Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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

To your questions!

David Rudin: Hey Alex,
So in this rebuilding year, I’m setting my sights on better days ahead. My formula for hope is as follows:
1) The Philly Eagles are for real
2) The Weidl brothers played key roles in building that roster
3) If they did it in Philly, they can do it in Pittsburgh

What do you think? Or are the Steelers’ woes more about scheme and coaching?

Alex: That all sounds good. Weidl had a good background and resume and he and Khan have already made a great move netting a 2nd round pick for Chase Claypool.

The issues are scheme/coaching and personnel/execution. It’s all of the above. But to your point, and it’s one reason why I wasn’t in favor of Colbert running the team through the draft, Khan and Weidl haven’t gotten to construct the roster. They were hired in late May. Obviously Khan was in the building, part of the process, but he wasn’t calling the shots. Outside of a couple smaller signings, waiver claims, and the trades, they haven’t gotten to shape the roster. This upcoming offseason will be their first swing at it so I’m excited to see what they do. I’d expect a lot of movement, top and bottom of this roster. No stone unturned when you have two guys finally getting to be GM.

BananasFoster: Alex- with this pick acquired from the Bears, everyone is now so excited for the draft. At this point wouldn’t a 5-12 record be more advantageous for the Steelers than going 8-9. 3 picks potentially in the top 45. Let’s lose!!

Alex: Ha, I understand your line of thinking. And with an “easier” schedule, I could see this team ripping off a couple wins later in the season and finish at something like 7-10 and picking closer to 10th overall than 3rd or 4th. So I get the idea and the “math” of the value of losing.

But I still can’t root for the Steelers to lose. It isn’t in my bones. I’ll be less crushed by it because I see the upside, having higher picks in every round, not just the 1st round, but Sundays in a Steelers loss just suck that much more. And seeing this team 5-12 isn’t something I really want to do.


Hi Alex,

Here’s a dumb question.
You can only keep 1, Pickens or Pickett?

Alex: Ah I dunno. I get the fun hypothetical of the question but I’m no good at those. We’re still halfway into their rookie years…still watching and learning so much. If you made me choose, I’d say Pickens. He’ll be a better WR than Pickett will be a QB. But I’m not spending a lot of time thinking about it. I’m just watching and evaluating.


Hey Alex

Could you explain the difference as to why a player gets cut vs waived (and vv)? I know we paid a pittance for the CB from Washington but should we have waited until he got cut (or waived)?


Alex: In a lot of cases, cut versus waived has to do with being a vested veteran or not. A player with less than four years of service is subject to waivers and can’t be outright released. Vested veterans, in many cases, can immediately become free agents and sign with any team of their choosing. It’s worth noting though that post-deadline and for the rest of the season, any player released is now subject to waivers and can’t be outright cut.

They could’ve waited for him to be released, sure. But there’s no guarantee you’d get him and Pittsburgh gave up very little trade-wise to get him while locking in his contract terms as opposed to trying to negotiate a deal with him where he could’ve wanted more. So it was probably cheaper to trade for him than wait for him to get released. Also allows him to join the team quicker too than waiting for Washington to make a move.

Dan Blocker: Hi Alex! Do you have any concerns over Kenny Pickett’s learning a new offense, IF he’s been running a version of the Canada offense for most of his College & Pro career? Obviously, he had Whipple in between, but so much has been made of him being primed for this offense. What are your thoughts?

Alex: Not really. He’s a smart, older guy. Every QB who goes from college to the NFL has to learn a new offense. Even if some of the principles shared by Whipple/Canada are the same, the verbiage is different. And that’s often the biggest adjustment. Pickett’s probably thrown and run about every concept a QB can in his college career. But what you call things, how you tag things, how coaches decide to call and run things (numbers vs names, etc).

I’m more worried about how this current offense is being run and its lack of success. That’s more of the pressing thing. That’s where I make a decision on OC. Yes, there’s always a cost to changing coaches but it’s a long-term vision, not the short-term pain of adjusting in the offseason.

NickRVA: Hi Alex, quick question about Harris. Do you think his issues this year are more related to the foot injury or overthinking? Watching him freeze on that 3rd and 2 at the LOS seemed very against his typical self from last year.

Alex: I doubt it’s related to the foot. He’s just not used to being in this situation. A team struggling to this degree, holes not being there, the pressure of him being the guy as opposed to being at Alabama when they were full of stars and he was wildly successful or last year when he was a rookie with moderate success but a team that still focused around Ben Roethlisberger. Now Najee’s the captain, now he’s supposed to be the guy. And he’s trying to make every play into a big one which gets him into trouble. He’s his own biggest critic and I think he’s putting a lot on himself to try and carry this team.

JohnB: Is the DT really needed in our system anymore? Enough to spend a top pick on? Seems DE would make more sense.

Alex: As a pure run-stuffing nose tackle, probably not. Still valuable, still useful, but you want three-down guys who can impact the passing game. So yeah, a 3T/4i would be better for a high pick. And this team should add one with so many FAs/retirees after this year: Ogunjobi, Wormley, Alualu with Heyward another year older.

PghDSF: I say throw up the white flag and start Rudolph. I haven’t seen mobility in play calling really having any impact. At least we save a rookie’s confidence and have a better dep ball thrower. Thoughts?

Alex: Do you think benching Pickett for the 3rd string guy is going to help his confidence? I don’t. Pickett is the guy. Don’t waver. He was going to take lumps. That was inevitable. If he’s the guy, he’ll battle through. If not, then there’s really nothing the Steelers can do to change that. They need to stick to their plan and let Pickett finish this season out.

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