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 should leave their starting outside linebackers where they already are.
Clarification: The Steelers should leave T.J. Watt at right outside linebacker and Bud Dupree at left, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t switch sides during the course of a game.
Dupree has been playing on the left side for three years now in Pittsburgh. It’s where he played in college. If he were more comfortable on the right side, one would think that he would have already been getting some snaps there, so it’s hard to imagine this being of benefit.
The left outside linebacker position often ends up being the strong side of the formation as well, and Dupree is the bigger player than Watt. At least on paper, he should be more equipped to take on the extra blocker, though admittedly that hasn’t always come to fruition on paper.
Generally speaking, there just doesn’t really seem to have been a compelling reason to have reached this decision, if it is indeed the decision that has been made. Marcus Gilbert, for example, has said that they’ve switched sides as a permanent move, as have a couple of the beat writers.
The left side might more often end up being the strong side, but that is also the side that the Steelers have traditionally dropped more into coverage, and they figured out pretty quickly last season that it was going to be Watt the primary outside linebacker being used in coverage. For that purpose, the switch makes some sense.
It might also prove to be beneficial to both. Dupree’s production hasn’t really panned out as planned so far on the left side, who it’s hard to imagine a switch making things worse. And Watt had some effective reps rushing from the left side himself a year ago.
Gilbert also said that the only reason Dupree was on the left basically was because of Jarvis Jones, who was more comfortable on the left. Jones is long gone now. Maybe Dupree will be more effective rushing from the right side, though health should make an even bigger difference.