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: Marcus Tucker is as capable a wide receiver as Eli Rogers was.
Clarification: Eli Rogers is working his way back from a torn ACL, but he was a meaningful contributor in 2016 as the slot receiver. While Marcus Tucker will probably not have that same opportunity for playing time, the question is whether or not he is equally capable of performing as Rogers did.
As I clarified above, it’s very unlikely that Marcus Tucker ever gets the opportunity to receive the sort of playing time Eli Rogers did in his second season in 2016 (the first being spent on injured reserve). Martavis Bryant was suspended for the year, Markus Wheaton was dealing with a back injury that limited him to just a few games, and then Sammie Coates broke his fingers and became irrelevant.
Bad things have to happen in order for the Steelers to get to a similar spot, but the team has raved about Tucker in practice for years now, and he has continued to receive high praise through the early portions of this offseason, getting the chance to run with the first-team offense in OTAs due to injuries and absences.
He even flashed that potential during the preseason last year, showing adroit ability to find the soft spot in zones, and veteran awareness of the sidelines and situational context.
Still, what Rogers did in 2016 is maybe a higher bar than some remember. He caught almost 50 passes for just under 600 yards with three touchdowns, and a number of those catches were good gains of 15 yards or more. He showed run-after-the-catch ability as well.
Rogers didn’t have the same sort of opportunity to showcase that last season after losing out on playing time, and his rapport with Ben Roethlisberger suffered, struggling and even dropping passes. Part of his success in 2016 was having that rhythm. Odds are Tucker won’t have the chance to establish a rhythm as, at best, likely the fourth wide receiver.