I have over the course of the past several seasons turned to a series of articles around this time of year in which I looked to explore the issues and questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers during the upcoming season and trying to identify the range of possibilities in which any given scenario can end.
I started out with a dual series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take and switched last season to the Devil’s Advocate series. In an attempt to find a more streamlined solution with a title more suited to the actual endeavor, we are introducing a simple Buy Or Sell segment exploring whether the position statement is likely to be worth investing in as an idea.
The range of topics will be wide, from the specific to the general, exploring broad long-term possibilities to the immediate future of particular players. I will make an argument for why a concept should be bought into as well as one that can be sold, and you can share your thoughts on which is the more compelling case while offering your own.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will make decent use of a three-safety defensive package in 2018.
Three-safety packages are no longer uncommon in the game. They are not even out of place with the Steelers. Even in their recent history, they have used Tyrone Carter, Ryan Mundy, Shamarko Thomas, and Will Allen, as well as Robert Golden, as third safeties, and these looks have come both in nickel and in dime packages. They call their three-CB, three-S look a quarter defense, and it is something they have expressed interest in running more.
They did that last year, looking at a number of ‘moneybacker’ body types in the draft even though they didn’t come away with one. They kicked the tires on Daimion Stafford and then brought in J.J. Wilcox. Nat Berhe is someone who ran that. And a draft pick could do it as well.
Especially if Wilcox actually remains on the roster, I would find it hard to imagine they won’t have a three-safety package they like to use this season, particularly in situations that less obviously call for exclusively pass-heavy defense.
Even still, those snaps could be hard to find knowing that they want to get Cameron Sutton on the field. While their six-defensive-back packages have rarely featured four cornerbacks, that has more been due to the available talent. They now have four cornerbacks they want to get on the field.
With Morgan Burnett’s flexibility, they may well use some three-safety looks, but like how Mundy was used in 2010, it might not be a significant package, just a rarely-seen look that can even be specific to an opponent based on the scouting report.
Plus there’s no guarantee the personnel will be there. Say Wilcox is a late cap cut, and a rookie isn’t yet ready to contribute. Do you go to Berhe just because you want to use a third safety if you feel your fourth cornerback is better?