Strackbein Mailbag: Is This Mike Tomlin's Most Impressive Season? Watt's DPOY Rank, and More
It's somewhat of a quiet week for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare to take on the 3-7-1 Arizona Cardinals out west. Besides Kyler Murray, not much noise has taken place within the locker room, keeping players pretty focused on the number one overall draft pick.
It'll be interesting to watch Devlin 'Duck' Hodges - an undrafted rookie - face off against the top pick of his draft class. What's even more interesting is that the Steelers should come out on top.
This week, questions cover Duck, T.J. Watt's Defensive Player of the Year resume, special teams and Mike Tomlin. Let's get started.
QUESTION: With the defense playing like they have been, what would our record be right now if we never lost Ben this season and he played every game?
Noah: This leaves the question; do the Steelers still trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick? If the answer is yes, then the possibilities of this season were endless. Even if they started slow, this defense found itself in Week 3 and has only gotten better as the year's gone on.
With Roethlisberger behind center, this offense is a lot, a lot, better than it is right now. You can't even compared Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges' play to Ben's. He's a future Hall of Famer who would've fought himself through some injuries to find a rookie running back with talent in Benny Snell and a breakout receiver in James Washington.
Maybe their record is similar, but the thought of making a real playoff push would be stronger.
QUESTION: Name two players on the team who you think aren’t getting the credit they deserve for their play this season.
Noah: We'll go special teams - Chris Boswell and Jordan Berry. The Steelers still can't take a return back to save their life, but when they need a field goal or a solid put, Boswell and Berry answer the call.
Berry's season-high for punts is 68 in a season. Currently, he has 55 and it isn't even a surprise if he punts 5 times in a game and blows that season-high out of the water. And with a career-high for yards per punt, it shouldn't be a secret that the Steelers punter is having himself a year.
Then, there's the redemption of Christ Boswell. This isn't a career-year for Boz but it's a comeback no one expected. The craziest part is no one believed in Boswell coming into the season and as soon as he started to play like the Steelers were hoping, everyone stopped talking about him.
It might not be the answer people were expecting, but don't sleep on this special teams duo - and throw Kameron Canaday in there too.
QUESTION: (my personal favorite) Quack?
I can only imagine this question is loaded with potential. Essentially, a quack has become the signal for hope in Pittsburgh's offense and I've enjoyed every second of it. Devlin Hodges is winning football games and having a blast around the city. Pittsburgh loves him, and I mean loves him, and he loves them.
I attended Convoy of Hope at Heinz Field during the week and Duck was the life of the party the entire time. He never stopped dancing, smiling and taking pictures. Then, he popped up on my Twitter feed at the Pitt basketball game later that night.
An undrafted rookie is tough to picture in the Super Bowl, and it's way too early to starting talking about it. So keep it week-to-week - and enjoy Duck Season.
QUESTION: Is this Mike Tomlins most impressive season as a head coach?
Noah: Yes. Mike Tomlin has turned a team with no light into a team that see every possibility they can create. The Steelers aren't thinking 'playoffs are a win,' they're thinking Super Bowl or bust. Of course, the mindset is week-by-week, but there's no sense that getting to the postseason is a win for this team - they want more.
What Tomlin has done is put himself into this team 100%. He's interactive, taking over when needed and not allowing his group to get a step behind. He knows that when the Steelers start to slow down it's going to take a lot to get them back up. So, he's staying one step ahead at all time.
Changing out Mason Rudolph for Devlin Hodges is not a move most teams in this position would've made. They were 6-5, owned a playoff spot and were winning football games. But everyone knew there was a ceiling with Rudolph in. Without him, there isn't one, somehow.
Tomlin deserves Coach of the Year and it's clear as day he does. He's doing unimaginable things right now, and if there's ever been a season to realize just how good of a coach Mike Tomlin is, it's this one.
QUESTION: Is T.J. Watt the real front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year?
Noah: I don't know if he's the "real" frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year, but he certainly should be. The man has 12.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries and hasn't gone a game without at least half a sack since Week 4.
His resume speaks for itself but watching him play is a whole other level. There hasn't been a tackle that can contain him this season and even against mobile quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield, Watt has found the quarterback.
When you're not a very outspoken player you tend to be overlooked. Add the fact that Minkah Fitzpatrick has taken Pittsburgh by storm and people seem to forget about T.J. Watt. But Cameron Heyward said it best when asked how he felt about Watt winning November's AFC Defensive Player of the Month; "he better win Defensive Player of the Year."
Thanks for participating in this week’s mailbag. There were great questions sent and with the playoffs in sight it’ll be just as eventful next week. Make sure to send all mailbag questions to our Twitter and Facebook pages.