Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

Welcome back to your weekly Pittsburgh Steelers mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.

To your questions!

Ian Suttie: 

Assuming Porter Jr gets on the field sooner rather than later, how would you feel about Wallace moving to the slot?

Does he have any experience playing there or is he strictly an outside guy?

Alex: I’m not super comfortable with any of those guys playing inside. Wallace has done it a little in his career and a bit with Pittsburgh last year against some Twin WR sets and empty looks and he was pretty uncomfortable. I think it was the Bills game where he got beat up on a good bit.

I really don’t know what their plan is. Sullivan? Peterson? Norwood? Kazee? Feels very up in the air right now.

Andrew Black: 

Hey Alex,

What are we doing at SS this year? Do you think Neal or Norwood are getting the chance to be the full-time starter? I know there will be some packages where guys like Peterson move around, etc. but this worries me just as much as the slot CB does.

Alex: Looks like Neal on run downs, Kazee rotates in on passing downs to play deep half/post. There will be post-snap rotations and different variations, too, of course, especially with Kazee being in his second year with the team.

As for Norwood, he’s gotta make the team. He definitely isn’t a SS. Tackling was a big problem and he hardly played once Kazee came off IR last year. Norwood is not a lock to make the 53. He’s a bubble guy, not a starter.

David Levesque: 

Hello Alex,

I was snooping around Instagram and DeMarvin Leal looked pretty lean. A sign he will be playing edge not on the interior? Do you think the Steelers will be looking to add a veteran RB to the room?

Thanks Alex!

Alex: I’ll have to look. I saw a photo of him during OTAs on the team site and tried to guess his weight. But he was in a hoodie and I’m terrible at these things. So I’m not sure. I’d like him to occupy a similar role to what he had last year.

Eh, the #3 RB spot is open but I don’t know who will fill it. They may just let the young guys compete this summer and go from there.

Brian Tollini: Which remaining free agent do you feel would be most beneficial for this team to add?

Alex: I don’t have a name in mind. It’s obviously a pretty watered down group. Maybe a veteran EDGE type. I’m not sure who all is out there. Vince Biegel…if he’s healthy? Been a lot of injuries. Jordan Jenkins? He’s coming off an ACL tear but it was in August so he should be closer to full health. No one really sticking out to me, which is typical this time of year.

Mr. Goodkat: Which offensive formation or personnel grouping are you most excited to see the team deploy this season and why?

Alex: I think the universal answer has to be 12 personnel. Johnson, Pickens, Freiermuth, Washington with Harris in the backfield. Steelers want to play bully ball…let’s go watch bully ball. They want that to be their identity, how they win and impose their will. That’s going to be the package to do it. Start the game, four-minute offense, keep the Patrick Mahomeses of the world off the field. That’s a money package that must thrive.

Novatech LV: Hey Alex, I was hoping for Khan to move up in the 4th round to draft T Dawand Jones of OSU. Jones would have replaced Chucks, who is a finesse player, and made this OL one of the most physical OL unit in the NFL. Would have made this move?

Alex: I’m not sure who you’re asking would’ve made the move. But I’m fine with them passing. Pretty clear they soured on Jones and so did the rest of the NFL. He’s an ok 4th round gamble for the Browns but there’s just too many question marks there. His career could go either way. And I’m fine with passing on that player.

JR912: Is the Steelers’ draft of Darnell Washington a success if he ends up having a Matt Spaeth-esque career? Spaeth didn’t do all Combine testing from what I could see but ran a ~4.8 40-yard dash at roughly the same size as Washington. Washington isn’t known for being a smooth receiver either, so are these two players actually comparable?

Alex: I don’t think that’s what you ideally want to have. Spaeth was actually a productive college TE at Minnesota, so much so he was the John Mackey Award winner as the NCAA’s top tight end. Kinda wild to think about considering how he never caught the ball in the NFL.

But you’re hoping to get more out of Washington in the passing game. I don’t want him to be a pure blocker. Washington can be both, and that’s what I want his success story to be. I suppose it’s an acceptable floor, though.


Hey Alex, two questions.

Is the rise of ILB/OLB “tweeners” we have recently seen in Parsons and Reddick a pattern indicating a change in the NFL meta, or are these just two random instances? And do you think Herbig could fit into such a pattern?

Having post draft hindsight, how do you view the departure of Sutton? I think we should have rather decluttered the DB room, by getting rid of Witherspoon, Killebrew and either Maulet or Pierre. That way we would be able to play a lot of Nickel formations, masking our lack of SS and good coverage ILBs while also having nice depth at CB with Wallace, Sutton and Trice all being able to play outside

Alex: To an extent. But it’s generally just a case of freaky athletic dudes. Parsons could play FS or RB and probably have a great career with some time. So I think those are just the 0.1% of the 0.1%, freaks who can do no wrong and teams always find ways to get creative using them. Chasing the next Parsons is difficult to do. But sure, while I want Herbig to be an ILB, you can utilize his pass rushing ability too. Not something I want to sweep under the rug.

With Sutton, it’s a loss. We’ll see who else goes by cutdown but he brought so much value and versatility. A real Band-Aid who covered up a lot of issues. It’s why slot is such a concern of mine now.

falconsaftey43: Obviously we’ll see how they pan out in camp, but it’s hard to see a 3rd QB worth keeping around going into the season. Any chance they go with just 2? For so long the 3rd guy has been a mid-round draft pick, now it’s looking like UDFA rookie.

Alex: It would be a departure and Pittsburgh really valued its QB depth last year. It’s why they refused to trade Mason Rudolph. So to go from that to now only keeping two is a big change. Obviously, they don’t have a #3 as strong as Rudolph.

I can’t see Tanner Morgan being the #3 QB on the 53-man roster. He shouldn’t be anywhere near a football field this year. We’ll see what other moves they make. I still think it’s logical for them to sign an XFL QB. Maybe they will after May 15th when those guys can sign contracts. Some of those guys, like an AJ McCarron, wouldn’t have been eligible for rookie minicamp (I don’t think at least, though the rules for vets may have relaxed) so that could be why they aren’t getting an invite like many others.

David Rudin: What position or position group has you losing sleep?

Alex: Nickel corner. No idea what the pass down plan is there. And still uncomfortable with the EDGE depth. To me, it still seriously wasn’t addressed this offseason. Herbig is not the answer as a true #3.

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