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: Jaylen Samuels is the rookie draft pick with the most difficult path toward a roster spot.
The Steelers already have four running backs on the 90-man roster who were on the 53-man roster a year ago, though not all at the same time. The presence of Roosevelt Nix also prevents the team from carrying more than three halfbacks on the roster, generally. They have done so in the past more freely when they were not utilizing a fullback.
The biggest problem with Samuels, however, is the question of whether or not the traits that made him successful in college will transfer to the NFL. Are his hands consistent enough to become trusted in the passing game? Can he be a reliable pass protector? Can he produce touching the ball well enough that those things don’t matter as much?
Like it or not, but the Steelers do like Fitzgerald Toussaint, who has been on the team in some capacity for years now. They also like Stevan Ridley, whom they re-signed after he spent the final few games on the roster.
Also important is the fact that they have shown the willingness to take a chance on a less proven but productive runner. They did it last year with Terrell Watson. Could Jarvion Franklin be that player?
No draft pick on the first two days of the draft has ever not made the team under Kevin Colbert, so the top four picks are safe. The safety room has been almost wiped clean, so that leaves a ready opening for Marcus Allen. And, well, Joshua Frazier’s new position coach is his old position coach. And he only has to beat out Daniel McCullers.
I’m going to start this section by pointing out that I’m not even entertaining the notion of Chukwuma Okorafor not making the roster. I think too many people have been scared off by words like ‘project’ and ‘developmental’. They’re not going to cut him.
But nobody after that gets a pass. Allen is already at best the fifth safety on the depth chart. They carried four last year, and even had one as a healthy scratch sometimes. Nat Berhe is their special teams contributor there.
As for Frazier, while he might have familiarity with his new coach, his new coach is still gaining familiarity with the Steelers’ system, which McCullers has four years of experience in. And don’t put it past an undrafted free agent to make a run for the final spot on the defensive line dept chart, either. How many of us thought Colin Holba was a lock to make the roster heading into training camp?