Ask Alex: Steelers’ Mailbag

Welcome back to the mailbag. One week until the draft and we can finally put all the speculation to bed and we can talk about players who are actually on the team and how they’ll help the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017.

Some reading for you all. Something football, something non-sports related. I linked one section of it yesterday but one of my favorite draft articles is Bob McGinn’s NFL scout poll of the top players at each position group. Great insight. Check out the running backs hereAnd something for any pet owners out there. Topic I really hadn’t thought about before – keeping your cat or dog safe in your care and the companies that are trying to solve that problem. You can read that article at this link. 

To your questions!

Hoof: I keep ending up with Derek Barnett for us R1. Feels good, but similar to Jarvis. How u think they compare?

Alex: Hey Hoof, I was about to answer you on Twitter, ha. I think we have to pump the brakes on comparing every edge guy to Jarvis. I don’t even see how they compare. Barnett is a tremendous athlete with a great burst off the ball, the opposite of Jarvis. Barnett can bend, Jarvis couldn’t.

Don’t look at the Combine numbers. Remember, Barnett was really sick the day he worked out and almost passed it up entirely. The fact he competed earned my respect. Much better athlete than how he tested.

Spencer Krick: 

I have two questions!

1: Is Jabrill Pepper’s best football ahead of him? If he were to be taken by the Steelers, how would he get on the field?

2. name your top five possible first round picks in order of most likely to least likely.

Thanks in advance dude.

Alex: Sure, there’s some upside there. Getting him on the field is easy as that dime defender and a role the team is trying to fill, I think. There’s room for him, no question, as there should be with any draft pick.

In no order, because I don’t want to tip my hand for my next mock.

Jabrill Peppers
TJ Watt
Budda Baker
Marcus Maye
Takk McKinley

Jeff Papiernik: Let’s pretend Steelers draft a CB in the first 3 rounds and let’s say Golson stays healthy this year and looks good in the preseason. Tell me the CBs on the final 53 man roster.

Alex: Hmm…

Artie Burns
Ross Cockrell
Coty Sensabuagh
Draft Pick
Senquez Golson

Gay could definitely be odd man out. But who knows, it’s not like you can’t carry six, depending on how full the rest of the defense is.

T3xassteelers:  

Who do you like of between Maye, Josh Jones, Peppers?

And what do you think of Malachi Dupre from LSU? I feel like if he went to a school with an actual QB that he’d be a first round pick. I think he’s super raw, but SO much potential and a guy I haven’t heard much from.

Alex: In order…

Jones, Maye, Peppers. Jones has to be tamed a bit but he’s got the size/speed combo and is the biggest hitter. Maye is good in most places, not great in any, and he needs work in coverage. Peppers is strong athlete and reliable tackler but smaller and didn’t produce impact plays.

Dupre….eh, yeah, he’s raw because LSU’s offense was simplified and didn’t throw the ball that often. So that hurt him. Jumped really well but wish he would’ve ran better.

Robbie: Jabrill Peppers or Obi? Which is more likely/who would u rather have. Also, if a safety loses his job this year, u think it’d be Mitchell or Davis?

Alex: Peppers more likely, give me Melifonwu. I don’t think either loses their job but if you forced me to pick, it’d be Davis, who would move into that dime role. Mitchell has tenure and knows the defense really well. He’s not getting benched. Secondary would be too young, especially at a crucial spot like safety. Can’t afford poor communication.

CP72: If the Steelers draft a hybrid safety. What trait do you think is more important… being able to play in the box (Josh Jones) or someone who can be more of a slot defender (Budda Baker)?

Alex: Well, the problem is that it’s sorta both. Those are traits the position demands or else you’re a bad fit. But think about how the hybrid guy would be used. On 3rd and obvious passing situations. Or late game, two minute drills. So run support isn’t going to be critical.

And they might not always be over the slot either. He’s the 6th DB – you’ll still have your nickel guy on the field. You might get him on a RB motioned out or more likely, the Y tight end. That’s where having a guy with size comes in handy and another reason to be a bit leery of Baker and Peppers.

capehouse: Which one of these Gil Brandt top 150 player rankings shocked you the most?

60) T.J. Watt
77) Carl Lawson
121) Cordrea Tankersley
129) Derek Rivers

Alex: I guess none of them…maybe Watt. But Lawson is dropping in big media, ditto with Rivers, even though I disagree with that low ranking. Tankersely…eh, it’s such a deep class, I get it. I’d put him higher though.

Steelers12: 

two questions

1. what player in this years nfl draft is getting too much hype in your opinion?
2. which do you pay attention to more Mayock, McShay or Kiper?

Alex: Some of the running backs are a little overblown. McCaffrey a top 10 pick? I don’t know how we got to that point. Good at a lot of things, not great at any. Even Fournette is a little overhyped, even though I like him. What’s the difference between he and Derrick Henry? I mean sure, give me Fourtnette over Henry but a difference of potentially 30 spots? I don’t know if I see that.

Not crazy about Mike Williams. But maybe I’m biased against big receivers. I like guys who can separate. Look at Treadwell last year. Average athlete, can’t get open. If you’re Julio Jones and AJ Green and have both? You’re the top guy, for sure. But if you’re big and an average athlete? I’m sour on it.

EDIT: oh yeah, Mayock for sure.

Bryant Eng: Are we over estimating the need of an early round pass rusher? Heyward, Tuitt, Dupree, Hargrave (on the interior), Silverback and a 3rd round pick up (wish list = Rivers, Tarrell Basham or Jordan Willis falling) seems formidable; it’s a sold 6 man rotation there on a 4 man front. CB/NB in rounds 1 and 2 might make more sense if we look at it from that angle?

Alex: No, I don’t think we are. The Steelers have made it pretty clear too the need to win with a four man rush. You have to have depth, you have to have something long-term. ROLB is a glaring need, Deebo, as much as we would hope, can’t be around forever. And you don’t want to feel compelled and obligated to blitz just to generate that, like the team has been at times the last two years. It’s rare for it not to be a need. Always a good reason to add to it.

Darth Blount 47: 

Looks like almost everyone is double-dipping on the questions today. So I don’t mind if I do…

1. Name me your best possible “in the realm of reality” double-dip, at both Edge/OLB and CB. (Note: they don’t have to be selected as though they are happening in the same draft)

2. Christian McCaffrey, Corey Davis, and David Njoku are all still on the board at 30. Colbert leans over and says.. “Pick one and we’ll take ’em.” Who ya got, Assistant to the General Manager?

Alex: I think with needs/wants all over the map, and just eight picks, it is sorta hard to double-dip, especially at OLB. I think CB is more likely, for what it’s worth.

At OLB, something like…

TJ Watt in the first/Tashawn Bower in the 7th…Carl Lawson in the second/Samson Ebukam in the 5th

At corner….

Cordrea Tankersley in the 2nd/Corn Elder in the 4th

Kevin Colbert putting me in charge of the draft would be a very Michael Scott move. I’ll have to do some reading first though to prepare for that role.

*buys Somehow I Manage* 

Tough call between Davis and Njoku but give me Davis. Bigger playmaker and if Green can stay upright, man, that offense would be sick.

Steel SonofFarmer: 

*Who do you think will be available in UDFA among this names???
– Jamal Agnew
-Chris ODom
-Matt Milano
-Brian Allen
-Kai Nacau
-Kevin Snead

*Do you like any of this players??

*And If some reason Reddick fall to 30th will you pick him up??

Alex: I think Sean did a really good job with the Agnew profile. Had me excited. Milano is interested, too. Snead is the fastest man in football but who knows, he’s so raw. Allen, out of Utah? He should get drafted.

Yeah, I’d probably take Reddick.

falconsaftey43: I can think of two possible 1st round picks I’d strongly dislike. Peppers or a QB not named Mahomes. What are the chances I’ll have to face that scenario?

Alex: Peppers seems like there’s a chance. Everyone in their mother is connecting the dots. Either group think is super strong or there’s some serious smoke there. Mahomes…I think you’re safe. Not going to fall past Houston, I don’t believe.

Nick Webb: If you had to choose one player, regardless of which round you took them in, to be your extra chess piece in the secondary, would you go Peppers, Baker, J. Jones, Melifonwu or Maye?
Thanks in advance!

Alex: Melifonwu, for sure. Best athlete, good range, size, productivity. But I don’t think he’ll be there. Jones would be a close second over Maye.

SkoolHouseRoxx: What’s good, Young Alex!? What player, outside of the first round, do you not want to see drafted in our division?

Alex: Hmm…I don’t know if I have a name in mind outside the first. I’ll just say this – these matchup move tight ends scare the heck out of me. And I think Cleveland will draft one at some point. So frustrating with how tough it is to defend. You can see why the Steelers are looking for that dime safety.

So Evan Engram, Gerald Everett, Bucky Hodgers, those guys pose a big problem.

AustinTxStillerFan: Chi ago offers you 2-4 (36), 4-4 (111), & 5-3 (147) for 1-30 (30). Kevin is whispero g in your ear again… what do you do?

Alex: I’m all for trading back, especially in a world where I can do it – because we know Colbert can’t – but I would ask for more. 1st round picks are valuable, especially when we’re talking about getting the 5th year option for these guys. I would need at least a third and then that 5th rounder.

Also, Colbert, stop whispering in my ear. It’s creepy.

Wreckless: Speaking of Reddick, how do you view him? MLB, OLB, or a Jamie Collins style chess piece? I see a lot of off-ball linebacker projections, but I just don’t see it.

Alex: Yeah, I see him as that chess piece. I don’t want to put him in a box and say he can only do “X.” He’s one of the best athletes in the draft and I want to maximize that. He can be off ball, he can be edge, and any smart team should move him around to maximize his skillset.

If you have the world’s fastest computer, you wouldn’t use it just to play Solitaire, even if it can run the game better than anyone else. You do a lot with that.

stan: I see that people are de-emphasizing the RB position more and more in mocks. If DeAngelo is going to retire, I consider it an urgent need. With Le-Veon’s injury in the AFC Championship game, he still hasn’t completed a season.

Alex: Right, I agree, and people shouldn’t forget about it. I still expect the team to draft a back.

Remember, in 2013 when they took Bell, the Steelers brought in only three running backs. And Bell wasn’t one of them.

Bill Sechrengost: It seems like people are calling for QB or RB in the third round. Who would you take in that round for these positions? I don’t see them taking either in the first two rounds. Thanks Alex.

Alex: I think there’s two names to circle – Josh Dobbs and Brad Kaaya. I think Kaaya is slightly more likely but both are in play.


Awesome chat this week, thanks guys! Talk to you right before the draft.

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.

  • I keep ending up with Derek Barnett for us R1. Feels good, but similar to Jarvis. How u think they compare?

  • Spencer Krick

    I have two questions!

    1: Is Jabrill Pepper’s best football ahead of him? If he were to be taken by the Steelers, how would he get on the field?

    2. name your top five possible first round picks in order of most likely to least likely.

    Thanks in advance dude.

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Let’s pretend Steelers draft a CB in the first 3 rounds and let’s say Golson stays healthy this year and looks good in the preseason. Tell me the CBs on the final 53 man roster.

  • T3xassteelers

    Who do you like more between Maye, Josh Jones, Peppers? And why?

    And what do you think of Malachi Dupre from LSU? I feel like if he went to a school with an actual QB that he’d be a first round pick. I think he’s super raw, but SO much potential and a guy I haven’t heard much from.

  • Robbie

    Jabrill Peppers or Obi? Which is more likely/who would u rather have. Also, if a safety loses his job this year, u think it’d be Mitchell or Davis?

  • Thanks Alex – I saw you were doing this right after I tweeted you, so I just reposted here. Always appreciate the insight!

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Marcus Maye in the first? No

  • Alex Kozora

    Not about our opinions – just about the projection. Invited to the draft no longer means a guaranteed 1st round pick but it sure is a strong sign of a top 35 type guy.

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Thanks Alex, just one followup question. With those 5 and assuming the CB drafted is slated to play in the slot, who would be backup on the outside?

  • Alex Kozora

    Sensabaugh is sorta the swiss army knife. He’s played it all. So he would plug the holes wherever needed.

  • CP72

    If the Steelers draft a hybrid safety. What trait do you think is more important… being able to play in the box (Josh Jones) or someone who can be more of a slot defender (Budda Baker)?

  • capehouse

    Which one of these Gil Brandt top 150 player rankings shocked you the most?

    60) T.J. Watt
    77) Carl Lawson
    121) Cordrea Tankersley
    129) Derek Rivers

  • Alex Kozora

    Also – check it out, shiny new mod label attached to me now! If you have any questions or issues with posting, hit me up here or on Twitter. We’ll get you squared away.

  • Steelers12

    two questions

    1. what player in this years nfl draft is getting too much hype in your opinion?
    2. which do you pay attention to more Mayock, McShay or Kiper?

  • Spencer Krick

    If Baker is the first pick in your next mock, you’d get some bonus points from me.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Guess I’m not the only one who is moving up in this crazy world! Congrats, Alex!
    Rule with an iron fist. Always better to be feared than loved. 😉

  • Alex Kozora

    The beatings will continue until morale improves.

  • Bryant Eng

    Are we over estimating the need of an early round pass rusher? Heyward, Tuitt, Dupree, Hargrave (on the interior), Silverback and a 3rd round pick up (wish list = Rivers, Tarrell Basham or Jordan Willis falling) seems formidable; it’s a sold 6 man rotation there on a 4 man front. CB/NB in rounds 1 and 2 might make more sense if we look at it from that angle?

  • Robbie

    Bonus one just came to mind. Steelers decide they’re going offense first, who’s your dream pick (realistically, obviously)? WR or TE right?

  • Darth Blount 47

    Looks like almost everyone is double-dipping on the questions today. So I don’t mind if I do…

    1. Name me your best possible “in the realm of reality” double-dip, at both Edge/OLB and CB. (Note: they don’t have to be selected as though they are happening in the same draft)

    2. Christian McCaffrey, Corey Davis, and David Njoku are all still on the board at 30. Colbert leans over and says.. “Pick one and we’ll take ’em.” Who ya got, Assistant to the General Manager?

  • Steel SonofFarmer

    *Who do you think will be available in UDFA among this names???
    – Jamal Agnew
    -Chris ODom
    -Matt Milano
    -Brian Allen
    -Kai Nacau
    -Kevin Snead

    *Do you like any of this players??

    *And If some reason Reddick fall to 30th will you pick him up??

  • falconsaftey43

    I can think of two possible 1st round picks I’d strongly dislike. Peppers or a QB not named Mahomes. What are the chances I’ll have to face that scenario?

  • Nick Webb

    If you had to choose one player, regardless of which round you took them in, to be your extra chess piece in the secondary, would you go Peppers, Baker, J. Jones, Melifonwu or Maye?
    Thanks in advance!

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    What’s good, Young Alex!? What player, outside of the first round, do you not want to see drafted in our division?

  • Bryant Eng

    Alex, are you planning on traveling to Philadelphia to do some draft coverage? If so, feel free to crash at my place here in Phila. It’s all I can afford to donate!

  • Alex Kozora

    Ha, appreciate the offer, but no plans to go out there. Can do everything I need to from the comfort of my house.

  • AustinTxStillerFan

    Chi ago offers you 2-4 (36), 4-4 (111), & 5-3 (147) for 1-30 (30). Kevin is whispero g in your ear again… what do you do?

  • Darth Blount 47

    I like this question a lot. I was gonna send Alex a message, asking him politely not to let Nate Gerry get picked by the Ratbirds or Bungles, in his annual Full 7 round mock.

  • WreckIess

    Speaking of Reddick, how do you view him? MLB, OLB, or a Jamie Collins style chess piece? I see a lot of off-ball linebacker projections, but I just don’t see him playing strictly in that role.

  • stan

    I see that people are de-emphasizing the RB position more and more in mocks. If DeAngelo is going to retire, I consider it an urgent need. With Le-Veon’s injury in the AFC Championship game, he still hasn’t completed a season. And Fitz Toussaint is in the Landry Jones category of back-ups: good enough to probably keep on the roster but not good enough to actually win with.

  • Bryant Eng

    What are you thoughts from the Height/Weight/Speed WR prospect from NC. Sounds like a Steeler prototype.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    It seems like people are calling for QB or RB in the third round. Who would you take in that round for these positions? I don’t see them taking either in the first two rounds. Thanks Alex.

  • WreckIess

    I appreciate the reply, Alex!!

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Alex this is a statement/re-question if you will. When you posted your “Study: what the Steelers look for in a WR” I posted this:

    “Alex do you put any weight into the variations in ratio or just attribute it to different sample sizes? What I mean is, 40 time and broad jump are both at 81% while 3 cone is close to 86% but the sample sizes for the former 2 are both a bit broader than the latter, so would you say guys like Lane, Hanson, and Ross are more likely prospects because the boxes they don’t check appear slightly less significant if you will, or would you just chalk it up to the varying sample sizes and assume the law of averages would work out to about the same over time.”

    I am not sure if I read your response wrong but it seemed almost as if you took it as a sort of critique of the results or methods when you responded and that wasn’t my intention. I was hoping to get answers to the specific questions within my post. So anyway, here is me asking again lol. Most particularly I would like your thoughts on the Lane, Hanson, and Ross portion of it.

    Thanks.

  • Jeff McNeill

    If your top edge guy and top cb are both available at 30, who do you take?

  • Alex Kozora

    Ok, so to be clear, what are you looking for in my answer that I didn’t answer before?

  • Alex Kozora

    If the top corner is a slot option, him. If not, edge.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I like Alex’s answer with move tight ends, but I don’t want to see Carl Lawson in our division. I think he will beast and be a thorn in Ben’s side.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Hmm…..Ok, so your response was

    “I think those are all fair points but I don’t know if there’s much I can do about it for this study. Sample size will always be a bit of an issue.”

    First thing is, I like your methods and how you lay it out, so I am not making a point about varying sample sizes de-valuing your study. I was just curious as to your thoughts when it comes to certain things.

    For example. 86% of the players the Steelers have drafted pass the 3-cone threshold you point to. So do you think the organization is more concerned with 3-cone times than other measurables or do you just chalk it up to the different sample sizes you were able to produce? And along those same lines, certain receivers in this draft might pass the 3- cone threshold while failing in 1 other place that appears less significant based on sample size. So lets say player A checks every box but 40 time and player B checks every box but 3-cone. Do you think player A is more likely to be drafted because the box they don’t check appears less significant based on the percentages you have found in your study?

    I am not sure if that clears it up or not Alex lol. I apologize for the long post

  • Alex Kozora

    Ah, ok, I see now. Sorry if I misunderstood before…sometimes I’m a speed reader.

    I think the only times I’ll really look at what they’re “more concerned with” because that’s hard for us to do on the outside, is something where EVERY player fits. Like OLB arm length. All 8 drafted – 9, if you count Chick – have 32 1/2+ arms (32 5/8, to be specific, I rounded down for my study).

    So when you see a Lawson with 31 1/2 inch arms, I pay special attention.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I think I would go McCaffrey because I have fantasies of 2 back sets.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    They didn’t try it much with Williams so I doubt it would happen even with him. Bell is Tomlins guy and he will be the only one getting the ball lol.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I think McCaffrey is more versatile than D-lo, but yeah I get your point. I get it because Bell is a hell of a back, but I could think of some crazy plays with 2 backs. Oh well.

  • Matt Manzo

    I always feel bad for asking 2 questions, too! I’d ask 10 if I could!