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: Jesse James will play more snaps than Vance McDonald this season.
Buy (Agree with the Statement):
Vance McDonald was supposed to play more snaps than Jesse James in 2017. He didn’t. Ladarius Green was supposed to play more snaps than James in 2016. He didn’t.
James has never been the most gifted player in the tight end room—not that he is lacking talent—but his knowledge of the game, his passion to play on the field, and his durability (and willingness to grin and bear injuries) have seen him earn a steady role for himself over the past two years.
I’m not about to question McDonald’s passion for the game, but his ability to play through injury is certainly a legitimate question to ask, considering the extensive amount of time that he has missed over the course of his career. The frequency of injuries that he suffers is somewhat shocking.
Add in the fact that the Steelers actually still like and trust James, and would be using him anyway, and it’s really not so far-fetched to believe that he could play more snaps this year than McDonald when all is said and done.
Sell (Disagree with the Statement):
Then again, McDonald’s bad luck with injuries has to end at some point, doesn’t it? How often has he been banged up? He is due for a relatively healthy season, and having a much less chaotic offseason should be helpful in that. When you’re comfortable and know what you’re doing, you tend to be able to protect yourself better.
McDonald could deal with injuries and even much a few games and still play more than James, though. The fact of the matter is that the Steelers are going to have three receivers on the field most of the time. When he was finally healthy and up to speed on the offense at the end of the season, he was an every-down player, and that should be the expectation going forward, which means much less work for James.