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Steelers Friday Mailbag: Will the depth at ILB be good enough?

Answering your questions ahead of Week 11

Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images

Welcome to the Friday mailbag, where we answer your questions every week. Let’s open some envelopes.

Q: How many games do we have to win for Canada’s job to be safe for next season?- p-squared

I feel like regardless of how many wins the Steelers have, he needs to be gone. If the team averages 14 offensive points per game, there is no excuse for bringing him back. The team is winning because the defense is keeping points off the board and the offense is doing less than the bare minimum. If Todd Haley can get fired after the Jaguars’ playoff loss, there’s no excuse to bring back Canada.

Q: How are the Steelers going to play effectively without both coverage ILBs, Neal, and Minkah? Those 4 are most of the options for covering anyone out of the backfield, TEs, or across the middle. It doesn’t look good. - JohnnyOShan

It certainly helps that they’ll be playing a rookie quarterback in his second career start (for the second time this season, nonetheless). They are going to rely heavily on Elandon Roberts, Mark Robinson, and Mykal Walker. I’d be curious if they’d try out a three safety set with Kazee, Killebrew, and Thompson with one of them being the de facto dime linebacker.

Q: Are Elandon and Landslide the inside linebacker combo that can get the Steelers through to playoff contention?

There will be a drop off from Holcomb and Alexander to Robinson. Barring a complete collapse overall, though, they’ll still be a Wildcard team.

Q: Najee’s 5th year option is coming up this off-season. He’s maybe not the best RB in the league and the stats say he’s not even top 20. I think he’s worth more than his stats and the tag has come down to manageable level. What should they do?- RenoSteelersFan

My bet is they pick up his option. Looking at it from a perspective of recent Steelers running backs. or running backs of the last 20 years or so- is he as good as Willie Parker? No. Is he better than Issac Redman? Yes. Jonathan Dwyer? Yes. Right now, he’s hovering somewhere around Rashard Mendenhall territory, except fans seem to like Najee more. The point, though, is that I think he’ll get the option picked up. After that, though? I’d be shocked if he got a second contract.

Q: Why are the Steelers not the best team in the conference right now?

Burrow out

Watson out

Lamar without Andrews (that stat was bad)- DWoods2U

Well, the Chiefs still exist. As do the Dolphins. The Steelers don’t have the quarterback or scheme to be considered in that tier. But if you meant division, I’d say they are the best team in the division as of right now (assuming Burrow is out long-term). I know the Ravens have been the talk of the league, but they are 1-6 in their last seven games against the Steelers. So Baltimore may be the better team overall, but the Steelers will still beat them head-to-head again and I like their chances of winning the division better than the Ravens.

Q: Should the Steelers pick up a decent veteran QB in free agency? I like the idea of Kirk Cousins.- Omar Rodriquez (Facebook)

I love the idea of signing Kirk in the offseason. Kirk at quarterback + Byron Leftwich at OC would be my dream pairing.

Q: Why is the offense no more productive?- Anthony Young (Facebook)

Because the quarterback and offensive coordinator are both bad. The run game has been better, though, which has been good to see. The Steelers lead the league in rushes of 10+ yards over the last two weeks. They’re making positive progression in at least some aspect.

Q: At 6-3, do you think the record is way out of the truth of the team?- Bob Pavuchak (Facebook)

With both teams at their best, they aren’t better than the Bengals. I don’t think they are better than the Bills at their best, either. The Texans have proven on the field this season that they are better than the Steelers. Pittsburgh has had a little bit of a luck of the draw with their schedule. Which I highlighted a lot coming into the season that their schedule was very favorable and they could win 10-11 games because of it. Granted, this is when we all thought the offense was going to be better and riding the high of the preseason, but regardless, the schedule was a talking point even before the season started. I don’t think they are a really good 6-3 team. They’re probably about to be 7-3. And if they face Jake Browning, they should be 8-3. A lot of it is luck of the draw. And even then, they haven’t had one convincing win this season. So yeah, the record looks much better than the team has looked.

Q: How would you describe the offensive gameplan this season? At some point, you have to score 30 points to win a big game, right?- Mike Costa (Facebook)

The gameplan is limit the other team from scoring rather than score more than the other team. Which, as I’ve said all season, can work against the middle and lower class of the NFL. It isn’t going to work in January. The gameplan is apparently never throw over the middle because they don’t believe in the quarterback to be able to make those throws. So just hope the defense holds teams to less than 20 points and grind out 17-14 wins has been the approach. Which, again, fine against the Titans, Packers, and the Josh McDaniel Raiders. Will not work against a Chiefs team in January who is actually amped up and not sleepwalking through the middle of the season.