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2017 Offseason Questions: How Big A Priority Is It To Reduce DE Workload?

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: How high a priority is it to reduce the workload for Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt?

This has seemingly been a question at issue for a couple of years now, but, to date, in spite of stated intentions—from players, coaches, and front-office members—the Steelers have not on game day seen fit to reduce the workload of their two thoroughbred defensive ends, Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.

With Tuitt entering his fourth season, we are not in the third season during which it has been discussed that their defensive ends are logging too many snaps, a conversation that began in earnest during his second season, his first as a full-time starter.

It was in the season prior that the team lost significant resources at the defensive end position, losing both Ziggy Hood and Al Woods and seeing Brett Keisel, a late re-signing, reduced to a rotational player, so with those losses came a greater burden on the starters.

The theory goes that the team simply lacked the resources that would allow the coaching staff to pull their players more, but that the story is different this time around. Instead of Cam Thomas or Ricardo Mathews as the third end, there is experienced veteran Tyson Alualu.

Javon Hargrave is in his second season and in better condition, and L.T. Walton is continuing to progress. There is buzz around Johnny Maxey as well. There are now options, at least on paper, in June, for the Steelers to be able to get Heyward and Tuitt off the field more frequently.

Whether or not that actually happens remains to be seen, and we have already been down this road discussing snap counts and the consequences of taking stars off the field in discussions about Le’Veon Bell and James Harrison, yet if anything their workload by percentage has increased. So I’m not holding my breath on this matter just yet, and neither should you. I will wait until I actually see it happen.

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