Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to your weekly Pittsburgh Steelers’ mailbag. Gearing up for Day One of the 2023 NFL Combine on-field workouts with the defensive line and linebackers taking the field at 3 PM/EST. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

Hey guys, will be a slight delay here as I punch numbers in for the Combine. Follow our tracker here!

OMG Reptar: Have you watched any of Noah Sewell’s film? I saw the strength and the athleticism, but overall I was disappointed. He’s intriguing from a size, weight, speed standpoint, but I worry his mental processing is so slow. I kept begging to see him make plays and most of the time he kept disappointing. What’s your opinion?

Alex: Not yet. Like you said, good size at 246 pounds in this world where all off-ball LBs are in the 220s/230s. But that’s kinda what I hear too that it isn’t always put together. Wish I had a better answer for you. We’ll at least see the testing this weekend.

Fasterwilly: Is there value in drafting a blocking TE (Darnell Washington) early? Is an elite-level Gentry worth a second round pick?

Alex: If you’re going to be a base 12 personnel offense like Baltimore/Cleveland then sure, it would be. You just have to ask yourself what you want your scheme and identity to be. If you’re still going to be base 11 personnel then no, it’s not going to be worth it. And I really like Washington.

Chad Prince: In your personal evaluations how much weight does the combine carry? It’s cliche to say it doesn’t matter much, but I think even NFL teams get swept up in it.

Alex: Right. I don’t want to say none. Because it does. It’s also just good exposure for me to see and learn more about these guys and their stories and their profiles. So I find that useful. But so many people downplay the Combine then the first guy who blazes a strong 40…Twitter loses its hive-mind. It’s fun to watch these guys workout and compete. And the metrics and data can tell you a lot about projecting NFL success.

So of course tape still rules the day and you shouldn’t be beholden by the Combine. But it’s fun and there’s value. Or else every team (sans Green Bay) wouldn’t flock to Indy each year.

Richard Prezel: Would you trade #17, DJ and a 7th to the Rams for Aaron Donald and a 6th. He has three or four years left I believe. Bring him home.

Alex: That’s such a crazy, never-gonna-happen scenario I really don’t even know how to ponder it. I mean, I probably would. But it’s not something I’ve ever thought about.

Peter-Petersen: Do you think the Steelers will use some of next years picks to aquire more of this years picks? Mid day 2 seems to have a lot of guys the Steelers could and should go for like NT IOL and OLB3.
And Man-O-Man those measurements seem to be big time news, Calijah Kancey beeing 6’1 and Ika under 340? How do you feel about that?

Alex: I mean, maybe. It just depends on a lot of variables. Usually this team has been more open to trading future picks when they expect to get comp picks in ’24 to replace them. So it partially depends on what FAs they lose and sign and where they project the comp formula to fall. From there, it’s just about the board and offers.

Kancey being 6’1 is actually good. Taller than listed. Sub 31-inch arms…that’s bad. Ika dropping weight is good, too. You want to see those big guys shed weight a bit. Question is if they can keep it out when they don’t have months to get ready and aren’t solely dedicating to training like they are the Combine.

J Jones: I’m sold on the idea of drafting an ILB and signing a FA. Just don’t see a starter on our roster right now. What are your thoughts?

Alex: More depends on the names than just the bigger picture stuff. Free agency worries me some just because the team has been down that road so many times before with such “meh/bleh” results. So I’d rather draft. But I expect Spillane to get re-signed, Mark Robinson could have a real role, and Myles Jack..we’ll see but I’m leaning towards him staying too.

Michael Stickings: 

Hi Alex. Couple of CB-related Qs for you..

First, an article at The Ringer today lists the top 100 NFL free agenda, with Sutton coming in at #25, right behind JuJu. I think Sutton’s ranking is a bit low but still reasonable. In any event, here’s what they say about him: “Darious Williams signed a three-year, $30 million deal (an average of $10 million per year) with the Jaguars last offseason. That could be a good comp for Sutton.” I’ve been thinking of Sutton in the $11-million range, certainly not up near $13-14 million as a top #1 CB. I assume you’d jump at $10 million/year. What do you think of this comp, and do you think the NFL generally sees Sutton as that level of CB?

Second, I’ve been gravitating towards CB as my desired first-round pick for the Steelers, especially Gonzales. I think he’ll go earlier, but if he were to be available at #17, it would be an easy pick for me. While I’m open to other positions (leaning DL, not O-line or WR) there, CB just seems the way to go if one of the top ones is still available. So if not Gonzalez, is there another easy one for you? And where is your threshold? Like, if the top 3 are gone, forget about it? Top 4? Obviously what we don’t want is an Artie Burns-like reach just for need.

Alex: Yeah that sounds about right to me. We’ll see. It’s the top number I’ll be watching. Dave has made a strong case for that $13-14 million bar. I’d love it to be in the 10-11 range. I don’t think it’ll be the 8-9 some sites have projected. I think Sutton is an excellent complement CB to a true #1 guy. He’s also versatile and helps open up your defensive disguises, especially on third down. Really valuable guy worth 10-11 million.

Same on Gonzalez. Had the video today, he’s the dream candidate. Now if the top three are gone, yeah, it gets harder to find that fourth. The class is deep on Day Two and you have two picks and can grab one there. So if the “big three” at that group are gone, Gonzalez, Porter, Witherspoon, then you likely look at another position.

Wrong Way Diontae: Hey Alex,
If you were the GM which positions would you try to address via free agency prior to the draft?

Alex: Assuming Trubisky is kept on the roster, I’d love a veteran slot WR and a veteran offensive tackle. And given the weakness at DL in the draft, they probably need to heavily look there in free agency instead. That’s my overview of it but it again often comes down to the players, their price, their scheme fit, etc.

srdan: If TJ got hurt in he second half of the year, and not initially, would the Steelers have made the dance?

Alex: I think they, at the least, beat the New York Jets, so yes, if you change that loss to a win and nothing else, the Steelers get into the playoffs.

David Rudin: Hey Alex,
Who do you think of as must signs of Pittsburgh’s own free agents? I’d say Sutton, Spillane, Ogunjobi, Edmunds & Kazee.

Alex: Sutton definitely at the top. They have to re-sign at least one of Edmunds/Kazee. I’m preferring Edmunds by a pretty comfortable margin. I don’t want to put Spillane in the “must” category but without him, that room just looks plain empty. And I expect him to get done.

stan: Khan’s comments about Sutton make it seem like he’s returning and its just a matter of how much he’ll get. Given that, do you think they’ll still draft a corner in the first two rounds? Wallace played “above the line” last year so anyone you’d sign would be limited to nickel duty for at least a year.

Alex: Given the strength of the CB class, Ahkello Witherspoon’s uncertain future, Levi Wallace signed only through 2023, yeah, I don’t think it takes it off the board. Need at least three starting-capable CBs and a fourth for depth. It’s not just about having two top guys anymore.

DropTheHammer: Poof! All three of the top offensive linemen are available at 1:17. Who do you take and why? And who are #2 and #3?

Alex: Man, that is a good question I’m glad I don’t have to answer right now. I felt pretty stuck doing my live mock draft over the weekend. Trade down might be my answer, ha.

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