Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag


Let me steal Chris Berman’s thunder and be the last to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and hope you had a good one. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish? I’m a mashed potatoes man. I look forward to being 85 years old, sequestered in the corner, watching the Steelers with my mashed potatoes. Let me live!

To your questions.

CodeNameJerk: Any guesses why Eli Rogers disappears in the 2nd half of games?

Alex: That is a really good question. I’m not sure. Maybe part of it has to do with the Steelers getting a lead and using more 2 TE sets, which leaves Rogers on the bench. That’s the best I got.

COSteel: Drafting another QB this year?


Alex: It could happen, all depends on who they like, who falls, but I think they wait to make a heavy investment. Need to help Ben Roethlisberger win a Super Bowl instead of focusing on who is next.

Brian Tollini: Overall thoughts on Justin Gilbert and his future (if any) with the Steelers?

Alex: I guess they aren’t too different than what they were before. There is a chance, though slim, he could do something on defense. But he’s a low-risk guy who could help out on special teams a bit, though the team has seemed to sour on him as a return man and in coverage so go figure there.

He’s a nice depth piece but not the future. That’ my stance.

@subBurger: Is Gronk’s surgery some type of plot between Belichick & Harbaugh to get at the Steeler? Time seems suspicious to me.

Alex: Can’t rule anything out. I want a full investigation!

The Tony: Would you trade off Cutch?

Alex: I’m not the guy you want to get your Pirates’ advice from (I am a fan though) but no, I wouldn’t, and it kills me to see him in trade talks. Crazy how two years ago, you can go from the face of a franchise to now, being a burden. I know, I know, sports and that stuffs happens all the time, but not a team that finally got talent and competitive.

I’d love to keep him. He’ll turn things around. But him staying looks unlikely.

CP72: Alex,
After attending training camp, which player has been the most surprising and which has been the most disappointing to this point?

Alex: A surprise is hard to come up with, especially if we are judging them off training camp performances. I think I would go Ross Cockrell. He got picked on quite a bit, not to say he was bad, during camp, and now he’s the team’s best cover corner. He’s not a complete corner, he still isn’t physical enough, but he’s ascended into that role. There aren’t a lot of options, to be honest.

Disappointment. Obviously, you can throw Coates in there while of course recognizing the injuries playing a role in his performance. Really most of the receivers, even Eli Rogers, they could be named. I guess it’s a harder choice than I thought. There are certainly players who have struggled but most are in-line with where we thought.

I was hoping Robert Golden would have a flashy, big-star season. And now he’s on the bench. I like Rob G but that is disappointing.

Lambert58: Hey Alex – the Giants look to be a formidable opponent. How do you see this game playing out?

Alex: Hey Lambert! I think it will be close. But the Giants are already a one-dimensional offense, they can’t run the ball a lick, and that plays into the Steelers’ hand. Not too often Pittsburgh loses when they can shut down a run game.

So giving the edge to Pittsburgh here. But the Giants are tough. Aggressive defense. Lot of talent along that front. And they get a bunch of chunk plays in the passing game, which has been a problem area for the Steelers. Look for our scouting report tomorrow!

NinjaMountie: Alex, I asked in the OL article but didn’t get an answer. I’m curious on your opinion on AV. Is he playing well enough to be thought of as the long term answer or do you think they’ll look elsewhere?
Any new improvements to his game? New problems?

Alex: Hey, sorry Ninja, I do try to go back and look but this week has gotten busy for me.

Villanueva had a tough start, maybe the first month or so (sorta like Beachum last year) that had me nervous. I do think he’s settled in nicely. Only 3.5 sacks given up all year, I think? And none recently. His leverage is better, his chest isn’t exposed as much, and I *think* (I’m no OL expert) he has sorta gone back to some of the sets and attacks that worked well last year. Not short-setting as much, he’s chopping the hands of defenders down more often, playing to his strengths.

If there is an opportunity for an upgrade, then maybe, if for anything, to give yourself really good depth. But I don’t think it’s something you chase after. When your team is probably going to end the year averaging around 4.6 yards per carry and have a record low amount of sacks, the line is doing just fine.

Kevin Gobleck: Last week W. Gay posted a state line that consisted of 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. Who was the last steeler to record all three?

Alex: Great question, Kevin! I looked it up and the answer is…William Gay! In 2013. Take a look at the box score.  Pretty crazy, isn’t it?

srdan: do you think the Steelers can sign an Elvis Dumervil like player this off season

Alex: That may still be too pricey, given what pass rushers go for. I’m with srdan on this one. Taking a hard look at Jabaal Sheard in the offseason. I do think they sign someone though, assuming Jarvis is gone and Harrison hangs them up.

srdan: I’m giddy about the 3 rookies.

Can you give me a quick assessment of each of their improvements over the last 4 games?

If you were buy a jersey and it was one of those 3, which rook would you get? Santa has my request for the 25.

Alex: 

Artie Burns – Game slowing down for him. He’s playing faster, playing more physical. He was never soft, the guy can hit, he showed it in college, he was just overthinking. Processing. So that’s helped him a ton. Also, the Steelers aren’t moving him around as much. Letting him play his RCB spot. Not putting as much on his plate.

Sean Davis – Better tackling. Much, much more consistent. That’s the #1 requirement. And he’s doing a good job.

Javon Hargrave- Just reps, man. Getting the chance to have a consistent snap total, knows the role he’ll play week-to-week and getting better.

I dunno man, jerseys are dicey. Go with the Hargrave one just because it’s a little different…and that’s fun.

RickM: Why does our O-line struggle so much in the run game against better D-lines.

Alex: Well, I think you’re answering your own question. Because they are better. I don’t think many teams are having success running on the likes of the Jets or Baltimore.

But beyond that, given that this rushing attack is not a big-play one, they are death by a thousand paper cuts, they end up slogging their way to a bunch of 2 and 3 yard gains against good defenses with no chance of breaking a big one that makes the overall numbers look decent.


That’s all for this week. Thanks guys, talk soon!

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • CodeNameJerk

    Any guesses why Eli Rogers disappears in the 2nd half of games?

  • COSteel

    Drafting another QB this year?

  • Brian Tollini

    Overall thoughts on Justin Gilbert and his future (if any) with the Steelers?

  • Ryan

    Do you think with all the cap space the Steelers get this coming offseason there’s a chance they use some of it to pick up at least a mid level FA OLB? Like an 8-10 sack a season kind of guy? I know we’ll draft one but it’d be nice to have a vet out there while a rookie develops.

  • The Tony

    Would you trade off Cutch?

  • CP72

    Alex,
    After attending training camp, which player has been the most surprising and which has been the most disappointing to this point?

  • Lambert58

    Hey Alex – the Giants look to be a formidable opponent. How do you see this game playing out?

  • NinjaMountie

    Alex, I asked in the OL article but didn’t get an answer. I’m curious on your opinion on AV. Is he playing well enough to be thought of as the long term answer or do you think they’ll look elsewhere?
    Any new improvements to his game? New problems?

  • NinjaMountie

    Thanks Alex. I know you get busy and it wasn’t a big deal. Appreciate the answer. I’m so big of a fan of his that I worry about bias leading me and I’m not a great at evaluating of OL talent to begin with. Have a Great Holiday season! It may not be PC but I’m gonna say it anyway…Merry Christmas lol.

  • Alex Kozora

    haha Merry Christmas to you too!

  • Kevin Gobleck

    Last week W. Gay posted a state line that consisted of 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. Who was the last steeler to record all three?

  • Steelers12

    do you think the Steelers can sign an Elvis Dumervil like player this off season

  • NinjaMountie

    James Harrison? I don’t know.
    Hope it wasn’t him…it was 2010 when he did that.

  • srdan

    I’m giddy about the 3 rookies.

    Can you give me a quick assessment of each of their improvements over the last 4 games?

    If you were buy a jersey and it was one of those 3, which rook would you get? Santa has my request for the 25.

  • srdan

    Sheard!

  • RickM

    Why does our O-line struggle so much in the run game against better D-lines. Bell, a great running back, averaged just over 3 yards a carry against the Jets and Dallas and just over 2 yards against Baltimore. Is our O-line just not physical enough to match up well with certain D-lines?

  • RickM

    I would 100% agree with your answer if we didn’t have Le’veon Bell. David Johnson, third in the league in rushing, gets over 5 yards a carry against the Jets. Le’Veon gets just over 3. Elliott gets a shade under 4 yards a carry and almost 100 yards against Baltimore, Bell gets 2.29 (granted Pouncey got hurt). I really am surprised how we get stoned by the better D-lines despite having the best running back in the NFL.

  • Spencer Krick

    What role do you see Ayers playing if he’s pulled up from the PS?

    Bah, I was too late!

  • Alex Kozora

    I’m here! Punt returner would make most sense but playing rookies scares me. I’m still AB all the way. But the team is probably trying to push him out, like they have been for the last year.

  • PaeperCup

    That game, Troy had 2 FF and a sack himself. What a defensive show they put on that day.

  • Alex Kozora

    Well like I said with the second part of my answer, the Steelers haven’t been getting big chunk runs. The Cardinals have. David Johnson had a 58 yard touchdown in that Dallas game. Take that away and he averages 2.5 YPC on the rest of his 21 carries.

    I’m not trying to do that whole “take away a play and skew the number to my narrative” that so many people do (and it’s stupid) but that’s the difference. The big play. It isn’t that the Cardinals OL did work all game long. They got it right on one play (or Johnson created, he is more explosive than Bell after all).

    And another thought: the Steelers have always struggled against 4-3 fronts or hybrid ones like the Jets and Ravens. Probably because they face a 3-4 or 2-4-5 every day in practice.

  • Spencer Krick

    Would you rather have Grimble or Ayers on the roster right now?

  • Alex Kozora

    Doesn’t much matter to me. Ayers I guess just as a better depth piece. Little more value.

  • RickM

    Good point about the Johnson run. So in effect they stoned him as well. They are that good. Oh well, we’ll kill them with the pass.

  • Steelers12

    always been a fan of his