Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to your weekly Pittsburgh Steelers’ mailbag. The final one before free agency gets underway. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

Brian Tollini: 

Rank (1st thru 3rd) both floor and ceiling for the following CB’s…
-Cam Smith (South Carolina)
-Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State)
-Deonte Banks (Maryland)

Pick one scenario:
A. You move up to the 8th slot in the draft by sending our 17th overall and 32nd overall to Atlanta. In doing so you land Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez.

B. You hold at #17 and select Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr.

C. You trade back to the 24th slot, Jacksonville sends you their 88th and 126th overall and you draft Maryland’s Deonte Banks.

Alex: All good questions Brian though I don’t think I have perfect answers for you. I don’t have a full CB ranking yet. Later in the offseason, I will, but not quite right now. I’ll just say it’s a strong CB class and those are three names who could go in the Top 32. Some of how those players win is system/scheme dependent so it’s hard to put a blanket, catch-all to that.

For the trade scenario, it depends on other variables too. It’s hard to answer that without knowing my roster, the rest of the board, etc. Gonzalez is my top corner but I don’t know if I’d give up the chance of having those top picks just to get him. I’d probably lean to being content and just taking Porter Jr. at 17.

Jesse Hernandez: Hey Alex I heard you guys briefly discuss this on the podcast and would love to hear maybe a little more in depth but I feel as they are not talking enough about the cap situation in Baltimore. I believe I heard somewhere they are about 14 or 17 million over the cap so at the beginning of this year they have to cut atleast 50 mil just to be cap compliant. I honestly don’t see them being able to make it through this entire offseason without sabotaging their team. Imagine Lamar waits until week 1 to sign the tag they have to have that money available the entire time and I’m almost curious if maybe Lamar really is gonna win this outcome. Thoughts?

Alex: I don’t know their cap situation too well but trading Chuck Clark today might be a sign of the moves they’re trying to make. The downside of the tag is there’s no way to hide or push that money into future years. It’s a $32 million cap charge against them on the tag and that is a heavy number.

And like you said, Lamar can make life tough on them by waiting them out. They have to account for that $32 million unless and until some other agreement is met. So both sides are trying to exercise their leverage here. We’ll see if any team submits an offer sheet. That’s one thing that would speed up the process and offer a resolution. Things certainly seem rocky over there right now.

Chris Carey: What do you blame for our poor history of drafting CB in the recent past? With the changes in the F.O, do you envision any reasons why this poor trend might change going forward or should we stick to free agents for this position going forward?

Alex: I don’t blame one person. I mean, the buck does stop with the decision makers. So chiefly, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert. But it’s not like they had a dedicated “CB scout.” I treated it the same way I treated it when asked why this team was so good at drafting WRs. Which they were. They had very little turnover with their scouts. The same group who watched Plaxico Burress was the same who watched Santonio Holmes and who watched JuJu Smith-Schuster. So they had the eye for the wide receivers. It worked the opposite with the CBs. Same group who watched one bust/miss watched the next.

I think the CB stuff was a little overstated. They didn’t often take high picks. Artie Burns was the only first round CB they drafted under Colbert. And Golson was just ruined by the world’s worst injury luck – I can’t blame scouts for that. But there were some ugly mid round total botches. Richardson, Hawthorne, even Holliman in the 7th round. Guys who didn’t do anything when they left Pittsburgh, just evaluation issues.

But this is a different FO with new faces and voices. So that history is just that. History. Doesn’t worry me about what this team could do moving forward.

Billjump: Hi Alex, lets say two of the steelers draft picks in the coming draft develop into elite starters. Which positions do you think would be best to help win a championship during their rookie contracts? This is assuming KP becomes the next franchise qb

Alex: You get two elite starters in one draft anywhere and it’s gonna help you a lot. Doesn’t really matter where. If I could have my pick though, an elite-level CB would be fantastic. Not many of those out there but you want a guy to defend these high-flying offenses and QBs. And if I could get another elite wide receiver for Kenny Pickett, I’ll do that. Johnson/Pickens/elite guy. Yeah, I like that. Can’t have too many weapons.

But it could be an OT, an ILB, whatever. If they’re elite, they’re gonna push you forward.

OMG Reptar: Hey Alex, if a person wanted to work for Steelers Depot, what would that person’s knowledge and skills need to look like? And by work, I mean in a full time capacity.

Alex: It’d have to look similar to the staff we have on board, really. I don’t have a cookie-cutter, black-and-white answer for you. We don’t have any actual requirements. We don’t care about your college degree, your GPA, all that kind of stuff. We just need people who are smart football fans who don’t rely on clichés and hot takes, those who can write well, those who can be committed and accountable, those that show up and put in the work every day. We do look at writing samples before we bring people onboard to get an idea for their knowledge base and writing skills. But there isn’t an XYZ thing we look for when we bring someone onto the team.

Chad Prince: AK,
You’ve been a big proponent of the Steelers drafting an ILB instead of going to the free agency well again. If they do resign Spillane and draft say Jack Campbell would you waive Myles Jack at that point? I just think there’s better ways to allocate that 8 million dollars than on a two down linebacker.

Alex: I have been but that’s partially just my frustration of the team going down that well time and time again. It is a good group of ILBs in FA that are hard to ignore.

Would I waive Jack at that point? Probably not. It’s late April and the bulk of free agency is over. I’m not spending that money on a lot of top talent still out there. And not exactly knowing what you have in Campbell and wanting to see Mark Robinson start to make that jump, I’d hang onto Jack.

Wouldn’t guarantee he’d make the team but I’d carry him into the summer and see the group and how it looks.

Mark O’Connor: Hi Alex, we desperately need a mack LB and Drew Sanders is listed as the top ILB in this class. He can play well in coverage and blitz off the edge, adding great versatility. But he rarely gets mentioned among the 1st round picks. Would pick 17 be a reach for him? If so, why?

Alex: It might feel a little high but if he’s your guy, he’s your guy. You’re right we should mention him more and I think I made a note of that in a recent livestream and/or podcast. We’ll see if they’re at that Arkansas Pro Day. That’ll be key for him entering the conversation.

Peter-Petersen: What is the most likely positional group for the steelers to double down. I could see them getting an OT round one and another IOL on day 2, or a DE and a NT both on day two. I could even see them getting two ILBs, maybe Simpson at 32 and if Campbell is there at 49 he could still be an option. Or a CB1 with one of the first two and maybe a slot in round 3 or 4.

Alex: The board really plays a lot into that. When you’re sitting there Day Three and you’re just looking to maximize already slim odds with top talent. You’re less focused on positions of need than you are just getting talented players who can compete for a roster spot. Cornerback I guess would be my guess but I don’t think they’ll go into the draft saying we need two of something. They’re building a football team, not an ark.

BananasFoster: What do you think their patience level is with KP8 going forward. He’s the guy no matter what in 2024? Let’s say 2023 is same as last year, average 17-20 points a game, 9 wins and just miss playoffs. Is there a question heading into 2024?

Alex: I’ll still take it one year at a time. They’re confident in Pickett for 2023, he’s their guy, obviously there’s no question about that. We’ll see what the tape shows and what jump he makes than overall team results. And go from there.

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