Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to your weekly Thursday mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!


Alex, I thought the slow offensive starts became Ben’s trademark, I’m not so sure after one game. You?

And do you think the Steelers threw to the middle of the field enough?

Alex: Ha, it might be a trademark of offense’s that just aren’t that good. That’s the recurring theme. We’ll see how it looks Week Two. Week One, on the road, against a good defense, my expectations were low.

They didn’t do it a lot but I think oversimplifies the discussion. I’m more curious in the “why” and I wasn’t too upset with Trubisky’s overall decision-making.

razaard2: Why the steelers dont throw slants? Isn’t DJ, one of the quickest persons in the world, supposed to be good at those? Hit him (and the other guys) in stride once in a while should be a priority for Canada, but it seems most plays have the receivers turn and look at the qb

Alex: They do. They do it a ton. Diontae Johnson was a king on that last year. Remember the Browns game he clinched on a 50 yard slant/run-after? All their RPOs had slants. Pittsburgh probably fan fewer of them against the Bengals so that’s one reason why you didn’t see it as often.

As our study showed last year, the route Johnson’s been targeted on the most over his career are slants. Eleven more targets than any other route.

killer09 Beeman: Hey Alex, love the chats….How do you think DeMarvin Leal played and do you think it’s a possibility that he subs in for LOLB position/Watt on short yardage situations?

Alex: I thought he did alright. First time out, didn’t seem to be a liability. Still need him to anchor better against the run and wasn’t a super impactful pass rusher but it’s just one game. Good for him to get a helmet and get his feet wet. I don’t see him subbing in for Watt as a standup OLB. But you could see some 3-3-5 with one OLB and two ILB like you did last week near the goal line. So in that sense, yes, but it won’t be a 1:1 replacement.

Steel PAul: Alex, too soon to call for heads and I rarely come from that angle. Where are you on Matt Canada at this point in what we know, or what we’ve seen? thx

Alex: Yeah, still too soon for any of that stuff. Offense felt awkward and clunky but there were some nice designs in there. The reverse flea-flicker, the screen to Gentry, the TD to Najee. So we’ll see how they build on it from there. No judgments yet.

SBSTEELER805: Hey Alex, if you were GM/Kahn — what would it take for you to trade Rudolph (how high of a draft pick)? Are there any QB needy teams out there that draw your eye in regards to a potential player swap (Rudolph for an OL)?

Alex: I’d do it for a 5th. Dallas seemed to be one but they’re apparently comfortable enough to stick with Cooper Rush and get Dak back maybe a bit sooner than people think. But I can also understand the Steelers not wanting to trade Rudolph this week when they traded Dobbs post-Week 1 in 2019 and lost Ben the next week. The parallels are scary. It would be Rudolph for a pick though. Not a player.

Dave Slezak: Greetings Alex, have you seen any trends on where the backs are running through on the O-Line. I realize that there have been few holes, but we don’t have a pulling center to act as a FB through the G/T holes. It seems like our destiny is to run jet sweeps and screens to “generate” a run game. Dotson seems to be the more physical, but it doesn’t seem to show on tape

Alex: Not really but it’s one week so it’s hard to really generate “trends” based on a small sample size. It is a zone based scheme and like you said, heavier in terms of jet runs. Has a 49ers vibe in that sense. The line definitely didn’t generate any sort of push upfront and that was a central reason why the run game struggled. Has to be better, especially in the low red zone/goal to go moments.

Michael Harris: Alex, obviously a lot of concerns about the offense after week 1. When will the coaching staff be comfortable with Trubitsky taking more aggressive chances. Is there a point where they will want Trubitsky to be aggressive throughout the entire game, not just when they need to be if they get down of the scoreboard?

Alex: It’s dependent week-to-week, based on game-flow, coverage, etc. I think Week One was being smart and not turning the ball over the way the Steelers did last year. But Trubisky did take eight downfield shots and that’s being overlooked. Now his effectiveness is a different story. But the goal for this offense is to take a profit, take care of the ball, win field position, kick field goals. Let the defense drive the bus.


Happy Thursday Alex.

I understand there’s plenty of blame to share when it comes to the offense. But from what we saw on Sunday how much blame do you put on Canada/Coaching vs Personel.

Alex: I don’t have an exact sort of breakdown for you. I’d put it more on the players/personnel than coaches. Just a lot of ugly errors. Especially in the second half. Canada did some funky stuff, some things I didn’t love, but even the simple execution stuff was pretty poor from these guys.

The Tony: 

Alex, you have stated previously that if Pickett is ready to play, then he should be playing. So my question is how long of a leach would you have Trubsiky on? If Pickett plays week 1, do you think there would have been a different outcome? I know the name of the game was to not turn the ball over last week, do you think we will see the offense open up more this week?

Thanks for everything yinz do

Alex: It’s a weird spot now because I would’ve started Pickett out of the gate. But I don’t think you turn away from Trubisky in short order. As long as the team is competitive and Trubisky isn’t playing poorly, and he didn’t Sunday, then he’s going to remain the starter and I’m ok with that. Would it have been different with Pickett? I don’t know, probably about the same. I don’t think Pickett was going to go in there and blow the doors off of the Bengals. They may open it up more too but it really depends on a lot of variables. Like I said above, Trubisky threw deep a fair amount last week so I don’t think that narrative is entirely accurate.


I was really surprised to see the Patriots as favorites in the upcoming game. I would have thought the Steelers would be favored even if this were week 1. But with the Steelers coming off an impressive win and the Patriots coming off an ugly loss, that should have increased our odds, right? Do oddsmakers take TJ Watt into the equation that much?

Oh well, I hope that’s being posted in the locker room.

Alex: I was too. But I don’t pay attention to that stuff much. I agree you’d think a team at home who just beat the Bengals would be favorites over a team that just lost by two-scores to the Dolphins. Oh well. We’ll see if Vegas was right Sunday.

Jarvis Ragdoll Jones: Alex, the Steelers came within an injured long snapper of losing a game in which they had a 5-0 turnover advantage. What would you have done differently in terms of coaching/play calling to avoid that scenario?

Alex: That’s a difficult question and always comes with the benefit of hindsight. I didn’t think the execution overall was very good from the players. I thought it was less coaching than it was the players. But you’re on the road against a good Bengals team. It wasn’t going to be an easy win. So I’m just glad they got the W.

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