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: There were year-one starter-capable inside linebackers available in the third round or later for the Steelers.
This honestly seems to be the biggest controversy of the entire draft. Most are willing to accept that they were unable to land one of the top four inside linebackers in the first round in a rare feat that saw four off-ball linebackers go in the first round for the first time in over a decade, but what about after that? Or more accurately, after the Steelers nabbed their wide receiver in the second round?
So let’s look back at who was available with the team’s third-round pick. For one thing, a true off-ball linebacker didn’t even go off the board in the second round, so they technically could have had their choice at any beyond the top four. If you are of the belief that there were day-one starters available outside of them, then you’re buying.
Prior to their third-round pick Fred Warner and Jerome Baker were drafted. If there is one inside linebacker I thought might have a chance of starting in their first season, it would have been Malik Jefferson, whom the Bengals drafted two spots after the Steelers’ pick.
BUT, would the Steelers have traded up to get Jefferson? I don’t think so. So there’s a very good chance Jefferson would have been gone anyway by the time their pre-traded pick came up, unless the Bengals really did draft Mason Rudolph.
Call me a skeptic but I don’t see a lot of players in the back end of the draft that I’m confident can come in and start without being a liability right away. And the Steelers already have adequate starters in Jon Bostic and Vince Williams, the latter of whom will be on the sidelines in many passing situations anyway.