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 don’t have to come away with a contributor at linebacker on the third day of the draft.
The obviously answer is that no, of course they don’t have to find a contributor at linebacker on day three of the draft, and the reasoning is simple: they have their starters. The only candidates who could have possibly been day-one starters like T.J. Watt was a season ago were drafted in the first round before the Steelers could select—even trade up—for them.
T.J. Watt is the real McCoy and those who have long abandoned ship on the SS Bud Dupree have not been informed that he has been in the harbor for repairs and is prepared to have the best campaign to date. Vince Williams already showed he was a starter a year ago and Jon Bostic is a more than legitimate starter, and better than anybody that could have been taken after the first round.
Add in the likelihood that the Steelers are looking at potentially significantly expanding their dime package this year with Morgan Burnett, Terrell Edmunds, and Cameron Sutton, and you realize that it might not have been as important after all.
Of course anybody aboard the must-have-linebackers train is going to consider the above sales pitch a fever dream. Dupree has given no indication he can still break out and the backups—Tyler Matakevich and Anthony Chickillo—are not sufficient. We know all too well what the impact of injuries and a corresponding lack of depth at linebacker can make this defense look like.
Fortunately, there are still some linebackers on the board who could potentially contribute this year if need be. Names like Josey Jewell, Genard Avery, Jack Cichy, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Josh Sweat, Joe Ostman, and my favorite, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Unfortunately, they don’t draft in the fourth round. Will at least one of these guys reach them in round five?