2017 South Side Questions: Whose Helmet Does Justin Hunter Take?

The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on 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: Who will the Steelers sit in order to dress Justin Hunter on Sunday?

According to reports that came out yesterday, the Steelers intend to give wide receiver Justin Hunter, who has been sixth on the depth chart through the first three games of the season, a helmet to suit up on Sunday against the Ravens.

The decision would appear to be in response to obvious examples of the offense struggling to produce. In their two road games this season, the offensive unit has only scored 14 and 17 points. They last in the second instance, but a special teams touchdown spared them of another defeat in the opener.

While the Steelers are certainly not viewing the fifth-year veteran as a magic elixir—if they thought he had that kind of ability, they would have been dressing him from the start—it is just one small token of the team’s acknowledgement that they have to make some changes in order to get better.

It’s pretty reasonable to wonder if a fellow wide receiver will lose out in order to give Hunter a helmet, and there are (at least) three candidates, for this week, anyway. That includes, for the moment, Martavis Bryant, given the fact that he has been unable to practice so far this week with an illness.

Considering the fact that he has seen his snaps decline, and he was not even targeted on Sunday—add in a muffed punt for good measure—Eli Rogers has to be viewed as an option as well. Darrius Heyward-Bey, despite seeing more than 50 snaps on special teams, has only three snaps on offense as well, though removing him from three different units is not ideal.

It could be difficult to find another player to sit, in my opinion, meaning I think it’s unlikely that they dress six wide receivers unless injuries enable it. They were able to dress six cornerbacks for that reason two games ago. But if he is to get a regular helmet, it would have to come at the expense of a member of his position group.

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