The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Adding another interior pass rusher should be a priority in the draft.
Explanation: While Javon Hargrave has begun to play a more significant role as a pass rusher, the defense is still frequently dependent upon Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt to get inside pressure.
With L.T. Walton having not been re-signed, there is still a vacancy along the defensive line anyway, so of course they are going to add a player here. And frankly, if they were not going to be looking at a pass rusher, they would have just re-signed Walton as they did with Daniel McCullers to serve as the backup nose tackle.
The top backup is Tyson Alualu, but as his zero sacks last season show, he doesn’t offer much in the way of the pass rusher. A pairing of Hargrave and Alualu as the second-string nickel line behind Heyward and Tuitt is not enough.
Such a pairing makes it too easy on defenses when the starters are winded. Another player who can put the pressure on the interior offensive line and force the quarterback to release the ball quickly when Heyward and Tuitt are on the sideline—and to give them more opportunities to be on the sideline—is an underrated need for this team that is more than a luxury.
Even if it is a ‘need’, it is a lower priority need that comes behind the likes of inside linebacker, outside linebacker, cornerback, wide receiver, running back, and tight end. The Steelers have only so many draft picks. At a certain point, it becomes a matter of realism.
While they may have a quality interior pass-rusher fall into their lap, the most likely reality is that they will address more significant holes in their roster by the time they get around to a defensive line that already includes Heyward, Tuitt, and Hargrave. And by then, those who actually have pass-rush ability will be gone.