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: What changes in the starting lineup do you foresee occurring over the course of the 2017 season?
It’s not every year for a contending, veteran-laden team to experience many lineup changes over the course of the season, but the Steelers saw a number of them take place just last season—at least a half dozen, or more depending on how you want to regard changes due to injury.
Those changes included three rookies entering the starting lineup at different times over the course of the year. And they have had rookies starting for the past several years now, in some capacity, by the time the season had ended.
So that leaves one to wonder, will we see that happen again this season? There are some prime candidates. From the season opener, do you anticipate lineup changes being made over the course of the year?
Of course this depends on how the starting lineup is settled for the season opener, but some obvious candidates would be T.J. Watt at outside linebacker, who could potentially begin to play ahead of James Harrison at some point during the year, and Cameron Sutton, who can play both inside and outside at cornerback.
Then there is JuJu Smith-Schuster, their wide receiver drafted in the second round. If he doesn’t already begin the season starting in the slot, many anticipate that he could do so at some point later in the year. And there are other receivers who are not rookies who could also enter this discussion.
Now, barring injury, there are plenty of positions that we know are safe. Quarterback. The offensive and defensive lines. The safeties. The inside linebackers. Running back. Fullback. The starting wide receivers—barring off-field issues.
I will leave some wiggle room for the tight end position to possible become open for competition at some point during the year, but I wouldn’t put too much money on that bet.