Welcome back to your Pittsburgh Steelers mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer whatever is on your mind.
To your questions!
BananasFoster: Hey Alex, great piece the other day on your concerns on Kenny. With that being said, let’s assume Kenny plays the same as he’s been playing the rest of this season.
If the Steelers are picking in the 16-22 range, do you think the Khan Artist makes a move for a QB that may drop to this range (Penix, J.J. McCarthy, Bo Nix, Deion’s son, Jayden Daniels)?
I know it’s not the Steelers way and I assume they’ll give Kenny time, but his stats are truly awful and the NFL is a win now league.
Alex: Thanks for reading!
No, I don’t think they’re looking to move on from Kenny. They’re going to give him through at least 2024. Three solid years to evaluate. Right or wrong, that’s going to be their call.
srdan: Is Nick Chubb running style a good comparison for Jalen Warren? Do you like Ray Rice better? Anyone else. Strictly running, let’s leave the hands out of it.
Alex: I was thinking about a comp for Warren the other day. I’m not sure if I landed on anything I felt was perfect. Chubb, I don’t think so. He’s a more fluid zone runner. Like his vision a little more. Warren is better downhill on gap/power schemes. Rice is closer. Maurice Jones-Drew is an easy one but I think it holds up. Squatty bowling balls. But yeah, that can apply to Rice, too.
Chad Prince: AK,
The Steelers can save a whopping 23 million by cutting or trading Okorafor, Cole, and Robinson prior to the new league year. I would say this isn’t only possible, it’s probable. Thoughts?
Alex: Okorafor, it’s looking that way. Far too much money to be a backup. Unless they wanted him to become the starting LT. But they like Dan Moore, clearly. Robinson, yes, definitely. Only way he returns is if he totally reworks his deal.
It was looking that way on Cole the first 4-5 weeks. Now, I’m not so sure. They dump him, there’s a pretty big void in the middle. They may hang onto him until they draft a replacement. He could become a backup sometime next year if they hit on a pick.
Scorpio: Hey Alex, great reading all your stuff in SD! I was wondering if you think MT and MC have been saving the bigger plays for Cincy, BLT, and the playoffs, rather than giving it all up currently? Cheers and GO STEELERS!!
Alex: Nah, I don’t think they’re trying to hold anything back. You gotta get to the playoffs first. You gotta be able to be in position to make those Bengals/Ravens games matter. This isn’t a ruse of Trojan Horse. They’re just a pretty poor and basic offense, overall.
WeWantDaTruth: ey Alex. Calvin Austin has been a huge disappointment, with only 15 receptions on the year (one for a TD). I know the Steelers offense as a whole is struggling, but we really need a 3rd WR to stepl up. Allen Robinson’s numbers are just as bad. Thoughts?
Alex: I hear you. This team has gotten basically zero slot/third receiver production the last two years. Robinson at least helps in some other ways. His blocking, made a couple of key third down grabs, and some leadership. But it’s a lot of empty routes being run out there.
Of course, with a passing game struggling to even feed Johnson and Pickens, it’s hard to expect much out of anyone else. This is an outside-the-numbers attack. Was under Ben, remains so under Kenny. But they’re going to need to add a third receiver next year to maximize this offense. If it’s not going to be through great scheme or top-line QB play, you just gotta beef up the weapons for the offense to throw to.
Austin, yeah, I don’t know what to make of him. Obviously only a half-year into his career. To me, he’s just a speed/vertical guy. There isn’t a ton of wiggle, not what you’d expect from someone of his size (compared to a Rondale Moore type) and they never use the quick/short game with him. Partly because he goes down so easy and doesn’t make that many guys miss unless he can run by them. He can be a No. 4/situational guy and returner but I don’t know if I see anything more. They want a No. 3 with size who can block.
Pghomer: How has D Leal looked in your opinion? He seems solid but not really developing as a pass rusher. Your thoughts?
Alex: Weird year for him. Coming out, he was an athletic tweener with my concerns based around how he would play the run. I think his run defense is actually pretty decent, he’s refined and uses his hands well, but lacks a pass rush plan. He doesn’t win as a rusher and barely plays in sub because of it. Had only four snaps against the Packers. He’s become a base guy. So his career, or my view of it, has at least flipped since he came out of school.
Seems to be two trains of thought for this team from the fan base…
1. The Steelers aren’t that great of a team and have many holes, but Coach T is willing this team to victories.
2. This team has been playing some ugly football with good talent. Coach T and staff should be at fault for being ranked towards the bottom on both sides of the ball. Luck only lasts so long.
I know there is some truth to both sides, but which side do you lean?
Alex: You’re right it’s a mixture of both. It’s not Door 1 or Door 2. For awhile, I was in the “luck only lasts so long” camp but you look at his entire tenure, Tomlin’s Steelers have played in and won the most one-score games. They easily have the best winning percentage in those games, too.
But I would say overall, they just haven’t built a modern-team. One that can put up points and play coverage. They have the pass rush part down, that’s been true of Pittsburgh for 50 years, and the takeaways are there, but the roster just isn’t doing the things required to win in the playoffs in this day and age. They don’t score, they allow too many big plays.
They’re building a team who can win in the regular season. I just wonder how far it’ll take them in the playoffs when they have to score 25-plus points.
But that’s a very simple answer overall and we could go into the nuance of it for awhile. Like you said, there’s a mixture of things happening.
With Muth hopefully coming back on Sunday
do you envision the Steelers utilizing the
Middle of the field more to improve their
Alex: We’ll see. It’s not like Freiermuth was killing it before getting hurt. Eight catches in 3.5 games and they weren’t using the MOF very often. Sometimes it’s dictated by coverage, MOFO vs MOFC. And the Browns have an uber-athletic linebacker in JOK. So on paper, it could be tough. But one play can change a lot of perception.
idiot above: Too early to completely give up on Kenny, feels like a mid-round (4th/6th) QB should be on the table, any names you like there? And any early OC candidates you’d like to see in 2024? Think you can mark me down for Dillon Gabriel and Brian Fleury.
Alex: I’ve kicked around some names but I’ll wait until they actually make an OC change. We’re going to have plenty of time to talk about a new OC if the team “parts ways” with Matt Canada. And I haven’t done enough research to really advocate for any one name. I’ve mentioned Pep Hamilton a couple times, who they interviewed in 2021. That’s one name. But one of many that will be suggested.
Peter-Petersen: Do you think Ken Dorsey could become a member of the Steelers? How and when would that most likely happen? As an assistant OC/passing game coordinator, senior consultant or QBs coach? And would you hire him?
Alex: I really don’t know. Not right now. Not mid-season. If he were to in the future, it would likely be as OC. But I haven’t done much research on him and his background and what went wrong in Buffalo. It felt like he was a scapegoat there but I haven’t paid attention to his situation, to be honest. My attention is on the here and now of what is happening with Pittsburgh present-day.