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: Javon Hargrave will see more nickel snaps this season than Tyson Alualu.
We have been told that it will be a higher priority for the Steelers this season under new defensive linebacker Karl Dunbar to work through a rotation along the defensive line. Their ‘base’ defense is now the nickel, which features two down linemen functioning as defensive tackles.
We have also been told that the plan is for Javon Hargrave to be a bigger part of this rotation. Drafted as a nose tackle who can penetrate, the Steelers like what they see from his ability to rush the passer, even if he only recorded two sacks last season.
Pass-rushing is not Tyson Alualu’s strength, even if he posted a career-high four last season, which included two in the season finale against the Cleveland Browns. On a per-rush basis, Hargrave is certainly the more skilled of the two, so in situations in which only one of the starters is on the field, the expectation should be that Hargrave would see more of those snaps, though he and Alualu will probably take a lot of snaps together as well.
The truth is that we hear a lot of things during the offseason that disappear months later. There are many well-intentioned plans that get laid out at this time of year that either don’t come to fruition or that prove not to be feasible. This has a feeling of being one of them.
Though it was in no small part due to the fact that he had to start games in place of Stephon Tuitt, Alualu still played more snaps in 2017 than Hargrave in spite of the fact that he is a backup and the latter is a starter, albeit in a position that doesn’t often ‘start’ anymore. It’s not even guaranteed that Hargrave will play more snaps in total than Alualu, let alone more snaps in the nickel defense.