Welcome back to your weekly Pittsburgh Steelers’ mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever’s on your mind. The last one before training camp so get those last-minute questions in. Heads up, the Mailbag schedule will be wonky the next few weeks since it overlaps with training camp practice. I’ll try to fit some in on off days or evenings but don’t expect the mailbags on Thursday at 2:30/PM EST for the next couple weeks.
To your questions!
Jarvis Ragdoll Jones: I have read conflicting reports on Mason Cole. In your opinion, how much of an upgrade is he? On paper it appears that RG is the only OL position that will significant improvement. Of course Dan Moore should be better in year two but Chuks and Dotson kinda are what they are. I am just not seeing a lot of tangible reasons for optimism.
Alex: He’s never going to be a Pro Bowler and at best, he’ll probably be average. But he’ll offer more stability at center than Kendrick Green. I’d rather have the consistent player than the one with peaks and valleys up front. At WR, you can live with more volatility. Can’t have that at places like o-line and CB. So that’ll be the biggest thing he brings.
Hear your point elsewhere and we’ll have to wait and see but Moore should be better and I don’t think Dotson is maxed out. He’s only started what, 12 games over his NFL career? Still less than a full season. So there’s still meat on that bone. Chuks, I agree, he’s pretty much maxed out.
ImMikeD: Hey Alex. Hope all is well. Which improves the most this comingseason. Run Defense or O-Line overall? Any possibility in your mind both could pull themselves into top 1/2 of the league?
Alex: I’m more optimistic about the run defense. It was the injuries and youth that really did this team in last year. Not as much the issue this year. Alualu back, Adams re-signed, Loudermilk in Year Two, signing Ogunjobi, we’ll see what Leal offers (not expecting much to be honest) and they’re legitimately seven deep right now. That’ll make the ILB play better, too. So I think that unit will bounce back well.
O-line should improve. By how much, that’s really hard to say. Getting into the Top 16 isn’t impossible. But asking a lot, I think.
Wreckless: I like to think I’m one of the more optimistic fans when it comes to Canada’s offense. If done correctly, I think he can really bring this offense into the current day. With that said, what are a few aspects of his offense that concern you the most? I.e too many motions leading to false starts, etc.
Alex: Just all the newness. Canada really implementing *his* scheme for the first season. New quarterbacks. New weapons. New pieces along the o-line. New coaches (OL, WR). Put it together and you’re going to have growing pains. It doesn’t all just instantly gel. So that’s the biggest issue, just fighting through and figuring out and failing along the way. In baseball, you can sort it out the first month, struggle, and jump back into the race. In football, with 17 games, you have a bad first month, you’re digging out the rest of the way. Pittsburgh did it last year but it’s not where you want to be, especially in such a competitive AFC North where you play two divisional opponents on the road in two of the first three weeks. At Cincy Week One, at Cleveland Week Three. That just compounds the issue more. That’s my concern.
Steeler Fanatic: Alex, Appreciate the hard work. I feel like the Steelers are in the middle of a three-year re-tool. Next year, they can decide if an OT is needed on either side while also adding to the linebacking corps.
Alex: We’ll see what it looks like, hard to project these things a year out but yeah, I think it’s certainly possible. Decisions to be made on Moore and Okorafor and their long-term role with the team. Okorafor’s deal is essentially year-by-year and Bush, light looks dim there. So OT and ILB look like two areas this team could attack. We’ll see how it all shakes out five months from now.
Craig M: I think we may see more improvement in quality of players after the downsizing cuts; on D and OFF. IMO
Alex: Are you referencing the players cut around the league, the players the Steelers will cut, or the Steelers adding more players and improving the quality of their roster? If it’s the latter, sure, totally possible and pretty common. But it depends on injury and performance so we’ll have to wait and see. Typically a safe bet that someone isn’t on this roster now who will be traveling to Cincinnati Week One.
WeWantDaTruth: Hi Alex.
I hope I’m wrong, but I expect the Steelers to struggle the next 2 years. In the 2022-23 season, if the Steelers get off to a bad or slow start, would they consider trading #97? Cam deserves to be on a olayoff contender and the Steelers can use the pick(s). What could they get for Cam at this point?
Alex: That depends on a lot of variables. In terms of what they’d get, it depends on his play, of course. He would be 35 years old and earning a lot of money. Calaias Campbell was coming off a Pro Bowl year with 6.5 sacks entering his age-34 season when the Ravens traded for him. Jacksonville got a 5th for him. I’d like to think Heyward would fetch more than that but age and price tag would be two serious obstacles. It may not be as much as you think.
But I don’t think they’d really entertain trading him. Maybe if he asked out but there’s no history of them dealing guys like that. They’d rather basically force their hand at retiring, like they did with Troy and perhaps kinda with Ben, too.