Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your weekly mailbag. Promise to start this one on time and again, thank you for your patience last week. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

James Cowan: 

Hi Alex,

I know this is depending on Tuitt but is Wormley on the bubble or a potential trade candidate? And what is his value to the Steelers?

A seven sack season is statistically great but his run D was sub par to say the least.

Alex: I can’t see how he’s on the bubble, Tuitt coming back or not. Wormley had a career year last year and certainly wasn’t at the root of the team’s run defense issues. He could’ve been better but everyone could’ve been better. If that’s the metric, then they’re all on the bubble. Pittsburgh is going to want to keep its d-line room deep and strong this year considering the mess they found themselves in a year ago.

George Hareras: 

Hey Alex!

Love all the draft coverage and all the in depth work you and the guys do.

During the predraft process, does the team do in depth studies on the big time throws, fumbles, etc. that Dave has been doing when evaluating QBs? Or is Depot a special kind of crazy? I feel like this is all very useful information.

Keep up the great work!

Alex: Thanks George! I can’t answer that with certainty, not being in that room. But I’m sure their process is extremely thorough and they certainly have all the access to this information and can probably compile some of it quicker than we/Dave can with more staff, easier access, and different software.

I’m sure they have info to this degree in a scouting report or draft packet. Now, how much does Colbert/Tomlin use it? Harder to say. But I think it’s a type of advanced stat they’d get on board with. I know Colbert referenced Pickett’s fumble rate and how it wasn’t that bad, which is something Dave has recently discussed. So it sounds like they used that information (though that could just be as simple as the team dividing dropbacks and fumbles, I’m not sure).


Hey Alex,
what excites me the most about this draft class is that we legitimately have drafted 2 WRs with superstar potential. Don’t wanna put too much pressure on those guys but I don’t believe they have a low floor baring injury and they could go through the roof which I absolutely love. Especially considering the WR room before with just Dionte that excites me, who’s awesome but seems to have a price tag I don’t want to buy with his drop issues and generally not superstar consistency.

What excites you the most about Colberts last draft class?

Alex: I’m with you. The two receivers, Pickens and Austin, were the best parts of the draft. Value, talent, weapons for an offense that needs them. Two different types of receivers in position and style and some protection should this be Diontae Johnson’s last year of his rookie deal. Don’t think these additions mean that Johnson won’t get a deal done but there’s a good fallback plan if 2022 is his last.

Pickett wasn’t my #1 guy and Leal makes me nervous while the later Day Three picks have capped ceilings. So the receivers are easily the best part of this haul.

RangerBrigade: Alex – if you were to give your best educated guess who are your top 3 targets the Steelers may sign as a free agent? Are there any potential run stuffing DL types out there that you would like to add to the team (NT Lite) or a Center that suits the Steelers left out there?

Alex: Not really. I think they’ll sign a vet or two but haven’t pinned down any names. I wouldn’t add to the d-line. I’d look at either an OT or a RB. Or both. Maybe an EDGE guy defensively to compete with Avery behind Watt/Highsmith. Names like Alex Okafor and Pernell McPhee make sense there but I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about it. We’ll certainly examine anyone closely if the team signs somebody.

George Hareras: 

Follow up question:

Do you feel better about Pickett after these in depth studies?

Alex: A little. I mean, I knew Pickett’s situational numbers were good through some of the studies Clayton Eckert did for the site and other information out there. From a statistical measure, he looked good. But I think it’s our general inclination to like the picks more once they’re Steelers. You want the guy to do well and succeed. So I have to remind myself of that too. End of the day, he’s the pick, and if I like him or not doesn’t really matter a whole lot anymore, I suppose.


Hey Alex, I have some questions about the WR room.

Say over the first 4 weeks, who do you think plays the most snaps at the X, Z, and Slot?
And say over the last 4 weeks, what does that look like. Assuming injuries are not a factor at all.

Alex: It’s a good question and I’m not sure of the answer. I think it matters a little less than it used to in the AB days. Feels like guys are moving around more often. Things a bit less settled. On paper, Diontae is your X, Claypool your Z, and your slot…Austin? That’s where he’ll play but out of the gate, it’s a little harder to project. Pickens has worked all three spots but is best on the outside, the X or the Z. Probably profiles a bit better as a Z but he’s fluid and can beat press so I can see him working as the X, too.

It’s becoming a bit more about target share and snap count than what position they’re lining up. So to the last four weeks, even if the group stays healthy, I don’t have a great answer for that either. Johnson should still be the X. If Claypool plays more like the 2020 version of him, he’ll still be the Z. If not, Pickens could take a big bite into those snaps. And hopefully Austin has proven himself to get the majority of slot snaps by the end of the year.

treeher: With an improved O line (hopefully), a powerful run game and a new QB, I’m looking for a breakout year from Claypool. No more underthrown passes. What do you think?

Alex: All those things should help. Especially at QB. The slice of humble pie Claypool got served up last year might be the biggest thing, along with some health stuff too (he did battle through a turf toe injury that can make it harder to push off, really painful injury). So I’m hopeful he’ll bounce back. But it’s up to him. Big season for him, no doubt.

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