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 ninth linebacker spot is more likely to come at inside rather than outside linebacker.
Neither the inside or outside linebacker positions have much depth beyond their top three players. On the outside, there is T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, and Anthony Chickillo. Inside, there’s Jon Bostic, Vince Williams, and Tyler Matakevich.
But the candidates for the outside linebacker position behind the top three are novices all, including two that have never even been on a practice squad. The Steelers’ current fourth option at inside linebacker is L.J. Fort, who has been around for years now.
They also bring back two inside linebackers from the practice squad a year ago and have an intriguing rookie undrafted free agent in Matthew Thomas, the sort of player who can fill a special teams role at the least.
Add in the fact that inside linebacker is probably the position the team would be most likely to address if they were to make a move as they did a year ago during training camp and the preseason, and that increases the odds of a ninth linebacker coming inside rather than outside.
But Arthur Moats could find his way back by the time training camp comes along. We’ve heard that the team has left the door open for him. And should that happen, the pendulum shifts heavily in favor of outside linebacker.
And there are some intriguing names there as well. Most notable is Keion Adams, a seventh-round pick from a year ago that the team was high on before getting injured. And Olasunkanmi Adeniyi is somebody I thought they might draft in the seventh round this year.
Even if Moats isn’t re-signed, I could see both of them making the roster, potentially. Both have potential as pass-rushers, and both have the tenacity to compete on special teams. They could not only have a roster spot, but a helmet on gameday. But of course we’re a long way off from having anything decided.
And of course there might not even be a ninth linebacker spot. Or there might be 10.