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Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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

To your questions!

Shotimsin: Calvin Austin. first are you concerned that his injury hasn’t healed yet, it’s been 4 months an feet injuries can linger. second, whats your base case expectation for his stats next year?

Alex: I’m not sure what the actual injury was but nothing he told the media gave me concern. He said his rehab was going well. He had surgery and I’m sure they’re being careful and slow because there’s lots of time and he already had one setback. Team doesn’t hit the practice field for a couple more months. No need to rush.

I really couldn’t guess at his stats. Won’t be a big volume guy but hopefully some big plays. He’ll mix and match between horizontal and vertical game so I don’t know if his yards per catch will be insanely high or anything because he’ll work so much in the short pass/RPO game. I’m less focused on specific numbers and more on his ability to create some splash for an offense that needs it. And he can do that in different ways.

steelers58: Hey Alex.
Looking at Scott’s mock the other day,
I am a big fan of BPA in the first 4 rounds.
My question is: if we r at our 2bd pick in rd 2 and the TE Mayer is in the board, would u take him

Alex: I like Mayer but probably not. Still, it’d depend on so many other variables. What happens to Gentry, what players were re-signed, who was brought in via free agency, what the team did in the 1st round, what options are available in the second round. So it’s near-impossible to answer those questions in a vacuum. But unless everything broke in his favor, probably not. #2 just isn’t high enough on list of needs.

Daniel Moon: Hey Alex I give credit to Canada for improving the running game (or maybe it should go to OL coach Meyer), but his passing game has been criticized many times. Is something lacking in his scheme or is it time to hire a passing game coordinator?

Alex: Well there certainly are things lacking but Canada is essentially the pass game coordinator. In Pittsburgh, the o-lie coach (as you allude to) handles the run game. So Canada’s job centers around quarterback play and the passing game. Hiring a pass game coordinator means you don’t have faith in Canada to get the job done. They obviously do so there’s no need to hire one.

Peter-Peterson: What is your favorite FA to get hired by the Steelers, who isn’t a current Steeler?

Alex: Outside free agent to be signed? I couldn’t tell you. Hadn’t looked up a list yet. Shifted into draft/Senior Bowl mode for the moment. When we get closer to free agency and have a better feel for who is likely to hit the market, I’ll put a list together. But I’ve spent basically no time on it right now.

steelers58: Alex, your thoughts to drafting an Offensive Lineman.
Do u think they draft an OT? If so what round? Or do they draft a C or G? Me personally, just a feeling they draft a g or c in rd 2 or 3

Alex: They need to – and will – at the least address the lack of depth along the line. Thankfully wasn’t tested this year with how remarkably healthy the group was this year. And depth here is still weak, especially at tackle. Maybe that’s a vet FA or draft pick, I’m not sure.

It’s still hard to pin down rounds because of all the variables I mentioned above. It will be added. Whether or not they bring in a starter is a good question. If they do, it feels like left side, personally I’d make a move at LG, but this one could go either way given the growth the unit showed by year’s end.

WeWantDaTruth: Hey Alex. While some are saying that the OL played well down the stretch, I’m of the opinion that it was against weaker teams and an upgrade or two is needed there. Which OL position needs upgraded the most? Would you look to FA or the draft for that upgrade? Thanks.

Alex: I generally don’t look at it that way. It’s the NFL. There’s great players every week. Some of the teams were weaker but there were good fronts. The Colts, the Panthers are solid, the Ravens even without Campbell is stout. And the Steelers were one of those weak teams so they weren’t winning just because they had sheer talent and ability over the opponent. Them staying healthy was honestly a bigger reason.

Mentioned above and said it before LG is the one I’d upgrade first. Kevin Dotson is talented, he played better the second half, but his mental mistakes and inconsistent technique is maddening. I can’t live with the repeated errors that should’ve been corrected long ago. If Dan Moore can have a better punch and handle/anchor power better, he’s fine at LT this year.

Where would I address guard? Probably lean draft but I haven’t looked at the FA options. It’s not about picking just one lane but judging what each bucket has to offer. Free agency, draft, and trade. I don’t box myself in and say it has to be done through just one path. You explore them all.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Alex, my opinion on the decision to keep my Matt Canada is a very negative one. My reasoning for feeling this way is that I find hard it hard to see him lasting beyond this season. If he has little chance of being retained in the future, why keep him around & give him another shot?! That’s my logic. What percentage chance do you give Matt Canada to be the OC in 2024?

Alex: It’s a valid concern and I share the same but that evidently isn’t their calculation. They kept him for continuity sake. For Pickett, for this offense that’ll pretty much look the same next year. And I think they’re a little cheap and don’t like to fire coaches and pay them to sit on the couch or coach against them elsewhere. They just don’t fire coaches.

I don’t like Canada’s odds of lasting to 2024 but we’ll see. We can gripe about it all we want. I’ve accepted it. Now it’s about setting expectations for what 2023 needs to look like.

Benjamin Schell: Hi Alex. Edmunds played fine this year but do you think Steelers could look at upgrading SS in the draft? Skinner is probably my biggest draft crush right now and he really doesn’t fit the biggest need but a secondary with a guy like him and Minkah could be something really special

Alex: They could but I’d just bring Edmunds back. Cheap, known, not old, fits the system well who complements Minkah Fitzpatrick. If they lose Kazee, depth here could still be needed especially if Edmunds signs another one-year deal, but I don’t see it as an urgent thing given the other holes to address. Bringing Edmunds back on a two-year, $6-7 million deal is the smart play.

steelers58: Last question: I really liked the play of Ogunjobi this year, even when he was not a 100 percent.
Could he play NT? So strong and quick.

Alex: Nah, he’s best in his DT/3-tech role. Getting upfield and penetrating. Obviously the entire Steelers’ line does more of that than they used to but I’m not making him a NT. Doesn’t play there, hasn’t played there, not a good schematic fit that wouldn’t play to his strengths.

DropTheHammer: 

Every great coach harps on teaching ability as the #1 asset for his position coaches and coordinators. What evidence do we have about Matt Canada’s skill (or shortcomings) in this regard? I hear players praising his brains, and even his offensive philosophy when pushed; but I have not heard either praise nor faint-praise of him as a teacher?

How can we hope to find that out?

Alex: I guess it hasn’t been asked. Questions about Canada from the media have basically been the same. Just the tired same old stuff. So someone will have to ask a different question, a more specific one, to really find that out. To get a good answer, they gotta ask a good question. Or a different one, at least.

CP72: AK,
We all know that explosive plays, or lack there of, is an area this offense needs to get better at. Harris, Freiermuth, and Johnson all good players, but none are burners by any means. Does this offense need to add a couple pure speed types?

Alex: I don’t know about a couple. Maybe just one. Obviously Calvin Austin is hopefully that guy when he gets healthy. George Pickens is a downfield threat even if he isn’t a true burner. But he’s a big-play guy. But yeah, to get more explosive, speed is important. Super Bowl teams had that. Nate Washington, Mike Wallace, those types.

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