not, what would you give up? It’s clear to me that Malik has the best tool kit of any QB in this draft, and PIT is so patient I doubt if he’d have less than the full 5 years of his deal to show he can make it work.

Alex: That’s a tough one. I get the allure of Willis and see the tools there. I’d probably want to go through the rest of the QB class before making a final evaluation there. If you made me answer that, I would probably try to find a way to give up something a little less. I certainly would be willing to trade up for him, to go up 5-7 spots. I’m not sure where I come in on the first round pick part. But I wouldn’t rule it out.

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