Welcome back to another edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers mailbag. Did you know we’ve almost done 400 of these? As always, we’re back for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.
To your questions!
CMP: Are there any key positions that you think will still be filled or should be filled via free agency before the draft? Safety seems to have jumped up the list.
Alex: Yeah, you’d want to get a veteran SS as a stop-gap type option. I’ve always pined for a veteran WR to tie that young room together but the options are dwindling pretty good as far as I can tell. Maybe a really low-tier quarterback as a #3 so you’re not sorta forcing a rookie into that role. A run stuffing NT is always cheap but some of the names I wanted are coming off the board.
Assume no additional moves were made in FA at these positions. Which is most likely to happen?
A. We draft both of DE and a DT
B. We draft both an ILB and OLB
C. We draft both an OT and IOL
D. We draft both an outside CB and a slot CB
Alex: Eh, it’s hard to say with still so many draft variables. If I had to guess, I would say.
But A, D, and B, all feel really plausible. Of course, they won’t do all that with their picks. The iOL feels a little less likely right now though tackle seems a pretty sure thing at some point.
Renegade: Hey Alex. Did you see enough from Austin III in camp to get you a little excited about what he can bring to the team?
Alex: It’s a really limited sample size. He had about two weeks in camp and one was without pads. He flashed his speed, had a long touchdown against a backup corner, but it’s really hard to tell. That’s what makes this summer so important. Get this guy in a game and really be able to evaluate him.
Chad Prince: Any concerns that Jones “just didn’t need to” weigh in at his pro day? Seems like a simple thing to do unless you’re worried about the results.
Alex: Dave and I are going to talk about it tomorrow. Yeah, I think we both have concerns. With his weight, only working at the Senior Bowl, and not doing much at his Pro Day. So you’ll get more of our thoughts tomorrow but I think we both have reservations the way things have gone.
Do you feel Will McDonald could be in play at 17. I love the fit.
Alex: The tea leaves are there and Tomlin/Khan going to Iowa and Iowa State who have first round EDGE/DE types is interesting. But I just can’t see them pulling the trigger on an EDGE that early when they have T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. So I’ll put it on the backburner of things that seem likely to happen.
Hi Alex, thanks for your great work. Can you re-list these names in your order of preference at #17? I know, I know. You have more research to do, but just give us your best take as of today. You can refine later.
Alex: I don’t have a perfect list right now. Like you said, I’m not there to finalize my list. But if you’re asking me now…the order would be: Broderick Jones, Joey Porter Jr., Devon Witherspoon, Brian Branch, Mazi Smith, Trenton Simpson, Darnell Wright, Bryan Bresee, Dawand Jones.
But this list could change in the future. It probably will.
Dan Blocker: Hi Alex! I’m not as concerned as others about Edmunds potential departure. First, I can see paying him market value for what he brings, when a younger, cheaper draft pick could bring more. While he’s solid for our defense, its better to develop at the position for the future. Do you agree?
Alex: It’s not the end of the world but it’s a loss. There’s an impact there. Just from the standpoint of how available and durable the guy was. Don’t take it for granted. Dude basically guaranteed you 1000 not-awful snaps a season. He’s played as much football the last five years as basically anyone in football. So just filling those snaps with a new guy is a change. And he did improve and do his job as a classic box safety well.
Now, that position isn’t terribly hard to replace. The skillset isn’t super unique. But there’s still that unknown.
And on top of that, you’re losing parts of your starting secondary. The unintended consequences of the trust, the knowledge, the scheme fit, how that group works together. That will lead to growing pains to this defense that can and will be overcome but takes time and requires some ugliness. So when you stack losing Sutton, Spillane, Edmunds, one alone might not kill you but they add up.
Richard Prezel: Hey Alex I don’t know if you have watched any of the XFL games if you have do you see any that may be of interest. There are several that just ended up on bad teams or coaching changes that put them in bad light or perhaps an injury played a roll.
Alex: I’ve only watched a tiny bit. Very casually. Mostly to see Martavis Bryant. But I don’t have any names I’ve watched I want to bring in. Seems like Tuzar Skipper is doing alright over there though I think the Steelers have tried him enough. I’m sure a handful of those guys will come over to the NFL and be in camps this summer. Who that will be, I couldn’t tell you. Ben DiNucci is having some success, I think.
Matt Manzo: HaPpy Thursday Alex! Thanks again for an exciting off season at the Depot!
With Edmunds latest tweet sounding like he’s leaving Pitt, are there any FA SS’s you’d like us to snag?
Alex: Hey Matt! Thanks for being here. Taylor Rapp is my top name out there. Only 25 so similar age than Edmunds, younger really, with experience and a good hitter. That’d be ideal. Ronnie Harrison is a lower-tier suggestion.