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 end up rotating significantly at outside linebacker, as they have the past two years?
This would seem to be a pretty important question. The one player that they know at the position to be capable of delivering a starting-quality performance, James Harrison, is on his way out the door, and is somebody that they want to monitor in terms of his snaps played.
The other, Bud Dupree, is a young player entering his third season who has flashed a workload when healthy, but who has yet to put together a complete body of work. His performance has been streakish at best.
So the question that the Steelers are looking at right now is whether or not they can successfully transition to a platoon at the all-important outside linebacker position to a set of stable starters. This is already something that they talked about wanting to move away from last year, and Mike Tomlin reaffirmed that desire earlier this offseason. But can they? That is the question.
No matter what, it is inevitable that Harrison is not going to play 1000 snaps this season. They drafted T.J. Watt in the first round and he is going to get his snaps. They may even want to get him into the starting lineup as soon as he is ready. Maybe at the start of next season.
But when will he be ready? When will Dupree be ready? He may have taken a full game’s worth of snaps at the end of last season, but did he deliver a full game’s worth of production? Do they need to spell him with some combination of outside linebackers still waiting in the wings?
One thing is clear, and that is that if the answer to this question is no, then the Steelers are obviously going to be struggling to generate pressure on the quarterback through conventional means, and that is going to be a problem.