You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.
In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.
When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.
Topic: Which position can the Steelers better afford not to address significantly this year between cornerback and outside linebacker?
While there are some dissenting opinions, the majority consensus over the course of the offseason has been that the Steelers’ biggest needs this year are cornerback and outside linebacker. Not that they don’t have cornerbacks and outside linebackers. They just need better ones. And in some cases, younger ones. But if they could only address one position sufficiently, which one would leave them better off than the other if they had to leave it alone?
On a very basic level, the Steelers have starters. They have James Harrison and Bud Dupree as pass rushers. They have Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns as corners. And they also have William Gay in the slot.
None of them have to rotate other than Harrison though—at least that’s the philosophy going in, so because of that you need that rookie to come in now and start taking reps, as much to gain the experience on his own as to give Harrison the rest for later in the season.
Another point in favor of sitting on cornerback and addressing outside linebacker is that the depth of the latter has aspirations no higher than depth—at least from my perspective, as I know a certain reserve has a large fan club.
At cornerback, at least you might develop a starting slot player out of Senquez Golson or even Coty Sensabaugh. And Sensabaugh and Gay both provide depth for the outside should it become necessary. They have at least four cornerbacks that can contribute starter snaps, plus a wildcard.
On the other hand, the fact that multiple members of the brain trust have talked about wanting to be more versatile in coverage will probably require personnel changes. So that means adding new players, and adding ones that will be able to contribute quickly. This is probably most important in the slot, though they seemingly have interest in upgrading from Cockrell as well if possible.
They probably would also like to get a better tackler out there, another point in favor of addressing cornerback and sitting on what you have at outside linebacker for another year. At least all four of their players there have started games.
Which side do you lean closer toward?