The preseason has ended, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While training camp and the preseason might have seen a lot of work put into the team and the roster, there is plenty left to be done.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well, since the offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is really one that lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the preseason and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they head into a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: How many offensive linemen will dress on game day?
This has historically been a pretty simple question under Mike Tomlin, who has traditionally dressed seven linemen on game day—one player who would fill in at tackle and another who would serve as the backup for the three interior positions.
This is not a universal practice however, and obviously varies depending on the makeup of the roster. Some coaches prefer to dress eight, while others do so because they contribute, for example, on special teams units like kick returns and field goal attempts.
But this year in particular with Chris Hubbard, I think makes things a little more interesting, due to the fact that his best position is guard, but he can also play center and tackle. He is not necessarily a player that you would want to dress either as your swing tackle or swing interior lineman, and yet he can play all five positions, plus serve as an extra lineman.
That last point may be relevant if the Steelers intend to use an extra lineman with relative frequency, and they have on occasion over the past few years. Especially with the tight end position being weak this year, it may be all the more likely that they employ this strategy.
Temporarily speaking, there is also the fact that top interior reserve Cody Wallace is dealing with a hyperextended knee. If he dresses, you may want to have another player behind him. If he doesn’t, you may want to have another player behind Hubbard. And don’t forget that Marcus Gilbert is going to be playing through an injury this year, which will always make him more susceptible to missing time.
This is not as straightforward a question as it may appear on the surface, although the answer may vary weekly depending on the ultimate layout of the roster and positional need. Hubbard has played a bit of special teams, and that could factor into the equation as well.