Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag – Steelers Depot

Welcome back to the Pittsburgh Steelers mail folder. Boot camp is over, which means our mail bags will be back to their regular Thursday hours starting next week at 2:30pm/EST. With some downtime today, I wanted to post a mail bag today to answer anything coming out of camp and the team’s first preseason game. As always, we’ll be here for the next hour and I’ll also be reaching out throughout the day and responding to anything that comes up later.

To your questions!

Steel Paul:

Alex, thanks for the detailed training camp insights. As always… great job and I’m sure many kilometers on the odometer 🙂

My biggest concern about this team’s ATM is Oline. Doesn’t sound encouraging. Can you share anything that helps things feel better, or would that take away from reality?
LOL
Better than last year…?

Alex: Hmm, I’m pretty much in the same place I was heading into things. I think they’ll be a better run-blocking unit than they were last year, based on what I’ve seen in camp and during the Seattle game. But in pass pro, be careful. Quarterbacks will likely run a lot. James Daniels is a cause for more concern than I thought he would be. That is eating me now. I think Mason Cole will bring a lot of stability to the center and he had a good camp. So that’s something.

MAK lives free:

Amazing camp coverage, Alex! Really the team and you cover the team better than anyone.

Now that I have them all sweetened lol…
1. What you’ve seen of Kenny P in camp compared to how you saw him in the draft review…has your opinion of him changed (i.e. better edge, etc.)

2. What was your favorite food at camp?

Alex:

1. I am a little more optimistic. I don’t know if it looks too different from what I saw, but seeing his accuracy, control, IQ translated from college to pro is always a positive sign. Seeing your improvement. It was actually kind of cool to see him fight from the start. Having to fight and recover from that and get up in some adversity. You have responded well.

2. Ha, my diet sucks during camp. It’s a lot of junk and fast food. I’ve been living off these peanut butter sandwiches between meals, so I guess that’s my answer.

Black Andrew:

Hey Alex,

Many thanks to you and everyone at SD for all the information on the camp. I’m guilty of updating my twitter during the workday for all your live updates and posting practice reports.

Before the injury, what was Calvin Austin’s route and hands like? We’ve heard of flashes of speed in the final laps and jet sweeps, but how was he against the DBs? Any significant areas for improvement?

Alex: Thanks man! Austin looked good. Not just a kind of space/gadget. I think the coaches looked at him more in the middle of the field, but he certainly was showing that speed and playmaking ability in space. His hands were a bit dubious. Small guy, small catch radius, and he didn’t make a big catch out of frame on him. But that’s not a shock.

Henning:

Hi Alex, we’re almost there, football is just around the corner!! These are my questions, what percentage would you give Kenny to start week 1 right now? And if he had to make the call right now, who would he trust with the initial week 1 job?

2) If you could choose between two operations. One for an OL position of your choice and the other for an ILB, who would you choose? Let’s say they both have above average starting quality. Or throw me a curveball and pick a different position but the QBs are out.

Alex:

1. For Pickett starter, 5%. And that’s about 4% of Trubisky’s injuries. Trubisky is going to start. It’s been his job to lose since the spring and he hasn’t done anything to lose it. And I agree with Trubisky being that guy. I can live with that.

2. Hmm, good question. I think it would go offline. I’m not entirely sure where I would choose, maybe LG, but the line or is a fundamental axis for the success of this team. To protect your new QB, better establish the running game and control the offensive line. That must happen for this team to succeed. They can have a sub-par ILB on a solid defense and win.

ImMikeD: Hey Alex. I haven’t been able to keep up with the camp notes (thanks, by the way, good job), so I’ll ask you here. It seems there was a lot of talk about Warren’s fumble during PS game 1. Has it been a persistent problem throughout the camp?

Alex: It has appeared. At least one fumble in camp and one or two dropped passes. It may not sound like much, but these guys only have about 50 carries total. No one is going to turn the ball over six times in camp. They won’t even get that far: they’ll be out the door before they get to four. And sometimes it’s not about literal fumbles, it’s about poor ball security. Warren had a habit of getting to the goal line, which is asking for a fumble, even if one didn’t happen. And Tomlin is no joke when it comes to ball security.

paper cup:

Hey Alex!

Which position group do you think will make the biggest leap forward this year? Which position group do you think will take the biggest step back?

Alex: Hmm…good question. I think we’re still figuring out some of that. Receivers look good. Johnson/Claypool/Pickens is a really quality top three. Throw in Gunner and Austin and maybe Boykin too. I like that room. Different body types, ways guys can win, should give this offense plenty of options.

The biggest step backwards? I’m not sure if there is an obvious answer there. Quarterback will probably be an adventure. Ups and downs. Maybe it’s not a real step backwards because there will be things that Roethlisberger couldn’t/wouldn’t do, but I think it will be less consistent.

Brand:

Have you seen McFarland’s progress in pass protection and do you think he’s still in the running to back up Harris?

Thanks, the camp updates have been great!

Alex: Not really. Pass pro is not a strength of his. Jaylen Warren definitely looked better there. I’m not sure what the RB room will look like. They like Warren and he saw a lot of first/second team work this week. Everyone’s still fighting, but McFarland’s spot isn’t certain, though he’s had a solid camp overall. Then there’s Benny Snell as the familiar guy and member of the quality special team.

Christopher Pokins:

Alex,

We all have to agree that the two biggest concerns right now are the OL in pass protection and who plays next to Jack. He was in favor of Bush getting back on his feet, but I think that ship has already sailed. Like Spillane against the run, but he just can’t keep up with the passes. So two questions:

1. Can you see one of the other ILBs getting a shot before the first week to take that ILB spot?

2. The odds of the Steelers OL worrying about getting cleaner and going out and getting a vet OT or even a guard to help ensure pass protection. Excited to see a new QB move when needed, but I don’t want to see him on every play. Thoughts?

Alex: Yes I would say OL in pass pro and still QB play in general. But the ILB next to Jack is also cause for concern. Yeah, I can see a guy like Spillane eating up Bush’s playing time sooner rather than later. I almost expect it at some point. Spillane has earned those reps. Bush’s timing has been more given.

I could see this team add an offensive lineman on the cuts. I don’t think they are completely satisfied with the group. But he will not be a starter. They’re not going to make a change as drastic as that so late in this process. But a backup, a ninth offensive lineman, wouldn’t rule him out.

Douglas Prostrog; At this point, it’s probably safe to say Rudolph is QB3, which means he’ll probably ask for a trade. Odds the team will grant that request? Related: What do you think a “fair” trade would look like?

Alex: It really depends on what other teams are willing to offer. I don’t think the Steelers will make calls, but they will certainly answer the phone. What is a fair return? A 5th would be ideal. But with him a free agent after this season, a sixth might be all they can get.

Jerry Reed: His latest breakdown of Pat Meyer’s changes at the OL pushed back his breakdown from his pass protection seminar. Is Meyer’s approach that unique in the league? Is what he trains different enough to give these linemen growing pains and maybe that’s contributing to what we’re seeing on the field?

Alex: It’s hard for me to answer because there aren’t many clinics like that in the league. I’m sure it’s not unique. The jump step it teaches against rushes is quite common. But it feels more like a departure from Adrian Klemm and that’s what matters most. And of course, that can cause slow startups. Any time you have three OL coaches in three years, you stunt the development process. Granted, most of this line hasn’t been here three years, but still, two coaches in two years. More changes than you would like.

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