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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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

To your questions!

Billjump: Do you think the defense struggles can all be blamed on injuries/insufficient depth? If all the injured players return, does the defence become a good unit again or do you think other issues could remain a problem?

Alex: I don’t like to make blanket statements and say “all” the problems are due to that. To an extent, it becomes a lot of excuse-making and comfort-seeking. It really stems from a lack of pass rush and that, of course, is largely due to Watt’s absence and the domino effect it’s having on the defense. The OLBs are the engines of the Steelers’ defense and they’re firing on about one cylinder right now. And it’s having an impact on everyone else. So that’s where it starts and until that’s figured out, then the unit will be struggle.

Matt Smith: Should we be discouraged by Isaiahh Loudermilk’s inability to get a helmet? I’d think he’d have a role in 2023 with Wormley gone, but it’s disappointing after a pretty positive rookie year to have 2022 seemingly headed for a wasted year for him with little development.

Alex: It’s been a deep and until Ogunjobi’s injury, healthy group. So Loudermilk has been odd man out. It’s not a great sign but I don’t want to be incredibly worried about it either. My biggest worry, and the reason why he’s done, is because he can’t rush the passer. And the last thing the Steelers need are guys who can’t get to the QB. It’s a veteran group in front so he’s going to be the guy who doesn’t dress. He can’t do all that Leal can do out on the edge or out in space. But we’ll see where things go by the end of the year. He’ll probably play at some point.

Brian Tollini: Alex, I am giving you all of the offensive coordinator power. If you could add one thing to this offense from a standpoint of schematics, what are you adding to this current offense?

Alex: This offense has to dress up what it does. If you want to run a smaller playbook with a more concentrated number of players, I get it. New QB, rookie QB, etc. But you have to be able to present the defense with different looks. Make it the same for the offense, same route concepts, but make it look different for the defense. That’s what the best offenses do. And that’s what the Steelers absolutely do not do.

dogg48: 

Alex…

With the absence of TJ Watt, who is the most important
locker room presence for the Steelers right now?

Alex: I mean, Watt is still there. But I get what you’re saying. From a player aspect, it’s Cam Heyward. He’s the top leader on this team. He’s the guy.

Jerry Reid: With so many articles between now and when Canada was hired, I cant find the right one. Wasn’t Canada known for limited concepts run out of multiple looks and personnel in college? I think I remember a breakdown with that conclusion. There just seems to be a nearly team wide regression in terms of talent, from coaches to players this season.

Alex: I don’t know exactly what you’re referencing but I did touch on it in my film room way back when he was promoted to OC. Here’s a quote of his way from 2017.

“My offense is simple,” Canada reportedly said in a 2017 clinic as highlighted by LSU’s SB Nation site. “You keep your offense simple, and you do it better than everybody else.”

So that’s getting at what you’re suggesting. I’m seeing the limited menu of plays but I’m not seeing the multiple looks/personnel required to run that offense successfully.

J West: Alex you mentioned that Loudermilk doesn’t get a helmet because he can’t rush the QB. So who do they have that can.

Alex: Fair. What they have hasn’t been good enough. But Loudermilk really isn’t the answer. I don’t know how this team can get better at rushing the QB aside from blitzing more. Sending more people to solve the problem. That creates other issues, I get that, but that’s all I have right now.

BananasFoster: Alex- The Steelers need to change they way they do business. Their old philosophies of run the football and stop the run don’t win in this new-age NFL. You need to score points and a lot of them. At what point does Art/Tomlin/Omar/Weidl recognize this and adapt??

Alex: We’ll see. Often to see that requires going through some pain. You have to get burned to know the stove is hot. Right now, it’s hard to change the big-picture things when you’re in the middle of a season and don’t have a lot of tools to make those changes. How they approach this offseason, when they can do those things, will be telling. Remember this will be the first offseason for Khan/Weidl to build the team in their vision. They didn’t get to really do that after being hired in late May last year post free agency/draft. I would expect some pretty big changes and turnover.

stan: Not that I don’t like Jaylen Warren, but there’s really nothing wrong with Najee Harris’ play so far either. That makes me think that, like Trubisky, they’re just going to keep throwing players under the bus rather than address the real problem with the offense: Matt Canada.

Alex: I’m not sure who is throwing Harris under the bus. Some of the concerns are overblown but Harris hasn’t been good enough either. No one on offense has. So this team is going to make changes. Harris’ pass protection has definitely been an issue this season and that’s where Warren has cut into his playing time the most. We’ll see if they “address” Canada after the season. I’m guessing they do.

cencalsteeler: Alex- why no articles or mention of Heywards retweet earlier this week?

Alex: Dave and I discussed it on the podcast and I’ve referenced it in an article. It was a weird one where you really knew/figured it was an accident. That Heyward didn’t want Tomlin fired. And even if he did, he wouldn’t be so stupid to publicly retweet that out. And trying to frame that properly in a headline and gain clicks off some guy’s obvious mistake just didn’t sit well with us. So it was not written about.

David Rudin: Do you think any of the current, non injury related, player talent issues fall on Kevin Colbert? For example, it seemed like there was no plan in place to gradually replace the offensive line for example, just a mad scramble to throw together something resembling an offensive line.

Alex: Sure. He was the one who built this roster. It wasn’t Omar Khan or Andy Weidl. They came in after the fact. So some of the teams ills and problems should be blamed more on Colbert than the new and current regime. Absolutely.

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