Buy Or Sell: Steelers Permanently Flipping Their OLBs

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 are permanently flipping the primary sides for T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree.


The Steelers have so far during OTAs been running with outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree working on the opposite sides of the field than they had been customarily working on. Watt started 15 games on the right side of the defense last season, Dupree 15 on the left. Dupree has consistently be a primarily left-side outside linebacker during his three seasons.

There has been some suggestion that this move might be permanent, and more than just a part of the plan to make them more versatile. That, while they might both work on both sides of the field, Watt will now spend most of his time on the left side, Watt on the right.

Heading into the 2017 season, the plan was for the Steelers to begin dropping their edge defenders in coverage more, as they used to, but the thought was that that role would have been Dupree’s as the primary coverage. Watt’s accelerated progress changed those plans.

LaMarr Woodley when he was here dropped more in coverage than did James Harrison, though they both dropped a good amount. Watt is now the primary coverage player between the two, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they’re looking at permanently flipping him.


The offseason is full of plans put into place that never actually come together. Even assuming that this plan is genuine, to permanently flip them rather than just giving them time on opposite sides to gain experience there, there’s a good chance it doesn’t actually happen. Think about the aborted experiment with Marcus Gilbert at left tackle in 2013.

The comments from those involved have also been inconsistent with one another, making it difficult to get a clear read on what is accurate. Watt didn’t say outright that it’s permanent, though it could be implied. Dupree seemed to suggest that it wasn’t, but that could be motivated by a desire to stay on the left. Some beat writer reports have indicated that the plan could be thought as a permanent move. But we’ll only find out in time.

Wherever they primarily line up, it’s likely they’ll spend more time flipping than they have in the past.

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