Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to your weekly Pittsburgh Steelers’ mailbag, answering whatever is on your mind for the next hour.

To your questions!

Daniel Moon: Hey Alex, what do you think is the difference between KC offensive scheme vs Pittsburgh offensive scheme? Or is it Mahomes who is the difference maker? I know the Steelers already decided on OC for next season, but Eric B is available. Do you think there is an even slight chance the Steelers would make a bold move to recruit Eric B as OC?

Alex: It’s both. It’s scheme and talent. It’s a lot of the advanced scouting, the in-game adjustments (and not just at halftime but between drives) and of course, when you have a guy like Mahomes, it allows you as an offense to push the envelope with what you can do. You have the foundation, there’s no questions about if you have the right guy, and you can have fun instead of like 28 other teams up late at night hoping they’re on the right track under center.

To answer your actual question, no, no chance. He’s going to be an OC somewhere else next year. Probably Washington. All this junk about hiring him as an offensive assistant or assistant head coach is nonsense. Those aren’t promotions for him. He wants to go somewhere where can he have full control over the offense and step out of Andy Reid’s shadow. And that’s what he’ll do.

George Hareras: 

Hey Alex,

I know it’s early and things can change, but can you rank the CBs for who you like best for the Steelers?

Cam Smith
Porter Jr


Alex: I haven’t done a deep dive into all the top corners yet, to be honest. I’ve started with more of a focus on the trenches. But it’s a strong CB class and there aren’t a lot of “bad” fits there. I do like Witherspoon’s aggression and hard-hitting ability. Ringo seems to be slipping a bit and might not have the quickness/change of direction the others do. And Porter didn’t make a lot of splash plays in college, which could ding him a little bit. But there aren’t a lot of bad choices there and the value of CB could be tough to ignore at #17.


A lot being mentioned about the amount of coaches on the Steelers staff. Do you buy into it? I cant imagine just by adding staff will make them a better team.

Could you make a case that an ILB is this team’s biggest need?

Alex: As I wrote in the article, more coaches doesn’t inherently make you a better team. There’s pros and cons just like there is with everything else. I was just identifying where this team was at and talking out loud about who they may or may not replace. We’ll see how it shakes out in a month. They’re going to higher at least one new coach, probably at least two.

You could argue that for inside linebacker. Right now, there’s not much there with Bush/Spillane set to be free agents. But there is the idea this team needs to build its d-line than starting with off-ball linebacker. Same as the idea that a good o-line will make a running back look good, a good d-line will make your linebackers look pretty good too. But there’s a lot of variables at play in that conversation.

Ray Istenes: Why did picking up William Jackson make sense unless we renegotiate his salary (way down). Not sure the Steelers learned much about him when he was unable to practice in 2022.

Alex: It was a bad and ultimately pointless trade but they’re not on the hook for his salary next year. He’ll be the easiest cap casualty of any team this offseason. But yes, they learned nothing and traded for a player with a bad back. Not Omar Khan’s best move.


Hey Alex! Hope life is treating you well!

Who do you think has the bigger NFL upside, Porter or Witherspoon?

Alex: Hey man! Doing well. Like I said above, I haven’t done a deep dive there. I’d lean Witherspoon probably but I couldn’t give you a confident answer right now. The good news is it’s a strong cornerback class overall.

steelers58: Hi Alex,
Where do you see Leal’s fit with the defense. If DE, can he be a starter?
Also, do you see us resigning Devon Bush? Did he improve enough since his injury?
About the draft: What moves would surprise you ? For example a trade up or down. Or selecting a player at a position unexpectedly?

Alex: I’d use him in the role he was in last year. Rotational EDGE rusher and interior DT in sub-packages/third down. The Steelers sorts fell into that role when Watt went down, that wasn’t their initial plan, but I don’t see him as an everydown interior lineman like a Cam Heyward/Chris Wormely. Not enough sand in the pants to consistently stop the run.

Bush improved but not enough. He’s as good as gone. Just like Mason Rudolph.

Nothing would really surprise me. I mean, by definition, if a player was taken “unexpectedly” then I guess that sorta has to surprise me. But I’m expecting this team to be more trade happy, to move around more in the draft. That can’t be guaranteed and you don’t really know until it’s draft day but they’ll be more open to it than Colbert was, especially trading down. Colbert would go up but he almost never went down.


You can make one unit a stud, rock solid group this year:

Offensive line or defensive line?

Alex: O-line. Defense is already pretty solid. Elevate the o-line and this team would really have a shot next year.

Douglas Prostrog: so far on the site, we’ve seen 2 stories about potential free agents. What do you have to offer us on the topic?

Alex: Not much yet. But soon. Still a month until the start of the new league year. I’ll have my wishlists like usual. And my mock offseason!

Chad Prince: 

You and Josh had an interesting discussion about PAC 10 players and the Steelers not showing much interest in drafting them.

The AFC North has been long renowned for it’s physical brand of play. When you think of physical college football conferences the Big 10, SEC, and ACC are the first that jump to mind. The Steelers tend to focus on those conferences. Do you think there’s a corellation when the Pittsburgh is looking for a “Steeler” type of player that the PAC 10 just doesn’t fit the bill due to being more of a finesse conference?

Alex: Potentially. It’s a good thought. But I don’t like to put all those players out west in a box. That might be a true and general trend, the game is more wide-open, less physical, but I think about Haloti Ngata coming out of Oregon State and Andy Weidl helping to bring him to Baltimore (he was a West Area Scout at the time). And David DeCastro mixed it up.

A lot of it seems to do with Pro Day travel. And the Steelers don’t really go out west. Maybe that’s related to the theory of the conference not being super physical and I guess that sorta tracks with the guys they’ve taken out west are less physically demanding positions. Wide receivers like JuJu Smith-Schuster from USC, Markus Wheaton from Oregon State and cornerbacks like Brian Allen from Utah.

But that would seem like painting with too broad of a brush, personally, if that was their approach. I think the coaching staff just gets more exposure to the East Coast guys and they make more stops there on Pro Days where you can get to school to school quicker. And of course, the SEC is the best overall conference and the Steelers value that to make their projection a little bit easier.

James Cowan: 

Hi Alex,

In his rookie year Najee struggled as a runner for many reasons but the short passing game he did really well and was what got him that pro bowl alternate (it felt like). This year he had almost half the number of receptions.

Why do you think that is? Is it just Warren coming in as third down back?

Alex: Largely that, yes. Jaylen Warren took over as the third down back for the Bills game early in the year. And that naturally means Harris lost out on a lot of passing opportunities. Pickett and Trubisky also held onto the ball for a bit longer and weren’t as eager to hit the checkdown as Ben Roethlisberger was. More mobile quarterbacks means they’re more likely to run around and scramble/run or try to extend the play as opposed to immediately working to the end of the progression and hitting their safety valve like a running back.

Plus they just ran the ball a ton this year. 500 rushing attempts this year compared to just 411 last year. Obviously got very run-centric the second half of the season. So add all that up and Harris’ numbers fell sharply in the passing game.


Hi Alex,

how many oliners can you see the Steelers take until round 4? We could arguably use 3, but do you see that happen? Is 2 even realistic?

Alex: Not three, no. Two, maybe, depending on the board. But not three. There’s needs elsewhere.

You can always merge free agency and the draft. They work in concert. So you could sign a veteran OT in free agency – the Steelers should – and draft an interior swingman in the draft (and they probably should). So I don’t look at that in a vacuum but as layers in the offseason process. It’s the sum of their parts, not just individual aspects of the offseason.

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