Welcome back to your Thursday Pittsburgh Steelers’ mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.
To your questions!
My answers may be a little delayed here with Art Rooney speaking to the media now. Apologies in advance.
(extra extra apologies for being so late in answering the rest of these)
James Cowan: Hi Alex,
Just out of interest, if a team offers a first for Alex Highsmith are you taking it?
Alex: Eh, I dunno. What pick is it? It’s such a hypothetical it’s hard to even answer because of how little I ever think about that stuff. A first is hard to pass on for any non superstar player and Highsmith, talented as he is, isn’t TJ Watt. So sure, it’d be something to strongly consider. But I’d like to know the actual number. #31 vs #11 is a big difference.
Brian Tollini: I feel like the question of moving on from the a 3-4 defense gets asked every year, and I acknowledge we are in nickel/dime a ton more, but here’s my question. Does there come a point where finding the right personnel becomes so difficult you are forced to move on from it? You spoke earlier in the week (as you have numerous times) about the difficulty in finding that long and large DE body type the Steelers look for. Is the talent pool we are swimming in too shallow for the position?
Alex: It’s a fair point. It really only applies to the d-line. Everything else I think you can “find.” Maybe that points happens but I don’t know if we’re there yet. It would probably be a slow evolution anyway just in the way the d-line stylistically has shifted over time from one to two-gapping. That didn’t occur overnight.
I would say you can still find those guys. They just often require a premium draft pick. And there is just a more limited pool of those types. They’re not gone entirely. Sorta the same with blocking tight ends or big, bruising running backs.
But I totally understand your question and it’s a good thought.
Jarvis Jones Ragdoll:
Alex, with respect to the dire need at ILB, should the Steelers take a flier on Bobby Boucher out of SCLSU? I know he is a bit old for a rookie but the dude hits like a freight train. He can also help out on Special Teams and the occasional gadget play on offense.
Alex: Mama says to so yeah, I’m all-in on Boucher. Him and Mark Robinson can ruin some run plays.
steelers58: Hi Alex,
Do you see the Steelers bringing back Trubitsky?
And would u draft the Duggan kid out of TCU in the 7th rd? as a developmental guy.
Alex: I’m on the fence about what they’ll do with Trubisky. My gut says yes, they will. He basically said he regrets signing here and they don’t want to keep guys who don’t want to be here. They can save $8 million by letting him go too. Trubisky was always kind of a one-year thing, protection with the unknown of Pittsburgh getting a QB at #20.
Nah, pass on Duggan. No 7th round QBs for me. Been down that road pretty recently…
Banastre Tarleton: If someone was on the board at 30 you really like, would making a minor trade up 1 or 2 spots be worth it to get a fifth year option?
Alex: Sure, I’d be willing to trade up. But the option is the bonus. It’s not why I’d do it. I’d do it because I really want the player. That’s the evaluation. Nothing else really matters. And it would depend on exact capital. I know your question basically amounts to “what would you trade for the fifth year option?” To answer that more directly, something, perhaps, but not much. Again, it’s player-driven, not contract-driven.
steelers58: one more question. In regards to the draft.
That 32nd pick could become a hot commodity during that 2nd day.
Would you trade down maybe 5 or 6 spots to pick up an extra pick?
Im excited to see how Kahn will work the draft
Alex: Potentially, sure. I like the idea of trading down in principle. More chances to hit instead of hoping I’m the smartest guy in the room. But it depends on offers, the board, what else I’ve done, etc. The good news is Pittsburgh will be on the clock from the moment Day One ends. So that’s a lot of time to entertain offers and Pittsburgh probably will get some. It isn’t part of the “live” chaos like the other parts of the draft and that’s a pretty unique spot to be in this team never has before considering the NFL breaking up the draft into three days is relatively new. It used to be a weekend marathon.
BanasasFoster: Alex- are you more of the belief in “building up the trenches” or giving KP8 as many weapons as possible, i.e. drafting Jordan in 1st round?
Alex: At my core, I am a “build the trenches, find a QB” guy. You do those things, you’ve got a shot. But in reality, I’m not married to anything. I don’t like the idea you “have” to do something. QBs need weapons. Look at the QBs who are left in the playoffs. High picks, sure (except Purdy), but they have more than one guy. A #1 alone isn’t enough – look at Dallas or even Buffalo. You need a lot of dudes.
So it just depends on the board, what you did in FA, etc. I don’t like boxing myself into a corner.
Marcel Chris Chauvet: Alex, this is kind of an oddball topic. There was a ton of discussion last year about how the Steelers should pass on QB because of what a great class this year was supposed to be. Because we already have our guy I probably haven’t watched as closely as I otherwise would, but when I have watched them I haven’t come away super impressed with this year’s QB class. Have you watched any of them? Do you think the class lives up to all the hype that was made about it a year ago?
Alex: I haven’t. And probably won’t see much of them. But I’ve always been a Bryce Young guy. I think he’ll make a franchise a winner. I don’t care how small he is. Dude is a stud who isn’t bothered by anything.
Classes rarely live up to hype. Sometimes, like 2004, but QBs get put in messy situations and on bad teams. So I dunno, it’s hard to say. We weren’t talking much about Levis and Richardson a year ago and now they’re squarely in the conversation. A year ago it was all Young vs Stroud. Naturally, the conversation expands over the course of a season. Sometimes you have your Andrew Lucks, Trevor Lawerences, Caleb Williams, guys pegged to be a superstar from early on, but Joe Burrow came out of nowhere. I imagine Ben was sorta in the same boat. A lot changes in a year.
Daniel Moon: Hey Alex, the obvious team needs are OL, DL, CB, ILB. With 3 early picks, the Steelers can only fill out 3 positions. Who would you target as one major FA acquisition? For me, I would target T. Edmunds from Buffalo since they cannot afford both Milano and Edmunds. Do you think he is worth $15~18M per year?
Alex: I wish I had a name for you. But I don’t. My focus right now is on draft/Senior Bowl. I’ll begin to think about free agency once I get back. Right now, I’m cramming for Mobile info.
Edmunds, I like him a lot. He checks all the boxes. Young, athletic, physical, pedigree, Steelers’ connections. But I probably wouldn’t do it. Enough investing in ILBs. Invest in the d-line in front of them. That’ll make your LBs look pretty good. Any unblocked LB can be a good one.
draframe1: Hi Alex! If you were the GM how would you approach free agency this offseason as far as what positions you would address?
Alex: It partly depends on the pool and I don’t know what’s out there. No one really *knows* with re-signings and tags going to happen. But broadly, I would look at a veteran backup QB (if Trubisky is cut) a slot WR, potential NT a veteran swing tackle, and vet slot WR in free agency. Things you can’t as easily get in the draft or things I don’t want to spend draft picks on (like a run-stuffing NT). That would be my very vague approach, full knowing I wouldn’t get all that I wanted.
Jake Shelton: Hey Alex! Was curious to get your thoughts on the level of importance obtaining a legit OLB3 would be for the steelers in the draft this year (of course if they don’t sign a vet in FA)? I cant stop myself from drafting an OLB at the 32/49th pick in all the draft simulations I’ve done. A dream draft scenario for me would Gonzales/Wotherspoon falling to 17 due to other teams reaching for QB’s and being able to get Siaki Ika at 32 and Felix Anudike-Uzomah at 49. I feel a draft like this could really set the steelers D for years to come.
Alex: Highly important, Jake. They need one in the worst way. And draft is better than FA. Cheaper, younger, they’re less likely to get mad when they’re sitting behind Highsmith and Watt (a la Melvin Ingram). But their depth has sucked since trading Ingram to KC. Unless Leal becomes a hybrid type, they need to take one, probably on Day Two. Can’t count on a Day Three guy to fill that role.
I wouldn’t do it in the first round though and 32 is pretty questionable, too. But #50 or third round, sign me up.
It seems to me that once Devin Bush leaves, which he should for his own sake, the Steelers will have no able to function at Mack ILB except the often injured Myles Jack, and creative substitutions like a good 3-Safety look. Do you agree?
If so, there is about a 0.00002% chance that the team would go into the draft without first obtaining a cover-capable ILB via free agency. Who is out there to do that job? And who are the middling names that
Alex: Currently, sorta. They have a lot of pending free agents in Spillane, Allen, and Bush, who yes, is good as gone. But Spillane probably comes back and we’ll see what Mark Robinson brings. I don’t get too caught up in Mack and Buck roles, lines have blurred, but yes, they wouldn’t have a great cover LB on the team. I couldn’t tell you the names of options at ILB too in-depth. Just haven’t looked yet. Tremaine Edmunds gets all the attention. Probably won’t happen though. David Long is a Tier 2 guy. In the draft, I like Iowa’s Jack Campbell.
Given that: 1) Every member of our offensive line had at least 1 year of experience to start the season last year, and 2) None of them were ready for prime-time to start the season, and they were out right horrid for the 1st third of the year.
Does the apparent difficulty learning the system make you hesitate to take a 1st round OL, since he is unlikely to compete to start (barring injuries) until very late this year or maybe even next. Generally want your 1st rounds to make an impact year 1 but, I just don’t know this time around.
Alex: No, it wouldn’t prevent me from that. It’s a long-game. Sure, you want your first rounder to start. I bet it’s easier for that one guy to learn than the whole team to learn at once. They were all rowing the same boat. They couldn’t lean on guys who had been in Meyer’s system and got it done. I mean, there was Trent Scott but you get my point. There wasn’t anyone to take them under their wing and talk about “yeah, I had trouble with this too, here is how I worked on it.” If you had just a rookie coming into this intact group, it’ll be an easier transition. Still an adjustment but probably lesser of one. So it wouldn’t impact my calculation at all of whether or not I’d draft one.
Paul Brannigan: Danny Smith – time to hang it up and bring in some new guy that chews a lot of bubble gum?
Alex: Danny Smith Forever, Paul.
Kevin Good: Hello again Alex.
I have a simple question that I think you’d know the answer.
If the Steelers were to trade the 32nd pick, what value do you think it has?
Ballpark. Just your opinion.
Alex: Hi Kevin! I know the Jimmy Johnson model is considered outdated and Kevin Colbert says he never used a trade chart but using this one, it values #32 at 184 points. You can check out the whole chart here. Hope that helps.