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: Who will benefit more from the depth in their competition against one another between the wide receivers and the cornerbacks?
It would be fair to say that the Steelers spent quite a bit of their offseason looking to bolster two of the key positions in today’s game: wide receiver and cornerback. They drafted a wide receiver in the second round after signing one in free agency and getting another back from suspension. They also signed a cornerback in free agency before adding two in the draft.
Both groups are at least seven or eight players deep among those players who have a realistic shot of being on the Steelers’ 53-man roster, or perhaps somebody else’s 53-man roster, since likely three or four of them at least will not be making the team. So who will benefit more from their training camp battles?
For as much talent as the Steelers might have at this group, a lot of that talent is tied up in inexperienced players, especially rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster. The only player likely to play a major role this year who is more experienced than average is Antonio Brown. Even Martavis Bryant, who missed last season, is still fairly raw. Going up against Artie Burns and Ross Cockrell will help him get back into rhythm, and hopefully hone some skills that were never polished in the first place.
You could say many of the same things about the cornerback position as you can about the wide receiver position, of course. Cockrell is a fourth-year player only entering his second season as a starter, and Burns was a rookie last year, so there is plenty of growing to do.
In the slot, you have several young players in Senquez Golson, Mike Hilton, and Cameron Sutton, who can all benefit from going up against different types of bodies, from Smith-Schuster to Eli Rogers—though Rogers himself is yet another young wide receiver who will benefit.
I don’t have a definitive answer for you here, but what I do know is that the arrangement should be mutually beneficial for both sides. There is an intriguing mix of youth and experience among both groups that should feed off of each other.
Which side do you lean closer toward?