Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your Steelers’ mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind. Given the busy week, there’s probably a lot.

To your questions!

Rick Williams: Hi Alex,
I know that most if not all are down on the Greene pick from last year. I think he should come back as our interior swing guy. Who is the can’t miss guy you can remember, that missed?

Alex: I don’t mean to get into the weeds of semantics but I don’t think Kendrick Green was “can’t miss.” He was a third round pick, not a top ten guy. But I agree on the idea of him being the interior swing guy, the new BJ Finney.

In terms of recent can’t-miss guys, Devin Bush was a pretty popular pick. Top ten guy, traded up for, Steelers obviously loved him. So that’s one of the most recent names. I remember everyone loving and being shocked Limas Sweed fell to them in the second round. And that sure didn’t work out.

James Cowan:

Hi Alex,

It’s now obvious Flores is working with the ILBs. Where does this leave Jerry O

Alex: Good question. I’ll have to wait until training camp to get eyes on it. We’ll see how the division of labor breaks up. I don’t have a great answer for you right now though I haven’t really looked for Olsavsky much this spring.

ÄB: Hey Alex,

Not sure exactly what nationality GM Omar Khan is, but is Khan/Tomlin the only minority GM/HC duo in the league right now?

Alex: Khan is Hispanic and Indian. I’d have to go through each team but off the top, the Dolphins have Chris Greier and Mike McDaniel. So that’s at least another.


Hi Alex…

Trubisky or Pickett Day 1 starter?

Alex: To be determined. It really depends how the summer goes. Consider Trubisky the slight favorite right now but nothing is set in stone. It could go either way.

falconsaftey43: Hey Alex,
Khan is generally viewed as the cap guy, but there really is not a hole lot going on with that during the regular season with the Steelers. Any idea what his responsibilities are that time of year? Is he more involved with scouting than during that period than given credit for?

Alex: Under Colbert, it was in-season roster management and scouting. So working with the pro scouts for any tryouts (the GM doesn’t always attend those though but sometimes they do) making roster decisions in cuts/adds for the practice-squad, end of the roster, injuries, etc. And like you said, scouting. Hitting colleges to watch practice during the week, attend games on Saturdays. That’s what Colbert did. Different background, different path, Colbert loved to scout. That was his upbringing. Not every GM has that approach so with Khan, it’ll be a little more unknown.

But it’s a general overseeer. Being the CEO, making decisions, being the point man and being able to delegate and work with other people well.

Jerry Reid: 

Hey Alex! I know y’all have the “let’s remember some Steelers”, but would it be possible to do a film breakdown of past Steeler greats and what made them great? In lieu of the Hamm headlines, I think there are a lot of names that fans have heard, but don’t really know.

Alex: Hey Jerry! I get where you’re coming from but unless we had All-22, we’re working off a lot of highlights. And i don’t know, I think people know what made some of those guys great. You’ve seen those clips over the year. Some of the old-school flashbacks are fun and we occasionally revisit those but I don’t know if I’ll be breaking down Jack Lambert’s game.

stan: Do you have a feeling for the division of labor between Khan and Weidl? The addition of Weidl in a new position makes me think that he might be the primary personnel guy and that Khan might be only a business guy. Do you think Weidl’s brother might soon be joining the Steelers as well?

Alex: Not 100%. On paper, Khan is more of the business/numbers guy and Weidl the “football” guy but I don’t want to lazily put things into those neat boxes, as if Khan won’t have any involvement in the football side and vice versa. Sure, I could see Casey being hired. We should know within the next couple of weeks what the rest of the front office moves look like.

Michael Stickings: 

Hi Alex. I’ve loved your Colbert draft pick rankings pieces. I don’t want them to end — so many blasts from the past, such a reminder of prospects I was excited about when they were picked who just didn’t pan out. I think we all get draft fever, alas. Anyway, two questions…

First, I know it’s now a cliche to say the Steelers draft WRs well and CBs poorly, but what other positions do you see as strengths and weaknesses overall — what has the team under Colbert scouted/drafted well and what not so much?

Second, what do you see as the main reasons for swinging and missing so often at CB? Is it largely because the Steelers usually draft CBs in the mid to later rounds (Artie aside), or do they just fail even to find gems in those later rounds? Just seems so bizarre that the team, through Colbert’s long tenure, has been so bad at finding CBs in the draft.

Alex: Thanks Michael! They’ve been so much fun to revisit and I learned a lot of new things too. Part Nine will be up tomorrow.

I’d have to do a deeper-dive study into that. They’re good at drafting EDGE rushers. Some misses (Jackson, Davis) but Woodley and Dupree and Watt and Highsmith and Haggans and even Worilds wasn’t that bad of a player. Back in the day when not as many teams were looking for stand-up rushers, before schemes became so multiple and hybrid, Pittsburgh could kind of pick and hoard those guys. But that’s certainly been a strength.

As for why one position struggled so much…it’s hard to say. I’m sure the team would like to know. Probably moving from their old-school idea of Cover 3, tackle the catch types to looking too much at athletes and ball skills and trying to fill in the rest.

But really, and I was thinking about this earlier, it’s the same reason why they’ve hit on WR and OLB so well. It’s the same people. The same scouts who watched Santonio Holmes are the ones who watched JuJu Smith-Schuster. Or LaMarr Woodley and TJ Watt. Or, on the other end, Artie Burns and Ricardo Coclough. By and large, it’s the same group of scouts for 10, 20, heck with Phil Kreidler, 30+ years. That works for and against them when you maintain the same people with the same eye over time.


HI Alex,

Do they get a deal with Minkah done before training camp?
Do you expect any other restructures?
Who may we look at for potential OLB/Edge depth?

Thanks and get some rest pre-SVC.

Alex: Not before camp. During/after.

Yeah could be more deals restructured. Watt is a strong candidate.

We’ll see. Could come after cutdowns. Free agents I like include Pernell McPhee and Alex Okafor.

Jake: What is the one position you think the Steelers are most likely to add to (barring injury)? And could you throw out a hypothetical free agent fit, just for fun?

Alex: I’m not sure if they add anywhere. Maybe OLB. I would’ve said OT but they signed Trent Scott. I don’t have a lot of names for you besides the two EDGE rushers I mentioned above, McPhee/Okafor.

David Rudin: 

Hey Alex,

Happy Thursday to ya! I enjoyed the article on the site about what might change with Colbert gone and new guys in charge. What might you conjecture could be different from now to the beginning of the season in terms of the team going after a couple vets to bolster areas like OT & Edge?

Alex: Thanks David! I had fun thinking it out.

Like I’ve been asked a couple times today, that’s possible. It depends what happens this summer and what happens at cutdowns. It feels like they have their veteran OT signing in Trent Scott, even if he’s just a step above Chaz Green. At EDGE, refer to the names I mentioned a couple times above. But things change quickly. The EDGE room looked a lot different mid-way into the season last year compared to camp. Started out with Watt/Highsmith/Ingram/Roche/Jamir Jones. By the end, it was Watt/Highsmith/Tuzska/Charlton/Simon. Lot can change.

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