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: When the snaps actually start to matter, will L.T. Walton’s first-team nose tackle reps in spring have meant anything?
This is a question that I can’t help but find myself quite curious about, because there are some obvious implications behind it that could tie into which defensive linemen ultimately end up making the roster.
Obviously, L.T. Walton is not going to be the team’s starting nose tackle—that would be Javon Hargrave—but if they choose to use him as their second-string nose tackle, then that opens the gates to other possibilities when it comes to putting together their depth chart, and, in particular, would make Daniel McCullers much more expendable.
Meanwhile, McCullers has talked about trying to add a spin move to his repertoire, understanding that in order for him to be useful, he will have to be able to contribute to the defense in their base nickel defense, and that means being able to put pressure on and sack the quarterback.
Walton is not the prototypical size for the nose tackle, but really, nobody on this roster is. Hargrave is lighter. McCullers is taller—much taller. But they like his sturdiness and balance, which come in handy when it comes to holding the point against the run.
Even if that were the case, however, that would not automatically mean that McCullers would lose his roster spot. After all, somebody else would have to win it first. And it’s not obvious that anybody will, even if the fourth-year defensive tackle is constantly being warned that he needs to step up, grow up, etc.
What the question really boils down to is whether or not, once the regular season starts, Walton is going to be getting snaps playing nose tackle in the base defense, which may be inconsequential as it is, given how infrequently a nose tackle is used.
Which side do you lean closer toward?