Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ mailbag. Training camp is over meaning our mailbags will return to its regular Thursday schedule starting next week at 2:30 PM/EST. With some downtime today, I wanted to post a mailbag today to answer anything exiting camp and the team’s first preseason game. As always, we’re here for the next hour and I’ll check in throughout the day too and reply to anything that comes later.

To your questions!

Steel PAul: 

Alex, thanks for the detailed insights from training camp. As always.. great work and I’m sure many miles on the odometer 🙂

My biggest concern about this team atm is Oline. It doesn’t sound encouraging. Can you share something that would help make things feel better, or would that steer away from reality??
Better than last year..?

Alex: Hmm, I’m pretty much in the same spot I was heading into things. I do think they’ll be a better run-blocking unit than last year, based on what I’ve seen in camp and during the Seattle game. But in pass pro, look out. Quarterbacks probably going to be running a lot. James Daniels is cause for more concern than I thought he’d be. That’s eating away at me now. I do think Mason Cole is going to bring a lot of stability at center and he had a nice camp. So that’s something.

MAK Lives Free: 

Amazing camp coverage Alex! Truly the team and you cover the team better than anyone.

Now that I’ve got you all buttered up lol…
1. What you’ve seen of Kenny P at camp compared to how you saw him in draft analysis…has your opinion of him changed (ie better upside, etc)

2. What was your go-to food at camp?


1. I’m a little more optimistic. I don’t know if it looks much different than what I saw but seeing his accuracy, control, IQ translate from colleges to pros is always a positive sign. Seeing his improvement. It was actually kinda good to see him struggle early on. To have to fight and work back from that and rise up in some adversity. He’s responded well.

2. Ha, my diet sucks during camp. It’s a lot of fast and junk food. I’ve been living off these peanut butter snacks between meals so I think that’s my answer.

Andrew Blacks: 

Hey Alex,

Huge thank you to you and everyone at SD for all the of the camp insight. I’m guilty of refreshing my twitter throughout the work day for all of your live updates and post practice reports.

Before the injury, how was Calvin Austin’s route running and hands? We’ve heard about the speed flashes on end arounds and jet sweeps, but how was he vs DBs? Any significant areas for improvement?

Alex: Thanks man! Austin looked good. Not just a space/gadget guy. I think coaches were looking more from him in the middle of the field but he certainly was flashing that speed and ability to make plays in space. Hands were a little iffy. Small guy, small catch radius, and he didn’t do great catching outside his frame. But that’s not a shock.


Hey Alex we’re almost here, football is around the corner!! Here are my questions, what percentage would you give Kenny to start week 1 right now? And if you had to make the call right now who would you trust with the week 1 starting job?

2) If you had a choice between two trades. One for a OL position of your choosing and the other for a ILB, who would you take? Let’s say they both have above average starter quality. Or throw me a curve ball and choose a different position but QBs are out.


1. For Pickett starting, 5%. And that’s about 4% Trubisky injury. Trubisky’s going to start. It’s been his job to lose since the spring and he’s done nothing to lose it. And I’m ok with Trubisky being that guy. I can live with that.

2. Hmm, good question. I think I’d go o-line. I’m not entirely sure where I’d pick, maybe LG, but the o-line is such a lynchpin to this team’s success. To protect their new QB, to better establish the run game, and control the line of scrimmage. That must happen for this team to succeed. They can have a sub-par ILB on an otherwise solid defense and win.

ImMikeD: Hey Alex. Haven’t been able to fully keep up with your camp notes (thank you btw, great job), so I’ll ask you here. It seems much was made of Warren’s fumble during PS game 1. Has it been a persistent issue throughout camp?

Alex: It’s popped up. At least one fumble in camp and a dropped pass or two. That might not sound like a lot but these guys have only roughly 50 or so carries overall. No one’s going to fumble the ball six times in camp. They won’t even get that far – they’ll be out the door before they hit four. And sometimes it’s not literal fumbles but bad ball security. Warren had a habit of reaching out for the goal line which is asking for a fumble, even if one didn’t happen. And Tomlin doesn’t give any grace when it comes to ball security.


Hey Alex!

What position group sonyou see taking the biggest leap forward this year? What position group do you think will take the biggest step back?

Alex: Hmm…good question. I think we’re still figuring some of that out. Receivers looks good. Johnson/Claypool/Pickens is a really quality top three. Throw in Gunner and Austin and maybe Boykin too. I like that room. Different body types, ways guys can win, should give this offense plenty of options.

The biggest step back? I’m not sure if there’s an obvious answer there. Quarterback will probably be an adventure. Highs and lows. Maybe not a true step back because there will be things they do that Roethlisberger couldn’t/wouldn’t but it’ll be less consistent, I think.


Have you seen progress from McFarland in pass protection, and do you think he’s still in the running to back up Harris?

Thanks, the camp updates have been great!

Alex: Not really. Pass pro isn’t a strength of his. Jaylen Warren has definitely looked better there. I’m not sure how the RB room is going to look. They like Warren and he saw a lot of first/second-team work this week. Still all battling but McFarland’s spot isn’t secure, though he’s had a strong camp overall. Then there’s Benny Snell as the known guy and quality special teamer.

Christopher Pokins: 


We all have to agree the two biggest concerns right now are the OL in pass protection, and who plays next to Jack. I was a supporter of Bush bouncing back but think that ship has sailed. Like Spillane against the run but just can’t keep up on passing downs. So two questions:

1. Can you see one of the other ILBs get a shot before week one to take that spot at ILB?

2. Odds of Steelers OL concern becoming more clean and going out and getting a vet OT or even guard to help sure up the pass protection. Excited to see a new QB move around when needed but don’t want to see it on every play. Thoughts?

Alex: Yeah I’d say OL in pass pro and still QB play overall. But the ILB next to Jack is also cause for concern. Yes, I can see a guy like Spillane eat into Bush’s playing time sooner than later. I’m almost expecting it at some point. Spillane has earned those reps. Bush’s time has been more given.

I could see this team add an offensive lineman at cutdowns. I don’t think they’re fully satisfied with the group. But it won’t be a starter. They’re not going to make a drastic change like that so late in this process. But a backup, a 9th offensive lineman, I wouldn’t rule it out.

Douglas Prostrog; At this point, it’s probably safe to say Rudolph is QB3 which means he will likely ask for a trade. Odds of the team granting that request? Related: What do you think a “fair” trade would look like?

Alex: It really depends on what other teams are willing to offer. I don’t think the Steelers will make calls but they’ll certainly answer the phone. What’s a fair return? A 5th would be ideal. But with him a free agent after this season, a 6th might be all they can get.

Jerry Reid: Your latest breakdown of Pat Meyer’s changes to the OL made go back to your breakdown of his pass protection seminar. Is Meyer’s approach all that unique in the league? Is what he coaches different enough to give these linemen growing pains and perhaps that is contributing to what we are seeing on the field?

Alex: That’s hard for me to answer because there aren’t a lot of clinics like that around the league. I’m sure it’s not one-of-a-kind. The hop step he teaches against bull rushes is pretty common. But it does feel more of a departure from Adrian Klemm and that’s what is most relevant. And sure, that can cause slow starts. Anytime you have three OL coaches in three years, you stunt the development process. Granted, most of this line hasn’t been here three years but still, two coaches in two years. More change than you’d like.

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