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2017 South Side Questions: How Much Will Ayers Play Sunday?

The regular season is now over, 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 the postseason is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is 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 playoffs as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to playoff success, in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: How much will Demarcus Ayers play on Sunday with the Steelers having a seemingly full depth chart?

Steelers rookie wide receiver Demarcus Ayers hardly even came off the field for the offense during their regular-season finale against the Browns. Of course, there is some needed context to that discussion, as his prominent role was the result of the team resting several starters, including Antonio Brown.

In that game, Sammie Coates was also absent with a hamstring injury, while Darrius Heyward-Bey was still getting his feet under him in his first snaps on offense in the past seven contests, so the bulk of the playing time lay on the shoulders of Ayers—who was basically playing in Browns’ role—as well as Eli Rogers and Cobi Hamilton, the latter of whom split time with Heyward-Bey, but with the lion’s share of the snaps.

I’m fairly certain that Brown will be playing tomorrow. Heyward-Bey is obviously going to play as well. Coates is not on the injury report and plays at least on special teams, anyway. They were recently trying to get him back into the offense.

Heading into the postseason, then, the Steelers now have all hands on deck at the wide receiver position, even if one of those 12 hands is a busted one. Still, the bottom line is that that is a lot of hands to go around.

Is Ayers still the low man on the totem pole, even in light of his recent modicum of success? He has had a few big plays in the past two games, including a pass interference drawn against the Ravens, and then a touchdown and a fourth-down conversion against the Browns.

Given how Ayers was replicating Brown’s role in the offense, one might be inclined to believe that the rookie may not even play at all during the game—although he did get some snaps against the Ravens. But with Heyward-Bey back on offense and Coates a possible contributor, I wouldn’t exactly be guaranteeing any sort of major contributions from him—though I do fully reserve the right to be wrong. After all, Brown made a major contribution in the playoffs in his rookie year when he wasn’t all that much a bigger part of the offense than Ayers is now.

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