Devil’s Advocate: Full House At OLB

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: What are the chances of the Steelers attempting to carry six outside linebackers on the 53-man roster?

While the Steelers might have only three roster locks when it comes to the outside linebacker position, they have at the very least six very legitimately rosterable candidates currently on the 90-man roster. Four of them are obviously carryovers from last season, and in years prior, and they also just drafted two more, and you are not going to draft a player whom you believe has no realistic chance to make the team.

James Harrison and Bud Dupree are the Steelers’ starting outside linebackers, that is more or less a given at this point. I’m going to go out on a limb and pencil in a roster spot for first-round pick T.J. Watt right now, assuming he’s there in September.

That leaves Arthur Moats and Anthony Chickillo, who each have been with the team for a least a couple of years and have had some starting experience, as well as seventh-round rookie Keion Adams, who is physically talented and whose sack production his college coach believes was hindered by his run-defense assignments.

Moats and Chickillo are both notable special-teams contributors, or at least notably capable. Chickillo has become a mainstay of the unit, while Moats has been in the past, but his snaps there have declined as he had a bigger role on defense. He could play a bigger role again.

The inside linebacker position this year is not particularly strong, and the team has been carrying 10 linebackers lately. They had six inside linebackers rostered a year ago for a while, so it’s certainly in the realm of possibility if Adams also does well on special teams.

But fairly recently it was as common as not for them to have just four outside linebackers. Six is pushing it no matter what. Moats and Chickillo are largely redundant of one another. If Adams shows enough to make the roster, one of the two aforementioned could miss the cut. Otherwise, the rookie can go to the practice squad. After all, he would probably have to do exceptionally well on special teams in order to make this scenario a realistic one.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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