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: A rookie will start at least seven games on offense or defense in 2018.
I was originally going to include ‘draft pick’ in the question, but I saw no point in limiting the discussion, because the topic is rookies and not just draft picks. Of course, it’s unlikely that a rookie undrafted free agent is going to end up starting. But anyway.
It was once the case that it was a virtual impossibility for a rookie to crack the starting lineup on the Steelers, and that was especially the case on defense. Things have obviously changed dramatically in recent years. We saw in the past two seasons five different rookies start at least seven games.
That trend bodes well for the 2018 season under the team’s new philosophy that seems to require that rookies prove they can play early on. There are certainly opportunities to compete for a starting job at many positions, such as inside linebacker, outside linebacker, safety, and potentially even tight end, wide receiver, or left guard.
With that said, I actually think a case could be made that the path toward immediate quality playing time for a rookie this season is not as clear as it has been in recent years. T.J. Watt was favored over a 39-year-old. Sean Davis beat out a veteran backup moving into the starting lineup.
I think the additions of Jon Bostic and Morgan Burnett are more solid in their prospects to start and finish the 2018 season on the field than others might, and that takes away two key positions. The Steelers are going to do everything they can to find out what they have in Bud Dupree this year, which means playing time.
The majority of players on defense have been in their starting role for four or fewer seasons, hinting that they are not due for a change. The offense is laden with veterans. A rookie starter for 2018 is far from a certainty as we head into the draft.