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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your weekly Pittsburgh Steelers’ mailbag. Seven days from today, we’ll be just hours away from Day One of the 2022 NFL Draft. Can’t wait.

To your questions!

ÄB: Hey Alex,

My cousin coaches Brandon Hunt’s son in wrestling, and the word is The Steelers are 100% in on Malik and are looking at all ways to get him…take that with a grain of salt, of course.

Anyway, do you and the team have the exact statement from Colbert saying he wants to leave the team with their next QB before he steps down? It’s been floating around for a while so just trying to figure out when that was said and if it was paraphrased.

Alex: Noted. I guess we’ll get our answer one week from today. I think he’s #1 on their list. What does that mean in terms of getting him? We’ll see.

Colbert never outright said that. It was something Ian Rapoport has been talking about for awhile. Here is what Rapoport said back in early March.

“I know Kevin Colbert has basically told people he didn’t want to retire without getting the next franchise quarterback for the Steelers.”

But Colbert has never outright publicly said it. There’s no good reason to be that transparent anyway.

James Cowan: Hi Alex,

How many games of each QB prospect have you watched and how do you guys do reports e.g. pick games that have publically available all-22 or try to watch guys over a linear timeframe and look for year to year growth?

Also, as a fan of the NFL how excited are you for this draft? With so much uncertainty and trades ongoing it’s lining up to be a really great one I think.

Alex: It partially depends on the guy. Three games are the minimum across the board but I try to do more with quarterbacks given the extra importance of that position. But sometimes I’m not totally comfortable in my evaluation/thoughts on a guy and need to watch more. I did 4-5 games on each quarterback plus I watched all the guys at the Senior Bowl too (Pickett, Howell, Ridder, Strong, Willis). Which is a unique, up-close perspective. So I felt pretty comfortable overall with what I watched.

I do keep in mind what games I am picking. I like to take different parts of the year so I’m not watching three games in September. I look at games against quality opponents and players too and try to get a good balance in the report. To do the things you’re talking about.

I’m really excited. The last two years have felt slightly subdued. No first round pick in 2020 and Najee pretty much being the guy in 2021. This year feels much more open for Pittsburgh and the rest of the league.

Steelers Depot: Alex, do you have any future plans to move to Arizona or Nevada? I will hang up and take your answer off the air.

Alex: Based on the weather the last couple of days, snowing on Tuesday, chilly today, 80 on Sunday, 45 later next week, I’m about to book my plane ticket.

MAK Lives Free: Two questions today:

1) If the Steelers did offer Johnson a contract this offseason, what do you think it would be and would he accept it?
2) I can’t help but to think if they don’t go QB in Rd 1, then it’s gonna be D (DL or CB) and not WR. I know there is a need, but they always seem to grab that guy in rds 2-3.

Always appreciate you and the Depot team Alex!

Alex: I don’t have an exact structure in mind, I lean on Dave for those things, but it would have to be market value. At least if they want to make a serious offer and not a pointless “we’ll say we tried’ lowball offer. So I’m looking in that $18-20 million range. That’s what it’d take to have a shot of him accepting it, at least. But it would also depend on structure and not just average yearly value and that stuff is more speculation or at the least, out of my wheelhouse.

Sure, I’m not discounting those things. But the list of guys who “fit” at those spots are limited, unless someone falls. If a Gardner or Stingley or Jordan Davis slips, then those guys could come into play. But if we take those guys off the board, you’re not left with a ton. There’s Devonte Wyatt from Georgia but he’s 24 with serious off-field concerns and that isn’t what Pittsburgh does in the first round. There is CB Andrew Booth but he hasn’t worked out due to injury. The Steelers could still take him, they’ve drafted injured first rounders before (Miller, Heyward, Harris) but it would be a mild surprise.

But point taken about receiver day two. That makes sense and I’ve said similar.

falconsaftey43: Do you think at this point they go into the draft without adding another SS? And do you think that pressures them into drafting one high? I’m thinking we’ll end up seeing what fans consider a “reach” as a 2nd round safety pick.

Alex: It’s looking that way. Which is a surprise. And is a unique situation. Rare they go into the draft with such a glaring need. Which makes it hard to answer your question – how much pressure does that create? It’s gotta create some urgency because you can’t bank on Mathieu/Edmunds signing with you. They have the freedom to go elsewhere and putting the ball in their court is too risky for how the Steelers typically approach things.

Plus, even if you did sign either guy, Mathieu is about to turn 30 and Edmunds clearly isn’t part of long-term plans. So taking a safety early still holds value. They drafted Edmunds with the intent to make him more of a sub-package guy year one until Morgan Burnett got hurt. So they could approach the same here thinking “well draft a safety early. If we can’t sign a vet, great, we have our rookie. If we do sign one, the rookie will have a more limited role and offers good injury protection.” That guy can still play Year One and too much depth in the secondary is a good thing.

Nick Cross is probably that dude who goes at 52 people yell about because it’s “too early.” Similar to Edmunds.

Jon: Alex,
What do you think the best case scenario is for the strong safety position going into the 2022 season? How have they left this big of a hole for this long?

Alex: I guess best is signing a vet and drafting a rookie high. Some of these guys just haven’t signed. There’s reportedly been an offer on the table for Edmunds for awhile. But he’s fine waiting things out, I guess. And there weren’t a ton of other options out there.

The Chin: Alex, I have a new rescue dog and he’s sort of psycho. He’s out of control most of the time, then he runs out of gas. But more than anything he barks when I’m not right with him. I would like to name him after a Steeler, but can’t quite pinpoint it. Antonio sticks in my brain, but I’d like to maybe hear your suggestion, and it can’t be Chidi.

Alex: Hmm, I’m not the best at names. Antonio is certainly a choice. If you’re basically asking me to name you “crazy” Steelers. You could go “Ernie” for “Ernie Holmes” or his nickname, “Fats.” Maybe this one is a little on the nose but I like “Mad Dog” for Dwight White .Johnny “Blood” McNally was certainly a character way back in his day. I wouldn’t recommend Johnny or Blood but McNally is kinda cool, even if it’s a last name.

Lloyd in honor of Greg Lloyd. Lambert for Jack Lambert. And Webby is just a fun name for Mike Webster. Hope that helps.

Christopher Pokins: Alex,
Tired of talking about QBs and really hope we don’t trade up to take one. But with the theme of trading up, name two players, that if they fall to say pick 12 are worth trading up for. I want us to stay out 20 and take best player available, but would trade up to twelve for Stingley or Hamilton. Thoughts?

Alex: Those are two solid names. Hamilton would probably be the big one for me. Maybe Stingley, too. You saw the way he shut down Ja’Marr Chase in practices. There’s just more projection there with him. But I think you’ve zeroed in on the right guys.

mem359: Hi Alex,
When some writers assume Mayfield will be cut (and suggest the Steelers should get him), they assume that Mayfield’s salary has offset language. Is that true?
I haven’t found anything concrete online about 5th year options and offsets.
Teams have to negotiate on offsets for rookie contracts.
It isn’t clear to me that a team would plan ahead for offsets to cut a player after they exercised the option.

Alex: I’m not sure. I know Matthew was asking about that last night and I don’t have a great answer. Maybe send it into the podcast for Dave to answer. As you said, there is a negotiation on offset language in rookie deals. With salaries essentially slotted, that’s really one of the biggest things both sides haggle over these days.

Alex Roarty: Big picture question ahead of the draft: Why do you think the Steelers have struggled so much to find good cornerbacks coming out of college?

Has their talent evaluation been poor? The coaching once they arrive in Pittsburgh inadequate? Does the team just have a unique set of demands for their corners, and so finding good young ones is especially tricky? But a fan of the team that drafted Layne/Burns/Doran Grant/Terry Hawthorne/Curtis Brown would like to know.

Alex: That’s a good question that doesn’t have an exact answer. I’d say a couple things.

1. They’ve had to semi-recently transform their philosophy. Getting away from their C3 “tackle the catch” style to better athletes with better ball skills who could play man coverage. William Gay worked well in 2007. It might not work as well today in today’s landscape and the Steelers’ style.

2. They didn’t draft many of them early. Until Artie Burns, Chad Scott was the last first-round corner they had taken. A lot of picks were more mid-round types were the success rate of any position is going to be lower. They overcorrected on Burns and his athleticism/traits and ignored his rawness and system fit and got snakebitten by Senquez Golson’s injury.

3. Plain poor evaluation. A lot of those guys didn’t work out elsewhere. One or two did, like Keenan Lewis, but a lot of guys quickly flamed out. Which speaks more of an issue on the evaluation side than the coaching and development side.

Jerry Reid: Hey Alex! In all the articles I’ve read on this site and others (I definitely have missed some), I’ve yet to see anyone address that last year’s week 1 starting offensive line had zero games together in the pre season and who can really say how many practice runs. It can’t be too many because they had Chuks at left last year.

With most of the emphasis last year being on how important it was for the line to gel, is it really something that only played a small part? Personally I draw a lot of optimism that the only competition on that line will most likely be at center and that our starting line can probably be penciled in right now. Turner wasn’t even signed until mid June.

My question is can the majority of the OL woes last season be placed on the severely limited time they had to practice together? And do you think that the FA moves and the sake of continuity will steer the Steelers away from addressing the OL except for depth pieces in the draft?

Alex: I think we spoke about it a lot during the time. The newness of the o-line. It was the biggest X-Factor for me and for a lot of us. So it’s something I feel, trying to think back, was well-discussed.

It’s hard to break up exactly how much each issue played a role but sure, it plays one. The o-line truly is a unit. A one-fail, we-all-fail mentality.

And that will happen again this year with all the new faces. And it will take time. I’m not exactly sure how things will be penciled in and I don’t think the team knows exactly how it all will shake out, too. But like you said, hopefully there won’t be things like signing Turner shortly before camp as even more turnover up front.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Alex,
We’ve concentrated so much on quarterback prospects and who like whom in this draft. You’ve watched a lot of tape on a lot of prospects at this point. Who would you say is your favorite non-QB prospect? Everyone has a play or two they love in every draft. Could be a 2nd or 3rd round guy you think is perfect for the team or a safety you believe is first round material or even a late round guy you like to exceed expectations. But who is “your guy” this year?

Alex: I don’t know if I have as strong of a draft crush this year than past years but a couple guys. I did love the heck out of watching SDSU punter Matt Araiza’s highlights. He’s just a fun dude to watch on tape.

Other guys I really like include Baylor safety/star Jalen Pitre and Penn State WR Jahan Dotson. Pitre is a rocked up, athletic hitter with a good football IQ. Dotson just knows how to get open. Nuanced route runner, good at the breakpoint, and plays big. Those guys are studs.

Steel PAul: Hey Alex.. what are your thoughts on K. Hamilton – beyond that he’s mocking top 5-10 – as a player who could help the Steelers with coverage of the QBs in the AFC North and guy like Chase?

Alex: Big fan of him. You can read my player profile I’ll link below. Hamilton is a little tight-hipped but he’s still a top-tier prospect.

2022 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton

Pyscho Steeler: Hey Alex, If fans and Steeler brass know its not a good QB class, why would they take one in first? And if your thinking because they might not be picking lower than 20 next year, well then that would make Trubisky a hit.

Alex: “Is it a good class” is really asking the wrong question. It’s about “is there one guy we really like.” There can be one guy they love and it can still be a relatively poor class. They can love one QB, hate the rest, and if the one they love is there at #20, they take him.

I don’t view the thought process as the collective but the individual. That’s what matters. Your ranking of each player. And what the draft world thinks doesn’t always represent how one team thinks and grades one guy. They would take one at #20 because they feel that guy is a franchise QB.

hdogg48: 

I read that Deebo Samulel wants out at SF.

The author listed teams that he would be a good fit
for, and the Steelers were one of them.

In the NFC Championship Game he was IMHO BY FAR
the best player.

If he became available and the Steelers got what the Niners
want…should they take a run at him?

Alex: They can take a run but don’t expect it to amount to much. There will be a lot of teams interested. And I don’t see it happening in Pittsburgh for a variety of reasons. The need to pay him when you might be paying Diontae, preserving draft capital for a QB (this year or next), and just the competition/price to acquire him.

stan: The fact that Colbert is retiring is all the more reason NOT to draft a QB this year given that anyone he takes would either be a reach or he’d have to deal future picks to trade up for him. Let the next guy make his own bed rather than saddling him with your decision.

Alex: Which was partially my issue with Colbert staying on post-draft. It is a weird dynamic. But it doesn’t really matter because Colbert is the GM and he’s not going to avoid taking a QB solely for that reason. He’s drafting and can’t think about the impact of the future GM, even though I agree with your point.

Brian Tollini: Your gut feeling: How many (and which) of the “top 5” QB’s do you think the Steelers would take @20 if they were the only one of the top 5 remaining when the Steelers pick?

Alex: I haven’t decided yet. You might get my answer in my mock draft. I think Willis is their #1 but I don’t think he’ll be there at #20.

MattSteelCurtain91: Great job as always! So excited just 1 week left! Whos your top 5 non QBs that you’d be willing to trade up for and how high you’d go for?!

Alex: I really wouldn’t trade up for any non-QB. Mentioned Hamilton and Stingley as options that make sense. But it’s really QB or stay at #20.

Tangitau Attack: 

Yo,

How do I know when this event occurs? Does is occur weekly? And if so what time? I always miss out

Alex: The mailbag? It’s every Thursday at 2:30 PM/EST;. And been that way for nearly all of its 334 editions. Hope to see you next week!

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