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2017 Offseason Questions: Will Defense Utilize 4-Linemen Front?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

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 offseason 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 the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Will the Steelers make use of a four-man front with their defensive linemen this year?

It has been a topic that has been bandied about for years now, and has been an especial topic of conversation during the offseason leading up to the actual workouts, but this year seems as good as any to talk about it once again: will the Steelers actually use their four-down-linemen look a statistically meaningful portion of the time?

They have only done so literally a handful of times over the past few years, so to do so this year would not only be a contrast, but it would be significant. Yet they might actually have the components to run it this year—and maybe they even had that in mind?

Ever since Casey Hampton retired, the Steelers have been looking for that penetrating nose tackle, and they’ve found him in Javon Hargrave, who can play in the nickel. They also just brought in Tyson Alualu, who has already done the whole 4-3 defensive tackle thing.

Add Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward on the outside and you would have on paper a seemingly stout front four group that you can actually use as a sub-package that would hold up against the run, but also offer something against the pass rush.

Now, I haven’t heard or seen or read anything that would actually give an indication that this is something that the Steelers would hope to do this year. To the best of my knowledge, nobody on the coaching staff has either spoken about it or been asked about it. But I know I’m not the only one wondering.

And it’s not like they’ve never done it before. And it’s not like they don’t realize what they’ve done by adding Hargrave and Alualu over the course of the past two offseasons. At the very least, it’s enough to think about the hypothetical. Which is what May and June is really all about.

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