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: Hi Alex. Since the unfortunate career ending injury suffered by Ryan Shazier, the Steelers seem to have struggled to adequately man the insider linebacker position. Which year do you think they managed the best and how does this year compare?
Alex: Hey Bill! I’m not sure. There don’t feel like many winners, many great combinations. Truthfully this year of Bush and Jack has probably been the best but it’s a pretty low bar. The group hasn’t been terrible. But there’s been regression and some of their warts exposed against these run-heavy teams. And they have made basically zero splash plays. Obviously finding the next Shazier is awfully tough to do but there’s been a long revolving door of names since he got hurt.
Pyscho Steeler: Hey Alex, Is there a chance the steelers could sign Roquan Smith? They could really use somebody with that talent but the price could be too high.
Alex: Nah. Too pricey – Pittsburgh can afford it but they’ll spend elsewhere – and I imagine the Ravens will do all they can to lock him up. Gotten a pretty good return on investment so far.
WeWantDaTruth: Hi Alex. Is it time for Mark Robinson and others to get some PT? Rest TJ for the last few games?
Alex: I’m not really in that mindset. You want to put your best guys out there. And Watt wants to play and compete and isn’t risking a serious injury with those ribs anyway. They just hurt a lot. Maybe for the finale but I’m not too big into “give the young guy a look” for no reason other than that.
Hey, Alex, what value do you place on the Steelers finding a new NT in the offseason? The run defense has been poor, obviously, but NTs play so much less than they did 20 years ago that the position has been devalued.
Is it worth a draft pick in the first three rounds? Worth decent money spent on a free agent?
Alex: Certainly value it. I don’t know the exact path I’d find it. You start in free agency, see what’s there and if not, you look towards the draft. I don’t want to box myself in on anything specific. Multiple ways to approach it. Depending on the prospect, the cost, the ability to sign him, other needs. But for all the talk about sub-packages, there’s still a lot of three-down fronts. Especially in this division. The Browns and Ravens are among the heaviest run teams in football and that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon. The Bengals can run too. When the weather gets ugly in December, you better be able to run the ball and stop it, too.
Alualu is retiring and Adams is a backup at best. So there’s a vacancy in the middle and you can’t get away with putting anyone in there. So definitely something to address. Make me choose and I’d prefer to sign a veteran free agent type. But I’m not glued to that.