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: There is a roster spot (and gameday helmet) available for a promising return specialist.
You can always make room for a good return specialist, as long as he’s worth it. Whether or not the Steelers actually have one (Quadree Henderson maybe?) is another question, but there is nothing stopping the team from carrying somebody like him if he proves to be effective.
For one thing, the team is much less likely to carry nine linemen this year after Jerald Hawkins was injured. The linebacker positions are not particularly deep, either. It would definitely not be surprising if they only carried eight this year.
With the new rules about kickoffs, we are actually in a trial period in attempting to determine how valuable they remain. Some believe that the new rules will encourage more returns, of a safer variety, something that Troy Vincent suggested. That right there could make it more valuable to keep a returner, who likely would be able to do other things. And it’s not like they haven’t tried (see: Dri Archer, Jacoby Jones).
Even if we assume that the kickoff might become slightly more valuable than it has been since they moved the kicking line closer and moved the touchback line up, there is still the question of just how valuable returns are themselves. The odds of finding a Devin Hester or Joshua Cribbs are slim.
It also depends on what position the returner plays, which is usually receiver. Can the Steelers afford to carry more than one receiver who doesn’t contribute on offense? Would a returner be more valuable to the team overall than Darrius Heyward-Bey, for example?
And you can’t just ignore the logistics of setting the gameday roster, figuring out who sits. If you keep a returner, he has to dress. Will he? You need to know that he will. You sit a quarterback, a defensive lineman, and at least one offensive lineman—two if you have nine. You need another seven inactives still. Do you not dress Brian Allen?